The God Who Finishes What He Starts
“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 1:6
Every page of Scripture teaches the comprehensive sovereignty of God. Of course, we do not read phrases such as “the Lord ordains whatsoever comes to pass” in every book of the Bible, although passages such as Ephesians 1:11 teach that idea plainly, if not in those exact words. Much of the time, we must deduce the doctrine of divine sovereignty from the apostles’ and prophets’ narration of Israel’s history, statements about God’s reign, confessions of hope in the Lord, and so on.
For example, today’s passage tells us that our Creator is sovereign over the details of our lives and even over our response to them. In the midst of expressing thanksgiving for the Philippians, Paul reveals his confidence that their salvation is not a temporary, fragile state of being. Instead, it is a permanent relationship that will continue to grow and develop until it reaches its fullest maturity in their glorification at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Our God is not dependent on the whims of chance to accomplish His plan, and no danger exists that His eternal intentions will go unsatisfied. He always finishes what He starts.
All those upon whom our Father sets His love persevere in faith until the end. God, being greater than all, is sovereign over our responses to the doubts and trials we face. This is comforting indeed, for it means that no one, ourselves included, can snatch us from His hand (John 10:27–30). We do work out our salvation in fear and trembling; nevertheless, the Father, by His Spirit, sustains our faith in His Son so that we cross the finish line into eternal life (Phil. 2:12–13). He prompts us to respond appropriately to His warnings in Scripture; thus, we repent and remain in union with Christ. His affection for us does not wax and wane according to our feelings about Him today or tomorrow — He loves us with an effectual, everlasting love that brings us finally into the new heaven and earth. John Calvin writes, “God is not like men, so as to be wearied out or exhausted by conferring kindness.”
If we are not “free” to leave God’s hand after conversion, why should God’s sovereignty over our will before conversion be offensive? Our Lord can ensure that we remain in Christ forever only if He chose us to love Him in the first place, overriding our “freedom” to deny Jesus so that we would bow to His reign.
Perseverance of the saints and the doctrine of unconditional election go hand in hand. The comfort we find in the security we possess in Christ is also an inherent part of the biblical view of God’s sovereign, electing grace. When we realize that the Lord has chosen us, we can truly believe that He loves us and that He has our best interests in mind. His choice of us confirms that we will be His forever.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 1:4–5
2 Thessalonians 2:13–14
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343