An Exegesis of “Work Out Your Own Salvation”

The exegsis will be provided from the hand and mind of John Eadie. I rely on the heavenly gifted and heavenly minded minds of such men. However I should make the reader aware that this is an very technical quote from Eadie. However, I will bold the portions that are less technical and more pastoral for the average reader. I do wish to point out a pertinent section where Eadie points out  faulty understanding of working out to be in terms of only more fully realizing the that salvation is fully perfected in Christ (although it is true but not the point of this particular passage). Here is the place where I wish to draw attention- “He does not say He died for sin, or died for us. His reference is to the spirit of His death, and not to its character and results. It is true that His exaltation proved His mission divine, and His mediation effectual. But the apostle does not allude to this, nor does he in this paragraph in any way connect the glory of Jesus with a completed redemption. If he had said—He has died and risen again to save you, the connection could easily be—therefore salvation is perfect, and you are summoned either to receive it, or more fully to realize it. But it is simply of the fact that Christ denied Himself to benefit others that the apostle writes, and the Philippians are to do service to others, and thus evince that the same mind is truly in them which was also in Christ Jesus.”*

Here is the whole context and exegesis of Philippians 2:12-13:

(Ver. 12.) Ὥατε, ἀγαπητοί μου. The particle ὥστε introduces an inferential lesson. 1 Cor. 3:21, 4:5, 10:12; 1 Thess. 4:18, etc. Followed thus by the imperative, this particle which is so often followed by the infinitive, has the sense of itaque—ὡσ-τε. Tittmann, ii. 6; Winer, § 41, 5, 1; Klotz, Devarius, ii. p. 776. It does not reach back in its sweep to all the preceding statements. We cannot, with Wiesinger, give this as its ground—“Christ has attained to His glory only by the path of self-denial,—Wherefore.” We take in the whole picture from the 6th to the 11th verse—“wherefore,” or since such were Christ’s spirit and career, such His self-denial and reward, since such an example is set before you, you are bound by your very profession to “work out.” If He has set it, shall you hesitate to follow it? Will it not endear itself to your imitation as you look upon it—ἀφορῶντες τὸ παράδενγμα? The heart of the apostle warms towards them, his soul is bound up in them, and he calls them “my beloved,” adding a prefatory note—

καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον, ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου—κατεργάζεσθε. The apostle appeals to their uniform obedience rendered in one sense to himself, but primarily to God, having the same object as ὑπήκοος applied to Christ in verse 8. There should be a comma after ὑπηκούσατε, for the next words belong to the concluding clauses, as the use of μή—νῦν seems to indicate. The construction of the verse is peculiar from its very compactness. Two comparisons are inwoven—my presence, my absence—or “not in my presence only, but much more in my absence;” and “as ye have always obeyed,” “so now carry out your salvation.” The fervid heart of the apostle was not fettered by the minutiæ of formal rhetoric; parallel thoughts are intertwined, and ideas that should follow in succession are blended in the familiar haste of epistolary composition. Παρουσία, in contrast with ἀπουσία, is not a future presence, as Wiesinger renders it. 2 Cor. 10:10. It is, indeed, applied especially to a future advent of Christ, a presence not now, but afterwards, to be enjoyed. The apostle uses in this epistle the words παρουσία πάλιν, 1:26. The adverb ὡς does not simply denote comparison, but it indicates a supposed or imagined quality which the apostle, indeed, warns against, and will not believe to exist. Rom. 9:32; 2 Cor. 2:17; Gal. 3:16. The claim of the injunction did not cease with his presence. His absence did not make the obligation less imperative, but it demanded more earnestness and vigilance from them in the discharge of the duty. His voice and person were a guide and stimulant, his addresses and conversations reproved their languor, and excited them to assiduous labour, so that His presence among them wrought like a charm. And now that he was not with them, and they were left to themselves, they were so much the more to double their diligence, and work out salvation. This was to be done μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου—“with fear and trembling.”—See under Eph. 6:5, where the phrase has been explained. 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:15; Ps. 2:11. The phrase means something more than Jerome’s non cum negligentia. It restricts the feeling described too much to one aspect of it, to suppose it to be awe before an omnipresent God, as do the Greek expositors; or a sense of dependence on God, as does De Wette; or the apprehension that the work is not performed sufficiently, as do Meyer and Wiesinger. In fact, the phrase describes that state of mind which ought ever to characterize believers—distrust of themselves—earnest solicitude in every duty—humble reliance on divine aid, with the abiding consciousness that after all they do come far short of meeting obligation. There does not seem to be any reference, as some suppose, to the spirit of Christ’s δουλεία, but there may be a warning against that pride and vainglory already reprobated by the apostle. In this spirit they are enjoined—

τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε—“carry out your own salvation.” The compound verb here expresses the idea of carrying out, or making perfect. Fritzsche on Rom. 2:9; also Raphelius, vol. ii. p. 495. This sounder philology opposes the explanation of Chrysostom—οὐκ εἵπεν ἐργάζεσθε, ἀλλὰ κατεργάζεσθε, τουτέστι μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς σπουδῆς, μετὰ πολλῆς της ἐπιμελείας. The verb describes not the spirit in which the work is done, but the aim and issue—“carry through;” while the idea of the Greek Father is only inferential. In the translation—“work out one another’s salvation”—which is that of Pierce, Michaelis, Storr, Flatt, and Matthies, we should at once concur, but for a reason to be immediately stated. The reciprocal meaning given to ἑαυτῶν may be found in Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:16; 1 Pet. 4:8, 10. The context, as van Hengel admits, is in favour of the latter translation which we have given. De Wette contends that the reference in the verse is quite general—an idea which the inferential particle ὥστε does not sanction; and he carries the reference back to 1:27, without any warrant whatever. Rheinwald, Rilliet, and others, uphold the idea that the verse is an inference from the preceding exhibition of Christ’s example. We think that this cannot be doubted, so close and inseparable is the connection. But what is that example intended to illustrate? Might we not say the injunction—“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” If the career of our Lord be introduced to show us what mind was in Him, surely the lesson deduced will be in unison. If he bid them have the mind of Christ, and then go on to show what it is, surely his inference must be that they should, in their own sphere, exhibit the same mind. Now the great truth which the exhibition of Christ’s example illustrates is self-denying generosity—the very charge He has already given them, and the inference is expected to be in harmony with the starting lesson. The command—τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε—will therefore be synonymous in spirit with the previous one in verses 4, 5. In this way the ὥστε would connect homogeneous ideas. If the words be rendered, “work out your own salvation,” we do not see how it can with the same force be derived as a lesson. The connection brought out by Alford is—“considering the immense sacrifice which Christ has made for you, and the lofty eminence to which God has now raised Him, be ye more than ever earnest, that you miss not your own share in such salvation.” But there is no hint of this connection in the preceding verses: for, in referring to Christ, the apostle does not speak of Him as a Saviour, nor yet of the salvation which He has secured. He does not say He died for sin, or died for us. His reference is to the spirit of His death, and not to its character and results. It is true that His exaltation proved His mission divine, and His mediation effectual. But the apostle does not allude to this, nor does he in this paragraph in any way connect the glory of Jesus with a completed redemption. If he had said—He has died and risen again to save you, the connection could easily be—therefore salvation is perfect, and you are summoned either to receive it, or more fully to realize it. But it is simply of the fact that Christ denied Himself to benefit others that the apostle writes, and the Philippians are to do service to others, and thus evince that the same mind is truly in them which was also in Christ Jesus. Nay more, the connection usually brought out seems also to have this peculiarity, that it seems to make the apostle begin the paragraph with one injunction, and end it by enforcing its opposite. He commences formally—“Look not every man on his own things;” and he ends by saying virtually—“Look every man on his own things—work out your own salvation.” Is he to be understood as either modifying or withdrawing his first injunction, an injunction commended by the example of Christ Jesus.

