Motivation to Work Towards Unity

Philippians 2:12-13 NIV

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

In the previous section, Paul encouraged – even instructed – the Philippian community to be unified. His words: easy to understand, harder to do.

This section is a followup, or final push to encourage the Philippians to find unity among themselves. Notice how Paul attempts to persuade them to follow through – even if the task seems too difficult or uninteresting: (my paraphrase) “In the past, you followed my instruction while I was with you. Now, in my absence, it’s all the more important for you to do so. And, if you think it’s too hard – or you just don’t want to – remember this: It is God who is working in you, giving you the desire to do and empowering you to do what He desires.”

Paul’s letter to the Colossians had a similar phrase: (1:29 – emphasis added) “To this end, I labor, struggling with all HIS energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

So, once again, we can say that we work, and God gets the credit. Why? Because He works in us to give us the desire to work, and He gives us the energy to work. Why be motivated to work towards unity? Because that is God working in us!

Confidence and Joy in Prayer

Philippians 1:3-11 NIV

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

This short passage answers at least two questions:

1. Why does Paul pray with confidence and joy for the saints at Philippi?

Because “HE who began a good work in [them] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

In other words, when God starts something, he finishes it.

2. For what does Paul pray?

That [their] love may abound more and more in
A. knowledge, and
B. depth of insight.

So that [they] may:
1. be able to discern what is best, and
2. be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, and
3. be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-

To the glory and praise of God.

Paul’s prayer for the saints at Philippi has one goal in mind: the glory and praise to God.

Our Good Works are to His Credit

Ephesians 2:10 NIV

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Good works are:
1. What Christians are to do as the result of Him working in us.
2. Designated for us in advance.

God has prepared certain good works for us to do and His work in us gives us the ability to do them, which means there is no room for boasting on our part.

That we have nothing to boast about isn’t a new idea introduced in this verse. In fact, it is a followup: In the two verses prior to this (2:8-9), we see that our salvation is a merciful gift from God so that we can’t boast. Interestingly, the good works we do, like our salvation, are to His credit. It’s a package deal. God alone gets the credit for our salvation and our good works.

Predestined for the Praise of His Glory

Ephesians 1:11-12 NIV

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

From this passage I see that Christians are predestined:
1. According to a plan, and
2. For the praise of God’s glory.

Predestination is not a reaction; it has a plan and a purpose. That gives me encouragement and comfort.

Chosen and Predestined

My wife and I have been reading (out loud) through Ephesians together, and my next series of posts will be things that stood out to me during our reading. This is not an attempt to exhaust Ephesians, rather it is intended to highlight one or two things from each chapter.

Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Here are the same verses in an emphasized outline form:
We were chosen before the creation of the world to:
a. be holy
b. be blameless
in His sight.

In love he predestined us to
a. be adopted as his sons
according to
a. his pleasure
b. his will
to the praise of his glorious grace.

Here are the verses in a summarized fashion:
His adopted sons are to be holy and blameless in His sight, and they were chosen before the creation of the world according to HIS pleasure and will. And all that for the praise of His glorious grace.

Unfortunately, many in the body of Christ will not praise God’s glorious grace when they see chosen and predestined. Instead, they will criticize and protest. Many will try to make these verses unsay what they say.

Why can’t we be more like Spurgeon who said the following in a comment on 1 Timothy 2:3-4?

“My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

(Source: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit vol. 26, 1880, pp. 49, 50)

%d bloggers like this: