Does Paul Teach Unconditional Eternal Security in Philippians 1:6?

Philippians 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it in the day of Christ Jesus.

Does this verse then teach that one who begins in saving faith will inevitably continue in that faith until the “day of Christ Jesus?”  The advocates of unconditional security are trying to squeeze far more from this verse than was intended by Paul.  Paul was confident in the work of God being completed in the Philippians to whom he writes because he had every reason to believe that they would endure in the faith.  Paul explains why he has such confidence in them:  They have participated in the ministry of the gospel from the “first day until now.” (1:5) They have shared in grace with Paul in supporting his ministry and supporting him while in prison (1:7; 4:18, 19).  Paul is also confident that God will complete his work in them because he is praying for them and trusting God on their behalf (1:3, 9-11).

Since Paul has every reason to believe that they will continue in the faith based on their track record he can express his confidence that God will continue to work in them since God cannot fail to work in believers.  All believers who continue in the faith will see God’s work completed in them on the “day of Christ Jesus.”  Paul is not guaranteeing that they will make it to glory but only expressing his personal confidence in them based on his own experience of their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Paul’s confidence is seen to be a cautious confidence in that he warns them to continue following his example of single minded commitment to the gospel of Christ lest they begin to focus instead on the things of this world and become enemies of the cross (3:17-19).  Paul still expresses concern that he may yet return to them and not find them standing firm in Christ, and for that reason encourages them to continually conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27).  In verses 12-13 we see that Paul has grounds for confidence in them since they have “always” obeyed, and yet he admonishes them to continue to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (2:12) If their destination was guaranteed there should be nothing for them to fear (cf. Rom. 11:19-22).  Yet they must continue to “work out” their salvation by yielding to the working of God within them (2:13).

Philippians 2:12-13 gets to the heart of the matter and provides the primary context by which we should understand Paul’s comments in 1:6.  God will complete His work in them but only as they continue to yield to that “working” within them.  If they continue to yield to the work of God within them God will certainly bring that work to completion (perfect it) on “the day of Christ Jesus.”  We cannot do this work in ourselves, God must do it.  We cannot even yield to the work of God in us on our own, but we can do “all things through Him” who strengthens us.  We are still called on to fearfully submit to God’s work and there is nothing in Paul’s words that would suggest that we cannot resist that work and fail to see it brought to perfection in us.  In fact, Philippians 2:13 suggests just the opposite.

From: Perseverance of the Saints Part 12: Examining Passages Commonly Appealed to by the Advocates of Unconditional Eternal Security

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12 Responses

  1. That would be Philippians 1:6.

  2. Hello again, its been a while, well first I want be sure here, to say that my points, have nothing whatsoever, to do with monergism vs synergism. Therefore what I believe about either of these is not my point at all. Rather I am simply attempting to analyze this passage as you have expounded it here. First you state

    ” Paul has every reason to believe that they will continue in the faith based on their track record”

    This would seem to me to indicate that Paul can have confidence in the work of God, only if he can first, have confidence in the Philippians abilities. This seems to tie God’s hands, in other words He may desire to work in the Philippians, however He is completely powerless to do so, and He is dependent on them to fulfill His desire. However the passage as I read it states,

    “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will complete it.”

    It seems evident here to me, that Paul’s full confidence is in the He who began a good work. This would also seem to indicate that God began the work, the work was not originated with Paul or the Philippians.

    I would also like to point out that, as I have read many of your articles, you have on numerous occasions, rightly pointed out where Calvinists have inserted words, phrases and, or concepts, not found in the text to make their case.It would seem you have done this same thing here, yourself, with this text. You state,

    “Yet they must continue to “work out” their salvation by yielding to the working of God within them”

    I do not see either the word nor the concept of yielding in these 2 verses, in fact, again the passage as I read it states,

    work out your salvation with fear and trembling, FOR. The word FOR here indicates the reason for the last statement. And what is the stated reason? FOR it is God who works in you! And what is the work God is said to do. According to Paul it is to will, and to act according to His good purpose. So then it would seem that God is the one doing, not only the acting, but also the willing, and where is this willing and acting being done? Again according to the passage, in the Philippians.

    Again, I want to be sure to make clear, I am not making a stand here, in fact I am not even saying that I am in disagreement with your finial analysis, I am simply attempting to show where I see inconsistencies.

  3. “We cannot do this work in ourselves, God must do it. We cannot even yield to the work of God in us on our own, but we can do ‘all things through Him’ who strengthens us.”
    – kangaroodort

    It seems to me that these two sentences are the core of your conclusion, if this is true, this seems to contradict the main point that you were making throughout the article, and I believe that this is a Calvinist point of view and in these two sentences you gave a Calvinist’s analysis of this verse.

