I am planning my next few sermon series and was thinking about preaching through the book of Philippians in the spring. Then last night I was in a Bible study where the leader started at the beginning of the book of Philippians. That worked out great because I had the opportunity to comment about some of my observations from the passage. One of those observations is about Philippians 1:3-6.
3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
We often reference verse six alone as an assurance of salvation, but I think that takes the verse grossly out of context. Don’t get me wrong. We can have assurance of our salvation. God does finish what he starts. He always keeps his promises. But I don’t think that is what this verse is about.
To get the real meaning, you have to read it in context. The Philippian church is special to Paul. It was started out of a prison ministry. Paul and Silas were in prison and God caused an earthquake to free them. The jailor was going to commit suicide because of all the escapes. But no one had escaped. The jailer and his family accepted Christ and a church was started. This letter to the Philippians is one of the most encouraging and pastoral of Paul’s letters.
Paul prays often with joy for this church. Why? Because from the time they heard and accepted the Gospel until the time Paul writes this letter they have been partners with him in the spreading of the Gospel. And Paul doesn’t expect that to change in the future. That is what I think verse six is about. It is about being a partner in sharing the gospel until the day Christ returns. That is when the work is done.
So really, this is an evangelism or missions passage as much as anything. How about you? Are you a partner in the spreading of the Gospel? That is what we are called to do. If you are a partner in the spreading of the Gospel, this verse says that God will continue to do that work through you. The job is not over until Jesus comes to get us. Partner up. Spread the Word!