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Does Philippians 1:6 Guarantee Progressive Sanctification? (Part 1)

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This article was printed in 1995 issue of Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society.
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I. Introduction

Like Psalm 23 or Prov 3:5-6, the simple promise of Phil 1:6 is claimed by many Christians for comfort and encouragement, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”2 They understand the verse in a general way to imply that God is presently sustaining us in His grace, and that this divine ministry continues a process which began at salvation.3 Others find in the verse a more specific theological teaching: Progressive sanctification cannot fail because God has sovereignly ordained that His “good work” of salvation will continue in both sanctification and final glorification.

But Christians often find consolation in biblical truths that are not really found in the passages that they claim. And sometimes theologians base their theological systems on inappropriate conclusions from the prooftexts they employ. Any so-called promise of Scripture or theological teaching must stand or fall in light of valid exegetical investigation. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate in the immediate and the broader context of the whole letter that Phil 1:6 does not intend to teach the concept that God guarantees the sanctification of His children. Therefore, it cannot justifiably be used to affirm that God’s sovereign grace prevents the possibility of prolonged, serious failure in the Christian life.

II. Overview of Positions on Philippians 1:6

Surprisingly, only two basic options can be culled from commentaries and interpretive research on Philippians.

A. The “Good Work” is God’s Gift of Salvation/Sanctification

A wide variety of scholars perceives Phil 1:6 as addressing the work of salvation and sanctification in the life of the believer.4 This might be labeled the “traditional view” because of its wide popularity in laymen’s commentaries.5 But certain theologians claim v 6 as a key text for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints--the teaching that true Christians will persevere in faith and holiness.6 Thielman summarizes this theology with a succinct interpretation of the verse: “Those who will be saved in the future live holy lives in the present.”7 In his book, Faith Works, MacArthur references Phil 1:6 six different times--as much as or more than any other verse, showing the centrality of its concepts for his theology. It is generally assumed that the theological meaning he assigns to the verse is the only viable interpretation. No exegesis of the passage, discussion of the context, or refutation of any alternative interpretations is offered.8 He 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.9

The importance of the verse under discussion for Reformed theology is noted by Hendrikus Berkhof. He observes that in the discussion of the perseverance of the saints, its defenders always point to seven key passages, one of which is Phil 1:6.10 Baker does just this, citing Phil 1:6 as one of six major passages that teach the doctrine.11 Historically, such confessions as the French Confession of Faith of 1559 (Article XXI) claim the verse for perseverance:

We believe also that faith is given to the elect not only to introduce them into the right way, but also to make them continue in it to the end. For as it is God who hath begun the work, He will also perfect it.12

B. The “Good Work” is the Philippians’ Gift/Participation in Advancing the Gospel

The average Christian is sometimes surprised to learn that there is a viable alternative to interpreting Phil 1:6 as a reference to salvation. In fact, there are many commentators who view the good work that God began in the Philippians as their partnership with Paul in advancing the Gospel. Some among those who hold this interpretation view the generous monetary fellowship given to Paul as more prominent and explicit in Phil 1:6,13 while others find in the verse a lucid but indirect reference to the gift. The Knox translation best captures the nuance of 1:6, where the gift is more primary: “Nor am I less confident, that he who has inspired this generosity in you will bring it to perfection, ready for the day when Jesus Christ comes.”14

Eadie may be representative of those who understand 1:6 as slightly broader than, yet inclusive, of the financial gift. He states that the koinonia (fellowship) of 1:5 includes “all that belongs to the defense and propagation of the gospel.”15 Swift is also quite clear in expressing this view of 1:6:

His [Paul’s] confident hope was that God would perfect (epitelesei) them in their work of the gospel and that it would bear fruit from then till the day of Christ. In brief, verse 6 speaks of the perfecting of the Philippians’ koinonia (“partnership”) and of them as koinonoi(“partners”) in the gospel.16

Most scholars claiming this interpretation--whether suggesting that the gift is primary or secondary--include with the Philippians’ generosity other factors that contributed to their partnership with Paul. These include such matters as their sympathy for and cooperation with the apostle, and their united struggle for the Gospel. On the other hand, Hodges views the “good work” of 1:6 as a specific reference to the Philippians’ most recent gift (discussed in chapter 4), not as a general reference to their past generosity or present cooperation in the Gospel.17 Despite these variations and distinctions, the financial gift/participation in the advance of the Gospel will be considered as a single interpretive viewpoint.

It is the thesis of this article that when all the evidence is in, interpreting the “good work” of v 6 as a reference to salvation/sanctification becomes a highly artificial interpretation imposed on the text. The analysis that follows will seek to demonstrate this.

III. Analysis and Solutions

A. Thematic and Structural Considerations

The meaning derived from 1:6 must be in harmony with 1) the nature of an epistolary introduction, and 2) the structure of the letter as a whole. The rationale for this will become evident as we proceed.

    1. Philippians 1:6 and an Epistolary Introduction

Philippians is often thought to have no central thematic organization.18 Swift, however, has argued for a clear structure and theme for the epistle.19 After a salutation (1:1-2), the introduction to the book composes 1:3-11.20 The body of the epistle encompasses 1:27-4:9. Philippians 1:12-26 comprises a “biographical prologue” in which significant motifs of the introduction are developed and through which a transition is made to the body of the letter. The epilogue (4:10-20) corresponds to and balances the prologue proper (1:3-11).21

Repeated research on epistolary introductions has now agreed that such introductions function as a formal device that announces the central themes of a letter.22 Drawing especially upon the core of the introduction, vv 5-7, Swift concludes that the entire theme of the book is the Philippians’ partnership in advancing the Gospel. He reasons that this theme ties the book together as a coherent whole.23 Commenting on the role of 1:6, he observes:

Theergon agathon(“good work”) in verse 6 must be interpreted by the koinonia of the previous verse. This exegetical point is frequently noted by commentators, though few of them consistently restrict it enough to this sense.24 This writer holds that verse 6 refers restrictively [italics original] to the perfecting of the Philippians as workers for the gospel, and to the perfecting of their works in the cause of the gospel. Many exegetes, failing to note this, have thus failed to see that verses 3-6 contain a thematic summary of the entire epistle [italics added]. . . . Verses 3-6 then, are a cameo of the entire epistle. They introduce the main theme, the Philippians’ partnership25 in the gospel.24

Even if one is not convinced with Swift that 1:6 describes the central theme of the book, this much is clear: The prologue of Philippians, like that of any true NT epistle, contains in seed form all the significant concepts that are developed in the letter. But this understanding of the epistolary introduction militates against impressions that 1:6 refers to the salvation/sanctification process, since the theme and unity of the book cannot be adequately explained using this conception.

