I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 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. Phil 1:3-6
After his signature ‘grace to you’ opening of this letter to the Philippian church, the apostle Paul dives into a warm and heartfelt introduction filled with gratitude and expectant hope, which continues through verse 11. Paul’s affection and love for the believers in Philippi is immediately evident, as is theirs for him.
The first thing to note is how Paul remembers these believers with both thanksgiving and joy. Often when we pray for others we focus solely on their worldly needs, such as health, finances, or family matters. Do we ever simply thank God for people and remember them in our prayers with only an outpouring of joy? This is a great reminder to set aside time to pray for our loved ones merely for the blessing and delight they bring us, focusing on the positive instead of only what is wanting. While there is nothing wrong with petitioning for another’s needs, simply thanking the Lord for their presence in our lives certainly helps reset our perspective and lighten our hearts.
Paul was also very thankful for the Philippians participation in the gospel. This can also be translated as sharing in the preaching of the gospel, and suggests this church not only actively shared the gospel in their area, but also supported Paul’s mission work through financial giving. As a traveling missionary, Paul certainly needed the help of others to continue the work the Lord had called him to do. In fact, we learn later in this letter than Paul had a hard time raising funds from other churches, as he wrote, “you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left 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.” (Phil 4:15-16). This church loved both the gospel and Paul and gave freely and generously to support him, and for this Paul was exceedingly thankful, and the gospel spread beyond their borders.
The Philippians were living out their faith in a tangible way; the evidence of their salvation was clearly seen through their works and love for the apostle. And by this, Paul had great confidence that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For the second time in just a few verses (see also v2), Paul speaks to the work of both the Father and Son in our salvation. He who began, speaking of God the Father, the Founder and Author of our salvation (cf: Heb 2:9-11, 1 Thes 5:9), will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus, His beloved Son (Matt 3:17). Two persons of the Godhead are represented in this statement, both of Whom are instrumental in our redemption.
But there’s even more packed into this verse. God the Father will actively continue to perfect this good work in believers until the day of Christ. What is the day of Christ? This phrase is used just three times in the Bible and only here in Philippians, but it is not to be confused with the “day of the Lord” which is used many times throughout Scripture. The day of the Lord is always associated with God’s wrath and judgment which will come upon the unrepentant and unsaved. It is the day which Christ warned would come suddenly, like a thief in the night, and speaks of destruction, wailing, and terror (Isa 13:6-9, Mal 4:5, 1 Thes 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10). So, looking at this in the context of Paul’s encouragement to genuine believers, we can surmise that he is speaking of the time when Christ returns on the clouds to take up His Church, as we read of in 1 Thes 5:9-10 and Revelation 14:14-16.
There are several great takeaways from this rich passage of Scripture. First, let’s remember to pray in thanksgiving and joy for others, not only focusing on what is lacking. Second, it is a blessing and honor to support those whom the Lord has called to mission work, because in doing so we participate in the gospel reaching the lost. And third, in living out our faith actively and tangibly, we can have full confidence that God is perfecting His good work in us and will continue to do so until we are raised in glory to be forever with the Lord.