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SALVATION AND SANCTIFICATION!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, February 1, 2015

“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” (Philippians 1:6).


This verse has a special appeal to me. It was the “life verse” of my pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin. It was also the “life verse” of Dr. J. Vernon McGee, from whom I learned much of what I know, by listening to him on the radio every day in the 1960s. Dr. Lin and Dr. McGee were my real teachers, since nearly all of what I learned at the liberal seminaries I attended was of no value whatever. Dr. Lin and Dr. McGee were my teachers, and both of them thought of this verse as the most important single verse in their lives – thus, they called it their “life verse.”

Both of these men had a very hard time becoming ministers. That is one of the reasons I understood them and loved them so much – because I too am amazed (even today) that I made it through college and seminary, and earned several doctor’s degrees as well! Dr. McGee was also amazed. So also was Dr. Lin.

Now listen to Dr. McGee’s testimony. His father was killed in an accident when he was fourteen years old. He went to work full time in a hardware store that year, at just fourteen. He worked eight hours a day or more. He had to get up at 5:00 o’clock in the morning. He wanted to go to school but he couldn’t. Later an older man, who had a son that was a drunkard, became a father-figure to him. This man helped him get a better job and he was able to go to college. He said, “Every year I thought it would be my last year.” Like me, Dr. McGee had a very hard time working to pay his college tuition and support himself. They did not have student loans, or anything else to help students back then, and still didn’t when I went to college. I put myself through college by working full time and going to classes at night. Dr. McGee said, “The last year I was in college was during the depression...I couldn’t get a job and had no money.” He wanted to go into the ministry, so he had to go through three years of graduate school at a seminary. He said to a friend, “I haven’t a dime to go to seminary next year.”

Then two elderly widows at his church gave him $500, which was a huge amount of money during the Great Depression, worth $25,000 in today's money. When he was about to leave his church and go to the seminary, some people at his church gave him a farewell party. At the party someone gave him this verse. He said, “That has been my life verse ever since that night” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, volume V, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p. 292; note on Philippians 1:6).

“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” (Philippians 1:6).

When he graduated from college Dr. McGee said, “I could see those rich kids being hugged by their parents. No one was there to throw their arms around me...I thought I was through. I felt called to the ministry, but there was no possible way for me to go through seminary. However, I had a wonderful heavenly Father, who through Philippians 1:6, put His arms around me and said, ‘I’ll see you through’...And I want to testify today that He is still keeping His promise. [That verse] has been a comfort to me since I have had several bouts with cancer...He has said, ‘Whatever I have in store for you, I’m going to see you through until the day of Jesus Christ!’ So I am in His hands. This is a great verse of Scripture. Oh, I have held onto this [verse] during many a dark night when the storm outside was beating against my little ark. My, how wonderful [it is] to have a heavenly Father like this!” (ibid., pp. 292, 293).

Dr. Timothy Lin had a similarly hard life. Dr. Lin’s father was away from their home as a missionary most of the time when he was a very small child. Dr. Lin was sent away to a mission school and rarely went home, even during summer vacations. He became a pastor when he was only 24 years old. He married a girl named Daisy, and they had a baby girl named Beibei. Then the Japanese attacked them in airplanes. Dr. Lin put the students in the school he led into a boat to escape. The boat was attacked from the air and his wife and baby daughter were killed. Dr. Lin was the last person to get on the boat. When the planes started shooting, he jumped and fell down a hill and broke his neck. There was no doctor, so he wrapped some old rags around his neck until the bones healed. He was never able to move his head from side to side after that. When Dr. Lin’s mother received a letter telling of the death of his wife and baby girl, his younger brother said, “When our mother received [his letter telling of their deaths] she burst into tears. Thinking about it now still makes me sad.”

These are some details I did not know until I read what his younger brother wrote after Dr. Lin died. Dr. Lin left China in 1948 to study theology in the United States, with his second wife Gracie and his son. As he stood on the wharf watching the boat depart, his brother said, “I could not imagine that we were parting with them forever...[I have not seen him for 61 years]. He was forced to stay away [from China] because of the current [Communist] regime” (Click here to read Dr. Lin’s brother’s full account).

I could go on and tell you about the great hardships Dr. Lin went through after he left China, but I will stop here and simply say that it is no wonder that Philippians 1:6 was his “life verse.” My son Leslie reminded me that Dr. Lin quoted that verse almost every time he preached in our church.

“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” (Philippians 1:6).

Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
   (“God Leads His Dear Children Along” by George A. Young, 1903).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this about Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “It is the most lyrical, the happiest letter which the Apostle ever wrote” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., The Life of Joy, Hodder and Stoughton, 1989, p. 9). The joyful little book of Philippians is filled with happiness and hope for Christians. It also contains my own “life verse” – Philippians 4:13,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”
       (Philippians 4:13).

The word “strengtheneth” is from the Greek word “dunamis,” which means “power.” When I have felt as though I could not go on, Christ has always given me the power to do what I myself could never do! But I am not speaking of my own “life verse.” I am speaking on the “life verse” of Dr. McGee and Dr. Lin,

“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” (Philippians 1:6).

The “good work” God has begun in us refers to our conversions. Indeed it is a “good work,” and it is a “work” we could never have accomplished ourselves. Why not? Because “we were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). We were so completely “dead in sins” that we had “no hope [and were] without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). We tried almost every way possible to be saved. But it was all a failure. We tried to be good, but we could not be good enough! We tried to learn, but we could not learn enough! We tried to “feel,” but we could not “feel” enough. We were lost! We were “dead in sins!” Then, after struggle and failure, God “quickened us together with Christ” and we were saved by grace alone! (Ephesians 2:5). That is real conversion! That is life from the dead! That is salvation by grace! That “is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). That is what we mean when we sing old Newton’s hymn!