    2. The Harmony of the Prologue and Epilogue

Not only does the introduction to Philippians announce the topics of the letter, it uniquely corresponds to the epilogue, as noted above. Jewett, citing Schubert, observes that 4:10-20, with its central discussion concerning the Philippians’ gift to Paul, is even more closely related to the epistolary “table of contents” (1:3-11) than any other portion of the letter.25 Both verbal and conceptual links between the two units are striking and force on us the need to interpret the introduction in light of the gift motif in the conclusion.26

Dalton has observed four of these parallels and how they evidence an inclusio which binds the whole letter together.27 Two common elements relate to the use of koinonia(1:5 with 4:15) and cognates (1:7 with 4:14) that occur in both paragraphs. A third element relates to the inception of this partnership: “from the first day until now” (1:5) and “at the first preaching of the gospel” (4:15).28 Finally, a reciprocal attitude of compassion is expressed in identical phrases found in 1:7 and 4:10.

Besides Dalton’s four common elements, at least four others can be identified. First, the parallel between 1:3 (“I thank my God [eucaristo to Theo]”) and 4:10 (“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord [echarenen Kyriomegalos]”) can be established on the fact that eucharisteo and chairo are etymologically related.29 Philippians 4:10 is also parallel with the reference to chara(“joy”) in 1:4. Second, the Greek phrase kalosepoiesate (“you have done well”) in 4:14 is used elsewhere of doing good works.30 Therefore, it forms a striking correspondence with the “good work” of 1:6. Third, the mention of the day of Christ31 in 1:6 is recalled in the Bema (Judgment Seat of Christ) terminology of 4:17 (“to your account,” eis logon hymon). Taken together, both passages appear to focus on the eschatological significance of the Philippians’ benevolent gift.32 Fourth, while 4:8 (“whatever is right . . . let your mind dwell on,” dikaia . . . logizesthe) concludes the body of the epistle, it may subtly stimulate the reader to reflect back to the introduction, preparing the way for 4:10-20. It was in the introduction that Paul demonstrated “thinking what was right” (1:7 “it is only right to feel,” dikaion . . . phronein).33

Both individually and collectively, these parallels cannot easily be dismissed. Since the prologue and the epilogue correspond with each other, the subject of the Philippians’ financial support of the Gospel must be treated as peripheral to the book’s theme. Next to Second Corinthians 8-9, the discussion of the financial contribution of the Philippians in 4:10-20 is, after all, the second most extensive passage on NT giving in all the epistles. Its frequent mention in Philippians also testifies to its centrality for the book (2:17;34 25-30; 4:10-20). The chart below catalogs the similarities that relate 4:10-20 to 1:3-7.35

Parallels Between Philippians 1 and Philippians 4

Philippians 1:3–7

Philippians 4:10–20

1:3 I thank my God [eucaristo to Theo mou]

1:4 offering prayer with joy [meta charas]

4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord [echaren en Kyrio] greatly

1:536 your participation [koinonia] in the gospel

4:15 no church shared [ekoinonesen] with me in the matter of giving and receiving

1:537 your participation in the gospel from the first day [eistoeuangelion apotesprotes hemeras]

4:15 at the first preaching of the gospel [en archetou euangeliou], after I departed from Macedonia

1:6 He who began a good work [ergon agathon] in you

4:14 you have done well [kalos epoiesate] to share with me

1:6 [He] will perfect it untilthe day of Christ Jesus [achri @emeras Cristou Iesou]

4:17 the profit which increases to your account [ton karpon ton pleonazonta eis logon hymon]

1:738 it is right for me to feel this way about all of you [touto phronein hyper panton hymon]39

1:3 for all your remembrance of me [epi pase te mneia hymon] (Moffatt NT)40

4:10 you have renewed your concern for me [to hyper emou phronein]. Indeed, you have been concerned [ephroneite]

1:7 it is only right for me to feel this way [estin dikaion emoi touto phronein] about you all

4:8 whatever is right [dikaia], . . . let your mind dwell on these things [tautalogizesthe]

1:741in my imprisonment [en te tois desmois mou ] . . . you all are partakers [synkoinonous] of grace with me

4:14 to share with me [synkoinonesantes] in my affliction [mou te thlipsei.]

B. Exegetical Considerations

    1. The Koinonia of 1:5

It is generally accepted in modern editions of the Greek NT that Phil 1:3-7 constitutes one long sentence. This helps form a contextual unit. In v 3, Paul expresses his thanks to God for the Philippians each time he brought them before God in prayer.42 The expressed reason43 for this thanks comes in 1:5, with v 4 expressing a grammatically parenthetical thought.44 Paul’s thanksgiving was specifically for the church’s participation (koionia) in the advance of the Gospel. It is widely admitted that koinonia in 1:5 alludes to the gifts Paul received from the Philippian church. Nevertheless, many commentators quickly pass over this fact and interpret the word as a mystical union with Christ (salvation)45 --a concept derived more readily from the English translation “fellowship” than from the Greek. This word group (koinonia, “partnership”; koinoneo, “to share”; synkoinoneo, “to share together with”; synkoinonos, “fellow-partner”) does not primarily imply association with another person (e.g., with Christ). The basic concept implies a participation with another in a common cause or goal, i.e., a “sharing” or “having something in common with another.”46 The English words “partner” or “partnership” frequently satisfy the connotations behind these Greek words.47 While the word group can have a general connotation, it frequently carries a specific idea of sharing financially or forming a partnership through financial giving.48 In this manner, it is sometimes translated “contribution” or a related term.49

That Paul is thinking directly of the Philippians’ contribution financially when he uses koinonia in 1:5 is supported by the following reasons. First, Paul brings together in chapter four the verb koinoneo (4:15) and the compound verb synkoinoneo50(4:14) to identify the gift they had sent him in his imprisonment. The compound noun synkoinonoi (“fellow-sharers”) is used in 1:751 and expresses a unity that the Philippians have with Paul in his imprisonment, and in defending and vindicating the Gospel. The koinonia of 1:5 must essentially be the same as the synkoinonoi in 1:7.52 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. It may also be added that from this vantage point, four of the six uses of koinonia and its cognates in Philippians focus on the gift motif.53 We may go so far as to say that rarely (if ever) does koinonia or its cognates refer to salvation.54 To take the koinonia here as equivalent to salvation would be a rare use of the term indeed.

