Tom Hayes


Philippians 1:6

This verse has lived in me for a long time. In fact, it would be interesting to know how many times I have quoted it in various sermons throughout the years. But, just recently, while meditating on this verse again, I saw it from a different perspective. The words, "He Which hath begun a good work in you," seemed to project a potter working with clay.

As a potter makes a vessel, he must first moisten the clay and make the material pliable and flexible. To create a vessel, he must start from the inside and work to the outside. So, when the clay is rolled into a round shape, the potter uses his thumbs to go down into the ball of clay. Repeatedly, he pulls his thumbs out and up until the clay ball takes on tubular shape.

This is how God works in His people. He works from the inside out! As Paul later states in this same Epistle, "For it is God Which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). The Psalmist also testified, "The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me." In the same text, he indicated that God would not forsake "the works" of His "own hand" (Psa. 138:8).

The God Who, in the beginning, worked in the creation, works, as well, in the re-creation. As we examine the text, we will see three facets of our God's work in His people. First, we are made aware of The Commencing Work Of God In Believers. Then, of course, we see The Continuing Work Of God In Believers. Finally, we are encouraged by The Concluding Work Of God In Believers.

Now, with the thought process before us, let's look firstly, at:

1. The Commencing Work Of God In Believers

It had been at least ten years since Paul had been in Philippi. Much had transpired in his own life since those days. But, the Apostle had never forgotten the work of God in those who believed the gospel in this city. In fact, one of the first things he mentions in this Epistle is that divine work in them. In the phrase, "He Which hath begun a good work in you," he describes God's initial work in three ways.

We see, firstly, that the commencing work of God is:

A. A Heavenly Work

The Apostle wasted no time wondering how their conversion came about. He was "confident" that God had wrought a genuine work in their lives. According to this verse of scripture, their salvation was not based on their movement towards heaven, but on heaven's movement towards them. This work had come from God above!

Of course, what was true then is true now! The springs of conversion are in God Himself! To use Jonah's word, "Salvation is of the LORD" (Jonah 2:9). Any relationship to God on earth originates in heaven. By His Spirit, the God of heaven works in His people. As Paul said elsewhere, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).

Nor only was this commencing work a heavenly work, but it was also:

B. An Honorable Work

As a result of Adam's disobedience in the Garden of Eden, all of his offspring are fallen creatures. Thus, we all have a sinful nature and, consequently, have a "bad work" operating in us. The only hope we have is that God will work a "good work" of grace in us. Paul believed that this had been the experience of these dear people in Philippi.

Since saving faith comes from God, and from heaven, the work of conversion is rightly called "good," or as the word indicates, "honorable." It is true, as James tells us, that "Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of light" (James 1:17). Instead of leaving us with our bad, God has worked something good in us!

In addition, this commencing work of God is:

C. A Heart Work

As previously stated, Paul says that this work was begun "in you." Any human attempt to better society and all earthly inhabitants can be appreciated. However, Paul is not referring to a societal change. Rather, Paul is talking about God supernaturally, miraculously, and eternally communicating life to the inner man. Man needs a heart change, and only God can accomplish that, working from the inside out.

Three familiar scenes in the formation of the church in Philippi (see Acts 16) demonstrate how God works in His people. Firstly, God worked quickly in the demon-possessed damsel (see 16:16-19). Through the ministry of Paul, she was delivered "the same hour" (16:19). Secondly, we might say God worked quakingly in the Philippian jailer's life. After an earthquake, he inquired of Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (16:30). Paul's answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (16:31). Finally, God worked quietly in Lydia, the "seller of purple" (16:14). When she heard the gospel, her "heart" was divinely "opened" (16:14).

Paul not only mentions the work which God had begun, but further magnifies:

2. The Continuing Work Of God In Believers

What God begins, He continues! What God originates, He operates! This concept is taught in various settings throughout the Scriptures. However, it is definitely underlined in the next phrase of our text. By the divine Spirit, Paul tells us that the God Who initiated a good work in His people, "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." The God Who is the "Author" of faith, is also the "Finisher," or the "Perfector" of it (see Heb. 12:2).

The first word in this phrase shows that this continuing work of God is set forth as:

A. A Divine Promise

Paul not only believed that God had worked in these lives, but he was convinced that God would continue to work in them. Thus, he wrote, He "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." A divine work comes with promise! The future, or the outcome, of something that God initiates is rooted in a God Who is faithful to His own.

