Does Philippians 1:6 Guarantee Progressive Sanctification? Part 1 -- By: John F. Hart

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 09:1 (Spring 1996)
Article: Does Philippians 1:6 Guarantee Progressive Sanctification? Part 1
Author: John F. Hart

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

John F. Hart

Professor of Bible
Moody Bible Institute
Chicago, IL

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 la-

beled the “traditional view” because of its wide popularity in laymen’s commentaries.5 But certai...

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