The Sovereign of Salvation

Tom Pennington • Philippians 1:6

  • 2003-11-23 AM
  • Sermons


We all struggle from time to time with overconfidence, but the worst case of it I have ever heard was an event my brother-in-law witnessed. He and his family were at a lake enjoying some summer fun when they noticed a brand new Cadillac pull into the boat dock area pulling a brand new, expensive high-powered ski boat. They watched with some amusement as the group of people got out of the car, and the group of people didn't fit the boat and the car. One of them had obviously just come into some money, and he had spent a great chunk of it on these new toys. My brother-in-law watched as they put the boat in the water, and then one of the men put on skis and stood on the dock. The boat was idling just a few feet away. They didn't have a ski rope so they had apparently stopped at a hardware store on the way and picked up a hundred feet of nylon rope. The man who was standing there with the skis on attached the rope several times around both arms.

The man at the wheel yelled back to him, "Are you ready, sea cat?" "Yeah, man. Light a fire under that canoe." And he gave the boat full throttle, and it almost leapt out of the water, and the man standing there crouching on the dock with his skis and the ropes wrapped around his arm and that hundred feet of nylon rope quickly unwinding. When the rope jerked taut, the man didn't hit the water for thirty feet, and then he bounced along behind the boat like a pebble skipped across a pond. After a minute or two the men in the boat realized that their friend wasn't on his feet, and so they stopped and yelled back, and my brother-in-law heard them say, "What happened, sea cat?" Those of you who've ever skied can only feel the bruise and trauma that that man endured.

Sometimes, like those men, we are overconfident. Usually, it's because we have overestimated either our own skills or our intelligence. In the first chapter of Philippians in verse 6, Paul is absolutely confident beyond a shadow of a doubt, but his confidence is not overconfidence. His confidence is not misplaced because his confidence is not in himself. It's not in his own ability. It's not in his own skill or his own intelligence, but his confidence rests in the character of his God. Notice verse 6: "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."

You'll notice that the verse begins with words in italics, "For I am." Those are words that have been added by the translator. The verse actually begins with a participle that's translated "confident". Verse 6 is part of one long sentence in the Greek text that begins in verse 3 and goes all the way through verse 8. The verb of this convoluted sentence is "I thank" that begins verse 3. So that means that the participle translated "confident" – stay with me, those of you who aren't English majors – the participle translated "confident" in verse 6 modifies the main verb "I thank" in verse 3.

It introduces us, verse 6 does, this participle "confident" introduces us to the second reason for Paul's gratitude to God for the Philippians. The first reason or basis of his thanksgiving we saw last week in verse 5, and that is their fellowship in the gospel. The second reason he thanks God for the Philippians is here in verse 6. It's Paul's conviction that God will complete in them what He started. In verse 5, you remember the end of the verse, Paul refers to the Philippians' partnership or fellowship in the gospel "from the first day", he says, in other words, from the day they believed. And as he thinks about the fact that they have been faithful in their fellowship in the gospel from the very first day that they came to Christ, it calls forth from Paul an expression of his confidence that their commitment to the gospel will continue until Christ returns. Paul says, "You've been in the fellowship of the gospel from the first day until now, and I'm persuaded that God will continue His work in you until Christ returns."

This participle "confident"; the tense of it speaks of a past act with continuing results. It literally could be translated this way: "having been confident". It underscores Paul's present conviction and certainty. We could read it this way. Let me translate it for you this way. He's actually saying, "I was convinced in the past; I'm convinced in the present; and I will always be convinced that the One who began a good work in you will perfect it."

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the word for "confident" is always used of a man's confidence in his God. It's confidence or certainty that finds its support not in the shifting sands of humanity, but in the unchanging character of God, usually in His faithfulness as it does here in verse 6. Although God is not mentioned by name in verse 6, He and His character are the grounds, the foundation, of Paul's confidence. Paul says, "He's confident [notice] of this very thing." That points to the statement which follows. Paul is completely convinced, he's fully confident, of God's absolute sovereignty in salvation. He had come to grasp this biblical reality from beginning to end. Salvation is a sovereign work of God. And in this one verse, Paul succinctly makes his case for God's sovereignty in salvation, and then he explains the practical consequences of that reality. I want us to look at both of those this morning.

