Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Phil 1:6 Does NOT teach the Perseverance of the Saints!

Is Perseverance of the Saints taught in the Bible?

Phil 1:3-8
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
NKJV

Does Philippians 1:6 teach that true Christians will persevere until the end of life in faith and good works?

John MacArthur seems to think so. In his book, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, Mr. MacArthur references Philippians 1:6 six different times (pps. 24, 33, 71, 110, 185, 192)—as much as or more than any other verse in this book, showing the centrality and significance of its concepts for his theology. Throughout his references it is generally assumed that the theological meaning he assigns to the verse is the only viable interpretation. He offers no exegesis of the passage, any discussion of the context whatsoever, nor does he submit any refutation of possible alternative interpretations. This is extremely odd, as this verse is used so repeatedly and is so fundamental to his theology! Why not a more thorough treatment?

John MacArthur explains his theology in this way:
----------
That ongoing work of grace in the Christian’s life is as much a certainty as justification, glorification, or any other aspect of God’s redeeming work . . . [Phil 1:6 is quoted] . . . Salvation is wholly God’s work, and He finishes what He starts. His grace is sufficient. And potent. It cannot be defective in any regard
----------
(MacArthur, Faith Works, 33)

Elsewhere MacArthur writes
----------
They [professing believers] can be sure that if their faith is real it will endure to the end—because God himself guarantees it . . . (Phil. 1:6).
----------
(ibid., 192)

And again:
----------
Real faith cannot be defective or short lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11).
----------
(ibid., 24)

Yet later, quoting Phil 1:6 again, he qualifies the sanctification process:
----------
Sometimes the process is slow and arduous; sometimes it is immediately triumphant.
----------
(ibid.,71)

It seems theologically weightless to contend for a particular view of sanctification from the fact that God’s grace is not defective. If God’s grace is not defective when the process of sanctification proceeds rather slowly or even stops for a limited period of time, why is it defective when the process seems extremely slow or stops for an extended period of time?

Does it not seem, as well, that one could even argue for sinless perfection in this life based on the theology that God’s grace cannot be "defective”!

Quoting Phil 1:6 in The Gospel According to Jesus, 189, MacArthur comments, "The work of salvation cannot ultimately be thwarted." This reasoning is not conclusive either. One who believes that glorification, but not progressive sanctification, is guaranteed for the Christian will concur that "God’s work of salvation cannot ultimately be thwarted."

What is the “good work” of Phil 1:6? It is none other than the Philippians’’ “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5)! “Fellowship” is a translation of the Greek word “koinwnia”. The basic concept of this word implies a participation with another in a common cause or goal, i.e., a "sharing" or "having something in common with another." The English word "partnership" satisfies the connotation behind this Greek word. This word frequently carries a specific idea of sharing financially or forming a partnership through financial giving (BAGD 438-39). In this manner, it is sometimes translated "contribution" or a related term.

That Paul is thinking directly of the Philippians’ contribution financially when he uses koinwnia in 1:5 is also supported by comparing:

Phil 4:15-17
15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared [verb cognate of koinwnia] with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
NKJV

which also discusses the Philippians’ financial support of the gospel and forms an inclusio with Phil 1:3-7.

A further line of support is found when comparison is made between 2 Corinthians 8–9 and Philippians 1:3-7. 2 Corinthians 8-9 is the largest NT passage on giving and contains all the major concepts surrounding Philippians 1:6.

Parallels Between Philippians 1 and 2 Corinthians 8–9 [credit to John Hart, the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1996]

Compare:
Phil 1:3 “I thank my God”
with
2 Cor 9:12 “the ministry of this service is… overflowing through many thanksgivings to God

Compare:
Phil 1:5 “your participation[koinwnia] in the gospel”
with
2 Cor 8:4 “the favor of participation [koinwnia] in the support of saints”
2 Cor 9:13 “your generosity in sharing [koinwnia] with them”

Compare:
Phil 1:6 “For I am confident
with
2 Cor 8:22 “because of his great confidence in you”

Compare:
Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will perfect
with
2 Cor 8:6 “as he [Titus] had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work”
2 Cor 8:10-11 “[you] were the first to begin… to do this,… But now finish doing it also, that… there may be also the completion of it”

Compare:
Phil 1:6 “that he who began a good work in you”
with
2 Cor 9:8-9 “you may have an abundance for every good work; as it is written ‘… He gave to the poor’”

Compare:
Phil 1:6 “He who began a good work in you
with
2 Cor 8:1 “the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia”
2 Cor 8:6 “he would also complete in you this gracious work”

Compare:
Phil 1:6 “perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus
with
2 Cor 9:9 “…He gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever”
2 Cor 9:10 “He … [will] increase the harvest of your righteousness

Compare:
Phil 1:7 “you all are partakers of grace with me”
With
2 Cor 8:1 “the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia"
2 Cor 8:6 “complete in you this gracious work”
2 Cor 8:7 “see that you abound in this gracious work
(see also 2 Cor 8:4, 19; 9:8, 14)

The following is from:
Charlie Bing - Does Philippians 1:6 Teach Perseverance of the Saints? (Newsletter of the Grace Evangelical Society)
----------
Does this verse teach the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints?

