Beginning with the end in mind

Here’s the big idea: God has invested so much to purchase you through Christ, he will finish what he started.

The book of Philippians is marked by encouragement and joy. Paul is in prison in Rome, writing to a church birthed in a prison in Philippi, encouraging them to be joyful in the face of persecution. The church in this Roman colony had the audacity to claim that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, titles typically reserved for the Roman emperor. And so this church faithfully exalts Christ in the face of difficulty.

Let’s look at two characteristics of this church that make it great.

1) Partnership

v. 5: because of your partnership [koinonia] in the gospel from the first day until now.  

Gospel partnership begins with faith in God’s salvation in Christ and continues to share Christ with others. The Philippians had become partners in the gospel by God’s work of bringing them to himself; now they were partners with God in the gospel ministry of reaching out to others.

Note the word because. Paul says that it is because of this partnership that always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy (v. 4). Paul wasn’t praying for the Philippians because they had lots of problems, just the opposite; Paul was praying for them with thanksgiving and joy because they were such amazing partners in the gospel.

2) Completion

v. 6:  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

When we get in the car and start driving, we usually have a destination in mind. Think about that for a moment. We – broken, sinful, finite, imperfect humans - are able to conceive an end – a destination towards which we are moving, and carry it out. The reason we get into the car and start drying is because we want to get somewhere. We begin the trip with the end in mind.

And the same thing is true about God. God breaks into our lives – not randomly, but on purpose. God initiates the work of grace in our lives – not randomly, but on purpose. God saves us and adopts us and forgives us and regenerates, not on the basis of some random occurrence but because he intends to bring us home to himself.

God begins everything with the end in mind. But unlike us, who are unable to guarantee the outcome of anything, God is able to guarantee completely everything he determines.

In verse 6 Paul says that the moment of completion is the day of Christ Jesus.  

The day of Christ is the end of this age and the beginning of the next when we Jesus returns, is fully glorified and exalted, and judges the world. Paul’s point is that God doesn’t bring us to himself through Christ to leave us half baked; he will finish what He has started.

As a matter of fact, from his perspective, it’s already done. This is how Paul frames it for the Romans:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8.29-30

To foreknow means more than God knows ahead of time who he will adopt; he does, but to foreknow is to know in a special, covenantal way; it is for God to set his love and affection on someone – not because they are good, but because God has chosen them. God chooses to enter into relationship with people, and He knows whom he has chosen (Jer. 1.5; Amos 3.2; Deut. 10.15). On the basis of that foreknowing, God he has predetermined that those he saves, those he justifies, those he adopts – He will finish what he started. Paul describes this in two ways: first, they will be conformed to the image of Jesus. Second, they will get glorified.

This is the point he makes to the Philippians: Paul is sure of this – he has absolute certainty – that what God has started in them through the gospel will come to the full completion God intends – they will be conformed to Christ’s image, they will be glorified – and all that will happen on the day of the Lord, which is the day of Jesus Christ. God begins with the end in mind; he only starts the salvation process with those he plans to finish it with. And God completes everything he plans.

3) Two thoughts

Is it worth it? First, why would Paul write this? Just like us, the Philippians were subject to fluctuations of up and down and losing hope. As they began to experience persecution, with greater intensity, they needed to be reminded that God would start what he had finished. The guaranteed end makes the struggle more than worth it.

The more the merrier. By being reminded of God’s completion promise, the Philippians had greater motivation to continue their gospel partnership. God brought them into fellowship with himself through the gospel, and now, through gospel ministry, they were extending this fellowship to others.

To summarise: God's high investment in us through Christ confirms that he will finish what he has started in our lives. This frees us to the enjoy the fellowship of  gospel ministry by inviting others to the party.