Friday, March 21, 2014

Philippians 2:12-13 introduction

A friend asked me to not be so negative, and put some things up that he could criticize(!)  So here goes, some thoughts on Philippians 2:12-13, an important text in the Christian life, as if from a student, to another.  Lord bless our exploration.

What is the relationship between God being "at work in you," which Paul tells the Philippians is true of them, and what Paul exhorts them to do, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling"?

The simple answer is that the first is a reason for the second.  "For it is God who is at work in you."  That's the immediate reason that Paul gives them for what he asks and exhorts and commands them to do.  God is at work in them.  That's the reason they should work out their salvation.

So before we ask questions of the form "why doesn't it mean what I think, namely, xyz," we should look at the passage on its own.  The exhortation, "work out your salvation ..." is supported on both sides: before, and after.  2:13 is the "after"; 2:12a, is the "before" (if not the whole letter in some respects).

So we have prior-support, then the exhortation, then following-support.  The following-support is very interesting, because of the fact that it supplies the premise (2:13) for an inference.  How is 2:13 a reason for working out our salvation?

Has the fact that others are working with us ever given us a reason to work at something?  How about if it is God, working in us?  Should God working in us not give a sufficient reason to work something out?  Especially if the very thing God is working on is the means that we humans get things done by using: our wills, and our deliberate actions.  But how then is it our very salvation, that we are to work out?!  More soon.


Larry said...

One obvious implication: if it is a fact that God is working in us in the ways Paul mentions, and if it is true, that this fact is reason enough for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, then to think that it is God alone who does that as well, must be false.

Lindsay said...

Hi Larry, I thought I'd post some thoughts here so you're not the only one doing the criticizing :)

I appreciate you taking the time to put this together, it was helpful for me to see where you're coming from. So there's little I would disagree with here.

You seemed to imply towards the end that good works are not promised/certain for believers. Am I getting you right? Actually, did you remove a section? I thought I remembered reading something about the Galatians at the end of your post.

So it seems to me that we agree on much, but may disagree in two areas:

1. The role/significance of our works in the final judgment
2. The certainty of Christians actually producing 'good works' and God's role in it.

As regards to 1, I'm thinking you would say that works do not play any role in the final judgment? God doesn't 'require' good works from believers.

As regards to 2, I think you are saying that God works in us to do good works, but that His working is not rendering certain our works. As in, a true, justified believer may not do good works.

Anything otherwise would imply that our salvation is a combination of faith and works.

Is that a fair summary of your view? I should make sure I'm getting you right before I say any more.

We can continue our discussion here or on my blog, I don't mind either way. I just wanted to share the fun on your blog! God bless.

Larry said...

Thanks for having fun on my blog which, like the inner city, is badly in need of upkeep and cleanup, but gentrification always starts with a visit from new folks.

Some of your questions are about positions, which we haven't gotten to yet, which professors (privately) might smile as they visit "The Institute for Teleological Study of Larry's Positions" and enroll in his "courses." We're all prone to that, especially with the history of succumbing to trying to be as "gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:5, AV, RVmg, ASVmg, NRSVmg).

But as questions, some of them are really great! And easy!

We could call Q1 "does God require good works from believers?" I would answer this yes, and even of course He does. given a definition something like "a good work by a believer is something that the 'well done, good and faithful slave' is referring to in Mt 25:21,23 … or even Mt 25:27!" In a broader context, God requires good works from all moral agents: believers, unbelievers, angels, even those creatures we know very little about in Rev 4. God requires good in all His creation, Ps 97:6a,7, and when that is fully expressed it will be awesome to see, Ps 98:7-9.

What makes this question important in light of other questions is the mistake of thinking of it as a different question: "is the salvation of believers a result of, or not a result of, works, so that someone may, or may, not boast?" Again, easy to answer, from Ephesians 2:9, given that Eph 2:9 is true. Salvation is "not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

One thing we can rule out immediately, given Eph 2:9. Some idea such as "salvation is a result of works, although no one may boast" is ruled out by Eph 2:9! If the purpose for salvation not being by works is so that no one may boast, then to say it is a result of works is contrary to God's purpose of excluding our boasts. Or if we think of this "so that" as a result, then even more. To produce the result that no one boast, God excludes salvation from being the result of works. Either way, "salvation is a result of works, although no one may boast," is false. Have we heard of this idea touted as true?

Larry said...

(In the meta-response vein, bro be careful of non-interaction or veiled criticism, in the form of a) "you seem to x," and x is neither a quote or an inference from anything I said, or b) "do I understand that your position on y is #$#%$#?", when I neither have stated this position or discussed the category y or its validity; or c) changing the subject from the very important Philippians 2:12-13, which is what the blog entry was by agreement to discuss, to x's and y's, etc. Lots of red herring fallacy!)

All right, so I hope we agree that "does God require good works" should be answered yes. Yours? So let's go on to another topic->question of yours, Q2: "do good works play a role in the final judgement, a significant role?" ("judgement" for merry old England; does Australia omit the "e"?).

The judgements of Christ Himself in Jn 5:22, and the status of those in Jn 5:24, and the judgements by those in 1 Cor 6:2-3 need to all be invoked to answer this question. And so an answer to this is that there is no greater role in the final judgment other than the Son's (see above), than the works of believers in the final judgement. Believers will do works of judging the world, and of judging angels. This awesome and significant role of our works is hardly ever prepared for, perhaps due to not believing that Jn 5:24 is true?

Larry said...

Of course, we're already at the point of ruling out many other things. If God is at work, dare we say that He tries to work, but may not get anything done? Especially since His work is predicted already, to the Philippians (!!), that it will be completely successful! Philippians 1:11. It's typical, and oh so human, to ignore God's work. Inside Philippians 2:13, almost like a footnote that many ignore, is the ongoing work of God. This, and Romans 8:28, are often thought of as God trying to work. Oops!

Larry said...

Let's go on with Lindsay's "Q3", which has two parts:

"Q3a": is there a certainty of Christians actually producing good works?

Yes, there is a certainty. "He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater than these he will do, because I go to the Father" (Jn 14:12).

This is an unconditional prediction. It is certain, including the "greater than" part, for everyone who believes in Christ.

"Q3b": what is God's role in it? (i.e., the certainty: what is God's role in the certainty of Christians actually producing good works?). The same verse that answers the first part of the question, answers this part too: it is precisely because Christ went to the Father that he who believes in Him, i.e., the Christian, will do the works that Christ does, and greater. If the prediction of doing the works Christ does, and greater, is not true of him who believes in Christ, then Christ did not go to the Father, or John 14:12 is false. However, Jn 14:12 is not false, and Christ did go to the Father. Therefore because He did, the one who believes in Christ will do the works Christ did, and greater, certainly so.