First, let's examine the case for a sovereign salvation, the case for a sovereign salvation. When an attorney presents his case, he usually has several arguments with which he makes that case to support that case. Paul's case for a sovereign salvation consists of three arguments. The first is that salvation was initiated by God. Salvation was initiated by God. Notice verse 6: "He who began a good work in you."

Now the question arises, what is this good work mentioned in verse 6? Is it in fact salvation? Well, I think Paul answers that very clearly in Galatians 3. Galatians 3:3, Paul uses these same two verbs, "begin" and "perfect". Listen to what he says in Galatians 3:3 – "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit [and he's just argued for the Spirit's work in salvation], are you now being perfected by the flesh?" So it's obvious in Galatians 3 that Paul is referring to the work of God in saving an individual, the divine act of salvation. So when we come to Philippians 1:6, when he says "God began a good work in us", he's referring to spiritual salvation. God began that work.

Now you could correctly argue that God began the work of our salvation in eternity past when He chose us in Christ. You remember Ephesians 1:4: "He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him." And apart from God's having chosen us, it would be impossible for us to choose Him. John 6:44: "No one can come to Me [Christ said] unless the Father who sent Me draws him." No one is able to come to Me unless the Father draws him. Acts 13:48 – "as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." So in eternity past, God chose us in Christ.

But Paul isn't talking here about election because he uses the expression "He began a good work in you". He uses the plural form of "you". He's speaking of all of the Philippians individually. God began to work in your hearts individually. So not only did God initiate our salvation in the sense that He chose us in eternity past, but God even initiated the actual work of salvation in our hearts, the process that He began by the person of the Holy Spirit.

You see, no one seeks God. This is the consistent testimony of Scripture. In Isaiah 53:6 the prophet Isaiah says: "each of us has turned to his own way." And Romans 3:11 states it unequivocally: "there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." No one seeks for God. And if we think we're seeking for God, in the end, it's God who's seeking us. As that familiar poem puts it well: "I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of thee."

When Paul says of God's beginning to work in us, when Paul speaks of God's beginning this good work in our hearts, he's referring to what theologians call regeneration, regeneration. Regeneration simply explained is that act of God by which He imparts a new principle of life to the sinner. The New Testament pictures this act of God in three beautiful images, this regeneration. It pictures it first as a new birth. You remember our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. He says, "You must be [what?] born again. It's like a new birth, Nicodemus." Not a physical birth, but a spiritual birth.

The New Testament also pictures this, this change, this imparting of a new principle of life called regeneration not only as a new birth, but as a new creation. That familiar passage in 2 Corinthians 5:17, where it says: "if anyone is in Christ, he is [what?] a new creature [a new creation]." God has started from scratch and made him new.

The New Testament also pictures regeneration as resurrection. I love Ephesians 2 where it begins with the reality that we were dead in transgressions and sins – dead, unable to respond to God. And you get to verse 5 and it says this: "but He made us alive." God, in regeneration, raised us from spiritual death and gave us life.

In regeneration, God illumines our mind. He makes us understand the truth. He purifies our hearts. He renews our desires. We get a new set of desires for spiritual things and for God and we begin literally to live a new life. The truth that's at the heart of regeneration is that God takes the initiative in salvation. And that truth is found throughout the Word of God. You see it here in Philippians. Look at verse 29 of chapter 1: "to you [Paul says] it has been granted … to believe." The Philippians understood this. If you were to turn back to Acts 16:14, you remember the first person who became a member of the Philippian church was a Greek businesswoman by the name of Lydia. Luke says this about Lydia in Acts 16. He says, "the Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was teaching." Acts 11:18, Peter says, "God has granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." God has granted repentance to them.

Let's look at 2 Timothy. Second Timothy 1:9 makes this same point. Speaking about the power of God, he says, "He has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose." God saved us, and He did it according to His own purpose.

Look at James 1:18. James says, "In the exercise of His will [that is, God's will] He brought us forth [there's that image again of new birth, He brought us forth] by the word of truth."

First Peter 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." God takes the initiative in salvation.

