A PERMANENT PARTNERSHIP
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 17, 2019
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
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.
— Philippians 1:3-6, ESV
All Christians would agree that salvation is a gift from God that brings us into a relationship with God. But can God take the gift back, or can a Christian choose to end the relationship? It depends upon your interpretation of Scripture and your understanding of the gospel.
Just over half of the professing Christians in the world are Roman Catholic. Catholics are taught that a once saved soul can plunge into a place called Purgatory, or fall even lower into Hell, for failing to adhere to the sacraments of the church or by committing certain mortal sins. Ultimate salvation is by grace through faith plus works, but if the faith fails or the works are not good enough, down you go.
The Arminian branch of the Protestant church believes it is the free will of man that claims God’s salvation, and the same free agent can opt out at any time. Grace does not produce faith, but faith comes from one’s own power, and a human faith that changes or otherwise fails will forfeit God’s grace. Ultimate salvation is by grace through faith, but that faith comes from you, and you must keep it to keep from falling from grace.
The Reformed, Calvinistic, Presbyterian and old school Baptist traditions emphasize the perseverance of the saints, the eternal security of the believer, or once saved always saved (though this last term has been badly abused by some Baptists). Ultimate salvation is by a miraculous and powerful grace that cannot fail to produce faith and faithfulness in the believer, who will keep the faith because they are kept by grace until the end.
The Apostle Paul lived centuries before the development of Roman Catholicism and a millennium and a half before the Protestant Reformation. He does not have a dog in any of our fights, plus he carries with him the weight of Holy Scripture. Let’s look at one of his many takes on the subject, in these introductory remarks made in a letter written to one of his favorite churches, the Philippians.
Paul’s Partnership with the Philippians
Philippians is a particularly soulful and joyful book in the Bible. Reading it can bring great joy to your soul. It is plain to see how much Paul loves them, how well he has led them, and the great promises he makes to them.
Paul thanks God for his and the Philippian Christians’ “partnership in the gospel.” The translation could render it “fellowship,” for the well known Greek word is “koinonia.” Let’s take a moment to think about how this gospel partnership or fellowship or sharing came about.
Paul came to them, they did not come to Paul. God sent Paul through Philippi on the Apostle’s second missionary journey (ref. Acts 16). There he met a diverse group of souls, including the wealthy Jewish proselyte Lydia, a pessimistic pagan jailer, and it was his first work with a prominent physician named Luke, who became Paul’s traveling companion and a divinely inspired writer of Scripture. Before Paul came to the Philippians they were lost. They were not looking for Paul, but Paul was led by God to them.
Paul preached the gospel to them. Paul did not show up in Philippi to make rap records or sell books about your best life now. Music and the power of positive thinking does not save. Paul showed up with the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ’s life and death and resurrection, and this gospel is God’s delivery method of salvation. Through the gospel God gives truth, faith, and repentance. Salvation fell upon Lydia, the Philippian jailer and his house, and others, as those who were chosen to believe chose to believe.
Then, after coming to them, preaching the gospel to them, and seeing they shared faith in the gospel with him, Paul made a profound promise to them.
Paul’s Promise to the Philippians
Paul’s promise to the Philippian Christians is stated in the last part of our text: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Paul promised his brothers and sisters in Christ that their salvation was not his work, he was just the messenger. Salvation was not their work, for spiritually dead people cannot do spiritual work. Salvation is God’s work, and when God goes to work, God finishes what God starts!
God “began a good work” in them with Paul’s preaching and their justification by faith. Paul promised God “will bring it to completion,” which He did by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His holy word. Paul promised their partnership in the gospel would culminate in glorification “at the day of Jesus Christ,” meaning the day they met Jesus face to face, either through death or in the rapture at His second coming.
Paul promised them that when they were all dead and gone, they would not be dead and gone. They would be alive and together with Jesus, in Heaven, forever. Can’t you just imagine Paul with the Lord now, Lydia dressed in purple, and the jailer telling stories about the singing he heard that night before the earthquake. I tell you they are with the Lord, forever, and you can be assured of this, too. For Paul’s partnership and promise to the Philippians is God’s partnership and promise to you.
God’s Partnership with You
More than Paul loved the Philippians, more than the person you love the most on earth, God loves you. If you are a Christian, God chose you, saved you, lives in you, and has made a partnership with you. This partnership, of which He is the supreme and sovereign and senior partner, is permanent.
Like Paul entered Philippi, God entered into your life. He did not need an invitation, He is God. He goes where He pleases, visits who He chooses, and does what He wills. You may think your have known God all your life, since you were brought up in a Christian home, but who do you think made that Christian home and put you in it? You may think you were searching and seeking God before you found Him, but God was not lost, you were, and a spiritually dead lost person has no spiritual desire for God. Years ago a terribly erroneous bumpersticker was popular, “I Found God.” No, my Christian brother or sister, it was God who found you.
Like Paul in Philippi, God preached the gospel to you. I know it was not Jesus’ face you saw or Jesus’ voice you heard, but any parent or preacher or friend or witness who shared the gospel with you was inhabited and inspired by God. It was God’s word they used, God’s gospel they proclaimed, the good news of Jesus Christ which forgives sin and imputes righteousness and makes a person born again unto eternal life, not temporary life, eternal life. With the repentance and faith that grace alone can give, you believed the gospel and committed your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You were saved, and by all means it was God who did the saving.
And like Paul in Philippi, if God has come to you, if God has given you the gospel and the repentance and faith to share in the Christian life, then God has made you a promise. It is a permanent promise.
God’s Promise to You
If salvation was a work you had to start or finish for God, I suppose you could choose not to start at all, or if you did, decide to quit later on. Your would never be saved or your once saved soul would be lost. Maybe you would get it back again, maybe not, it would be up to you.
If salvation was a promise you made to God, you are only human, still sinful even after being saved, so you could break that promise, and be saved no more. But salvation is not a promise you have made to God, it is a promise God has made to you.
Such “if’s” sound reasonable, at least possible, from a human point of view. But we are looking at God’s word, which reflects God’s point of view. And this is what God has said: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Salvation, from our view, is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not works. But salvation, from God’s vantage point, is all work, His work, God’s work, from evident start to promised finish. For God, salvation is by works!
God the Father worked from eternity past to plan and produce an eternity future where He could lavish His love and enjoy a renewed and perfect creation with His chosen sons and daughters. God the Son worked like no man has ever worked, two thousand years ago, by enduring poverty and ignominy for thirty years, misperception and persecution for three years, then rejection and crucifixion for six hours one Friday. God the Spirit works constantly to put these two works together in the hearts and minds of Christians, being billions of places at one time, sending and sealing and securing our “partnership in the gospel” with God.
With all respect to my Catholic friends, many of whom I’m confident are my brothers and sisters in Christ, this “partnership in the gospel” cannot fall into Purgatory or be flushed into Hell. With all respect to my Arminian friends, many of whom I’m confident are my brothers and sisters in Christ, too, this “partnership in the gospel” is not one I’ve made for myself from which I can obtain a no-fault divorce. With utmost respect to Scripture, if God has done the work to save you by His grace, then this “partnership in the gospel” is permanent. Salvation is a permanent partnership with God!
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org