20 December 2010

Another Reason I Am Confident Salvation Is Secure

by Phil Johnson

"I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

his is one of the most basic truths of Christianity: Salvation is not a work the sinner does for God; it is a work God does for the sinner. Ephesians 2:10: "We are his workmanship."

Even the good works we do as Christians are the result of God's work in us. Those good works are not accomplished by our own willpower or initiative. Ephesians 2:10 continues thussly: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

If God foreordained even the good works we do, and since He is the one who empowers us both to will and to do them (Philippians 2:13), then salvation is truly all God's work.

And He always finishes what He starts. That's the point of the verse at the top of this post.

Phil's signature


Thomas Louw said...

The glory is His and only His.
To think that some think God doesn’t control all things, to think some think God doesn’t know what will happen in the future. Clearly they haven’t read the Bible or they don’t believe what is written there.
The Bible the only truth we have.

The Seeking Disciple said...

But we must balance this with the biblical teaching that true disciples of Jesus must persevere in the faith from beginning to end. We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we must continue in the faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 12:21-13:5; Galatians 5:1-4; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-15; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-3; etc.). If we fail to teach necessary perseverance, the end result is always antinomianism.

James Scott Bell said...

But verse 6 is not a stand alone verse. It is part of complete thought begun in verse 4. This is not a text about individual salvation. It is about the Philippian church (plural) and their partnership with Paul in spreading the Gospel. That's what the good work is. The work of the church is what God will finish, despite those who fall away and, indeed, become enemies. (e.g. 2 Tim. 4:14)

Strong Tower said...

Then, Paul's prayer of joy and confidence was fruitless in that the city of Philippi as the church that was there did not persist until the Day of Jesus Christ? Then we wonder just who it was who began the good work in them? If God, then how did it not persevere? So it must have had its source elsewhere, right? Was Paul taking credit and credit for an enterprize that was doomed. Did he play the fool and speak before he had heard the end of the matter? Just who is the "he" who began this failed work?

What should be obvious is that all the statements that Paul makes must be challenged in the rest of the letter. We must reject his no confidence in the flesh and restate it as some confidence in it. We must make his confidence to not be wholly a matter of faith in Christ but somewhat a work of the law. His desire to depart and be with the Lord cannot be assured. He must have meant that he hoped that when he departed he would be with the Lord seeing that he wasn't sure that the confidence of the one who began a good work in him, an individual, would complete that work. At best he could only pray without confidence, he could not have the peace which passes all understanding because he didn't know that God would gaurd his heart. His heart must have been troubled, his mind confused. He could not have had any confidence that the Lord would transform his lowly body, because his words were not really words of comfort to individuals, but only to the church as a collective. And we know that Philippi is no longer. Po po pity on Paul. If he had only known how wrong he was. By extension, since the church in Philippi didn't make it, then neither will the collective church of Christ, if the Philippian church as a collective, to whom the letter was addressed, is the primary audience, and is used as a type of the catholic church, and does not apply to individual salvation.

Nice work JD, you not only have undermined the confidence that individuals can have in the finished work of Christ, but you have destroyed the confidence of entire church for whom Christ died.

joel said...

Ouch, what a slap down.

Seth said...

Faith = justification and good works. The good works do not save us, but are evidence of saving faith. I'm still not understanding why so many think those of us that believe in "P" of the TULIP are antinomian in our thinking? I certainly do not think God's grace is a gift of doing whatever makes me happy. His grace is humbling.

James Scott Bell said...

Wow, how many false premises and conclusions can be packed into a hastily typed comment? Nice work back atcha.

Beyond Zaphon said...

Unfortunately there is much bad theology out there that believes we must complete what we started. The biblical gospel is indeed liberating and always points toward the triune God.

James Scott Bell said...

Let's go through it again.

Verses 4, 5 say this: 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...

That's called "context." Because verse 6 is connected to it.

Partnership in the "good news" is what Paul was talking about. Probably that included some financial support, but most assuredly in the preaching of the gospel as well.