  4. I think the New Revised Standard Version’s rendering of Philippians 1:6 is helpful to this discussion. It reads as follows:

    “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

    The Greek word “humin” is what is translated into English as “among you”. As a plural pronoun in the second person, it could easily be rendered “y’all”, which would make folks from the American South (like myself) happy, but probably wouldn’t make for a good English translation. Here, humin is in the dative case, which can be rendered “in” (most prevalent usage) or “among” (among other options)

    I think the NRSV has rendered this verse very accurately because Paul is not thinking here about individuals, but the Philippians as a whole church. This explanation works well with the entire tenor of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The gist of Paul’s letter is that he is rejoicing (even from jail!) over the Philippian church’s ongoing partnership in the Gospel of Christ. Paul is thinking primarily of the Philippian church on the whole, not as individuals. Without question, Paul references individuals from the Philippian church like Epaphroditus (2:25) and Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement (4:2-3). But the collectivist/group-think mindset of the ancient world (which is still prevalent outside the West today) would have Paul thinking of the group first, individuals second.

    So back to Phil. 1:6. First, the “good work” that God had started among the Philippians and (Paul thinks) would continue to bring to completion until the day of Jesus Christ is related to what has prompted Paul to prayer in the previous verses. Picking it up from verse 4 we find Paul, “[4] constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, [5] because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” I believe that God’s good work that Paul is talking about in 1:6 is the Philippians’ “sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” in verse 5. I think the immediate context demands this. Also, the parallel phrasing of “from the first day until now” (v. 5) and “began a good work among you… bring it to completion” (v. 6) shows that Paul is speaking in parallel terms about the church’s partnership in the gospel. In 1:6, Paul merely confidently asserting that God’s gospel-advancing work among this church will continue until Jesus comes back, which Paul (and the other apostles) believed to be immanent.

  5. It seems to me that these two sentences are the core of your conclusion, if this is true, this seems to contradict the main point that you were making throughout the article, and I believe that this is a Calvinist point of view and in these two sentences you gave a Calvinist’s analysis of this verse.

    The only way you could conclude that this contradicts my point and supports Calvinism is for you to see every work of God as necessarily irresistible. If anything, it reveals that you can’t seem to look beyond your own view to understand the Arminian view of resistible prevenient grace, even though it has been explained to you many times. Too bad.

  6. This would seem to me to indicate that Paul can have confidence in the work of God, only if he can first, have confidence in the Philippians abilities.

    Paul can always have confidence in the work of God, but he also knows that God’s working is resistible rather than irresistible. His confidence in the Philippians is based on their track record, yet he does not expressing infallible confidence. This is not unusual language. We express confidence in the same way all the time. The problem is only in the Calvinist insistence of reading irresistibility into everything.

    This seems to tie God’s hands, in other words He may desire to work in the Philippians, however He is completely powerless to do so, and He is dependent on them to fulfill His desire. However the passage as I read it states,

    “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will complete it.”

    God does desire to work in them and will work in them. That doesn’t mean they can’t resist His working. It also doesn’t mean He is “powerless” to work in them. If God chooses to work in us resistibly and conditionally, that doesn’t mean He is powerless to work in them irresistibly or unconditionally. It only means that this is the way God chooses to work. I affirm God’s sovereign right and freedom to work in His creatures in a resistible and conditional manner. For you, God can only work in one way- irresistible cause and effect.

    I would also like to point out that, as I have read many of your articles, you have on numerous occasions, rightly pointed out where Calvinists have inserted words, phrases and, or concepts, not found in the text to make their case. It would seem you have done this same thing here, yourself, with this text.

    Not at all. We can either read this text as describing an irresistible working of God, or a resistible working of God. That it is describing a resistible working of God makes better sense of the language. What sense would it make for Paul to admonish them to continue to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling” if God is the one who works this “working” into them irresistibly?

    Paul’s reason for confidence is expressed, “as you have always obeyed”, but that confidence is not infallible as his following thought points out about the need to continue working our their salvation in fear and trembling. That is the point. Does Paul make it clear that they cannot do this work on their own strength? Yes, but to read this as an irresistible working makes nonsense of the passage and the admonishment (as is so often the case with Calvinism).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. LexCro,

    Thanks for the insightful comments.

  8. Dearest Lex,
    I was glad to see your post, it is exactly what God has revealed to me too! The work Paul speaks about is to the whole Church at Philippi. This, as you say , makes complete sense in regard of “until the day of Jesus Christ”! Otherwise Paul is saying that all individuals at Philippi would be around at the time of Christ’s return. However we all know that He will have His bride perfected when He returns, is that not exactly what Paul is saying here?

    In Jesus Love
    Rudi

  9. Rudi,

    Good to be in touch with you. I don’t know if perfection of the Bride of Christ is what’s in view in this particular verse. I think that God’s completion of their work for the sake of the Gospel is in view. As you’ve said in your previous post, this doesn’t assume that every Philippian believer would be around until Jesus comes back. However, I think that Paul is confident that God would bring their Gospel labors to their peak until the Day of Christ. This doesn’t discount the view that God will perfect His Church. I’m just saying that I don’t (as yet!) see that going on in this particular verse.