Second, koinonia followed by eis55cannot be taken to imply “sharing in the gospel [by faith].”56 Hawthorne astutely agrees:

Hence, it is easy to see in this expression koinoniahymoneisto,euangelion a clear reference to the gift(s) that the Philippians had sent to Paul . . . in order to make it possible for him to spread the gospel. The same preposition, eis, follows koinoniahere as in Rom 15:26 and 2 Cor 9:23. The Philippians were partners (koinonoi) with the apostle in the proclamation of the good news, not in the sense that they shared the same faith with him or were co-evangelists with him, but that they supported him financially in his mission work [italics added].57

Third, suffering,58 evangelism, and salvation59 may be auxiliaries to the Philippians’ koinonia, but cannot be the central element(s) in it.60 This is evident, since (1) the self-ambitious brothers mentioned in 1:14-17 were true believers (1:14-15), were active in a bold evangelism that proclaimed the true Gospel (1:18), and may have suffered for the Gospel in their efforts.61 But they certainly did not have any koinonia with Paul, as is clear from 1:16 (Majority Text) or 1:17 (Critical Text). The whole purpose of Paul in writing the letter--to encourage a unified partnership for the sake of the Gospel--stands against any interpretation that includes these brothers in the koinonia with Paul and the Gospel. Also, (2) where the Philippians are said to have koinnia, the emphasis falls more on their sharing in Paul’s trials than on their own (1:7; 4:14).62 Unity (1:27; 2:2-4; 4:2), joy (1:25; 2:18; 4:4), and godly living (1:27; 2:16) are undoubtedly foundations to the koinonia. However, the Philippians’ exemplary affection for Paul (1:17; 4:10)63 and (probably) their prayers (1:19)64 are more directly associated with koinonia.65 Therefore, it is the sacrificial gift to Paul that forms the essence of their partnership and the “good work” instigated by God.

Fourth, the Philippian partnership in the Gospel is defined in context by the limiting phrase, “from the first day until now.” The thought of the “first day” is picked up conceptually in 1:6 and stated as what God had begun among them (in them or by them). The “now” can be identified as the time at which the letter was written. More precisely it is the very time Paul received the recent gift from the Philippians.66 But what or when is the “first day”? If the koinoniarefers to salvation, then the “first day” marks the point at which many in the church believed the Gospel. But in saying “until now,” Paul designates a pivotal and significant moment. In what sense, then, have they shared in salvation “until now”?67 This becomes a theological and interpretive impasse. By mentioning that this koinonia has gone unbroken “until now,” Paul hints at a future contingency. If salvation were under discussion, he should have thanked God for their eternal fellowship with Christ and the Gospel.

Further, if the koinonia refers to the point of new birth, then the first day would likely be individualistic, differing for each believer at Philippi.68 But the sense of the text is corporate--a “first day” for the congregation as a whole. The corporate nuance of the passage is strengthened by the unusual threefold repetition of “all of you” in the prologue (pantonhymon in vv 4, 7; pantas hymas in v 8).

On the other hand, if the koinonia refers to the Philippian participation financially with Paul in spreading the Gospel, then a clear harmony exists between 1:5-7 and 4:10-20. In 4:15,69 Paul marks the beginning of the Philippians’ contributions to him as the first point at which he preached the Gospel70 after leaving Macedonia (4:15; NASB, “at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia”).71 The Philippians initiated a partnership with Paul from the very first time he proclaimed the Good News beyond their Macedonian borders. Not only that, but even while in Thessalonica,72 Paul’s first stop after Philippi (Acts 17:1; 1 Thess 2:2), he received financial aid from the Philippians on several occasions.73 Their financial help formed a one-of-a-kind cooperation, so that he could say that no other church participated with him in this manner when he entered Achaia.74

IV. Conclusion

Unlike many problem passages, the interpretive alternatives to Phil 1:6 are few. Commentators line up in two broad camps. Most common is the interpretive approach that understands the verse to address the ongoing sanctification and final eschatological salvation of the Philippians (and all Christians) which God began in them. Despite the widespread popularity of this viewpoint, many commentators and scholars find that this interpretation violates the mise-en-scne of the passage. This article has been in agreement with this criticism. Instead, the verse speaks of the Philippians’ joint venture with Paul by means of one or all of their financial contributions to his Gospel mission.

In the verses leading up to 1:6, no hints can be found to encourage us to handle the verse as an overview of the salvation/sanctification process. A true epistolary introduction prepares the reader (and listener)75 for all the major themes to be addressed in the rest of the letter. Salvation/sanctification as a primary thematic development in Philippians as a whole seems absent, while a gift motif stands out as a dominant subject of 4:10-20. Partnership in the Gospel is also a significant concern for Paul, and the disunity in the Macedonian congregation threatened this partnership (1:27; 4:2). The striking harmony of 1:3-7 and 4:10-20 favors an approach to 1:6 that will highlight the Philippians’ gift to Paul.

The koinoniaof v 5 cannot exegetically be interpreted as the communion of the Philippian believers with Christ at new birth. Instead, (1) the use of the term and its cognates within Philippians (especially 1:7; 4:14, 15), (2) the combination of koinonia with the following preposition eis, and (3) the limiting phrase “from the first day until now” all apply satisfactorily to the united participation Paul and the Philippians had in spreading the Gospel. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, preaching and defending the Gospel. The Philippians joined him by their sacrificial monetary gifts, even most recently while he was in prison.

The second installment of this article will focus on vv 6-7, examining the meaning of “good work,” the concepts of “began” and “complete,” and the relevance of the parallel of 1:3-7 with Second Corinthians 8-9.


1This and a second article are a slightly modified version of a paper presented at the November 1995 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Some changes reflect the valuable critiques of others who have read that paper.