Verse 6 says that God will see to it that this enterprise, which began with them, will go on to completion. It means, gasp, that when you preach the gospel it might actually extend beyond your own patch of ground! Even beyond your own physical life! Imagine that, the gospel actually has power to move beyond you.

So this passage (truncated in the post) is not about individual salvation at all. But if you force it in there as a false premise, you can surely justify a rant. And why let the Bible stand in the way of a great rant?

donsands said...

"..and their partnership with Paul in spreading the Gospel." JD

I agree. But I think Paul would have meant it for the individual being saved as well. Both/and.

Paul also says: "at the Day of Jesus Christ." What Day is that?

Excellent post again. Wonderful truth for our conscience's sake. "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love."

Another verse that came to mind is: "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due." Rom. 4:4

Unknown said...

"And He always finishes what He starts."

Just so. And He started everything, then told us all about it, from the what(Genesis) to the why (Revelation). It's only pride that makes us think we have any choice at all.

"Sovereign" means "sovereign".

Anonymous said...

"you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God"

While it is true that Paul means by the "fellowship" of the Gospel a communal effort, how then does he go from that to salvation without the same confidence of the same about each individual's salvation? Their effort in the Gospel will be completed because in each it will be completed by Christ. Or, how is it a communal effort seeing the Gospel is not one that secures unity of individuals? He can say what he has said, because it is God who works in them the willing and the doing of his good pleasure. Does God fail to obtain his good pleasure? Of course they are working it out, and of course Paul can say that it will be completed even to the Day of Christ, because God works. He reminds them, however, to do it in an honorable way. Not that it would fail if they didn't. To the contrary, that because it is God who has begun it, and it is God who works the willing and doing, it would be completed even if they fail. He contrasts that with the anti-gospel of the mutilators reminding all it is Christ who is the true circumcision. Should they fail to stand, much like Peter, they would be saved despite themselves because of Christ's intercession, not their own. He does what the writer of the Hebrews did, admonishes them to walk worthy, but more importantly to hold onto the word of truth: "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day?" Jesus said just before that the work that God works is that they believe. Scriptures are not as disconnected as you like to make them. What confidence is there in the faith if we must place confidence (root word faith) in ourselves? Jesus and Paul both contended it was God's doing. Paul goes on further to say to them not to rely on their self-efforts. If it were up to them because Paul was not addressing individual salvation but corporate, why would he tell them not to pursue the individual works of the law as assurance? He calls the party that believes individuals must be circumcised, mutlilators. But that makes no sense if it is only a corporate reality that God will deliver at the day of Jesus Christ. Beside, if Paul was instructing them to have confidence in what they do, then he was contradicting himself in saying that he counted all that he gained as loss. He is clear that it is not his righteousness he is looking to to complete the work, but Christ's. So Paul is consistent, from the openning bell to the close. It is confidence in God who begins and will finish, who put to death his Son and raised him from the dead and will raise Paul's individual body up. It is the same confidence which Jesus had, and is Paul's reference to the resurrection. If there is any means, Paul says, it is by Christ. But then rejoins that the honorable Christian will exhibit the likeness of Christ somehow, not that it is perfectly attained in this life, but that it surely will be on the day of Christ by all who have their citizenship now in heaven. How could he say any of that, if it were not already true? Was he lying and misleading?
No, he had the same confidence that he begins the letter with- it is most assuredly about the Gospel, because the Gospel is the assurance of unfailing salvation of corporate individuals. But if you say it can fail individuals, it may just fail corporately. And that's why Johnny you destroy the peace that Paul speaks of because you offer only the fear of condemnation because of God's inability to save to the utmost those he calls. Then for sure, the Philippians should fear the enemies of God, for God can only call and then wait for man to do the rest with no sure hope the flesh or the devil can't interfere.

Thomas Louw said...

