“Salvation” In The Book Of Philippians -- By: Robert C. Swift

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 29:56 (Spring 2016)
Article: “Salvation” In The Book Of Philippians
Author: Robert C. Swift


“Salvation” In The Book Of Philippians

Robert C. Swift

Flower Mound, TX

I. Introduction

One of the distinguishing marks of the Free Grace movement is that it often challenges traditional understandings of certain Biblical passages. Of course, some maintain that such “novel” interpretations cannot be correct. The question is often why past interpreters have not understood these passages in a Free Grace framework. Free Grace proponents respond by saying there have been those in the past who held these views, but were often a minority. And more importantly, the final determination of the Bible’s meaning is the Bible itself, not long-held traditions.

Such is the case with the meaning of the word “salvation” in the book of Philippians, particularly in 2:12. In this verse, Paul says:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

It is extremely common for commentaries to say that “salvation” (sōtēria) in this verse refers to eternal salvation, that is, salvation from hell. Even though there are some minor differences in detail, most commentators believe that works are necessary for entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God, as a scan of Evangelical writings bears out.1

In the book of Philippians, this view of salvation is said to find support in Phil 1:6. The Apostle Paul states,

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

This verse is also often held to refer to eternal salvation.2 When these two verses are combined, it is said that Philippians teaches that works are necessary for eternal life, and that God will empower genuine believers to do them. God begins the work of eternal salvation and will bring it to its successful completion by accomplishing godly deeds in the life of the believer.

Zane C. Hodges, on the other hand, gives a Free Grace perspective on these verses. He points out that Phil 1:6 is not talking about the good work of eternal salvation, but the good work the Philippians did in monetarily helping Paul in his missionary work.3 In You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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