The only difficulty in the way of this view is philological. The pronoun ἑαυτῶν is used in verse 4th, to signify one’s own things; and in verse 21st it is used with the same meaning, and how should the same word in the intervening verse 12th be used with precisely an opposite signification? We feel the difficulty to be insuperable, while the leading of the context is so decided. And perhaps this may be the idea—carry forward your own salvation with fear and trembling, for with such a work in progress, and such emotions within you, you will possess the mind of Christ; for he who thus carries out his own salvation will sympathize with the toils and labours of others, and look not alone at his own things. Their own salvation being secured and carried out, they would not be so selfish as to be wholly occupied with it, so unlike Him who made Himself of no reputation, as to creep up to heaven in selfish solitude. For the law of the kingdom is, that he who stoops the lowest shall rise the highest—Christ the first, and each after Him in order. This loving and lowly spirit God rejoices in—it is the heart of His Son, and the genius of His gospel. How this duty is to be discharged, the apostle does not say, but he adverts to its spirit—“in fear and trembling.”

(Ver. 13.) Ὁ Θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν, ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας—“For God it is who worketh in you both to will and to work, in consequence of His own good pleasure.” The article of the Received Text before Θεός is omitted in A, B, C, D1, F, G, and K. Its absence fixes attention upon Divinity, as in contrast to that humanity in which He wills and works. The γάρ indicates the connection, not by assigning a reason in the strict sense of the term, but by introducing an explanatory statement:—Engage in this duty; the inducement and the ability to engage in it are inducement and ability alike from God. It is too much to infer that the Philippians were despondent, and that this verse is to be regarded as an encouragement. But that they needed excitement to duty is plain, however, from the statement—“and how much more in my absence”—though certainly Bengel’s filling up is far-fetched—Dcus prœsens vobis, etiam absente me. It is as if he had said—“Work out with fear and trembling, for God it is that worketh in you. Engage in the duty, for God prompts and enables you; engage in it with fear and trembling—emotions which the nature of the work and such a consciousness of the Divine presence and co-operation ought always to produce.” If the impulse sprang from themselves, and drew around it the ability to obey, there might be “strife and vainglory;” but surely if the motive and the strength came alike from God, then only in reliance on Him, and with special humility and self-subduing timidity, could they proceed, in reference to their own salvation, or in offering one another spiritual service.

The position of Θεός shows the emphasis placed upon it by the apostle. God it is who worketh in you—alluding to the inner operation of Divine grace—for ἐν ὑμῖν is not among you. There is special force in the form ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν. Winer, § 45, 5, note; Fritzsche, ad Roman. vol. ii. p. 212. And the result is twofold—καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν—“both to will and to work,” first and naturally volition, and then action. Rom. 7:18. The double καί is emphatic. Winer, § 53, 4. The apostle uses ἐνεργεῖν both of cause and effect—ἐνεργῶν—ἐνεργεῖν—whereas the verb denoting the ultimate form of action was κατεργάζεσθε. The difference is very apparent. The latter term, the one employed by the apostle in the exhortation of verse 12th, represents the full and final bringing of an enterprise to a successful issue; whereas ἐνεργεῖν describes action rather in reference to vital power or ability, than form or result. The will and the work are alike from God, or from the operation of His grace and Spirit; not the work without the will—an effect without its cause; not the will without the work—an idle and effortless volition.

