I received the following question in response to a blog I wrote on Walking in the Spirit:
Bob, I like the explanation but how does Philippians 1:6 apply here? Paul says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This seems to imply that God’s work in our lives is automatic. Just a thought.
Philippians 1:6 indeed says, “…being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” But what does Paul mean by what he says there?
Let me hit a few points and then I’ll give you links to two articles by Dr. John Hart on this passage.
First, a good work is not referring to the works believers do in the Christian life. It is referring to the good work spoken of by Paul in the previous verse: “I thank God…for your fellowship [financial sharing] in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil 1:5).
Second, will complete it [the good work of their financial sharing in Paul’s gospel ministry] refers to God seeing to it that there is ongoing fruit from the gifts the Philippians have given for Paul’s ministry.
Third, until the day of Christ Jesus refers to the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ. Paul is saying that the money they have sent to support his gospel ministry will have ongoing ramifications all the way to the Bema.
Think about it. The letter of Paul to the Philippians still bears fruit 2,000 years later, does it not? And the Philippians have a share in the fruit of the ministry of this letter. In addition, there are still churches in Europe today which have come down from the churches planted by Paul while being supported by the Philippian church. The believers in the first century church of Philippi will get eternal rewards even for what is happening today as a result of their giving two millennia ago.
So Paul is not saying that “God’s work in our lives is automatic.” What he is saying is that work already done for Christ can and in this case will have ongoing impact for years to come.
For further information on this important verse and passage, I strongly urge you to check out two articles in our Journal by Dr. John Hart on Philippians. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here.