oa Conspectus : The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary - Perfection of God’s good work : the ;iterary and pastoral function of the theme of ‘work’ in Philippians

Volume 23 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1996-8167



One of the reasons for the demise of the partition theory of Philippians is the identification of several integrating themes running through the letter. It is thus surprising that the repeated occurrence of lexemes and morphemes allied to the concept of ἔργον (work) that is initially broached at the letter’s beginning has not received the deserved attention. This article contributes to the current state of scholarship in three ways. Firstly, it demonstrates that Paul’s expression of confidence as part of his thanksgiving-prayer report, that God who began ἔργον ἀγαθὸν (a good work) in and among the Philippians (1:6) will perfect it by the day of Christ, commences a consistent theme on ‘work’ that spans the letter, and thus further buries the partition theory. Secondly, it argues that this theme integrates four theological ideas, namely, (a) God’s gracious ongoing inner transformation of the believers, (b) its practical moral and social outworking in the unity of the fellowship, (c) their steadfast rejection of the false teachers who perverted the Gospel and (d) their continued missional partnership with Paul. The article concludes that in this way, the theme of ‘work’ directly engages the situational context behind Philippians and so plays a fundamental pastoral function in the letter.

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