Philippians 1:6: The power of God to save … and sanctify.

I have been working through some passages tonight and came across one of my favorite verses on the power of God. It has been said that believers are not called to great faith in God, but to faith in a great God. Jesus makes the point himself when he talked about the fact that even a small amount of faith, like that of a tiny mustard seed, can do remarkable things like move mountains (Matt 17:20) because the power is God’s and not ours. And if we only need a little faith in a great God in order to live before him as believers, how much more true regarding saving faith?

Abraham simply believed God’s promise of a multitude of descendants and it resulted in God declaring him righteous (Gen 15:1-6; Rom 4:3). Paul reminds the Corinthians that they simply believed the message of the cross, which unbelievers view as so simple that its considered foolishness (1 Cor 1:18-21).

Why is this? It is because the power to save sinners isn’t grounded in our faith but in the power of God to save. This is why Paul loved the gospel and wasn’t ashamed to proclaim it, declaring,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).

Indeed, it is the power of God to save. It’s not dependent on us. And the power to live before God by faith is also dependent on God’s power. Perhaps nowhere are these two truths combined more powerfully than in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians when he states,

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 1:6).

The participle “began” is the verb enarchomai (ἐνάρχαμαι) and the verb “perfect” is epiteleō (ἐπιτελέω). In this verse Paul is using both verbs to refer to justification and sanctification respectively. Paul combines both verbs again in Galatians 3 when he rebukes the Galatian believers for falling prey to a false teaching which advocated that believers could be sanctified by their own doing even though they were justified by God’s power (3:1-2). He then writes,

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:3)

Yes. The verb “begun” and the verb “perfected” are the same two used in Philippians 1:6. Our justification is a work of God, here God the Holy Spirit. And our sanctification is also not our doing but God’s. Let us rejoice in God and rest in his power to save … and sanctify.

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Categories: Justification, Philippians 1:6, Sanctification

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