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
   That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
   And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
   The hour I first believed!

My wife and I sang the next stanza to Dr. Lin as he lay on his death-bed. He could not speak, but he smiled when we sang it!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
   I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
   And grace will lead me home.
(“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

“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” (Philippians 1:6).

Paul said the conversions of the people at Philippi was “a good work.” Conversion is the work of God within a sinner’s heart, which brings him under conviction of sin, and then draws him to Jesus for cleansing in His Blood! The same “good work” of God that saved him will keep him saved throughout his life – no matter what happens to him!

Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Those of you who have been trying to “get” saved by learning something, doing something, or feeling something – you are (I hope) beginning to see it isn’t going to happen by learning, or feeling, or doing. Salvation is a miracle! The Apostle Paul knew that! He knew his own conversion was a miracle. And because he had experienced the miracle of conversion he could speak of this “good work” God had done in his heart and life – drawing him to trust Jesus. He knew by his own experience that the God who converted him, would continue to do a good work until the day that Jesus comes to take us to Heaven! He was “confident” of it! That’s the word he used, “confident” – “pepoithōs” = persuaded of it, sure of it!

Oh, did I forget to tell you, Paul was chained in a dungeon in Rome when he wrote this lovely, encouraging epistle to the Christians at Philippi! I have been to that dungeon – the Mamertine prison – near the great Colosseum. Ileana and I went down into that dark, damp hole! It was there, in that awful place, that Paul wrote Philippians which Dr. Lloyd-Jones called “the happiest letter which the Apostle ever wrote”!!! And he told the Christians at Philippi that he was confident, absolutely certain, that God, who had given them the new birth and real conversion, will perform it (complete it). Dr. Vincent says it means that God “will carry it on towards completion, and finally complete it” (Marvin R. Vincent, Ph.D., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and Philemon. In the International Critical Commentary, Clark, 1955; note on Philippians 1:6).

I think Dr. Thomas Hale was right when he said, “God, by His grace, has begun in each [Christian] a good work [the work of conversion]... That was the beginning of God’s work. And in the end, just as fruit ripens on a tree, God will bring His ‘new creation’ to completion – to perfection... When will God’s work in our lives be completed? It will be completed ‘on the day of Jesus Christ’ – that is, the day when Jesus comes... Only after Christ comes again in glory will the work God has begun in our lives be complete. At that time the redemption of our bodies will take place (Romans 8:23) and we shall become like Christ” (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1996, p. 792; note on Philippians 1:6).

Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

“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” (Philippians 1:6).

You are a work in progress, if you are saved! You were saved from the penalty of sin by the power of God. Your sins were instantly washed clean by the Blood of Jesus. But you still had some thoughts that were wrong, and some habits that were wrong. Over a period of time, the same God who converted you will gradually make you more and more like Jesus. When you are raptured, to meet Jesus in the air, you will be completed by God, as a modern translation put it, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.” I remember a funny guy that was a friend. He said, “Don’t judge me yet! I’m a work in progress!”

But here is where I disagree with many evangelical teachers. They will tell you that you grow as a Christian through lots of verse-by-verse Bible study. I disagree. I’m not against Bible study itself. Far from it! But I am saying that Bible study alone will not make you a mature Christian. God has given us the Bible to enlighten us and increase our faith. But He has given us the local church to perfect us, and lead us into Christian maturity! I have known people who studied the Bible all their lives and were still immature, because they were not fully involved in a local church. I have known others who were saved, and went to work in the church right away! These are the ones that became tremendous Christians! The others never seem to become solid Christians.

I have been called a “landmark” Baptist because I believe so strongly in the absolute necessity of getting into a local church and getting totally involved in it. At the end of nearly every sermon I tell those who watch the videos on the Internet to find a good local church, preferably one that has both Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. I tell them to be in church “every time the door is open, and get to know the pastor.”

The Bible tells us that the leaders of the churches are given “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [mature] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, 13). I agree with this note in The Reformation Study Bible,

The New Testament assumes that all Christians will share in the life of a local congregation, worshipping in the body, accepting its nurture and discipline, and sharing its ministry and witness. Christians who refuse to join other believers disobey God and spiritually impoverish themselves (Hebrews 10:25) – note on page 1709.

All of our people attend prayer meeting. All of our people go out to evangelize the lost and bring them into the church. It is through participating in these ministries of the local church that people become mature in Christ.

Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Now I will close by saying a few words to those who are not yet saved.

“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” (Philippians 1:6).

The “good work” that begins the Christian life is when God shows you that you are a sinner, and then draws you to Jesus for cleansing in His Blood.

But some are stopped from trusting Christ by thinking God is asking them to be perfect at the beginning – instead of realizing that perfection (maturity) comes through the life-long process of sanctification. They think they have to be sanctified at the very beginning. So they stumble again and again when we ask them to trust Jesus. May I say to you as strongly as possible – God is calling you to a simple trust in Jesus. The process of becoming a mature Christian does not really begin until you first turn to Jesus and trust Him. Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He rose from the dead to give you life. Don’t worry about being “perfect.” The Devil will use that to stop you! Don’t think about being perfect. Think only of Jesus. Turn to Him. Trust Him. He will save you in that moment! After He has saved you, “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it [finish it, bring it to realization] until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). He will start that maturing process the moment you trust Jesus and are cleansed from your sin by His Blood! Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Philippians 1:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“God Leads His Dear Children Along” (by George A. Young, 1903).