What do we make of Paul’s Confidence?

Writing to the Christians at Philippi, from his Roman prison, the Apostle Paul prays with joy because of his partnership with them in the gospel, having the confidence that the God who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:4-6).

So what do we make of this confidence from the Apostle Paul?  Is it good theology to believe that God will indeed carry to completion the good work he began in believers until the day of Christ Jesus?

A few more questions are in order: (1) What is this “good work”?  (2) Would God indeed carry to completion this “good work” which he began in these Philippian Christians, until the day of Christ Jesus?

In answer to the first question (What is this “good work”), let’s all agree that Paul is talking here about their salvation.  Good.  Now, this poses another question: (3) Shouldn’t we expect some of these believers, for whom Paul prayed, to defect and therefore be eternally damned?

I believe it’s both safe and realistic to conclude that some of these believers in Philippi did indeed defect from the faith.  Now if this is the case, then either Paul’s confidence was misplaced, or we need to rethink that what he prays for here is no guarantee.

As a Calvinist, I’ve often used Philippian 1:6 as a proof-text for the eternal security of the believer (preservation of the saints, the “P” in the (in)famous TULIP), concluding that the good work God began in believers he will indeed carry to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

But I don’t believe all the Philippian Christians for whom Paul prayed, with confidence, endured to the end.  I believe some of them defected the faith.  Perhaps as a Calvinist I need to rethink my use of Philippians 1:6.

 

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4 Responses to What do we make of Paul’s Confidence?

  1. David Beirne says:

    If they defected, were they ever saved? Were they tares sown among wheat?

  2. David Beirne says:

    As a non-TULIP, and as an example::our church removed a man from deaconship for conduct unbecoming. The person with whom he had the problem he still refuses to speak to nor even acknowledge (he was removed for refusing to reconcile, accept an apology). This refusal to accept an apology just passed the three year mark. Personally, and due to my observation of the man for 7+ years, I simply feel he’s not saved but a guy who has gone through the motions for so long (because that’s what upstanding honest people do–they go to church) that he believes attendance and membership are all he needs. Lots of other things I won’t go into, but I’m sure Philippi had a couple guys like this.

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