May 2024 Student Leader Devo
Missions Discipleship

Sanctification Is a Work of God: Philippians 1:6

“I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on until the day of Christ Jesus.”

—Philippians 1:6 (CSB)

Understanding the Context of Philippians 1:6

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul was seeking to encourage the Philippian church. These people were dear to his heart because they were some of the first believers he saw come to know the Lord as the result of his very first missionary journey. One of the charter members of the church was Lydia, the seller of a precious purple dye for clothing made from shellfish (cf. Acts 16:14).

From the humble beginnings of a Jewish gathering too small to constitute a synagogue, the Lord grew His church. Another member of the church would have been the jailer who came to Christ as a result of Paul and Silas’ ministry to him and his family (cf. Acts 16:25–34). Scholars believe Epaphroditus, who ministered to Paul in prison, may have actually been the pastor of the church. The letter was written to not only encourage the church, but also to thank them for the sacrificial gift to Paul’s ministry, and to help them address some issues in the church.

Paul began the letter by offering words of encouragement to the believers of Philippi, and assuring them of his prayers for them. He was filled with joy as he relayed to the believers how much he loved them and thanked God for them. They had done so much to help him in his ministry, and he was thankful for their assistance in his missions work. As he encouraged them, he wrote verse six to assure them everything they had done for him was a result of God working in their lives. He was confident the Lord would continue to work in their lives until Christ’s return.

Explanation of the Verse

The Apostle Paul wrote Philippians 1:6 with the utmost assurance and confidence. He had no doubt what the Lord started in their lives, He would continue to accomplish until His return. We call this work of God sanctification.

When we become a Christian, God begins the work of Christlikeness. We never fully achieve complete sanctification until death or Christ returns, as Paul makes clear at the end of the verse. Nevertheless, we are assured God is always at work in our lives from the moment of salvation. This verse assures us our salvation is eternally secure, because once God saves us, He keeps us. We are His forever.

One of the best illustrations of the Christian life is a journey. When I was in seminary, my pastor would constantly remind his students and his congregation that we are “on the journey.” Because we are sinners, sanctification is not an easy process. We will have twists and turns. We will fall down and hurt ourselves, but the Lord will pick us up again, and by His grace, He will take us further on our journey where the destination is heaven with Him forever. The assurance of complete sanctification is the promise found in this verse.

Application to Life

The Apostle Paul knew the Philippian church was not perfect. He knew they had sinned. The same is true for us. God knows we are not perfect. He only asks we strive to be obedient to His Word, and allow it to work in our lives. When Jesus prayed for His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was praying for those of us who would accept His salvation and become His followers.

We read in John 17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify myself for them, so that they may also be sanctified by the truth. I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. … I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:17–20, 23 CSB).

These verses remind us of Jesus’ end goal: the world might know that God loves it, despite its best efforts to thwart God’s mission to proclaim His gospel. God’s work of sanctification in us is the work of the Holy Spirit, as we allow the Word of God to work in our hearts. As we respond to the Word and the Holy Spirit, God will complete His work in us “until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Bill Halladay serves as the staff writer at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In this role, he assists in the development of sermon-based curriculum for the discipleship ministries of the church. He believes in the importance of educating the next generation regarding the task of local and world missions.


Max Anders, The Holman New Testament Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 204, 207–08.