(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 22, 2004
Confidence in God
In my introduction to our study of the book of Philippians, I spoke about the difference between joy and happiness. Our society provides many ways in which happiness can be pursued. It might be fame, fortune, materialism, power, self-esteem, personal accomplishment, hedonism, entertainment or escape. Most people are using one or more of these ways in order to catch up with happiness. The problem is that even when you do catch up to happiness, you cannot capture it, for it is fleeting, and soon the pursuit must be made again. Joy, on the other, is something that can be present at all times. If you have the correct source of joy, then it will be with you even in difficult circumstances. It will be with you even when the circumstances are sad and your heart is breaking. This morning we will begin to learn through what Paul says here in Philippians that the source of this joy is in God Himself. Turn again to Philippians 1.
Verses 1 & 2 brings the salutation. “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Over the last two weeks I have given brief biographies of Paul and his co-worker and author, Timothy, so that we might properly understand their message. As with any literature, you cannot properly or fully understand it without some knowledge of the author. We also covered who the message was written to – the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi including the Overseers and Deacons.
Recall from last week that “saint” means “holy” or “separated unto,” and as used here refers to those people who have placed their faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from their sins. They are holy because God has forgiven them their sins and clothed them with the righteousness of Christ based on their faith. They are now separated from sin, their former master, and are now to be slaves of God in righteousness. Every true Christian is a saint because God declares them to be so, not a church.
We also explained the position of the Overseers and Deacons and their role in the church. The Overseers could also be called Elders or Pastors. Their role is to administrate, lead, protect and feed or teach the believers that make up the church. They are ministers of God to the congregation and carry Biblical authority to accomplish that ministry. The Deacons are servants that assist the Overseers/Elders/Pastors in their ministry to the flock of God. Deacons, and their female counterparts, Deaconesses, are positions of service in the church, not authority or power.
Paul’s opening salutation includes his wish for them to have the grace and peace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ upon them. Paul includes a similar greeting in all of his letters. What a wonderful desire to have for others. It is a desire that Christians should have for all other people whether they are believers yet or not. To the unbeliever, we should desire them to know and experience the grace of God which comes through Jesus Christ which removes the guilt and slavery of sin that they may then have a proper relationship with their creator and be at peace with Him. To the believer we should desire that they continue to grow in their knowledge and personal experience of God’s grace and peace as it effects every aspect and detail of their lives. What Paul had experienced himself he desired others to also experience.
Unlike other realms of life in which humans are in competition with each other to gain a portion or greater portion of limited resources, our relationship with God is unlimited because He is unlimited. In families sibling rivalry occurs because parents are limited in time and resources. While the parents may love all their children, because they are finite, there is only a limited amount of time, energy and material goods that they can give to any one or all their children. If the parents are not careful to keep balanced and teach their children to love one another, then the children will compete with each other for what the parents can give. In God’s family, there is no competition because God is unlimited. There is no threat to the Christian that their own relationship with God can suffer by encouraging others to also have such a relationship with Him. In fact, our joy can only be increased because we can now share in the joy those other people also have in their relationship with God. So let us desire God’s grace and peace to be extended to all other people.
Thankfulness & Joy (3,4)
In verses 3-8, Paul not only expresses his thankfulness for the Philippians and reasons for his gratitude, but he also lays the foundation for explaining his source of joy in all circumstances. Let’s look at these verses and then come back and explain them in more detail. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 [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. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Remembering God’s Work in the Past
In verses 3 & 4, Paul states that he would give thanks to God every time he would remember the Philippian believers. This memory of them is the first source of joy that Paul expresses. Remember that Paul had been with them personally at least three times and that he had his co-workers there at other times on his behalf. It was in Philippi that he saw the Holy Spirit move on Lydia’s heart so that she became the first convert to Christianity in Europe under his ministry of the Gospel. Paul had some negative experiences with some of the towns people that resulted in him being beaten with rods and thrown in jail there, yet, as Acts 16 records, God used this situation and Paul’s response to it to bring about the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his household. All of these memories of what God had done there as well as the many others not recorded was a source of joy for Paul. They caused him to give thanks to God.
Source of joy – Remembrance of God’s work in the past.
Bringing Others Before God in Prayer
This first joy resulted in his second source of joy. Paul offered prayer with joy on their behalf – vs. 4. Prayer is the proper response of the Christian when they remember others, especially those that they are close to emotionally. All of us have enough ego that we find encouragement in a letter or card that tells us someone else was thinking about us. That is a nice sentiment, but it is of little practical value unless the thoughts can be followed up with some kind of positive action.