2 Unless noted differently, English translations are from the NASB.

3I do not object to finding in Phil 1:6 the general principle that God is faithful to his children. Maxie D. Dunnam, “Philippians,” The Communicator’s Commentary, ed. Lloyd J. Ogilvie (Dallas: Word Publishers, 1982), 8:260, appears to approach the verse this way: “The Christian has no right to expect to fare any better in his own self-effort than the non-Christian. What the Christian can count on is a God who keeps faith. The truth of Philippians 1:6 is that . . . ‘God is faithful’ . . .” See also Theodore H. Epp, Christ Preeminent: Studies in Philippians (Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible, 1980), 31-32.

4 Merrill C. Tenney, Philippians: The Gospel at Work (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), 41, but on p. 42, he admits that in 1:7 there is an allusion to the gift; John Calvin, The Epistle to the Philippians, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 228-30; Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Philippians, translated by James W. Leitch (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1962), 17, who denies that 1:6 has even a glimmer of reference to the Philippians’ financial help, but on p. 16 views the koinonia of 1:5 as the Philippians’ active advance of the Gospel; Kenneth Grayston, The Epistles to the Galatians and to the Philippians (London: Epworth Press, 1957), 81; Homer A. Kent, Jr., “Philippians,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 11:105; J. Hugh Michael, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, Moffatt New Testament Commentary (London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1928), 13; H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, and to Philemon, 4th ed., translated by John C. Moore, rev. and ed. by Wm. P. Dickson, preface and supplementary notes by Timothy Dwight (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1889), 13-14; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), 709-710; Moiss Silva, Philippians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Kenneth Barker (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 52; Judith M. Gundry Volf, Paul and Perseverance: Staying In and Falling Away (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), 33-47; Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 85-88.

5 Bruce B. Barton et al., Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995), 27-28.; Robert G. Gromacki, Stand United in Joy: An Exposition of Philippians (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1980), 39-41; John F. Walvoord, Philippians. Triumph in Christ, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 28; David L. Hocking, How to Be Happy in Difficult Situations: Studies in Philippians (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1975), 26-27; Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1975), 29-30, applies v 6 to salvation but recognizes it may refer to the Philippians’ gift.

6 Many commentators and theologians mistakenly assume that “eternal security” and the “perseverance of the saints” are but two names for the same doctrine; Robert H. Stein, Difficult Passages in the New Testament: Interpreting Puzzling Texts in the Gospels and Epistles (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 352; Alvin L. Baker, “Eternal Security Rightly Understood,” Fundamentalist Journal (September 1984): 19-20; W. Boyd Hunt, “The Perseverance of the Saints,” Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962), 238; Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), 69. Some note that they are not the same. Arguing for perseverance and against eternal security: L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th rev. and enlarged ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939), 546; throughout the book, John F. MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus. What Does Jesus Mean When He Says “Follow Me”? rev. and expanded ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994); ibid., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993). Arguing against perseverance but for eternal security: R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 19-22; indirectly throughout the book, Charles Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990); directly throughout the book, Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (Dallas: Redencin Viva, 1989); ibid., The Gospel Under Siege: Faith and Works in Tension, rev. and enlarged ed. (Dallas: Redencin Viva, 1992); Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992).

7 Frank Thielman, Philippians, NIV Application Commentary Series, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 39. While evangelicals like Thielman might vehemently deny that they teach a works-salvation, it is intensely difficult to avoid drawing this conclusion from such statements.

8 MacArthur, Faith Works, 24, 33, 71, 110, 185, 192. An author should not always be faulted just because a particular verse is not discussed in depth. In this case, however, the verse is used so repeatedly and is so fundamental to his theology that one might ask for a more thorough treatment. Compare also where the verse has an assumed meaning, Stein, Difficult Passages, 256, 263, 288, 348.

9 MacArthur, Faith Works, 33. Elsewhere MacArthur (ibid., 192) 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).” And again (ibid., 24), “Real faith cannot be defective or short lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11).” Yet later, quoting Phil 1:6 again (ibid., 71), he qualifies the sanctification process: “Sometimes the process is slow and arduous; sometimes it is immediately triumphant.” It seems weightless theologically to argue 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? 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.”

10 Hendrikus Berkhof, “The Christian Life: Perseverance and Renewal,” Major Themes in the Reformed Tradition, ed. Donald K. McKim (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 156. For example, well-known Reformed theologian, Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (1878; reprint edition, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), 707, begins his whole discussion on perseverance by citing Phil 1:6.

11 Baker, “Eternal Security,” 20.

12 “The French Confession of Faith,” in The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 3:371. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) cites Phil 1:6 in the first paragraph of Chapter XVII, “The Perseverance of the Saints” (ibid., 636).

13 Kenneth S. Wuest, “Philippians,” Wuest’s Word Studies (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966), 2:32, states that “the good work is giving to missions.”

14The Holy Bible: A Translation from the Latin Vulgate in Light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals (New York: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1950).

15John A. Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, ed. W. Young, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 9. Cf. also Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1983), 20-22; James A. Brooks, “Exposition of Philippians,” Southwestern Journal of Theology, 23 (Fall 1980): 23-36; Donald Guthrie, Epistles from Prison: Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Bible Guides, ed. William Barclay and F. F. Bruce (New York: Abingdon Press, 1964), 32; J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), 84; C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon (London: Parker, Son, and Bourn, 1861), 7; Dillow, Servant Kings, 205-206; C. R. Erdman, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: An Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1932), 42, finds in 1:6 a promise that the Gospel will continue to advance through the Philippians (and others) until Christ’s return. He uses Matt 24:14 as a cross-reference. Francis X. Malinowski, “The Brave Women of Philippi” Biblical Theology Bulletin 15 (April 1985): 61, defines koinonia in 1:5 as the Philippians’ financial gift to Paul but does not give his opinion of 1:6-7. L. A. Wiesinger, Biblical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians, to Titus, and the First to Timothy, Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, translated by John Fulton (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1851), 30; Alfred Barry, Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, ed. C. J. Ellicott (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n. d.), 8:66; Timothy Dwight’s notes in Meyer, Philippians, 47-48, favor this view.

Some authors understand 1:6 to suggest both salvation and participation in the advance of the Gospel. George Panikulam, Koinonia in the New Testament: A Dynamic Expression of Christian Life (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1979), 82-84, finds 1:5-7 to express the entire response of the Philippians to the Gospel--their acceptance, spread of, and life in the Gospel. Marvin R. Vincent, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, International Critical Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897), 8, sees the beginning of the “good work” to be their reception of the Gospel (salvation), and the carrying forward to the day of Christ to involve their participation in the promotion of the Gospel.