The first question to answer is what Paul meant by "good work." The answer is in the context. Paul is recognizing their "fellowship in the gospel" (v. 5). The word fellowship (koinonia) has the basic meaning of communion or something shared in common. What was it the Philippian believers shared with Paul? Foremost in Paul's mind, and really the occasion for his writing, is their financial sharing (4:15-18). Epaphroditus had delivered the Philippians' gift and now Paul was sending him back with a "thank you note" and some information about his circumstances. In fact, in 4:15 Paul used the verbal form of koinonia when he said, "no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving except you only." The noun koinonia is actually translated "contribution" in other New Testament passages(Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13; Heb. 13:6).

Therefore, the "good work" of which Paul speaks is not sanctification in general. It is the Philippians' fellowship in the Gospel through giving.

To consider this verse a promise that all Christians will persevere in a godly lifestyle ignores the occasion, the context, and Paul's point. First, he is not addressing all Christians, but the Philippian believers specifically. Second, Paul is not speaking about lifestyle, but about the Philippians' support of his ministry. Third, he is not making a promise, but is only expressing his confident feelings.

Paul is confident that God will "complete" or carry through the impact of their support as its effects are multiplied in ministry to others until the return of Christ.
----------
The use of Philippians 1:6 as support for the Perseverance of the Saints is just another example of Calvinism’s addiction to proof-texting. The verse does not contain any shred of evidence that true Christians will always persevere in faith and good works.

9 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Superb exegesis.

July 28, 2006 12:29 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Agreed and I am further informed and grateful.

July 28, 2006 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Ten Cent said...

Antonio-

You quoted this:
"Therefore, the "good work" of which Paul speaks is not sanctification in general. It is the Philippians' fellowship in the Gospel through giving."


So are you saying that Paul is saying:
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who [gave you a heart willing to give to the ministry] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Somehow, I have a hard time that Paul was only referring to their financial help at the time. Didn't he say in 4:17 "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account." So, wouldn't that reveal that Paul was more concerned with the fruit, not the "giving" itself.

And doesn't he say in 2:12,13:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

So it's "God who is at work in" them. For what purpose? "To will and to work for His good pleasure."

So in Chapter 1 "God has begun a good work in" them" and in Chapter 2 it is "God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

You quoated: "Paul is confident that God will "complete" or carry through the impact of their support as its effects are multiplied in ministry to others until the return of Christ."

If Paul is only confident about God using the gospel to impact the world, then why does he say this in Chapter 1:9,-11:

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

So what's Paul's desire for them? That their love may abound more and more. Why? So that they can approve the tings that are excellent. Why? To be sincere and blamess until the day of Christ. How can that be? They had been filled with the fruit of righteousness. Where did that fruit come from? Through Jesus Christ. What does it result in? The glory and praise of God.

I don't believe you've made a solid case that Paul is referring to their financial giving when he talks about "a good work". And to me, even if he is referring to that, I believe it's clear he's talking about much more than that.

And by the way, the tone of your last paragraph doesn't appear to be helpful to your discussion. Not sure if you ment it to sound biting and critical, but thought you might want to know how it came across.

Colossians 4:6
"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."

Good words for me to remember as well.

In Christ,
Ten Cent

July 28, 2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Ten Cent, if Phil 1:6 teaches the Perseverance of the Saints, why does Paul pray this in the same book:

Phil 1:9-11

And this I pray:

1) that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment

2) that you may approve the things that are excellent

3) that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ

4) being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

If the perseverance of the saints is a true doctrine, and Phil 1:6 teaches it, why would Paul have to pray for these things? They would be the automatic guarantee of all Christians!

What is the "fruit" that abounds to their account? Do you think it is their good works? This is the knee-jerk reaction of all Traditionalists when they read the word "fruit". The NASB puts it this way "I seek for the profit which increases to your account". This is their rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, at "the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6)!

No one said that Paul's concerns where for their financial giving as such. He was thanking God for it and mentioning the Philippians' reward for their contributions to the gospel!