Now how does God accomplish this? What is the means God uses to accomplish this new birth, this resurrection to life? Notice Peter, 1 Peter 1:23. Peter answers this question. He says: "for you have been born again [there's our image again] not of seed which is perishable [excuse me] but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God." God accomplishes His work of regeneration, His work of new birth, through His living Word.

I love the way Charles Wesley, in his magnificent hymn "And Can It Be", eloquently describes the work of God in regeneration. Listen to the verse: "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee." That's regeneration. That's the work God began in us.

As a church, you understand this clear Biblical teaching. That's why before I came, you voted to change your doctrinal statement to reflect the fact that salvation begins with an act of God. It begins with regeneration. You see, your salvation was initiated by God. God began it.

But Paul includes a second argument in his case for God's sovereignty in salvation: not only did God initiate our salvation, but salvation is being accomplished by God. Salvation is being accomplished by God. Notice what he says: "He began a good work in you," a good work, an ongoing work of God in you. Your salvation is being accomplished by God. You see, in the past, God began a good work in each of us and in the future, He will perfect it. That means God has a purpose He's working to accomplish in us today, and He'll stay at it until He does. Paul puts this very well in Philippians 2, that familiar passage, verse 13: "God is at work [presently] in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." God is working in you.

You know, that's really a sobering reality. James Montgomery Boice writes, "Did you ever think of this verse in that light? Not like this: "Oh, everything'll be all right for me because God will certainly keep me secure until I finally get to heaven", but rather "I know that God Almighty saved me for a purpose, and He will keep whittling away at me until He accomplishes it in me whether I want Him to or not." This is a sober thought, but it is certainly what the verse teaches. God is at work in you.

So, what exactly is this good work that God is determined to do in us, that He is determined He will perfect? Paul answers that question in Romans 8. Turn to Romans 8. The familiar verse, Romans 8:28: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God [notice the end of the verse], to those who are called according to His purpose." Paul says, Listen, you can be certain that God is working every event in your life to His ends because God has a purpose. What is that purpose, Paul? Notice the next verse, verse 29: "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son….", to become conformed to the image of His Son. Listen, God won't start, stop working on you until you look like His Son. That's His purpose.

You see, our salvation isn't about us. It's about God. The Father promised to give His Son a redeemed humanity, a redeemed humanity that would serve Him and would reflect His glory throughout all eternity. This is what the apostle John is teaching in John 6. Turn to John 6:37. Christ says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me." "All that the Father gives Me" that means that every person chosen by God and drawn by God is simply the gift of the Father's love to His Son. He gave us to His Son. And notice verse 37. Christ receives each of those gifts. He said, Listen, those who come to Me I'm not going to cast out. I receive that gift from the Father and verse 39, I'm going to carefully hold onto every one of them. And verse 40, 39 and 40, I will raise each one of them to eternal glory. Not one of them is going to be lost because this is what My Father wants. My Father gave them to Me, and I will continue to protect them and bring them to full perfection.

You see, God's eternal purpose cannot and will not be thwarted. Until you and I are conformed to the image of His Son, God will continue to work in us not because we're so inherently special, but because we are gifts from the Father to His Son. Until then, salvation is God's constant work. Our salvation is being accomplished by God. So, salvation is initiated by God. Salvation is being accomplished by God.

The third argument that Paul presents to make his case for God's sovereignty in salvation is that: salvation will be perfected by God. Notice that "He who began a good work in you [Paul says] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." The One who began a good work in us, who continues His work even now, is the same One who will perfect it. We were just in Romans 8. Paul makes this argument profoundly there. He says, "Listen. If God chose you and if He predestined you to be conformed to the image of His Son and then He, He, He called you and then He justified you, He will glorify you. It's going to happen because that's God's purpose. God started with a goal in mind and that goal was to make each of us like His Son and it will happen."

This same truth is taught in other passages. Notice 1 Corinthians 1:8. First Corinthians 1:8: "who [speaking of Christ, who] will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." He says, "Listen. Because of God's faithfulness, you will be confirmed to the end. It will happen."

But I think it's put even more clearly in 1 Thessalonians 5. First Thessalonians 5:23, Paul concludes his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [how can that happen, Paul? Verse 24]. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Peter makes this same point in 1 Peter 5. As he's writing to persecuted Jewish Christians all over Asia Minor, he says this in 1 Peter 5:10. He says,

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. [God will perfect what He begins.]

