Sermon: Perfection for Saints
Scripture: Matthew 5:48
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means to be perfect as God is perfect, that it is a work of God that involves the past, the present, and the future.
Theme: An Inflexible Purpose
The final stage of God’s work in perfecting the saints is to perfect them completely in the moment of their deaths. And, of course, it is this that transforms death for Christians. Death is an enemy; even the Bible calls it that. But it is also the portal to that total perfection that we shall never know in this life. Paul called death “a gain” (Phil. 1:21). And when he compared the life of eternity to the continuation of this life he said that the first was “far better” (Phil. 1:23). He knew that death brings the believer into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. He also knew that it results in the believer’s becoming Christ-like. He becomes like Jesus in holiness, knowledge, love, wisdom, humility, obedience, and in all of His other perfections.
That is salvation. It is past, present, and future. Thus, it touches every aspect of our lives.
Now I want to give you one more verse on this subject. It is a great verse, for it teaches that God’s purposes in this process that I have been describing are absolutely unshakable and that, therefore, what God has begun in the moment of your salvation He will work to continue without interruption throughout life. The verse is Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” In other words, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has already begun the work of perfecting you; and because God does not change, His purposes will not change. God never begins a thing that He does not intend to finish.
Do you see what this means? For one thing, it means that no one who has believed in Jesus Christ will ever be lost. Were you the one who was responsible for your becoming a Christian? Not at all! It was God. He called you. He straightened out the record. If there was ever a moment in your life in which you seemed to be seeking God, it was only because He was there beforehand moving you to do it. That is why we sing:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Saviour true;
No, I was found of Thee.
God finds us. God calls us. God perfects us. And God never begins a thing that He does not intend to finish.
Second, it means that you will inevitably become like Jesus. What does the verse say? It says, “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What is the “good work?” Well, the answer is not given very clearly here in Philippians, but it is given very clearly in the book of Romans. In chapter eight, verses 28 and 29, Paul speaks of God’s great purpose in calling the Christian, which is “to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Think of it. It means that God is so delighted with Jesus Christ that He has set the whole course of the creation and of human history in motion just so that He could call out a race of sinful human beings, put His life within them, and then transform them to be like His dear Son. And the result is that there will then be millions of Christs where there was only one before. This does not mean that we shall become divine, of course. The Bible does not teach that. But we shall be like Him. We shall be like the Lord Jesus, and we shall be so inevitably because it is God Himself who does the transforming.
Explain how death is both an enemy and a great gain.
What two important points do we learn from Philippians 1:6? How does Romans 8:28-29 teach us further about the second point?
Reflection: What other passages can you find that talk about God’s faithfulness in finishing what He starts?
Key Point: In other words, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has already begun the work of perfecting you; and because God does not change, His purposes will not change. God never begins a thing that He does not intend to finish.