The concluding words—ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας—have given rise to a good deal of discussion. The phrase has no pronoun, and what then is its reference? The Syriac renders ܡܕܶܡ ܕܨܳܒܷܐ ܐܢ̱ܬܘܽܢ—that which you wish. And so Ambrosiaster, followed partly by Erasmus, Grotius, and Michaelis. But εὐδοκία, as is indicated by the article, belongs here to the subject of the verb. The preposition ὑπέρ is not “according to,” as it is rendered by Luther and Cameron, nor pro, as Beza and Bengel write it. It signifies “on account of.” John 11:4; Acts 5:41; Rom. 15:8; Winer, § 47, 1, (3). It is not very different in result from διʼ εὐδοκίαν—1:15—though the mode of representation somewhat varies—the ὑπέρ giving a reason, not in a logical, but rather in an ethical aspect. See under Eph. 1:5. The noun itself is defined by Suidas—τὸ ἀγαθὸν θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ. Suicer, 1:1241. Œcumenius gives the true meaning in his paraphrase—ὑπὲρ τοῦ πληρωθῆναι εἰς ὑμᾶς τὴν εὐδοκίαν καὶ τὴν βουλὴν αὐτοῦ. It is in consequence of, or to follow out His own good pleasure, that He works in believers both to will and to work. He is not an absolute or necessary, but a voluntary or spontaneous cause. He does it because He freely wills it, or because it seems good to Him. His efficacious grace is at His own sovereign disposal. Conybeare joins ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας to the following verse, but the connection is neither natural nor warranted.

The sentiments of the preceding verses have been adduced as objections both to Pelagianism and Calvinism. Augustine made good use of them in his day, in defence of the doctrine of divine grace, and in overthrow of that meagre system which is based at once on shallow conceptions of man’s nature, and superficial expositions of Scripture, and which, in denuding the gospel of its mysteries, robs it of its reality and profound adaptations. In later times, commentators on this passage have attacked with it what is usually called Calvinism. “The Calvinistic writers,” says Bloomfield in his Recensio Synoptica, “are exceedingly embarrassed with it;” and after reprehending Doddridge for a paraphrase of the verses, not a whit worse or weaker than his ordinary dilutions, he adds, “When we see so sensible a writer, and so good a man, acting so disingenuous a part, we cannot but perceive the weakness of the system of doctrines he adopts, which drives him to such unwarrantable measures.” Now, if we understand Calvinism at all, these two verses express very definitely its spirit, belief, and practice. Divested of technical points, it is this—profound and unquestioning trust in God, united to the utmost spiritual activity and necessarily leading to it—acting because acted upon, as the apostle here describes. The terms employed by him exclude a vast amount of questions often raised upon the verses—as the injunction is addressed, not to the unbelieving and unregenerate, but “to saints in Christ Jesus,” to those who not only believed in Christ, but had suffered for Him. The allusion is not to man’s laying hold of salvation, or to his first reception of it, and the necessity of gratia prœveniens, and therefore queries as to free-will and grace—their existence or antagonism—are away from the point. The apostle writes to persons who have received salvation, and he bids them carry it out. And who doubts that man’s highest energies are called out in the work—that every faculty and feeling is thrown into earnest operation? What self-denial and vigilance—what wrestling with the Angel of the Covenant—what study of the Lord’s example—what busy and humble obedience—what struggles with temptation—what putting forth of all that is within us—what fervent improvement of all the means of grace—industry as eager and resolute as if no grace had been promised, but as if all depended on itself! The believer’s own conscious and continuous effort in the work of his sanctification, is a very prominent doctrine of Scripture, and the apostle often describes his own unrelaxing diligence. On the other hand, the doctrine of divine influence is caricatured by any such hypothesis as is implied in the phrase—homo convertitur nolens—or, when even under its “Dordracene” representation, it is styled, as by Ellicott, “all but compelling grace.” For in no sense can faith be forced; and the freest act of the human spirit is the surrender of itself under God’s grace to Himself. The rational nature is not violated, the mental mechanism is never shattered or dislocated, and the freedom essential to responsibility is not for a moment disturbed or suppressed. Though God work and work effectually in us “to will,” our will is not passively bent and broken, but it wills as God wills it; and though God work and work effectually in us “to do,” our doing is not a course of action to which we are helplessly driven; but we do, because we have resolved so to do, and because both resolve and action are prompted and shaped by His power that worketh in us—agimur ut agamus. This carrying out of our salvation is a willing action; but the will and the acts, though both of man and by him as agent, are not in their origin from him—the vis from which they spring being non nativa sed dativa. Lazarus came forth from the tomb by his own act, but his life had been already restored by Him in whom is life. The Hebrews walked every weary foot of the distance between Egypt and Canaan, yet to God is justly ascribed their exodus from the one country and their possession of the other. As man’s activities are prompted and developed by Him who works in us both to will and to do, so is it that so many calls and commands are issued, urging him to be laborious and indefatigable; for still he is dealt with as a creature that acts from motive, is deterred by warning, swayed by argument, and bound to obey divine precept. And what an inducement to work out our salvation—God Himself working in us—volition and action prompted and sustained by Him who “knoweth our frame.” It is wrong to say with Chrysostom—“If thou wilt, in that case, He will work in thee to will.” For the existence of such a previous will would imply that God had wrought already. The exposition of Pelagius was, that as there are three things in man, posse, velle, agere, and that as the first is from God, and the other two from ourselves, so the apostle here puts the effect for the cause—Deus operatur velle, id est, posse, quia dat mihi potentiam ut possim velle. Lex et doctrina are with him equivalent to, or are the explanation of, gratia divina. But law and revelation only tell what is to be done, and as Augustine says, qua gratia agitur, non solum ut facienda noverimus, verum etiam ut cognita faciamus.—Opera, vol. x. p. 538, ed. Paris, 1838. The command, “work out your own salvation,” is certainly not in itself opposed to what Ellicott calls the “Dordracene doctrine of irrevocable election;” for the divine purpose does not reduce man to a machine, but works itself out by means in perfect harmony with the freedom and responsibility of his moral nature; so that every action has a motive and character. Were this the place, one might raise other inferential questions—whether this divine operation in the saints can be finally resisted, and whether it may be finally withdrawn? or, in another aspect, whether a man whom God has justified can be at last condemned? or whether the divine life implanted by the Spirit of God may or can die out? But the discussion of such questions belongs not to our province, nor would the mere language of these verses warrant its introduction.”*