In Philippians 1:6, Paul says that that redeeming, renewing work of God will reach its climax at the day of Christ Jesus. "Until the day of Christ Jesus" – that's a reference by the way to our Lord's return. The Old Testament expression "the day of the Lord" spoke of coming judgment, but for Paul, "the day of Christ" has Christ in the final exultation of all those and glorification of all those who belong to Him as its central focus. Thus, as everything for Paul, the focus of the end times is Christ. Whatever else the final wrap-up entails, it is Christ's day above all. And God will preserve us, will continue to perfect His work until that day.

As John says, "We know that when Christ appears [what?], we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is." We can be certain of that because God always finishes what He starts. God doesn't begin something to leave it unfinished. There are no piles of matter heaped up somewhere in the universe where God started something and failed to complete it. There are no files in God's cabinet that says "Jobs Left Undone". God always finishes what He starts, and that means that someday, you and I will be just like Jesus Christ.

Paul builds his case, his case for divine sovereignty in salvation, and his case is unassailable. He says, "Listen. God initiates it. God continues even now to accomplish it in you. And someday, He will complete and perfect it." So salvation is from beginning to end all of God. But why does it matter to us? What are the ramifications of the fact that God is absolutely sovereign in salvation? The truth is the consequences are huge.

And that brings us to Paul's second point in this passage: the consequences of a sovereign salvation. We saw the case for a sovereign salvation. Now let's look at the consequences of a sovereign salvation. In the context of Philippians 1, there are three consequences of a sovereign salvation.

The first is gratitude, gratitude. Remember, verse 6 is buried in the middle of a long sentence that is expressing Paul's thanksgiving. And Paul's confidence in God's sovereign salvation is one of the reasons that he's thankful, and it should be one of the reasons that we're thankful and grateful as well. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, this should be at the heart of your thanks. Although you weren't seeking God, God sought you, and He made you alive, and He continues His work in you even today. And someday, He will perfect the work He began, and He'll make you exactly like His Son.

You remember when the seventy returned from their evangelistic ministry, and they were so excited about all that God had accomplished through them. They were rejoicing about those things. You remember what Christ said to them? He said, "Look, don't rejoice that the demons obey you. Rejoice in this, thank God in this: that your names are recorded in God's book." Let that be the source of your thanksgiving this week. When you understand that because of nothing in you, and in fact, in spite of everything in you, that God began a good work in you, that He's continuing that work, and someday He'll bring it to perfection, it will produce gratitude. You can't help it. When you understand God's sovereignty in salvation, it removes all of human pride and it brings you to one place and that is utter and complete gratitude to God for what He has done in you.

A second consequence of God's sovereign salvation, not only gratitude: but confidence, confidence. As a result of Paul's belief in God's sovereignty in salvation, he could be unshakably confident that God would perfect these Philippian believers. Paul knew they were facing internal division and external persecution, and he was disappointed that he couldn't be there to help them because he was in a Roman prison chained to a Roman guard. But because Paul knew that God would complete what He'd started, he could write the Philippians with joy. You see, when we get a grasp on God's sovereignty, it allows us to minister with confidence and with freedom because we can be certain that everyone to whom we minister, everyone who's in Christ, God will perfect. He will complete what He's begun. Their eternity doesn't rest on our skills and our abilities, but on the power and promise of God.

An awareness of God's sovereignty in salvation will also produce confidence in your own 29.12 salvation or personal assurance. You see, part of the reason that Paul includes verse 6 is he wants the Philippians to benefit from and share the confidence that he has about them. If the apostle Paul wrote you a letter and told you that he was certain that God had began a good work in you and that God was continuing that work even today and that someday God would perfect that work to His glory, wouldn't that increase your confidence and assurance? Well, that's exactly what Paul did here and he intends for it to encourage us as well as the Philippians.

