“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
~ Philippians 1:6
In the year 1192 A.D. ground breaking took place on what would eventually become one of the most remarkable, iconic and unique buildings ever constructed. It was in this year the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral in the Italian city of Pisa was begun. Shortly after construction of the 183 ft. tower started, the tower began to lean because of soft, unstable and unfirmed ground underneath. One hundred and ninety nine years later, in the year 1372, the tower was finally completed. Construction had to be slowed down over the decades as to allow the ground underneath to harden where it could support the structure. As a result, and with much enduring patience, this beauty and iconic tower took almost 200 years to complete.
In many ways, the Christian life is like that leaning tower of Pisa. And in Philippians 1:6, we read about how God is slowly but surely building in each of us, a beautiful, if even imperfect, image of Himself. Just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you’re already perfect. Becoming a follower of Christ, doesn’t automatically sweep all your troubles away. Like that leaning tower, believers often feel like they may fall, they might stumble in their faith and lose all hope. Yet in our verse today, we find hope, encouragement and God’s promise.
Looking a little closer at verse 6 then, Paul says three distinct things: 1. Being confident of this very thing 2. He who began a good work in you 3. Will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Paul begins this verse with full assurance and confidence in what he was about to say. He’s using particularly strong language here. He’s saying what I’m about to tell you, I tell you with the certainty of all my hope, faith and trust in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. There was not the shadow of a doubt in the mind of the Apostle that these words aren’t as true as the God in whom Paul placed his faith.
What did Paul assert to believe? Well first, that He who began a good work in you… What is the good work the Apostle Paul is referring to here in the lives of the Philippians? Well, he is speaking of their salvation, of the redemption brought to them through the finished work of Christ and the spread of that Gospel message which did reach and convert them. So the “He” is God Himself. It is God who works the grace and gift of salvation into the hearts of sinners. The Bible speaks of the transforming work of God in different ways such as being born again, receiving a new heart, repenting or turning from sin. So it is the Lord who opens our hearts and minds to Himself. It is He, that is God, who began a good work in you. And of course, like we said, that good work is really the greatest and glorious of all works that the Lord could ever do on behalf of mankind, the work of salvation, the work of Christ on Calvary, of saving people from their sins.
It is this third part of Paul’s comments though, I want to spend a little more time on. He says, I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, WILL complete it. God knows nothing of an incomplete project. Just as with the work of Creation where in 7 days God finished the work of establishing the heavens and the earth, so too, does His Word promise He will complete that work of salvation in the hearts and lives of all those who belong to Him. God does not leave us unfinished, half done, incomplete Christians. He who began the good work of salvation, finishes that glorious work until the day of Christ Jesus. What the Bible is teaching us here is God does not forget nor forsake those He calls to Himself. Once we are called unto salvation, God through Christ, ultimately sees us through to the end. The work of salvation is a persevering work. In Romans 8:30 the Bible put it this way saying those God calls, these He also justifies; and whom He justified, these He also glorifies. Salvation once begun in the heart of the redeemed sinner is one day fully and finally completed.
And this, beloved, is where our assurance and our hope come from – from the goodness and grace of God. The reality is though, we struggle with this truth. Though we might know it is true, we don’t always feel it is true. We know we fail God. We know we aren’t always what we ought to be. We know sin continues to be a reality in our lives and all this can and does cause us to question our salvation. And no can really blame you when you wonder why God would want to have anything to do with you when you still disobey Him and do things you know displease Him. But I think it is because we do sometimes let doubt creep in that Scripture offers us these comforting words. That even though all those things are true, we never stop being loved and accepted by God our Father through Christ our Lord.
God’s love is greater than our weakness. Therefore He will complete the work of salvation in you and will bring you ultimately to Himself one day. But till that day, we are all still a work in progress. Like Paul says elsewhere in Sacred Writ, it is not as if we have already achieved or attained perfection. If you are still walking this earth, and you belong to Him, then you are a wonderful work in progress. Christians are not perfect, but we are forgiven and that makes all the difference. It took almost 200 years for the Italians to complete the leaning tower of Pisa. And to this day, centuries later it’s still leaning but it’s still standing. It was important enough for them to keep working on, even though they knew it was inherently flawed.
God promises to abide with us and to sanctify us little by little day by day, even though we might be flawed. He looks past those flaws to the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. And the Bible says He will never leave us nor forsake us. My prayer is that in those times when we might become discouraged in our faith, when we might be tempted to question the very salvation Jesus purchased for us with His own blood, that we would turn to passages like this one here in Philippians 1:6 an other like texts and lean on the promise of God and His Word, that He who began a good work in you, and in me, will certainly complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.