Consider if you want an agent of the IRS thinking about you and expressing his thoughts unless he found an error in your taxes to your favor. Or what if you have a serious medical condition. It may be nice that the doctor thinks of you, but the practical value of that is only gained if he has also thought of a solution to your medical condition. Consider as well the doctor’s point of view. A good doctor is troubled by his thoughts of you until he finds a solution to your medical condition. It is frustrating to want to help someone and not being able to do so. As Christians we can always do something positive regardless of how bad a situation may be. We can bring that person before our gracious and merciful God. We can pray for them.
Paul thought of the Philippians and it resulted in him praying on their behalf. Paul found joy in being able to take positive action on their behalf because he could make intercession for them with the God that can answer prayer and always pays attention to the need of His children. The second source of joy is being able to pray for others. Paul gives further reasons for his thankfulness and joy in the next 5 verses.
Participation in the Gospel (5)
In verse 5 Paul specifically states that part of the reason for his thankfulness and joy when he thought about the Philippians was because of their participation with him in the gospel from the first day he met them to the present. The word for “participation” here is koinwniva/ / koinonia, which is more commonly translated as “fellowship” or “communion.” It speaks of sharing something in common. Christians are in “communion” with one another because we share in common the same Lord, same faith, same baptism, same hope, same Spirit, and same God and Father which makes them all part of the same body (Eph. 4:4-6). Christians are in “fellowship” with each other, not only because of these common beliefs and relationships, but also because we share what we have including our gifts with each other that all of us might grow in Christlikeness.
koinwniva/ / koinonia is also used for the practical sharing of physical necessities including money with one another. Paul had received such “contributions” from the saints (Rom. 12:13) for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:4). The Philippians had participated with Paul in all these ways since they first met him.
Paul comments in Phil. 4:15 & 16 about how quickly the Philippian believers responded to the gospel and sharing in Paul’s ministry even though they themselves were new believers. “And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” Acts 17:1 records that after Paul had left Philippi, he traveled through Amphipolis and Apolonia, and came to Thessalonica. This is only a few days or a few weeks at most from when he left Philippi, yet they are already seeking to help him out. Paul commends the generosity of these Macedonian Christians in 2 Cor. 8:1-5 saying, “Now, brethren, we [wish to] make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability [they gave] of their own accord, 4 begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation (koinwniva/ / koinonia) in the support of the saints, 5 and [this,] not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” Their generosity went beyond monetary gifts to sharing of themselves by sending one of their own, Epaphroditus, to Paul to be his assistant, and Ephaphroditus risked his own life in the endeavor (Phil. 2:25-30).
Paul says that it was specifically their participation or communion in the gospel that he had in view. Their participation in the gospel would include not only all I said above about sharing common beliefs and actions of mutual benefit, but also sharing the same work and consequences of that work. They were co-laborers with Paul through their material gifts to support him and sending Ephaphroditus to be an assistant, but they were also laboring in the same task of proclaiming the gospel themselves in their own area and to those passing through. We can add to this that in preaching the gospel they would certainly have had persecution (1:28), and so there would also have been the fellowship of suffering for Christ’s sake.
Finding such committed co-laborers is a source of joy to any Christian, both for those gaining the help and those giving the help. Paul and the Philippians had joy in each other because they were fellow participants in the work of the gospel. Even when they would suffer for the cause of Christ, their communion together would be an encouragement in the midst of the hardship, even as Paul expresses in 1:12-26. That same joy of fellowship is available to any Christian who is walking with Christ and will use their spiritual gifts in ministry to others and will allow others to minister to them.
Confidence in God (6)
The next source of joy is found in verse 6. There is joy in looking forward to the future when you know what the outcome will be. Paul was thankful and glad when he thought about the Philippian believers because he could be confident that God would complete in them the good work He had started. I will expand on this confidence in God in a few minutes, but for the moment I want us to focus on this as a source of thankfulness and joy for Paul.
The good work that God was doing in the Philippian Christians began when the gospel was proclaimed to them and would continue until the day of Christ Jesus when all of the gospel’s promises would be fulfilled. It is important to stress here that this is the work of God. The gospel message is about the grace of God being extended to man through Jesus Christ so that man can be redeemed and restored to a proper relationship with God. The gospel is primarily about God, not man. We must be careful to make sure that it remains that way, for the gospel message has been twisted in the last generation to become focused on man instead of God. Men then judge God based on their own beliefs instead of changing their beliefs because they find out the basis by which God will judge them.