"Paul is assuring the Philippians that their 'good work' of sharing in the spread of the Gospel will be carried to full fruitfulness by God. Its total effects (for example, in the winning of souls) will only be manifest in the day of Jesus Christ" (Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige, 95)

What great promise! What great encouragement to those who have sacrificed for the spread of the gospel!

This epistle has often been referred to as Paul's "thank you note" to the Philippians for their contributions toward the spread of the gospel. Those in this church sent a monetary gift to Paul for which he is extremely thankful (4:10-19), so it is quite natural that at the beginning of his letter that he refers to their material generosity!

Ten Cent, a great study for you would be a lexical study in the Septuagint and other Koine Greek witnesses for the Greek word "soteria". You will 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 menas "to effect by labor, acheive, work out, bring about".

A salvation (soteria) which can be achieved by labor is hardly the justification-by-faith-alone kind of salvation offered elsewhere in the Bible!

Wouldn't this actually be a true synergism that the Traditionalists are always railing about?

For a VERY BENEFICIAL, and EXTREMELY SHORT consideration of Phil 2:12, click:

Phil 2:12 - Work out Your Salvation: Vindication at the Bema

Antonio

July 28, 2006 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Ten Cent said...

Antonio,

Thanks for the response.

Referring to "salvation", You said: "You will 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!)"

And I would say, that's fine. It's not my intent to argue the meaning of "salvation". It was my intent to show that Paul explicity states that it's God who is at work in you, and that thought is attached to verse 12 about working out your own salvation. God is at work in us. Or do you not believe that God is at work in us?

You said: "If the perseverance of the saints is a true doctrine, and Phil 1:6 teaches it, why would Paul have to pray for these things? They would be the automatic guarantee of all Christians!"

O.K., let's say that in 1:6, Paul is only saying that he's confident that "their 'good work' of sharing in the spread of the Gospel will be carried to full fruitfulness by God". Then why pray for the Gospel to go out? Why go out and spread the Gospel? It's guaranteed, isn't it? Paul's confident that God will complete this work that He started in the Philippians.

You said: "This [fruit] is their rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, at "the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6)!

That's kind of a stretch for me. In the immediate context in Chapter 4, Paul doesn't associate the Fruit with eternal rewards. I might conceed that the Fruit could be blessings while they were here on earth, but I don't see a strong connection with eteranal rewards. To me, that would appear to be a case of you interpreting in light of your "system".

And it wasn't the point of my comment anyway. I was merely pointing out the fact that Paul is concerned with their santification. The whole letter is Paul pointing the Philippians to Christ and revealing how that truth is manifested in the life of a believer.

So here's what I take away from it. God is at work in me. And He will complete it.

In Christ,
Ten Cent

July 28, 2006 7:48 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

The trouble with most "theosophers" (John MacArthur not excluded)is that they start with a self-conceived idea and go find Scriptures to back them up.

While I do not agree with everything you write (is that amazing, or what?), I really appreciate the way you co about it.

I love reading your ideas, as they seem to move from Scripture to concept, rather than the other way around...most of the time.

July 29, 2006 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Antonio:

If anyone has perseverance it is you. :)

To keep pounding these points so consistenly for so long is true endurance.

I guess your faith is proven to not be spurious. :)

July 29, 2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger Ryan S. said...

Well, I believe in Perserverance of the Saints. I am studied in the Lordship and non-Lordship controversy in dispensationalist circles, though I am an historic Baptist and covanental.

I guess I am the only one trying not to laugh at your sweeping endorsement of Zane Hodges book. Hodges says people can fall into avowed atheism, and die as such, and still be a blood-bought Christian if they merely confessed Christ in the past. I submit such a person was never regenerate to begin with. Though, the Scriptures give an explanation for believers that apparently fall from the faith.

Try explaining that one to me.

This school of theology led by Hodges and Ryrie is very much antinomian and disavows that repentance is a fruit of a geniune saving faith. "Repentance" is of God, as 2 Timothy 2:25 makes clear and is the active response of every regenerate believer. I cannot trust in my good works, and I believe in Christ's free and unmerited grace too.

July 31, 2006 6:34 AM  
Blogger L.A. Markham said...

I know that this is the internet and everything, but the four paragraphs starting with 'The first question' through to 'Paul is confident' seems to be completely plagiarised.
The linked article would appear to have been published in 1991 (that is fifteen years before the article here): http://www.faithalone.org/magazine/y1991/91feb3.html

If you're going to copy and paste other people's thoughts or work, ought you not to give them the deserved credit, rather than claim it as your own?

January 03, 2013 4:13 AM  

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