16 Robert C. Swift, “The Theme and Structure of Philippians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 141 (July-September 1984): 237.

17Hodges, Siege, 95. Hodges’s understanding has the advantage of handling the singular ergon agathon (“good work”) quite naturally.

18 Robert Jewett, “The Epistolary Thanksgiving and the Integrity of Philippians,” Novum Testamentum 12 (1970): 49; William Hendriksen, Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962), 37-38; Vincent, Philippians, xxxi; Eadie, Philippians, xxx; Loveday Alexander, “Hellenistic Letter-Forms and the Structure of Philippians,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 37 (1989): 94-95, finds a structure but not a theme.

19 Swift, “Theme and Structure,” 236.

20Doxology (cf. 1:11b, “to the glory and praise of God”) and an eschatological climax (cf. 1:10b, “until the day of Christ”) are two characteristics that finalize the epistolary introduction. Disclosure formulas such as found in 1:12 (“Now I want you to know, brethren, that . . .”) are frequently used to introduce a new development in an epistle. Jack T. Sanders, “The Transition From Opening Epistolary Thanksgiving to Body in the Letters of the Pauline Corpus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 355, 361.

21 It is debated whether the body of the letter begins with 1:12 or 1:27. Duane F. Watson, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Philippians and Its Implications for the Unity Question,” Novum Testamentum 30 (1988): 61, finds 1:3-26 as the exordium. But it is common to take the disclosure formula in 1:12 as the transition into the body of the letter. Compare L.Gregory Bloomquist, The Function of Suffering in Philippians (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 147; Ben Witherington III, Friendship and Finances In Philippi: The Letter of Paul to the Philippians (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1994), 7, 43. See also n. 20 above.

22Paul Schubert, Form and Function of the Pauline Thanksgivings (Berlin: A. Topelmann, 1939), 25-26, 76-77; Jewett, “Epistolary Thanksgiving,” 53; David E. Garland, “Philippians 1:1-26: The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel,” Review and Expositor 77 (1980): 328; Robert W. Funk, “The Letter: Form and Style,” in Language, Hermeneutic, and the Word of God (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1966), 257, 269; Ronald Russell, “Pauline Letter Structure in Philippians,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25 (September 1982): 306. Schubert (ibid., 77) sees 1:5 and 1:7 as “topic sentences which find their development in the body of the letter.”

23 Swift, “Theme and Structure,” 236-37. Several rhetorical analyses locate the central proposition or theme of the book at 1:27-30; Watson, “Philippians,” 59, 65; Witherington, Philippians, 53.

24 Ibid., 237-38. A defense of his theme or how it is unfolded within the letter is the purpose of Swift’s entire article.

25 Jewett, “Epistolary Thanksgiving,” 53.

26 The harmony of 1:3-11 with 4:10-20 is a vivid illustration of the unity of the epistle. To the contrary, some scholars such as John L. White, The Form and Function of the Body of the Greek Letter, second edition corrected (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1972), 75, and Funk, “Letter,” 272, and Dieter Georgi, Remembering the Poor: The History of Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 63, 67, argue for the composite nature of the letter. For a brief bibliography of those works that defend multiple letters or the unity of the book, see Watson, “Philippians,” 80, nn. 107 and 108. Watson (84, 88) offers the rhetorical analysis of the book as settling the debate in favor of unity.

27 William J. Dalton. “The Integrity of Philippians,” Biblica 60 (1979): 101, comments, “Thus we have four common elements at the beginning and the end of the letter. It does seem fitting that the central idea should be that of partnership, since in fact this theme dominates the whole text.” Also noting this inclusio is Peter T. O’Brien, “Divine Provision for our Needs: Assurance from Philippians 4” Reformed Theological Review (January-April 1991): 28; cf. also Schubert, Form, 77.

28 Martin, Philippians, TNTC, 47, also regards these two phrases to be identical in meaning.

29 Sanders, “Epistolary Thanksgiving,”360, n. 14, observing this parallel between 1:3 and 4:10, comments, “Probably there was no material distinction made among early Christians between rejoicing and giving thanks.” Schubert, Form, 77 also parallels these words. The synonymous nature of the two words is demonstrated in Phlm 4 with 7 and 1 Thess 5:16 with 17. Cf. also Silva, Philippians, 235; Gerald W. Peterman, “‘Thankless Thanks’: The Epistolary Social Convention in Philippians 4:10-20,” Tyndale Bulletin 42 (1991): 269.

30 Cf. Luke 6:27, “do good [kalos poieite] to those who hate you”; cf. also Matt 5:44 (Majority Text); 12:12. In a book about good works, Jas 2:8, 19 should be allowed to carry this nuance. For a similar phrase but with kalon instead, note Gal 6:9, “let us not lose heart in doing good [kalon poiountes]”; see also Rom 7:21; 2 Cor 13:7; Jas 4:17.

31 Kent, “Philippians,” 108, specifies the same phrase in 1:11 as the time when believers will be evaluated to determine the value of the fruit they have produced in their lives. Cf. also Michael, Philippians, 13; Lightfoot, Philippians, 83.

32 Panikulam, Koinonia, 84, suggests this for the 4:17-19 passage.

33 Phronein (“to think”) and logizesthai (“to consider”) seem to overlap in meaning. Of three places where they fall within a close range of each other, two of them are found in Philippians (3:13 and 15; 4:8 and 10). In 1 Cor 13:11, the other close proximity of the two words, an overlap also seems evident.

34 The Greek words (or cognates), thysia (“sacrifice”) and leitourgia (“service”), undoubtedly imply the giving of money in Philippians (2:25, 30; 4:18) and elsewhere (2 Cor 9:12; Rom 15:27). Cf. Colin O. Buchanan, “Epaphroditus’ Sickness and the Letter to the Philippians,” Evangelical Quarterly 36 (1964): 158-59.

35 Further parallels between 4:10-20 and Paul’s prayer in 1:9-11 need not be discussed.

36 Also cited by Dalton; see n. 23 above.

37 Ibid.

38 Ibid.

39 The phrase phronein (“to think”) plus hyper (“on behalf of”) appears in the NT only in 1:7 and 4:10, making the passages purposefully interrelated (David E. Garland, “The Composition and Unity of Philippians,” Novum Testamentum 27 [1985]: 162, n. 75). By showing the Philippians how much he loved them, Paul hoped to gain their continued affection for him and partnership with him. Cf. Reumann, “Contributions,” 455, who calls the two uses of this phrase “friendship language.”

