Philippians 1:3-6 ESV
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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.”
Partnership in the Gospel
What is a partnership? It is a joint venture. It is an alliance, a relationship, a cooperation, a working together with another or with others. And what is the gospel? It is the message of our salvation from sin and of our eternal life with God. It can be summarized in this: Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to his righteousness (1 Pet 2:24; cf. Rom 6:1-23).
These two Scripture passages also summarize the gospel well for us:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Lu 9:23-25)
“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:19-24).
These passages of Scripture describe both the gospel and what it means to be in partnership with the gospel. For the gospel is not just that Jesus died on that cross to take away our sins so we can go to heaven one day when we die. And it isn’t just that he was resurrected from the dead so that we can have new lives in him.
But it is that by faith in Jesus Christ we are crucified with him in death to sin and we are resurrected with him to newness of life in him, that we might no longer be enslaved to sin, but so we can now, by God’s grace, be slaves of God and of his righteousness. It is so we can live, no longer under the control of sin but now under the control of righteousness (Rom 6:1-23).
He Who Began the Good Work
None of this (above) is of ourselves. We can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father first draws us to Christ; unless he first persuades us as to his holiness and righteousness, and as to our sinful condition, and as to our need for salvation from sin. God the Father must first persuade us to repent of our sins, to believe in Jesus, and to leave our lives of sin behind us to follow him in obedience to his commands.
Also, even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is not of ourselves. It is a gift of God, not of our own fleshly works lest we should boast. For the faith to believe in Jesus comes from God, it is persuaded of God, it originates with Jesus and it is perfected by Jesus, and it can only be obtained by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; Jn 6:44; 2 Pet 1:1).
But just because Jesus is the originator and perfecter of our faith, and just because our faith comes from God, and not from ourselves, and just because Jesus is the one who began this good work of salvation in our lives, and just because he is the one to complete it, that doesn’t mean that we do nothing. It doesn’t mean that nothing is required of us.
Yes, we can’t do any of this in our own flesh. Yes, we can do nothing in and of ourselves to earn or to deserve or to obtain our own salvation. But it is still a partnership. It is a cooperation. God does it in us only as we cooperate with his work of grace in our lives. Ephesians 2:10 says this:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
All is done in the power and in the strength of the Lord, but we have to do what he says. We have to cooperate with the work of our creator in what he wants to do in our lives. And he provides all that we need to do his will, for it is him in us doing the work as we go with God.
For example, God called me to this writing ministry in 2004. I had some natural ability to write beforehand, but I wouldn’t say I was a great writer or that I am today. So, God called me, but then I don’t sit down and just go it on my own. That would be fruitless. He empowers me. He leads me in what to write. He guides and directs the words that he has me write. I still have to physically do it, and I have to listen to him, and not go my own way, but it is him doing it through me. It doesn’t mean I get everything right, though, for we only know in part, and we only prophesy in part (see 1 Co 13:8-12).
At the Day of Jesus
When Jesus Christ returns for his bride, and he takes us to be with him forever, then our salvation will be complete. Right now we have been saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved (future) when Jesus returns and he completes our salvation, provided that we continue in Christ and in his word and that we cooperate with his work of grace in our lives by daily dying to sin and living to righteousness in his power.
Now, when this says that Jesus is the one who began a good work in us and that he is the one who will bring it to completion, again this isn’t saying he does it all and that we do nothing or that nothing is required of us. We have to do our part to cooperate with his good work of salvation in our lives.
Also, this is not a guarantee that everyone who professes the name of Jesus Christ can automatically be assured that Jesus is going to complete the work of salvation in their lives regardless of what they do or don’t do. The Scriptures are real clear on that subject. If we walk according to the flesh, and we don’t walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit, we will not have eternal life with God no matter what we confessed with our lips.
So, yes, we can only be saved from our sins through Jesus Christ. He is the only one to turn us from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God so we might receive forgiveness of sins, i.e. he is the only one to deliver us from our slavery to sin and to make us into new creations in Christ Jesus, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
But all these changes that he works in our lives involve our cooperation, our partnership with him in what he wants to do in and through our lives. Like, these devotions do not write themselves. I still have to engage my mind and my will and my fingers and my time and energies to sit at a computer and to write. But it is God who leads me in what to say and I have to listen to him.
So, yes! Give God all the glory and praise for everything he has done and that he is doing and that he will yet do in and through our lives for his glory and praise. Understand that this all comes from him and that we are totally dependent on him to live the Christian life. But then live the life you have been given for his glory and honor by doing what he says to do, not in your own strength, but in the strength and power of God through whom and for whom all these things come that are of him and that glorify him.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]
*This is a secular song so I changed the words “seem” to “be,” “bright” to “light,” and “magic that” to “miracles” so that it fits with a love song being sung to Jesus Christ, to the only one who can begin a good work in us, and to the only one who is able to bring it to completion.
Songwriters: Buck Ram / Ande Rand
Can make this world [be] right
Can make the darkness [light]
Only you and you alone
Can thrill me like you do
And fill my heart with love for only you
Can make this change in me
For it’s true
You are my destiny
When you hold my hand, I understand
The [miracles] you do
You’re my dream come true
My one and only you
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