Two Sundays ago I preached on Philippians chapter 1, but only got as far as verse 6. My goal, over the next few weeks in my letters to you as well as on my blog, is to continue working our way through the rest of chapter 1. That way, I'll be all set to speak to you again out of Philippians chapter 2 by the time Easter rolls around. So here we go!
Review: Philippians is a book/ letter that radiates with a sense of joy. In every story recounted by Paul, in every circumstance and in every possible outcome, a clear call to rejoice in spite of circumstances or even because of them pervades the apostles words, so that we too, whether affected by pretense or truth, blessing or suffering, life or death, are made able with Paul to “rejoice in the LORD, always!” Over the next few weeks and letters, my hope is to show you why, how and in what ways we can “rejoice always.”
I mentioned in my sermon that the source of Paul’s joy whenever he ‘remembers’ the church in Philippi is first and foremost their “…partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5), and that this ‘partnership’ began with Salvation. We looked back to the account of that ‘first day’ in Philippi from the book of Acts, and noted the make-up of that humble beginning:
~ A foreign woman who is (or almost is) a Jewish proselyte
~ A demon-possessed, fortune-telling slave girl
~ A suicidal Roman prison guard!
Our conclusion #1: You can rejoice in the fact that it doesn’t matter what you’re like when God saves you – upstanding citizen or felon, God has to start over with both in the same place – by raising you from the dead! When you were saved you were “born again!” It’s a new you! “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Then we talked about the wonderfully encouraging v.6, reminding us that what God starts (Salvation -“from the first day”), He always finishes – and what does that finished work of salvation look like? It looks like Jesus! We discussed that the finished product of salvation is a person “conformed to the image of Christ” so that each one of us can echo Paul’s claim in verse 20, saying in total confidence, “Christ is (already, and will be fully) glorified in my body.” Almighty God has made a promise (in fact, many promises) to you if you are saved. The promise in this passage is that “He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Not because of how good you are, or how respectable your family is, or because of how well you treat your wife and kids. No. It’s because of Jesus.
And His promise to you is not weakened or devalued or diluted because you come to Him as a crummy person with a rotten past and a tainted history full of embarrassing sins. No! His promise to complete what He began in you remains unchanged by our behaviors because it’s not based on our behaviors – it’s based on Jesus. Just like you weren’t saved because of any goodness in you, so you are not sanctified (made holy) by your own goodness. It’s all, always, based on the grace of God in Christ. “For the grace of God that brings salvation (the grace that saves us) has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldy passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (the grace that sanctifies us)” (Titus 2:11,12). The grace that saves us is the same grace that makes us holy.
Now granted, God’s promise may not change even though you choose to live in rebellion against Him after salvation, but you’d better believe that how you experience that promise will change! We believe the Bible teaches a person cannot ‘lose’his/her salvation. We do believe a Christian can lose the experience of joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. A Christian can stop experiencing the ‘fruit of the spirit’ in their daily lives when they live in rebellion against God. They remain ‘saved’ – but
Once you are saved, God’s promises apply directly to you because you are united with Christ. When you ‘accepted Jesus as your savior,’ what you said in effect to God is “I’m with Him. I’m with Jesus.” God has voluntarily bound Himself to you through His promises because He voluntarily bound Himself to Jesus first – and now Jesus lives in you. You have a union with Christ that is legally binding in the courts of heaven and mystically formed in the sovereignty of God. A.B. Simpson describes it this way:
“From one father (Adam) all the generations of earth have spring, inheriting his curse and transmitted nature and depravity, by virtue of their oneness with him in blood and birth. So Christ, the second Adam, has also His spiritual seed and offspring, and by virtue of their union with Him (through salvation) they share His high place of acceptance and sonship, and partake in all the benefits of His obedience and satisfaction to the claims of justice” (Simpson, A.B.)
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('Imputed' = When a quality of one person is applied or credited to someone else.)
Even if you aren’t able to shake the way you’ve always looked at yourself, even if you can’t help but see yourself as a hopeless mess, even though you are ‘not yet’ as you ‘will be,’ still, God looks at you and sees Jesus. Because now, you’re with Him. And even more importantly, as a Christian, now you're in HIm and He's in you. Just as in OT times when God dealt with His people in anticipation of and in view of the person and “cross-work” of Christ, so now God deals with you in light of His Son Jesus and in anticipation of His completed work in you. GOOD NEWS! Continues Simpson,
“…The new creation and the spiritual regeneration of man in the image of God is beautifully foreshadowed in the story of Genesis… And again the words are repeated in substance, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (Gen. 1:26)” (31 Simpson, A.B Christ in the Bible Commentary, Vol.1).
Conclusion #2: You can rejoice in the promise that what God starts, He always finishes!
The next part of the chapter talks about a Christian’s “partnership in the gospel,” which is a supernatural bi-product of salvation and comes with some startling implications… but we’ll save that for the next letter!