40 Schubert, Form, 77, cites the parallel of 1:3 with 4:10 and 18. But see n. 32 above.

41 Also cited by Dalton; see n. 23 above.

42 It is attractive to translate epi pase te mneia hymon (“in all my remembrance of you,” 1:3, NASB) rather as a reference to the Philippians’ love for Paul (“for all your remembrance of me”), taking hymon as a subjective genitive. Peter T. O’Brien, Introductory Thanksgivings in the Letters of Paul (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977), 41-46; Schubert, Form, 71-82; Volf, Perseverance, 42, n. 206; Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 59-60; Jewett, “Epistolary Thanksgiving,” 53; Garland, “Defense,” 329-30; Reumann, “Contributions,” 411. Schubert and O’Brien argue quite convincingly for this viewpoint. But the use of the noun mneia (“remembrance”) with a genitive personal pronoun is always objective in the NT and the LXX. Cf. 1 Thess 1:2 and Phlm 4, where the construction appears in an introductory thanksgiving. See Hawthorne, Philippians, 16-17; Fee, Philippians, 77-79. The Philippians’ love for Paul comes later in the introduction (1:7).

43 Scholars widely agree that in 1:5 epi has a causal force; Schubert, Form, 73.

44 Roger L. Omanson, “A Note on the Translation of Philippians 1:3-5,” Bible Translator 29 (April 1978): 244-45; Schubert, Form, 61, 73; Panikulam, Koinonia, 82. Cf. the Amplified, RSV (but not the NRSV), “thankful for your partnership.” Vincent, Philippians, 6, holds that (1) eucharisteo (“I give thanks”) is left without an object unless it is tied to 1:5, and (2) deesis (“petition”) plus poioumai (“I make”) is never found with epi (“for, because of”) to mark the cause for prayer. The partnership of the Philippians is not the cause of Paul’s petition (1:4) but the cause of his thanksgiving to God (1:3). For similar constructions where epi plus the dative follows eucharisteo or a cognate and expresses the object of thanks, see 2 Cor 9:15 and 1 Cor 1:4. On the other hand, others connect 1:5 with what immediately precedes: “I make my petition with joy because of your partnership.” Translations reflecting this construction with 1:4 include NIV, NEB, TEV. For the best defense of this latter viewpoint, see Kent, “Philippians,” 107. Cf. also Hawthorne, Philippians, 18-19; Fee, Philippians, 75-76.

45 Cf. Lightner, “Philippians,” 649; Reumann, “Contributions,” 441; Kent, “Philippians,” 105; Lenski, Philippians, 707-709.

46 J. Y. Campbell, “koinwnia and Its Cognates in the New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 51 (1932): 353.

47 Fee, Philippians, 82, makes an unnecessary distinction between sharing something in common with another and partnership.

48 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, translated by Walter Bauer, second edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), s.v.Koinoneo 438 (hereafter referred to as BAGD), list Phil 4:15 under the meaning, “give or contribute a share.” Under koinonia, their entry (ibid., 438-39) states “abstr. for concr. sign of fellowship, proof of brotherly unity, even gift, contribution.” Romans 15:26 is listed here, but 2 Cor 8:4 should also be included. A few texts that may have connotations of sharing financially or materially are regularly overlooked. Contextually, Acts 2:42 (koinonia) carries this significance. In the early church, believers continued to have all things in “common” (koinos, Acts 2:44; 4:32), evidencing a unique unity. Other passages that directly or indirectly relate to money include Rom 11:17 (“fellow partners,” synkoinonos, where money is implied in piotes, “rich”), Rom 15:27 (koinoneo, “to share”; cf. 15:26), Gal 6:6 (koinonew), 1 Tim 6:18 (koinonikos = “generous”), and Heb 13:16 (koinonia; cf. 13:5). Cf. also Phlm 17 (see v 18) and Luke 5:10 where Simon, James, and John were “partners” (koinonoi) in business.

49 A small sample includes “contribution,” “contribute,” and “contributing” in Rom 12:13 (koinoneo) of the RSV, NRSV, NASB; in Rom 15:26 (koinonia) of the RSV, NASV, NKJV, KJV; and in 2 Cor 9:13 (koinonia) of the RSV, NASB. The words “distribution” and “distributing” are found in 2 Cor 9:13 of the KJV and in Rom 12:13 of the NKJV.

50 Fee, Philippians, 91, n. 7, wants koinonia and synkoinonoi/synkoinoneoto be synonymous. But we side with Campbell, “koinonia,” 363: “The very existence of the compound suggests that the idea of association with someone else was not always felt to be expressed plainly by koinonia; otherwise there would have been no point in using the compound . . .”

51 This is all the more dramatic when it is considered that the compounds, synkoinoneo and synkoinonos are rare. The noun appears elsewhere only in Rom 11:17 and 1 Cor 9:23; the verb appears elsewhere only in Eph 3:11.

52 Bloomquist, Philippians, 145, views 1:7 as simply a fuller expression of 1:5. Panikulam, Koinonia, 84, reasons that v 7 in context confirms the fact that koinonia must go beyond mere spiritual, mystical union with Christ.