The gospel is often commonly presented in America as the good news that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. While that is true, the idea of a wonderful life is not usually defined except for the fact that you get to go to Heaven instead of Hell. The hearer is allowed to believe this wonderful life is how ever he defines it. Some carry on about things the Bible does not promise such as if you will believe in Jesus, then He will provide for your desires; keep you in good health; and give you peace and happiness. All the person has to do is decide if they will accept Jesus or not. Such a gospel is marketed to highlight all the good points so that the person will choose Jesus. But what is the rest of the package?
The Christian life is a wonderful life, but only God can define what that means. If you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then He does promise to meet your needs (Mt. 6:33), but there is no promise to meet your fleshly desires. The Holy Spirit will be present to comfort you in any situation, but there is no promise that your life will be full of good things and happiness. You might not have good health. Paul had what he called a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) that he asked God to take away three times. God told him instead, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Jesus warned us that in this world we would have tribulation, but we could be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Paul stated it directly that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). We plan our way, but God directs our steps (Prov. 16:19). It is a wonderful life because it fulfills our purpose of existence and changes us into the image of Jesus Christ, not because we get whatever lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes or boastful pride of life object will make us happy (1 John 1:15). Sin brings pleasure for a season, but its end is death.
Paul was confident that God would perfect or complete (ejpitelevw/ / epiteleô) His work in them because he understood the gospel message. It is God centered, not man centered. God will accomplish His will through man, and He will conform the true Christian into the image of His son (Rom. 8:29). The godly man will rejoice in that truth for his desire and goal is to see God glorified. Those who are ungodly or merely religious will resent it, for their goal is themselves, not God. Paul was also confident because he understood that salvation is the work of God, not man.
The gospel call is a genuine call to all the world that whosoever will hear Christ’s word and believe Him who sent Him will be given eternal life and pass out of judgement (John 5:24). Many take that to mean that salvation is left to the decision of man. He will be saved if he chooses to believe in Jesus Christ, and lost if he does not. This can be referred to as “Decisional Regeneration.” There are two major problems with that view. The first is logical, the second, theological.
There are groups that have understood logic problem and logically concluded that if man can gain salvation by his own decision, then he can lose it in the same manner. These groups reject the security of the believer which is often phrased as “once saved always saved.” They will agree with Paul that none of the things listed by Paul in Romans 8:38,39, which includes everything, can separate us from God’s love, except the individual himself.
The solution to the theological problem also solves the logical problem. Salvation is not left to the decision of man, because man does not have “free will.” Man has limited will. The unsaved are incapable of choosing God on their own for their minds are blinded by the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), and they do “not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Without God’s direct intervention, man will not choose Jesus Christ. Salvation occurs only because God in His grace intervenes.
God has commanded all men everywhere to repent from their sins and turn to Him (Acts 17:30). God is patient and kind with sinful men (2 Peter 3:9) which should lead man to repentance, but his natural reaction is to refuse and he stores up wrath for himself (Rom 2:4,5). Man has no hope without God’s intervention. Jesus said in John 6:44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” and as Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement upon a man (John 16:8) and quicken or make alive the dead spirit of a man so he will turn, believe and be saved (Eph. 2). We believe, as did the Apostles, that we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus (Acts 15:11), or as Eph. 2:8,9 states “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Since our salvation from sin is the gracious work of God in our lives, then He is the one responsible both for it and keeping us. Jesus told us in John 6:39; 10:28,29 that no one can snatch out of His hand those that belong to Him, and that He loses none of those given to Him. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:35-39). If God saves you, you cannot lose that salvation, and God will complete His work in you. Eventually He will conform you to the image of His son (Rom. 8:29). You are in that process in the present.
Paul’s Heart for the Philippian Believers (7,8)
Another source of Paul’s thankfulness and joy was from his own love and affection toward the Philippian believers. As he says in verse 7, they were in his heart. Paul specifically relates this as a response to their being partakers of grace with him in his imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (vs. 7). “Partakers” is sugkoinwnov” / sugkoinônos, which is an intensive form of a word related to koinwniva/ / koinwnia which we saw earlier. Paul viewed them as those who were sharing in both his imprisonment and gospel ministry. In particular they had sent Epaphroditus to Rome to minster to his needs, and they had been faithful in supporting Paul in his travels in preaching the gospel. They were partners with Paul in every way they could be, and it resulted in Paul having a deep affection for them.
