Study 1 GOD’S GREAT WORK IN US
(Scripture Portion: Acts 16: 6-34)
The letter to the Philippians, which begins with grace (1:2) and ends with grace (4:23), has been called “The Shepherd Psalm of the New Testament”, and it is one of the most beautiful of Paul’s letters. It can be read in half-an-hour or less, and there are seven reasons why it should make a special appeal to us:-
- It is different from most of Paul’s letters. Most of his letters were written to emphasise God’s truth, to teach doctrine, to correct error or to defend the Faith. Philippians, however, is not in any sense a theological treatise; it is a personal letter which reveals the loving disposition of the writer.
- It is easier to understand than some of Paul’s letters. Not everyone has the capacity to understand doctrine or to follow the massive arguments which Paul puts forward, for instance in Romans, but all can understand Philippians.
- It is a letter written from prison. It was written about AD 62, when Paul was a prisoner in Rome. This adds interest to the letter.
- The dominant note of the letter is JOY. Yes, JOY – from prison! The key word is “rejoice” (3:1), which occurs in varying forms no less than 18 times. We are to rejoice: (1) in the fellowship of the saints (1:3-11); (2) over afflictions that further the gospel (1:12-30); (3) in the great example set before us (2:1-18); (4) in faithful friends (2:19 3:1); (5) in the ground of our acceptance (3:2-16); (6) that our citizenship is in Heaven (3:17 4:1); (7) in all the “loyal yoke-fellows” (4:2-3); (8) in all things at all times (4:4-9); and (9) in the liberality of God’s people and the provision of God Himself (4:10-20).
- It is a letter written to the first Church in Europe. The story of the founding of the Church at Philippi is recorded in Acts 16:6-34.
- It deals with practical Christian living. Its theme is “Christ in Christian experience”. Philippians tells us how to live, suffer, pray, work, love, endure and die!
- It gives great prominence to the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this one letter He is mentioned 70 times by name or by pronoun.
The key to this first study is Philippians 1:6: “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.” We shall consider this statement in relation: (1) to the Church at Philippi; (2) to the Church today; and (3) to the individual Christian.
1. GOD’S WORK IN THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI
Who began the Church at Philippi – and how? It is perfectly clear that God commenced, was continuing and would complete His Church. In Acts 16:6-34 the story is told for us. How did He “begin” His “good work”?
- By burdening the hearts of some praying women. Read Acts 16:13. Whenever the Lord is about to begin any work He first sets one or some of His people praying. All true prayer begins, not with the pray-er, but with God – look up Romans 8:26-27.
- By guiding the footsteps of His servants. God’s servants had intended preaching in Asia, but the Holy Spirit changed their plans and directed them to Philippi – look up Acts 16:6-7. In answer to prayer, God was sending His servants to plant the first Church in Europe.
- By giving His servants a vision. Read Acts 16:8-9. All because a few women prayed! and how often has this very thing been repeated? As prayer has been offered, and sometimes (as perhaps in this case), before it has been offered (Isaiah 65:24), God has worked, miraculously, mightily. He is just the same today!
- By making His servants obedient. The important words in Acts 16:10 are “at once”. This indicates instant, unquestioning and complete obedience. God can do great things with His servants when they are ready to obey Him in this way.
- By the preaching of the Gospel. Their object in going to Philippi was “to preach the gospel” (verse 10); to make known “the way to be saved” (verse 17).
- By performing miracles of conversion. Three special cases are mentioned: (1) Lydia and her household (verses 14-15); (2) the demon-possessed girl (verses 16-18); and (3) the Jailer and his household (verses 25-34). In each case it was God who did it.
- By faithfulness in persecution. Who can doubt that God permitted and used the sufferings of His servants as an instrument for the building of the Church in Philippi? – read Acts 16:22-24, and compare Philippians 1:12.
2. GOD’S WORK IN THE CHURCH TODAY
God is still the author and upholder of His Church, and He will surely complete it. Study Matthew 16:13-18 carefully, and especially verse 18. In Acts 16 we see the “gates of Hell” opposing the progress of the gospel, but the powers of darkness were overcome and the Lord built His Church in Philippi. Although today many alien forces are arrayed against the Church, yet Philippians 1:6 is true, and so is Ephesians 5:25-27!
3. GOD’S WORK IN THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN
Just as He began and continued the work at Philippi, and just as He is the author and perfecter of His Church today, so is He the author and finisher of His work in the life of every individual Christian. Only God can make a Christian.
A Christian is one who is convicted (John 16:8); born again (John 3:3); redeemed (Ephesians 1:7); justified (Romans 5:1); translated (Colossians 1:13, KJV); sealed (Ephesians 4:30); and made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Only God can do these things! Therefore:
- Has God COMMENCED His work in you? Has He saved you (Romans 10:9-10)?
- If He has, He will CONTINUE His work in you. John 6:37; 10:27-29; 17:12; 2 Timothy 1:12, and Jude 24 assure us of this.
- And He will COMPLETE His work in you. He “will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ”, and then, when the Lord comes – 1 John 3:2! Look up Psalm 138:8 and compare Philippians 2:13.