So God according to JD runs out of breath in the home stretch.
God will not bring you to repentance and lead you through sanctification get bored with you along the way and not take you through to glorification.
Or JD, are you saying God can not complete His work because He lacks the capacity?
Are you saying man can trip God in the home straight?
Are you saying God is not all-knowing, incapable of bring His plans to a close?
Are you saying God is subject to our sins?
Are you saying we overrule God’s will?
Are you saying everything is relative to mans will?
Are you saying salvation is through the will of man?
Are you saying if I’m a convincing salesman, motivational speaker I can talk the whole world in believing in God?
JD, I’m not in your league, when it comes to thinking about theology because it’s impossible for me to find these truth’s in the Bible.

Anonymous said...

When Paul says that he "is confident ... that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion".

He bases this NOT on God's sovereignty, nor the foundation of God's character, or the truth of eternal security, or the perseverance of the saints, etc.

But on his affection for them. "It is right for me to FEEL this way about you, because I have you in my heart".

Paul was saying nothing more profound than if I told my daughter. "I'm confident you'll do the right thing in the matter". Neither I nor Paul were making any theological statements.

Paul was believing that they would continue to stand firm in the faith, and as such God would continue His work in them.

Why is this not obvious to everyone here?

Thomas Louw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Louw said...

Paul wrote something un- theological and this un-theological thing he wrote ends up in the revealed word of God.
Paul always wrote about Christ and Him crucified, and in this historical fact is our hope. Now we are to believe Paul writes that he trusts in our resolve to stand firm in our faith.
So we are to understand that Paul moves his hope for salvation, from Christ through the Holy Spirit to our footing.
Paul changes his horses in midstream. Paul said nothing profound like “Christ alone”.
Salvation of every sinner is based on the attributes of God. There is no sentence in the Bible that is not somehow linked to an attribute of God.
Are you actually hearing what you are saying? “Place your confidence in man.”
Philippians 2:12-13
Vers 12 Paul tells the believers to work. The then you get the linchpin “for it is God who works in you to will ...”
You do the acts enabled by God, and low and behold He causes you to ‘want to” do it.

Steve Berven said...

Isn't our salvation in some respects an apprenticeship? Isn't a woodworker, plumber or electrician is SELECTED and ACCEPTED for an apprenticeship? Understanding that he or she brings nothing with him, has nothing to offer the master electrician other than devotion, desire and obedience?

In this situation, then, WHO is doing the work to bring us up in the ways of an electrician? We show up, but without the teaching, mentoring and correction of the Master, we have little hope of growing in our avocation.

It's an imperfect simile, but I think that's what Paul is saying here. He is confident that the Master will continue his mentoring (apprenticeship, without getting too LDS), and is encouraging/exhorting the church in Philippi to remain dedicated to their "craft", to seek this instruction with all their hearts.

We are being trained and equipped, but HOW WELL we are trained depends a great deal on us. We can choose to be a mediocre apprentice or an outstanding one. Paul enjoins them (and us) to be outstanding.

Thomas Louw said...

Steve B, I like your illustration.
Romans 15:15-16
By grace we are what we are. We are by grace given salvation and the will to be good “appetence”.
Paul wasn’t the apostle to the gentiles because he chose to be, God called, equip and enabled him to do this task. People didn’t get convinced by Paul’s arguments and his communication skills, the Holy Spirit did that.
Paul was an instrument used by God; can he now boast because he was such a diligent and committed apostle?
Romans 15:17-19
It seems that Paul is boasting of what he has done but, read closely. His service to Christ is what gives God the glory.
In a way we are responsible for what kind of apprentice we are but, is it not through grace that we are as committed the way we are.
We must strive and labour and squeeze through but, never boast in our zeal.

myinnuendo99 said...

Thomas Louw quotes "By grace we are what we are. We are by grace given salvation and the will to be good “appetence”."

yes,,and Isn't that exactly what God says in Jeremiah 32:40

Jeremiah 32:40 "I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me."

He will inspire us to fear him so that we will NEVER turn away from Him.