Philippians 1:6 and Apostasy

Larry Ray Hafley
Plano, Illinois

Philippians 1: 6 is occasionally used in attempts to sustain and support the impossibility of apostasy or the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. It was used in the September 1971  issue of The Baptist World, under an article entitled, "Security of the Believer." Albert Garner, a prominent and proficient Missionary Baptist, has used it in debate, but the passage does not get the mileage that it might. It appears to be a convincing proof text. "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" (Phil. 1:6).


"If you teach that one may so sin as to be lost in hell, then you do not believe that God will perform His work. If the saved ever become lost, it will be Gods fault because He did not complete the good work as Paul said He would."


The confidence of Paul was based on the faithfulness of the Philippians. "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye are partakers of my grace" (Phil. 1: 7). It was right for Paul to think God would complete His work "inasmuch" or "because that" they were fellow sharers of grace.

There is no doubt that God will complete His work in such saints. God will do His part, but this is not the issue involved in the apostasy question. No one denies Gods willingness or ability to perform. The question is, "Will God perform His work even if the Philippians cease to trust and share in the grace of the gospel?" Paul does not so promise. "God began and God will consummate (complete-LRH) it ... but not without their cooperation and partnership" (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 436.). Philippians 1: 6 is a pledge based on the faith of the subjects involved. Reverse verse seven. "Even as it is not right for me to think this of you all, because I do not have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds and in defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye are all departed deniers of my grace.

The Philippians were partakers, sharers, with Paul of grace, but one who is "called into the grace of Christ" may fall from grace (Gal. 1: 6; 5:4). The Philippians as partakers of grace had received the grace of God; however, it is possible to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6: 1). See also Heb. 3:1, 6, 12-14. To such as depart and fall from grace, the promise of Philippians 1:6 is not made.

Gods faithfulness to those in grace does not compel their obedience. The Galatians were "in the grace of Christ" (Gal. 1: 6), and for a time they "did run well" (Gal. 5:7). As such, Phil. 1:6, 7 would apply to them, but when they were "removed" from God and did "not obey the truth," then they fell from grace and apart from the promise of Gods working in them. Unless the Philippians continued to look diligently, they, too, would "fail of the grace of God" (Heb. 12:15); therefore, Paul exhorted, "so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved" (Phil. 4: 1).

May 4, 1972