Philippians 1:4-11; Luke 3:1-6

(This week’s Old Testament passage is from the apocryphal book of Baruch. My faith tradition does not consider the Apocrypha to be Scripture.)

“The one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

God will complete the work among the church by the day of Christ. Does this mean that Christ’s return is dependent on God completing the salvation and sanctification of his church? As evangelicals, we always emphasize getting people saved (and that’s a start–but it is only a start) in every country–but Christ commanded us to make disciples of all nations (not just get them saved). What if Christ won’t return until God completes his work among us?

Luke also infers this in this week’s Gospel reading when he quotes Isaiah telling us to prepare the way for the Lord. Paths must be straightened, valleys filled, and crooked places made straight. The coming of God is not to be taken lightly.

May be the second coming of Christ shouldn’t be taken lightly either. Last week we saw Paul tell the Thessalonians he was praying for God to strengthen them in holiness, so they would be found blameless when Christ returned. Now he tells the Philippians that God will complete his work in them by the coming of Christ. Paul’s prayer continues that he hopes the Philippians’ love will continue and grow in knowledge and insight, so that they can determine what is best and be found blameless when Christ returns. Again we see the same themes from last week. In order to be found blameless when Christ comes, we must grow in our love for each other and the world, and that love will grow in us knowledge and help us to determine what is best for our communal life and our witness to the world.

Where do you need to grow in love? Where does your church need to grow in love? Toward each other? Toward the people who need to know God? What if Christ won’t return until you let God complete that work of love in your community and world?