*Eadie, J. (1884). A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. (W. Young, Ed.) (Second Edition., pp. 130–131). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.


Eadie, J. (1884). A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. (W. Young, Ed.) (Second Edition., pp. 127–136). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.


Work Out Your Own Salvation?

Yes. Why? To borrow a line from Dr. Mark Jones- “because the Bible says so.” But what does it mean to “work out your own salvation?” Some tend to think that it simply means to focus on the Gospel and what Christ has accomplished for sinners to the glory of God. The idea is to reflect upon that and the Spirit will move the sinner towards obedience. While I agree that any sanctification (progressive) in the pursuit of holiness needs to have a sound understanding of the Gospel, justification by faith alone and must do as the author of Hebrews encourages “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). To be sure, there is no such thing as pursuing holiness in sanctification apart from Hebrews 12:2. Yet I do not believe that is all Paul is saying when he writes ,“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12).

So what does it mean to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? Well I believe it looks like what the author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 12:1- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,.”  That is to say that personal holiness in the life of believers is a deliberate, willful and conscious effort to eliminate sin in their lives; as empowered by the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, as justified sinners declared righteous by virtue of Christ’s perfect law-keeping life. It is to “mortify the flesh,” ” to be killing sin,”and to be actively doing as Peter says “…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Pe. 1:5-9).