I'll never forget when I first realized that salvation was all of God. I was a college student in a Christian college and I began reading and meditating on Ephesians 2. And I was gripped by the fact that I was dead. What a profound picture. It was around that same, uh, a year or two later that that picture really came to reality when I started working in a funeral home. But this picture of death, I was spiritually dead, absolutely unresponsive to God, and He made me alive. As I began to really understand that my salvation was all of God from beginning to end, it gave me an overwhelming sense of assurance, of confidence in God, of confidence in my future. I was a hall supervisor at the time, and I began to share what I had discovered with others in my hall, and honest to goodness, revival broke out as those who had relied on themselves and their own prayers and their own signing of a card and their own professions begin to realize that God was the One who saves people by His own sovereign purpose. They began to cry out to God, who alone could really deliver them. I'll really never forget those wonderful days.

You see, our confidence is based not on an experience we may remember, but on the work that God has done. Many, when they think of assurance, they point back to some experience they've supposedly had. They remember joining the church or signing a card or being baptized, but that confidence is based on the wrong foundation. The only true confidence comes from trusting what God has done. Can I urge you to stop examining your own spiritual navel? Stop asking yourself, "Did I believe enough? Was I repentant enough?" Listen, if you're in Christ, it's because God took your dead corpse and breathed life into it. He made you alive. And instantaneously, He gave you the gift of faith and the gift of repentance. And He will continue to work in you. And on the day of Christ, He will perfect what He began.

I like the way John Macarthur expresses the confidence we can have in his commentary on Philippians. He says,

"It is easy for believers to become discouraged when they focus on their problems and imperfections and those of other believers. Those sins should not be ignored or minimized, but neither should they be allowed to overshadow the marvelous reality of the future perfection of the church and of every individual believer as God's Word guarantees so frequently and clearly. Remembering that glorious truth removes the debilitating pressure of doubt and fosters triumphant joy, gratitude and anticipation."

You see, when you understand God's sovereignty in salvation, it produces not only gratitude, but it produces confidence.

A third consequence of God's sovereign salvation is: perseverance and a knowledge of perseverance. Philippians 1:6 is one of about five primary verses that set forth the biblical doctrine that's sometimes called the perseverance of the saints or eternal security. I think a better name for it, frankly, is the preservation of the saints because this is a work of God. God preserves. You see, the source of Paul's gratitude and the thrust of this verse is the fact that God will preserve all those in whom He began to work until Christ returns. You see, at the same time that we as God's people are growing in holiness, Peter says we are also "being kept by the power of God" [1 Peter 1:5], kept by the power of God. Now it's very important that you understand what Peter means. He does not mean, listen carefully. Peter does not mean that everyone who professes to be a Christian is assured of eternal life.

I'll never forget those chilling words of Christ in Matthew 7, where He says, [Listen, there are going to be] "many … [who] say to Me … [in] that day, 'Lord, Lord, … [haven't we done many wonderful works in Your name? Haven't we cast out demons?'" And He'll respond to them how? … "I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO WORK LAWLESSNESS." No, he's not promising that everyone who professes to be a Christian is assured of eternal life. What Peter and the rest of Scripture teaches is that not one true child of God, that is, not one person whom God chose in eternity past, whom He called by His Word and His Spirit and whom He gave genuine repentance and faith to, not one whom He justified and adopted, not one person like that will ever come into condemnation. That person is eternally secure. Because of God's preserving grace, that person will be finally and eternally saved.

Christ puts it in these words in John 10:28. He says,

"…I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

And Romans 8 concludes, that great peon of praise, concludes with those magnificent verses.

"I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus…."

So, in the context of Philippians 1, Paul identifies three great consequences of a sovereign salvation: gratitude, confidence and the preservation or perseverance of those whom He's called.

What are the practical ramifications of this passage and what it teaches to us? Let me just highlight a couple of them for you in closing. The first is your knowledge of God's sovereignty in salvation should produce humility. I mentioned Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2 talks about this great reality, as I mentioned, that we were dead, verse 1. And verse 5, because of God's rich mercy and because of His great love,

… [He] made us alive together with Christ … and [He] raised us up with … [Christ and He seated us with Him] in the heavenly places in Christ …, so that [and listen to this, in the coming ages, I love this] in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Listen, God did all of this for one purpose and that was to exalt His Son. He's going to display His grace on us, lavish His grace upon us throughout eternity. Why? Ephesians 1: "to the praise of the glory of His grace." It's all about God. So what should that do to us? Those familiar verses, verse 8:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that's not of yourselves [nothing about salvation is of yourself], it's all the gift of God [including faith]; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Did you notice that verse? Not as a result of works, so that no one would boast. You see, understanding God's sovereignty in salvation is intended to produce humility in our hearts. We can take absolutely no credit for our salvation.