We, too, can take this promise into our own bosom. It isn't that God "could" or "might" work in our lives. But, the God Who has saved us "will" continue to work in us! He will work in us in the dark hours, in the dismal moments, in the delightful occasions. As is stated elsewhere, "Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it" (1 Thes. 5:24).

The second word reveals to us that this continuing work is set forth as:

B. A Divine Performance

The word "perform" indicates that Paul was not looking at what these believers were to do or were not to do. He didn't give them a list of do's and don'ts to perform. Rather, He was occupied with the performance of God in their lives! As is stated later in this Epistle, what God worked in them would work its way out of them in their daily experience (see Phil. 2:12, 13).

Unfortunately, some see the Christian life as an opportunity to perform for God. But, nowhere in the Bible are Christians called upon to perform for God. On the contrary, Christians are called upon to cooperate with God's performance in them! The clay doesn't work in the potter; the potter works in the clay! "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10). May we learn afresh to cooperate with what God is doing!

The next word before us shows us that this continuing work is set forth as:

C. A Divine Progression

When Paul speaks of God working, or performing, in His people "until the day of Jesus Christ," he is referring to daily Christian progress. God had worked in these saints! God was working in them! And, the Apostle fully expected God to mature, develop, and advance them in spiritual matters in the days that were ahead.

We must realize that God is carrying on a spiritual workshop in His people every day of their lives. He is working in us! And, this will continue "until" the Lord returns for His own. The Heavenly Potter is forming and fashioning us for Himself, for His own glory, and has determined that we shall show forth His praise (see Isa. 43:21).

Let us look, lastly, at:

3. The Concluding Work Of God In Believers

The New Testament phrase, "the day of Jesus Christ," seems to include all the ramifications of Christ's return. Christ will return for His people. Christ will return with His people. And, He will establish His kingdom in the earth for one thousand years. The fact that God will work in us until that "day" assures us that He will conclude, or finish, what He has begun in us!

One truth we can see portrayed in these words is that of:

A. The Vessel's Completion

A potter fashions the clay with the hope of completing a vessel. All his work is toward that end! Paul implied that God works in His people in a similar way. The emphasis is clear. Not only would God continue to work in the daily experience of these saints, but He would work in them until He finished what He had started.

Our God has set out to make us finished products! We aren't now what we used to be! But, we aren't now what we will be! The "day" will come when our sanctification will no longer be partial, but complete. The God Who works in His people will finish what He has begun in us! And, we will finally be all He has ordained us to be as believers.

A second truth that "the day of Jesus Christ" brings to mind is that of:

B. The Vessel's Conformity

While the potter forms the clay, he has an image in his mind. He is not working in vain! The Scriptures teach that the Heavenly Potter has predetermined that His people will ultimately be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29). That's what He has in His mind! And, Paul points these saints to that better "day."

Certainly, we are already in a conforming process. The Lord is making us more and more like His Son. But, thank God, the "day" is coming when we will be just like Christ! As John wrote, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).

A third truth seen here is that of:

C. The Vessel's Conquest

Before Paul tells these saints anything else in this letter, he tells them that they are on the winning side. God is the mighty Conqueror! And, because of His conquering work in His people, they are triumphant, also. As he states later, in His "day," when Christ returns, He will "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (3:21).

Just because Jesus did not return in Paul's day, or the Philippians' day, does not mean that this verse is of no valid purpose. Jesus will come in His "day," and in spite of the flesh, the world, and the devil, all believers can trust God to faithfully work in them until then. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

In the first chapter of his book, A Chosen Vessel, F. G. Patterson entitles his thoughts, "The Vessel In The Potter: The Potter In The Vessel." The emphasis is based on the idea that when a potter begins his work, the vessel is in him, or, in his mind. But, when he finishes his work, the potter is in the vessel. He can be clearly seen in his work.

Oh, dear hearts, before God ever started working in our lives, He had us on His heart, and in His mind. The vessel was in Him! But, when He finishes His work, and we are fashioned like Christ, He will be in the vessel! "The God Who Works In His People" will be glorified in us, and we shall be glorified in Him (see 2 Thes. 1:12). Amen.