THINKING BIBLICALLY ABOUT GOD
THINKING BIBLICALLY ABOUT GOD
DOES PHILIPPIANS 1:6 TEACH ETERNAL SECURITY?
DOES PHILIPPIANS 1:6 TEACH ETERNAL SECURITY
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving and Prayer I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:1-6
Philippians 1:6 is frequently misinterpreted as referring to the salvation and eternal security of the individual believer. However, that is not what the text is about. Neither the context nor the words used by Paul in this wonderful text support the idea that a believer’s salvation is eternally secured from the moment they believe. That belief would contradict many other passages of scripture which imply conditional security.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16
Instead, this text is speaking of the financial aid gift which the Philippians sent to the Apostle Paul for the advancement of the gospel. If we begin in Philippians 1:1 we see that Paul and Timothy are writing to the saints in Philippi along with the leaders of the church there. In Philippians 1:1-5 He informs them that whenever he prays for them he does so with joy because of their partnership in the gospel. This aspect of Paul’s words must not be overlooked. In Philippians 4:15-16 he speaks of this in more detail and brings to their memory the fact that in the early days no-one partnered with him in the matter of giving and receiving except the Philippians. Furthermore, Philippians 4:18 implies that they had just sent him another gift. This is what Paul is referencing in Philippians 1:5 when he says that he remembers them with joy because of their partnership with him in the gospel.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now Philippians 1:4-5
Nevertheless, you have done well to share in my affliction. And as you Philippians know, in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church but you partnered with me in the matter of giving and receiving. For even while I was in Thessalonica, you provided for my needs again and again. Not that I am seeking a gift, but I am looking for the fruit that may be credited to your account. I have all I need and more, now that I have received your gifts from Epaphroditus. They are a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. Philippians 4:14-18
With that context in mind, what is the good work Paul is referring to? It’s not salvation, its the giving of the gift to Paul isn’t it? This becomes especially clear to me when I noticed that verses 1-6 are all part of the exact same sentence. That changes the meaning of the passage completely. No longer can the passage be understood as a reference to eternal security. Paul is telling the Philippians that the good work which God began in them, namely their gift of financial aid, will continue to be perfected until Christ returns for his church at his second coming. Think about that, we are still continuing to benefit from that great work God which God began in the hearts of the Philippians saints today, and the church will continue to benifit from that gift until the very day Jesus Christ returns.
Even if you disagree with me on the interpretation of this verse, you still can’t get eternal security from it. This epistle was not written to you personally, it was written to the Philippians. Furthermore, Paul is not making a promise to the Philippians, he is expressing his confidence. He is confident that he who began a good work in them will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ. Even if you take this as a reference to salvation, Paul certainly doesn’t express this confidence to everyone. In Galatians 5:4 Paul says the opposite to those who ceased trusting in Christ alone and put their trust in works. Both Philippians 1:6 and Galatains 5:4 need to be read in a way that both texts can be harmonised. The only way to accomplish this is by interpreting Philippians 1:6 in the manner I have outlined.
In conclusion, In Philippians 1:6 Paul is in no way teaching eternal security, neither is he making a promise to us or the Philippians. Rather, Paul is expressing his confidence that God will perfect the good work which he began in the hearts of the Philippians saints, namely the gift of financial aid from the Philippians to Paul, until the return of Christ.