53 The other two uses (both are koinonia) may also have some allusion to the Philippian gift. In Phil 2:1 koinonia (koinonia pneumatos, “fellowship of the Spirit”) is cited in BAGD, 439 under the definition, “generosity, fellow-feeling, altruism.” Therefore, pneumatos is not an objective genitive (“if there is any partaking of the Spirit”; Fee, Philippians, 191), but a genitive of source or origin (“if there is any generosity inspired by the Spirit”) or a subjective genitive (“partnership prompted by the Spirit”; Hawthorne, Philippians;Kent, “Philippians,” 121; Silva, Philippians, 103). In Phil 3:10, Paul’s desire to share (koinonia) Christ’s sufferings must be understood in light of his commission to advance the Gospel; Victor C. Pfitzner, Paul and the Agon Motif: Traditional Athletic Imagery in the Pauline Literature (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1967), 116-119, 145, 150. Paul’s sufferings in prison are described as undergone for the sake of the Gospel (1:7, 12-13, 16) and the Philippians’ gift is described as a partnership with Paul in his sufferings (synkoinoneo, 4:14). The Philippians are bound together with Paul in this common task of advancing the Good News. Combining 3:10 with 4:14 shows the continuity between the apostle’s struggle for the Gospel and the similar struggle of the Philippians specifically mentioned in 1:30. Suffering is only the negative aspect of the struggle. Among other things, their struggle for the Gospel particularly involved an active participation with Paul through their sacrificial giving even in times of poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:2). The common struggle described in 1:30 does not demand an identity of action with Paul, e.g., persecution or suffering (ibid., 122). This is evident in 4:14, where the Philippians “shared” Paul’s affliction exclusively by their sacrificial gift to him. Cf. Campbell, “KOINONIA,” 361, 366. So, Paul’s request to know the koinonia of Christ’s sufferings (3:10) may be an indirect challenge for the Philippians to continue their sacrificial giving (i.e., their struggle/suffering) for the sake of promoting the Gospel, even though he is in prison. If he longed for the benefits of experiencing these sufferings, they were certainly right in longing to participate with him financially in these sufferings. Through giving to Paul’s Gospel, they too were “sharing Christ’s suffering” (3:10).

54 In 1 Cor 1:9 koinonia is the most frequently cited reference in this regard. If the uses in the rest of the book (10:16, 18, 20; cf. also 9:23) are allowed to impact 1:9, the meaning takes a different turn entirely. The only other verses that could be claimed are 1 Pet 5:1, 2 Pet 1:4, and 1 John 1:3, 6-7. While an extended defense cannot be offered, 1 Pet 5:1 most likely speaks of a future reward. The sharing in the divine nature in 2 Pet 1:4 relates to sanctification, i.e., becoming like Christ (see the context in 1:5-11). First John 1:3, 6-7 deal with the issue of the believer’s present intimacy or harmony (“fellowship”) with Christ. In the context of 1 John 1, the two conditions for koinonia are walking in the light and confessing our sins--conditions that are never mentioned in the Gospel of John or any NT text as conditions for salvation. Faith and salvation are a prerequisite to this koinonia, not its essence.

55 Panikulam, Koinonia, 82, refers to this construction as a “dynamic activity in progress.” O’Brien, Thanksgiving, 24, n. 22, calls the use of euangelion in 1:5 and throughout the book a nomen actionis. Cf. also Lightfoot, Philippians, 81.

56 Hawthorne, Philippians, 19; O’Brien, Thanksgiving, 24-25; Panikulam, Koinonia, 82; Wiesinger, Philippians, 29-30; Bloomquist, Philippians, 145; contra F. Hauck, s.v. “Koino,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 3:805 (hereafter referred to as TDNT), who sees the phrase as “participation in the saving message of Christ.” Every other context in which koinonia is followed by eis (“to, toward”) is a context with monetary concerns (Phil 4:15; Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4; 9:13). Fee resists this implication, reasoning that the use of koinonia followed by eis in 2 Cor 9:13 and Rom 15:26 is distinct. (Neither Fee nor Hawthorne mentions the same construction in 2 Cor 8:4.) In his view, these verses speak of gifts given to (eis) people, while Phil 1:5 has in view a partnership for the furtherance of the Gospel--not a gift to Paul. Fee’s perspective presents an artificial distinction between a gift to Paul and a gift to advance Paul’s Gospel. The verb koinoneo followed by eis is used in Phil 4:15 of a gift to Paul’s preaching ministry, but is treated identically to the recent Philippian gift to his needs (4:14, 18).

57 Hawthorne, Philippians, 19. On the same page, he clarifies his point: “This understanding of koinonia does not exclude, however, a reference to the Philippians’ faith, their own efforts at evangelism, nor to their intercession for the progress of the gospel in the world.” Cf. also Campbell, “KOINONIA,” 371.

58 Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, translated by Melancthon Williams Jacobus and John M. Trout et al., reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1953), 1:524, does not believe that at this time the Philippian church was undergoing extensive persecution. The agon (“struggle”) of 1:30 is much broader than suffering. See n. 43 above. Cf. also Watson, “Philippians,” 78, contra Bloomquist, Philippians, 158, who finds the Philippians’ suffering more extensive.

59 Fee, Philippians, 84, seems guilty of circular reasoning. First, he reads his interpretation of 1:6 (salvation) into 1:5: “In light of v. 6, this might even include ‘participation’ by themselves having responded to the gospel and thus becoming Christ’s people in Philippi.” Later he reads this conclusion from v 5 back into v 6. Objecting that v 6 refers to the material support of the Philippians (ibid., 85), he argues: “The clause is best understood, however, in terms of their relationship to Christ and the gospel in the broader sense argued for in v. 5.”

60 Contra Panikulam, Koinonia, 84; Fee, Philippians, 83, n. 51, 88. Many who include the Philippian gift as the signal evidence of the koinonia (but do not take the term to specify salvation), also emphasize that the term is to be understood in a wide sense that includes suffering, evangelism, etc.; O’Brien, Thanksgiving, 24-25; Lightfoot, Philippians, 81.

61 On the other hand, they may not have suffered for the Gospel but used this to despise others who did. Since Paul was being persecuted for the Gospel, they may have rejected him as spiritually weak, and taken pride in their strength and fleshly achievements (cf. 3:2-16); Garland, “Defense,” 332-33.

62 Cf. Pfitzner, Agon Motif, 118. See also n. 43 above.

63 When the Philippians gave to the Jerusalem collection, they also gave themselves to the apostle, demonstrating their affection for him through giving (2 Cor 8:5). In 2 Corinthians, their affection and their gift are common elements in koinonia.

64 Prayer, however, is not clearly identified with koinonia in Philippians. But Rom 15:30 confirms the role of prayer in a cooperative struggle with Paul for the Gospel; Pfitzner, Agon Motif, 122; O’Brien, Thanksgiving, 199.

65 The other factor specifically mentioned as a constituent element of koinonia is grace (1:7). This will be discussed in the second part of this article.

66 “The article ‘the’ [in the Greek phrase, achritou nyn, “until the now”] is a delicate Pauline finger pointing to the gift which the Philippians had just sent . . .”; Wuest, “Philippians,” 32. Cf. also Wiesinger, Philippians, 30-31.