  10. It is my hope and pray that your summer slow down as well as your move goes well. May God bless your endeavor.

    I would also like to thank you again for these opportunities, they certainly are beneficial for myself, so again thanks so much.

    Having said this, I would like to point out that you continue in your response to use the words resistible, and irresistible. If you will notice I never use either of these words, also Paul never uses either word in this passage, he also never uses the word yield which you inserted into the passage. My point is that, Paul is referring to the work of God in the Philippians, he shows no concern as to whether this working is resistible or irresistible. If he had that concern, in this part of the passage, he certainly could have expressed it by using the words resistible or irresistible, or as you have, he could have told them the need for yielding to this work. He does not.

    I tend to agree with Lex above, in that I believe Paul is referring to the work of God in the Philippians as a whole as opposed to the individual. Again, however the work God is said to do is to WILL and ACT according to His good purpose, so again it is clear that God is doing the willing and the acting. Now as far as your question,

    What sense would it make for Paul to admonish them to continue to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling” if God is the one who works this “working” into them irresistibly?

    As you can see here you use the word irresistibly. I would remove this word and respond, that Paul is reminding them that the work that is going on in them is not their own, it is also not a human work. Rather this is the working of The Creator of the cosmos, The One that no human can look upon and live. This should be cause enough for fear and trembling.

  11. Hayden,

    Thanks for the well wishes on the move. I appreciate that. You wrote,

    Having said this, I would like to point out that you continue in your response to use the words resistible, and irresistible.

    That’s because this working is either resistible or irresistible. We can either resist this work or we cannot. Which is it? You can’t just pretend it doesn’t matter. It can’t be both and it can’t be neither.

    If you will notice I never use either of these words

    No, but your comments imply and assume that God is working irresistibly. I can’t help it if you are not willing to call a spade a spade. Not only that, but you certainly seemed to imply irresistibility when you responded above with,

    It seems to me that these two sentences are the core of your conclusion, if this is true, this seems to contradict the main point that you were making throughout the article, and I believe that this is a Calvinist point of view and in these two sentences you gave a Calvinist’s analysis of this verse.

    What did you mean to express here?

    , also Paul never uses either word in this passage, he also never uses the word yield which you inserted into the passage.

    True, but if the language suggests that Paul is speaking of God working in them in a resistible manner, then yielding is plainly implied. If we can resist God’s working in us, then we need to cooperate with God (yield to that working), for it to have the desired effect.

    My point is that, Paul is referring to the work of God in the Philippians, he shows no concern as to whether this working is resistible or irresistible.

    He implies it plainly when he begins with, “as you have always obeyed, continue to work out…” He is calling on them to continue to do something. If God causes them to obey irresistibly, then Paul’s admonishment is meaningless. Also, as it was pointed out in the post, Paul often expresses concern that they might not continue. That again plainly implies that this working in them (collectively or individually) is not irresistible.

    If he had that concern, in this part of the passage, he certainly could have expressed it by using the words resistible or irresistible, or as you have, he could have told them the need for yielding to this work.

    But he doesn’t need to, since resistibility is plainly implied and assumed in his language. But even if Paul is not saying that this working is either, that does not mean it is neither, does it? It must be one or the other. So which is it? And if Paul isn’t speaking of God working irresistibly, as you say above (since you seem to disqualify both perspectives), then this passage fails as a proof text for eternal security or inevitable perseverance, does it not?

    Again, however the work God is said to do is to WILL and ACT according to His good purpose, so again it is clear that God is doing the willing and the acting.

    So God is doing the willing and the acting for us? Does that mean we do not will or act? And isn’t this the same as saying that God is working in us irresistibly, causing us to will and to act?

    As you can see here you use the word irresistibly. I would remove this word and respond, that Paul is reminding them that the work that is going on in them is not their own, it is also not a human work. Rather this is the working of The Creator of the cosmos, The One that no human can look upon and live.

    And are they able to resist this working, or are they powerless to resist it? You can’t just keep evading the question.

    This should be cause enough for fear and trembling.

    That seems highly unlikely to me if God is working in them in such a way that they cannot possibly resist. But if it is a work they can resist, then it would make sense for them to be called on to fear and therefore yield to that working (i.e., the “working out” is comparable to “yielding”), knowing it is God’s will and desire for them and that if they resist that working, their salvation can be in jeopardy…”work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”

    You keep saying it is all about what God is doing, but the passage starts with what we are to do. So Paul begins with what we are to do, followed by a description of God’s work in us. You can either say the second part nullifies and renders meaningless the first part of the passage, or you can take them together and interpret the passage as I have done, which makes better sense of the language, the admonishment, and Paul’s expressed concern in other places that they might not continue as he hopes.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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