Today we begin the Letter to Philippians. It is one of the hardest to date but our best reasoning points to it being a latter letter probably around A.D. 62. There are two interesting passages in the first chapter:
6 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.
This is a simple yet important point. Sometimes we get tied up in terms life salvation v. justification v. sanctification. Catholics tend to short cut it and speak of it all under the umbrella term of salvation. However, what is clear it that salvation (or if you want to refer to it as sanctification) is a process. It is begun in you and goes on throughout your life time to be completed after your death when you are in heaven. One thing that we should step aside and mention at this point is the Eucharist. To use a colloquial term at this point – the Eucharist is this process on steroids. That is its primary purpose.
The second interesting verse is the last one of the chapter.
29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him BUT ALSO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have …
Now, why would one have to suffer for the sake of Jesus?
This goes back to what we read the other day in Colossians 1:24
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what IS LACKING IN CHRIST’S AFFLICTIONS for the sake of his body, that is, the church …
Again we see Paul making this key point. Our sufferings, which are good works, are for His sake. They have value? Why? Because we are united to him in the Body of Christ. It that was only a metaphor then these statements of Paul wouldn’t be true. So the Body must be something more than a metaphor. Here’s a good example to help you understand – the thief on the cross! How many times is he held up as an example of salvation without good works. But what did the thief on the cross do for Christ? He proclaimed the gospel to the bad this and he suffered for His sake. Thus the good thief is not an example of salvation without works, he is the personification, the premiere example of salvation by grace through suffering for the Lord.