67 According to Barth, Philippians, 15-16, koinonia in conjunction with “until now” must be a “second allusion [besides 1:3] to the financial support received.”

68 It is not impossible for Paul to lump a significant portion of the congregation together as having experienced salvation within the same short period of time (i.e., the first few weeks of his initial outreach among them during his second missionary journey). However, this would require taking hemera (“day”) in a broad sense. Against the broad sense of “day” is the fact that hemera is modified by “first” (protes). The only other reference to this Greek phrase, “first day,” on the lips of Paul is actually the identical prepositional phrase (lacking the article), apo protes hemeras, in Acts 20:18 (“from the first day that I set foot in Asia”). Here it appears rather literal and expresses a fresh beginning in Paul’s ministry--similar to Phil 1:5 taken in light of 4:15 (see n. 67 above). No non-literal examples can be found in the NT in which hemera is used with an ordinal. Cf. Paul’s literal use of oktaemeros (“eighth day”) in Phil 3:5. Grayston, Philippians, 81, and Kent “Philippians,” 105, suggest that the “day” relates to the day the church was founded. One may stress a literal day with this approach. But only Lydia and her household were won to the Lord that specific day (Acts 16:14, 15). The jailer and his household came to faith “many days” later (see Acts 16:18 and the incident of the slave girl, which chronologically precedes the jailer’s salvation). If the “first day” represents the beginning of the Philippians’ evangelistic efforts, one must also minimize the phrase. Cf. O’Brien, Thanksgiving, 25, n. 27, who suggests that “one ought not to press the expression ‘from the first day until now,’ as though the Philippians became missionaries at the very moment they believed.”

69 Dalton, “Integrity of Philippians,” 101, and Schubert, Form, 77, also link 4:15 with 1:7 as noted above.

70 Cf. 4:15 in the Amplified ( “in the early days of the Gospel ministry”) and the NEB (“in the early days of my mission”). In the nine uses of euangelion in Phil (1:5, 7, 12, 16, 27; 2:22; 4:3, 15), the stress surely falls on the progress and vindication of the Gospel, not on its content or reception. Cf. Grayston, Philippians, 81.

71 For a similar approach, see Reumann, “Contributions,” 440. Georgi, Remembering the Poor, 191, n. 42, translates, “But, Philippians, you also know that when first starting out on [my] mission [that is to say], when setting out from Macedonia . . .” The phrase, en archetoueuangeliou (4:15, lit. “at [in] the beginning of the gospel”; NASB “at the first preaching of the gospel”) does not describe when Paul departed from Macedonia or the reception of the Gospel by the Philippians (NIV, “in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia”). It describes the time and circumstances in Paul’s ministry when the Philippians made their gift. We might paraphrase, “No other church was a partner with me financially when I left Macedonia and began again to preach the gospel.” The NASB would reflect this viewpoint more clearly if the comma between “gospel” and “after” were deleted: “at the first preaching of the gospel after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me . . .” This perspective takes the aorist, exelthon, in a pluperfect sense (“after I had left”); Fee, Philippians, 441, n. 13. When Paul left Macedonia for Corinth and began to preach the Gospel again, he was backed financially by the Philippians (2 Cor 11:8-9). This understanding of the phrase, en arche tou euangeliou (4:15), seems to have eluded many commentators. They then struggle with how Paul thought of his ministry in Philippi as the “beginning” of the Gospel. Cf. Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, New Century Bible (Greenwood, SC: Attic Press, 1976), 165; Hawthorne, Philippians, 203-204. Or they explain the awkwardness of the sentence as “careless” or “casual” because Paul could not have literally entered into partnership with them (i.e., began a close friendship with them at their salvation) after he left Macedonia; Fee, Philippians, 441, n. 13. By switching the clauses, the TEV contributes to the confusion: “that when I left Macedonia, in the early days of preaching the Good News.” These problems are all solved if we conceive of the beginning (=the preaching) of the Gospel mentioned in 4:15 to take place after Paul left Macedonia.

72 Kent, “Philippians,” 156, is correct in viewing 4:15 as the more substantial gift, given to Paul at Corinth. Then Paul recalls (4:16) the earlier, smaller gifts that were given even while he was in Thessalonica. This is supported by statements in the Thessalonian epistles where Paul explains that he needed to work for his living while staying there (1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:7-8). This interpretation gives full weight to the ascensive force of the first kai (“even in Thessalonica”) in the sentence.

73 In 4:16, the NIV reads, “again and again,” implying repeated times. Leon Morris “kai hapax kai disNovum Testamentum 1 (1956): 205-208, followed by Reumann, “Contributions,” 439-40, suggests that in 4:16, the first two uses of kai are to be taken as correlative and translated, “Both (kai) in Thessalonica and (kai) more than once [in other places].” If this reading is correct, Paul received one gift while at Thessalonica and several gifts elsewhere. Under this interpretation, he could have received support while in Berea, but none while in Corinth. Fee, Philippians, 445, is probably right to reject this way of handling the idiom. Paul definitely received Philippian aid while at Corinth (2 Cor 11:9); Reumann, “Contributions,” 440.

74“No other Pauline community of which we know had so good a record in financial benevolence”; Reumann, “Contributions,” 453. Philippi may not have been the only assembly to give to Paul’s needs, but at least the only one that gave specifically toward the advance of the Gospel when he entered Achaia. The stress in the passage is that the Philippians gave to Paul’s apostolic ministry at the very point that he began his outreach beyond their own region, Macedonia. The collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem is not directly mentioned in Phil 4. Second Corinthians 11:8 (“I robbed other churches by receiving support from them,” NIV) may imply that another church from Macedonia (perhaps Thessalonica) personally assisted Paul. But with regard to the collection, little or no mention is made elsewhere of other churches in Macedonia which made a contribution; Richard R. Melick , Jr., “The Collection for the Saints: 2 Corinthians 8-9,” Criswell Theological Review 4 (1989): 106. If the letter to the Galatians was written early, they were instructed in giving to those who taught them the Scriptures (Gal 6:6-8; cf. also 1 Cor 16:1). But no record exists that they ever supported Paul.

75 Epistles were consciously designed for public as well as private reading. D. Brent Sandy, “Form and Function in the Letters of the New Testament,” New Testament Essays in Honor of Homer A. Kent, Jr., ed. Gary T. Meadors (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1991), 54-55.

Related Topics: Sanctification