Sometimes the thanksgivings and prayers in the beginnings of Paul’s letters are thought of as mere introductions before the real meat found later. However, they often contain hints of what is to come throughout the letter, and are very rich in themselves.
One such example is the wealth that can be found just within Philippians 1:3-11.
In this section we can see Paul linking his thanksgiving and prayers to thoughts on God’s sovereignty, the promise of glorification, the Second Coming, the Gospel, fellowship/partnership in the Gospel, and sanctification.
This post will specifically look at the thanksgiving in Phil 1:3-8:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
The theme of God’s sovereignty in this section was quite a surprise to me when I first saw it, but now it’s clear. I’ll do my best here to elaborate how the logic works below:
- The Philippians’ work in the Gospel is the reason for his thanksgiving (v5).
- Yet he doesn’t thank them for this, he thanks God (v3-4).
- Their work is actually due to God’s work in them, which will certainly be completed because He began it (v6).
- Paul justifies his confidence in God’s working in them by drawing attention back to their faithfulness (v7).
Paul knows that the ultimate source of their work is God’s work in them. And it’s because of seeing faithfulness in action that Paul can be confident that God is faithful to complete the work that He began. And yet, Paul responds to this knowledge of God’s sovereignty with action, but not just any action; Paul petitions God to do the work that He promised to do!
God’s sovereignty and promises shouldn’t provoke laziness but action fueled by faith that God will work in and through us.