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.