by Peeter Lukas
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:6
Three times in Philippians 1:3-14 the Apostle Paul makes three claims that seem counterintuitive from a man currently in prison.
1) Paul in verse 5 speaks to the believers at Philippi of their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” It’s always fun to start something new and groundbreaking, partnering with friends. But Paul is in prison now (v.13). Would you want to say to someone, “Yes, my partner in business is named Paul Tarsus. Uhhmmm, just as an aside, he’s in prison. But not to worry – the business is going really well!”
2) And he says in verse 6 – “I am sure of this…” (“I am confident…” in the NASB) How can a man in prison speak with any confidence?
3) And perhaps with chains clanging and prison guards keeping a watch, Paul finishes verse 6 by being sure “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In jail. And still in the process of being completed. How does that work?
In verses 12 and 13 Paul gives us three examples of how the process is working in his life:
First, the gospel is being advanced. Paul can’t keep his mouth shut. Both to “the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else” (v.13) the Gospel was being proclaimed. Second, “most” of the brethren have been emboldened by his words to also speak (v.14). And third, Paul, instead of turning in on himself, can’t keep his heart from yearning for the Philippians “with the affection of Christ Jesus“ (v.8). He is still growing in the grace of gospel love, for the people of God and for the unconverted prison guards that now surround him.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” How could a man who might one day face the lions speak like this? One commentator describes verse 6 as “the key verse of the entire epistle.” And the key phrase in the key verse? — “He who began…” Ultimately it was not Paul who started the church at Philippi. This is God’s work from the beginning and, therefore He “will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” He begins, and He completes. He doesn’t abandon what He has started. Verse 6 speaks of the covenant-keeping, persevering love of God.
“He who began…” The very character of God is pointed to as the guarantee that we will make it to the end of our days. God chose us from eternity past, and He will perfect the glorious messes that we are until the day of Christ Jesus.