being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NIV
Began – One way to find the route through a complicated maze is to begin at the end and work backwards. Most of us have done that a few times. This appears to be God’s method for accomplishing life’s purposes. He always begins what He finishes and since He is the only one who actually knows the end from the beginning, we can be assured that His beginnings are always the correct ones. God knows what He wants to do with you. Therefore, He simply works backwards from the end until He arrives where you are today and then He encourages you to follow His path through the maze.
Paul implies this backwards connection in his choice of the Greek word enarxamenos (from the verb enarchomai). First, some grammar. This word is an aorist middle participle. That means it is a finished action in the past (aorist – over and done with). But the middle voice (which does not exist in English) means that this action was done by the subject and involved only the subject. In other words, God and God alone did it. He is the only one who began the good work. You and I had nothing to do with it. We are merely the beneficiaries of His action. Finally, this verb is a participle. Normally we would translate this as an “ing” word, like “beginning,” or we would use it in a compound verb like “has begun.” But the continued action of a participle stands in opposition to the finished action of the aorist tense, so translators choose “began.” Nevertheless, Paul’s implication is that even though this action taken by God alone has been completed, it is still operating now. It is the beginning and the end, viewed from both perspectives at the same time. God sees where He wants us to go now because He views our purposes from their ultimate result.*
We discover a bit more when we realize that this verb is really the combination of the preposition en and the root archo. Archo means “to be first in rank, to rule, to govern,” but the addition of the preposition shifts the sense just a little because en is about location with particular emphasis on rest. God began this work. God’s first-in-rank-order work is the governance of rest. You might say that the whole picture of what God is doing is settled. There isn’t any need for unanticipated corrections or surprise dead-ends. The beginning is assured because the end is fixed. God knows the way through the maze. The only question is whether or not we will trust His directions and follow His path.
Paul’s confidence does not rest on our abilities, our dedication or our spiritual accuracy. It rests on God. Raba emunatecha. Great is His faithfulness. God will insure that the end is accomplished because He always begins what He finishes. Today you can rest in the absolute assurance that His path will bring you to the end of His purposes for you. Today you can set aside anxiety and simply follow Him.
Topical Index: began, enarchomai, Philippians 1:6, rest
*Yes, I realize that this is a spatialization fallacy in its description of time, but it does seem to capture the idea for our culture.