Emphasizing the Gospel

“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.” Phil 1:6

It’s funny how emphasis can completely change your understanding of a sentence. For example, take the sentence: “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow.”  How are we to understand this?

  1. She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that someone else is flying to Hawaii.
  2. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies canceled plans.
  3. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she is getting there another way.
  4. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she might be flying from Hawaii.
  5. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she is going somewhere else.
  6. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she is going some other day.

So, which is it?!

Biblical doctrine can be quite the same. Two churches with the exact same confession of faith can place their emphasis in different areas and end up sounding completely different. I believe this helps to explain the culture and tone of Antioch Church. While we believe in Christian growth and sanctification, we place our emphasis on the finished work of Christ. Rather than trying to evidence our justification by our sanctification, we believe that our justification will inevitably (though, not always pretty!) lead to our sanctification. Yes, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10), but without salvation by grace alone (Eph 2:1-9) they result in nothing.

In other words, many believers approach the Gospel backwards. They are focused on “life application,” transformation, growth, etc. This all points to the reality that they’ve truly been born again. Yet, Paul always started his letters with the Gospel first. He reminded his readers of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and therefore, we can expect to see the Holy Spirit slowly conform our life to Gospel imperatives. In fact, in Phil 1:6 he states positively, “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.” That’s a promise. If you are a believer, then he will finish his work. No if’s, and’s, or but’s! Therefore, we emphasize God’s good work before our own. And, isn’t it refreshing to be able to simply rest in the knowledge that God is going to finish what he has started in you? You’re a work in progress. You’re HIS work in progress.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Matthew S. Rickett

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