Paul’s first visit to the Philippian believers was in Acts 16, so God’s work among them began then. After Acts 28, these same believers were having the same good work completed in themselves, according to Philippians 1:5-6.

5. because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6. being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

If God was still doing the same work in them as He did before, then how could there have been any change of dispensation between Acts 16 and Philippians 1?

This is another argument put forward against Acts 28 dispensationalism, and yet is based entirely upon a poor translation, and upon a total misunderstanding of the passage in Philippians 1:5-6. These Philippian believers were people who had believed in Christ during the Acts period, during the time recorded in Acts 16. However, Philippians 1:5-6 is not saying that that same work is being carried on in themselves. Let us look at this passage in the New King James Version.

5. for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6. being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

These Philippians had been believers from the first time Paul had visited Philippi until that day. Paul was confident that One Who had begun a good work in them at that time would complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Many different versions have offered up fanciful translations of this passage. For example, the NASB has it, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” But this is nonsensical, for how do you perfect something until some other time? Will the day of Christ Jesus corrupt the work begun in them, so that it is no longer perfect? The Message, in its usual fictional style, has this, “the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” The Amplified Bible has it, “He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” The many additions here show the uncertainty of the translators as to how to render this passage. The English Standard Version has it, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The KJV reads, “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The Contemporary English Version makes it, “God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.” The 21st Century KJV has it, “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ.” The ASV has it, “he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Young’s Literal Translation makes it, “He who did begin in you a good work, will perform [it] till a day of Jesus Christ.” The New Life Version makes it, “God Who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again.” The NIV Reader’s Version has it, “the One who began a good work in you will carry it on until it is completed. That will be on the day Christ Jesus returns.” Wycliffe makes it, “he that began in you a good work, shall perform it till into the day of Jesus Christ.” The TNIV has it, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Rotherham has, “He who has begun in you a good work, will perfect it, until the day of Jesus Christ.

Now all these versions differ from what we have in the New King James Version, yet none of them is an improvement on it. In the NKJV, we have “complete it until,” and none of these offer a better alternative. Darby is close to this, with “having confidence of this very thing, that he who has begun in you a good work will complete it unto Jesus Christ’s day.” The word epiteleo has to do with bringing something to completion or accomplishing it. The word archi means “until.” But when you put these together, you get something “completed until.” This does not mean perfect it until, and it does not mean perform it until. When something is completed until a certain time, all work on it is suspended until that time. For example, I have written a series of studies on the Psalms. However, since there are 150 Psalms, and I have not wanted to write on these all at once, I have been writing this study in many segments. I will write on the study for a while until I get to a good stopping place, and then I will stop the project for a while until I get back to it later. Each time I stop, I have completed the project until a certain time in the future, when I will take it up again. We could say that I have suspended my writing on the project. This is what you do when you complete something until a certain, future time.

The work that God had begun in the Philippian believers was brought to a complete stop, it was suspended, it was completed until the coming of the day of Jesus Christ. When that day comes, that work will begin again.

The passage says nothing about this work being completed “in themselves.” There is a popular song based on this verse that substitutes “in you” for the words “until the day of Jesus Christ.” This argument runs more along the lines of this song, carelessly misquoting the Scripture, than it does with what is actually said. The Lord began this work in them, and He would complete it in the day of Jesus Christ. But since all the Philippians are dead, He certainly cannot be carrying on a work in them right now that He began in them back then. When the work He began in them is completed, it will result in the whole world coming into the kingdom of God, even as those men did.

The book of Philippians has to do with encouraging the believers of the Acts period in dealing with the postponement of all that they had hoped for under God’s coming government.

There is no proof in a faulty translation.

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