More Thoughts on Phil 1:6
“…cannot be shaken loose from its immediate context and be interpreted primarily in terms of 'God’s redeeming and renewing' in the lives of the Philippians (Martin, 1959; see also Barth, Caird, Hendriksen, Jones, Müller). Rather ergon agathon [Greek for ‘good work in verse 6] finds its explanation in the fact that the Philippians were partners with Paul in the gospel (v 5), and shared their resources with him to make the proclamation of the gospel possible. This ‘sharing in the gospel’ is the good work referred to here (cf. 2 Cor 8:6)” (italics in the original) Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1983), 21
This limited meaning of 1:6 is established by the inter-relationship between the "good work" and the preceding phrase in v 5, "the first day until now." The "good work" is what God began among them (v 6), i.e. from "the first day." The concept of completing the good work in v 6 carries the process on from the "now" (v 5) to the "day of Christ" (v 6). This can be diagrammed as follows:
“from the first day” “until now”
“He who began” “will complete it until the day of Christ”
The whole of Philippians 1:3-7 is but a single sentence in the Greek, forming a contextual unit. It creates a thematic epistolary introduction, beginning with a thanksgiving for the Philippians’ financial support of the spread of the gospel (vs 5), continuing with encouragement for their contributions (verse 6) and ending with Paul’s consideration of the Philippians as partners with Him in the gospel endeavor. Verse six is placed in the middle of verses 5 and 7, which speaks of the Philippians’ contribution to the spread of the gospel (verse 5) and their partnership with Paul in this specific endeavor (verse 7).
The chronological wording within the same sentence and unit delimits the “good work” to the koinwnia of verse 5. This is lock-tight solid! Paul is being specific and speaking concerning the Philippians’ “koinwnia”. The phrase “from the first day” corresponds to “He who began” in the chronology, speaking of the same topic: koinwnia (vs 5) / “good work” (verse 6). The only way that “good work” could mean a guaranteed perseverance and growth in faith and works is to define the “koinwnia” of verse 5 as the mystical union with Christ (eternal salvation). As we have seen in my last post, this is thoroughly unlikely.
John Hart (Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1996)
That Paul is thinking directly of the Philippians’ contribution financially when he uses koinwnia in 1:5 is supported by the following reasons. First, Paul brings together in chapter four the verb koinwnew (4:15) and the compound verb synkoinwnew(4:14) to identify the gift they had sent him in his imprisonment. The compound noun synkoinwnoi ("fellow-sharers") is used in 1:7 and expresses a unity that the Philippians have with Paul in his imprisonment, and in defending and vindicating the Gospel. The koinwnia of 1:5 must essentially be the same as the synkoinwnoi in 1:7. This implies an inextricable connection with the gift motif in 4:10–20. At the same time, it ties together the concepts in 1:5–7, and demands an interpretation that treats all three verses as a flow of thought. In other words, 1:6 cannot go uninfluenced by the conceptions of the Philippian gift portrayed in 1:5 and again in 1:7, and finally in 4:10–20.
Some in the Traditionalist camp, as our friend Ten Cent has, employ Phil 2:12-13 to support their contention that Phil 1:6 teaches the Perseverance of the Saints. Notwithstanding the evidence already submitted in the previous post and in this one thus far, this approach can be challenged in the following ways:
First, this approach utilizes the flawed exegetical and hermeneutical method of indiscriminately cross-referencing “ergon” (Greek: work) or its cognates and compounds. Other compounds of ergon in Philippians demonstrate that energew (2:13, "to work") and katergazomai (2:12, "to accomplish, work out") do not necessarily correspond with the "good work" of 1:6 or a salvation view of the verse. Clearly, the focus of ergon in the remainder of the letter is on the work of advancing the Gospel, not soteriological concerns. For example, cf. 1:22, karpos ergou ("fruitful labor") and 2:30, to ergon Cristou ("the work of Christ"), which indisputably reference the gathering of fruit for eternal life, IOW, the spread of the gospel. Most of the other cognates have a similar focal point: 2:25, synergon ("fellow worker"); 3:2, tous kakous ergatas ("the evil workers"); 4:3, synergwn mou ("my fellow workers").
Second, the "salvation" (soteria) in 2:12 is best taken as a "deliverance" other than a rescue from eternal damnation. If one were to do a lexical/word study of “soteria” in the Septuagint and other Koine Greek they would find that it has a very broad range which can include things as healing, health, well-being (both spritual and physical), prosperity, good fortune, triumphant endurance, deliverances from the afflictions of earthly life, moral and personal welfare, rewards in an eschatological dimension, and lastly, deliverance from hell (which would be the least likely assumption of the Greek reader!).
Phil 2:12 says "dear friends... work out your own salvation"
They are to "work out" which translates katergazomai, which simply means "to effect by labor, acheive, work out, bring about". They are to effect their own salvation by the condition of works!
A salvation (soteria) which can be achieved by labor is hardly the justification-by-faith-alone kind of salvation offered elsewhere in the Bible!
The salvation in Phil 2:12 thus cannot be the justification salvation that is by grace through faith found elsewhere in Paul; unless you would be content to allow for real contridiction in the Bible.
Also, if the Calvinist / Traditionalist takes the “salvation” in Phil 2:12 to be eternal salvation, wouldn't this then actually be a true(IOW, not the bogus one the Traditionalist accuses the FGer of) synergism (eternal salvation by partnership of God and man) which the Traditionalists always seems to be railing against?
Phil 1:3–7 is best understood as preparing for Paul’s gift motif developed in 4:10–20. In fact, the unusual harmony of 1:3–7 and 4:10–20 compels the exegete to perceive 1:6 from the vantage point of the Philippians’ gift to Paul. This can be seen quite pictorially by comparing Phil 1:3-7 with Phil 4:10-20:
Parallels Between Philippians 1 and Philippians 4 [Credit: John Hart]
Phil 1:3 “I thank my God”
Phil 1:4 “offering prayer with joy"
Phil 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly”
Phil 1:5 “your participation [koinwnia] in the gospel”
Phil 4:15 “no church shared [verb cognate of koinwnia] with me in the matter of giving and receiving"
Phil 1:5 “your participation in the gospel from the first day”
Phil 4:15 “at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia”
Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you”
Phil 4:14 “you have done well to share with me”
Phil 1:6 “[He] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”
Phil 4:17 “the profit which increases to your account”
Phil 1:7 “it is right for me to feel this way about you all”
Phil 1:3 “for all your remembrance of me” (Moffatt NT)
Phil 4:10 “you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned”
Phil 1:7 “it is only right for me to feel this way”
Phil 4:8 “whatever is right, … let your mind dwell on these things”
Phil 1:7 “in my imprisonment … you all are partakers[synkoinwnous] of grace with me”
Phil 4:14 “to share with me [synkoinwsantes] in my affliction"
The partnership with Paul, as seen in the financial contributions of the Philippians, is clearly apparent as the “good work” in Phil 1:6, and as such, fatally undermines the psuedo-scholastic exegesis of the Traditionalists.
The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints has been read into Phil 1:6. This is shameful, as it has become one of the proof-texts extrordinaire in the arsenal of the Traditionalist.
The Perseverance of the Saints makes the Traditionalist’s gospel a false gospel, as it introduces another condition to final salvation: namely, perseverance until the end in faith and progressive sanctification. This is a reprehensible back-loading of works-based contingency into the simple offer of the gospel.
Antonio da Rosa
Key words: Calvin, Calvinism, doctrines of grace, TULIP