There's a second practical ramification and that is that knowledge of God's sovereignty in salvation should promote our own pursuit of holiness. Paul's gonna use this argument in, in Philippians 2. We'll get there in the coming weeks. Philippians 2:13, he says, "God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." So what should that mean for you, Christians in Philippi, Christians at Countryside? Notice verse 12: "So then … work out your [own] salvation with fear and trembling." Work it out. Because God is at work, I'm supposed to work. God's sovereignty is not a call to laziness. Instead, it should promote a pursuit of holiness even more because now I know that it'll be accomplished not because of me, but because God's at work. But my responsibility is to obey and to pursue holiness.

There's a third practical ramification of God's sovereignty and a knowledge of that in salvation and that is, listen carefully: it should encourage evangelism. You say, wait a minute. That doesn't seem to fit. You see, some people believe that a confidence in the sovereignty of God in salvation will discourage evangelism. In reality, it should actually strengthen it. William Carey, whose biography I would encourage you to read by S. Pearce Carey, his, one of his relatives, I think his great-grandson, who wrote this wonderful biography of William Carey, makes the point that Carey was absolutely confident in God's sovereignty in salvation. That's what drove the man who's called the "Father of Modern Missions" to India. Why is that? Because if I know that God is the One who begins the work of salvation in someone, and if I know that God chooses to begin that work through the use of means [remember what we saw in 1 Peter 1, that is, through His Word], then I have the confidence to present that word. I have the confidence to sow the seed because I know that wherever God has prepared the soil, the seed will fall on good ground and bear fruit.

You see, if salvation is God's work from beginning to end, then we don't have to come up with some gimmick to get people to come to our church. And then, once they're here, we don't have to put up some sort of emotional manipulation and sing eighteen verses of "Just As I Am" to get them to come down the aisle and sign a card. We just have to be faithful to sow the seed. And when God prepares the heart and He brings that dead person to life, He uses His Word. And when He uses His Word, that life springs out and instantaneously, that person believes, and they repent of their sins. A knowledge of God's sovereignty produces confidence in evangelism. I can sow the seed because I know that it's going to fall on ground God has prepared, and He will begin a work in a heart.

From beginning to end, salvation is a sovereign work of God. He began it. He's accomplishing it, and He will complete it. As the psalmist says so many times, "God is our salvation." Isn't that an interesting expression? It's not that God saves us, although that's true, but God Himself is our salvation. That means that everything that's true about God is true about our salvation. Is God eternal? Our salvation is eternal. Is God powerful? Then the salvation that He gives us is powerful to the changing of our lives. God is, in His person, our salvation. May God fill your heart this week with thanksgiving for His absolute sovereignty in salvation.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are absolutely overwhelmed when we think about that reality. Lord, when we reflect on the truth that You have saved us not because of anything in us, but because of Your perfect and holy will, Lord, I pray that You would ignite in us gratitude. Lord, make us truly grateful for the work of Your Spirit, the work that You're doing in our hearts, the work that You've begun and that You will complete.

And Lord, I pray that You'd give us confidence. Give us assurance. Lord, those who are here this morning who are Your people, who genuinely know Christ but who've struggled as they've contemplated their own weaknesses and their own sinfulness, Lord, I pray that You would give them confidence where there should be confidence. And Lord, I pray for those who have comforted themselves with this reality, but who aren't in Christ. I pray this morning that You would unsettle them, that You would make them uncomfortable and they contemplate the fact that there is absolutely no evidence of Your having begun a good work in them.

And Lord, I pray for those who are struggling this morning in so many different ways, that You would be a source of comfort and encouragement, that You would use this text. Lord, I pray that You would continue to give us confidence as Paul had in Your sovereignty in salvation. And Lord, may that ignite us to be evangelists, to be humble and to pursue holiness.

I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.