That affection is expressed in his telling them in verse 8 of his longing for them. But even here, the joy was not founded in himself, but in his relationship to Jesus Christ. His affection for them was the love of Jesus Christ flowing through Paul to them. It is not romantic to tell someone you love them because God has put it in your heart to do so, but it is a lot more sure and secure. If you love someone because of some particular attribute about them, what happens to that love when that attribute changes? If you love them because of your own emotions, what happens when those emotions change? If it is God loving someone through you, then that does not change because God does not change. The joy for the giver and the receiver is actually increased because of that.
Paul expressed 5 reasons that he was thankful and joyful in his remembrance of the Philippians. His sources for joy include: 1) Remembering God’s work among them in the past; 2) Being able to take positive action on behalf of others because he could make intercession for them with the God that can answer prayer and always pays attention to the needs of His children; 3) Having the committed fellowship of other Christians as co-laborers in the cause of Christ; 4) Having confidence in a God who is trustworthy and who will fulfill all His promises; 5) Being the recipient of God’s love through others and being the giver of God’s love to others. All of these should be sources for our own joy and thankfulness.
Confidence in God.
Before we conclude this morning, I want to go back to verse 6 and briefly expand on it. For having a confidence in God is actually the foundation of all of Paul’s sources of joy. If there is not a confidence in God, then whatever joy we have can only be the happiness of the immediate circumstances and not the abiding joy that can continues in any situation.
Paul was not afraid of the future for either himself or for the Philippian believers, and remember that Paul is at this point in prison knowing that there was a possibility that he could die. Paul was confident in God and His promises. Paul clearly understood that God is sovereign. Paul also understood that he existed for the purpose of God’s glory. Both Paul’s confidence and ability to be joyful in every situation were dependent on these two facts.
Paul had no problem with God’s sovereignty. He believed Old Testament declarations such as Isaiah 46:9,10 in which God says, “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; [I am] God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Paul described it himself this way in Ephesians 1:11,12, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”
That God is sovereign is simply Biblical truth. Those that reject this truth can never have confidence in the future for their God cannot control the future. That is why such people commonly reject the security of the true Christian and believe that you can lose your salvation.
Let me add here that God’s sovereignty should never be taken beyond what Scripture says so that God becomes the author of sin, He is not (Dt. 32:4; Ps. 18:30; 92:15; 145:17; Jm 1:13; 1 Jn 1:5), and neither does He predestine people to Hell. No verse even suggests that. People are condemned to Hell because they are judged strictly according to their own deeds (Rev. 20:13,14), and God does not cause anyone to sin, people do that all on their own (Jm 1:13,14).
The second factor of Paul’s confidence and joy is in living for the purpose of God’s glory. A person who wants to live for themselves cannot have any confidence in God because it is obvious by the lives of all the godly people in the Bible – from Abel, to Noah, to Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles – that living a godly life will result in persecution by those who are evil (2 Tim. 3:12), and a self-centered person cannot take any joy in that. Only in understanding and living for God’s glory can there be any positive purpose for such suffering for the sake of righteousness.
The Christian’s ability to be joyful will be restricted by those two factors. If you want to be able to be joyful in any circumstance, you must come to grips with these truths and have confidence in them. God is sovereign and the purpose of your existence it to bring Him glory. He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times references are made to being thankful or joyful. Talk with your parents about the reasons Paul could be both.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What important information does the salutation (vs. 1,2) tell us? What are the 5 reasons Paul gives in vs. 3-8 for being thankful and joyful? What good things do you remember God doing in your life? How can you help someone far away? How can God help them? What various ways koinwniva/ / koinonia can be demonstrated? What was Paul’s confidence in God? How is the Christian life wonderful? What work will God complete in Christians? What are the problems with “Decisional Regeneration”? What can man do on his own to be saved? How does God save a person? What was Paul’s heart for the Philippians? Why? What is the importance of being confident in God? How do we know God is sovereign? How does that help us face the future? Is God the author of sin? Why or why not? Why do people go to Hell? What is the purpose of your existence?
Sermon Notes – February 22, 2004
Confidence in God – Philippians 1:3-8
Thankfulness & Joy
Remembering God’s Work in the Past (vs. 4)
Bringing Others Before God in Prayer (vs. 4)
Participation in the Gospel (vs. 5)
koinwniva/ / koinonia
Confidence in God (vs. 6)
ejpitelevw/ / epiteleô – to be completed (Rom. 8:29)
The Gospel of Grace
Paul’s Heart for the Philippian Believers
Confidence in God
Living for God’s Glory
For comments, please e-mail Church office – Mark the subject line “Web Comment” or “Web ?” so that we know your e-mail is not SPAM