At this moment I will now turn it over to Matthew Poole to elaborate on Philippians 2:12-13.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Poole writes:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed: having confirmed the example of Christ’s admirable condescension and affection from the glorious issue of it, he doth here reassume his exhortation, with a friendly compellation, commending their former sincere endeavours to obey the gospel (so chap. 1:5, and ver. 15 of this) in following Christ, Matt. 11:28, and moving them to persevere in obedience and love to God and man. Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence; that it might be evident, whether the eye of their pastor were upon them or no, a prevailing love to Christ, and their own souls’ welfare, was prevalent with them; but especially, being he was now detained from them, and might be jealous of some defects in them, James 3:2; 1 John 1:8, did engage them more than any thing to embrace his exhortation, which he enlargeth in other words. Work out your own salvation: he moves them as saints, chap. 1:1, in whom God would perfect his work begun, ver. 6, having given them to believe and suffer, ver. 29, that they would seriously and earnestly busy themselves in those things, which on their parts are necessary to salvation, as John 6:27; Heb. 6:9, and without which it cannot be had, as chap. 1:10; Matt. 24:13; Col. 3:10, 12, &c.; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 6:19; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7, 8; 2 Pet. 3:17; yea, press on in the way to their own salvation, as he moved, 1 Tim. 4:16, not that they should not be solicitous about others, for that mutual care is implied, as elsewhere required, Heb. 3:13; 10:24; but that every one should strenuously go on towards the mark with a special regard to himself, and the temptations he may meet with, knowing he must bear his own burden, Gal. 6:1, 5, and therefore should take heed lest he fall. The papists’ arguings hence that our actions are sufficient and meritorious causes of salvation, are altogether inconsequent. For the apostle doth not say our actions work out salvation, but, Work out your own salvation, which is much different. It were absurd to say, because the Jews were enjoined to eat the passover with loins girt, that loins girt were eating of the passover. Indeed, what the papists urge is contrary to this doctrine of Paul, who doth elsewhere place blessedness in remission of sins, and shows eternal life is the gift of God, Rom. 4:6, 7; 6:23; and we are saved by grace, not of works, Rom. 3:20, 24, 25; 4:16; Eph. 2:8; Tit. 3:5; and contrary to the main scope of the apostle, which is to beat down pride and conceit of deserving, and persuade to humility. He drives at this, that we should not be idle or lazy in the business of salvation, but work together with God, (yet as instruments, in whom there is no strength which is not derived from him,) that we may evidence we do not receive his grace in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1, 2. But this co-operation doth not respect the acquiring or meriting of salvation, which is proper to Christ alone, and incommunicable to any others, Acts 4:12, who cannot be said to be their own saviours: this co-operation, or working out, respects only the application, not the performing of the payment, which Christ hath abundantly perfected: but the embracing of the perfect payment, is not that which can be the cause and foundation of right for which it is deservedly conferred; but only the way and means by which we come to partake of salvation. With fear and trembling; i. e. with a holy care to do all acceptably: he doth by these two words mean not any servile fear and slavish despondency, arising from doubting, chap. 4:4, but only a serious, filial fear, implying a deep humility and submissiveness of mind, with a reverential awe of the Divine Majesty, and a solicitude to avoid that evil which is offensive to him and separates from him. We find these words used to the like import, Psal. 2:11; Dan. 5:19; 6:26; Rom. 11:20; with 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5; Eph. 6:5; connoting that, after the example of Christ, we should be humble, and though we distrust ourselves, yet we are to trust solely to God, (as an infant may be afraid, and yet cling fast to and depend upon, begging help of, the parent, going over a dangerous precipice,) for the accomplishment of our salvation.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
That they might not be negligent in working out their salvation with humility, from any conceit or carnal confidence any might have that they could believe and repent when they pleased, imagining their wills to be as pliable to good as evil; the apostle urgeth the effectual grace of God, as a powerful inducement and encouragement to embrace his exhortation. For it is God which worketh in you: they should not despond of any attaining salvation, or think they did labour in vain in the diligent use of means, and should altogether fall under the dominion of sin, considering, though they were free agents, yet the efficiency and sufficiency was of God, Rom. 6:13, 14; 1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 3:5; who worketh within them powerfully and effectually, carrying on the work through all difficulties and obstacles, with victorious efficacy, till it be wrought, chap. 1:6; Isa. 41:4; Heb. 13:20, 21: God worketh not only by suasion to gain assent, but by a special energy effecting what he would have us to do. Both to will: and not only in a general way, Acts 17:28, but in a special way, making us willing, Psal. 110:3, remotely in regard of the principle, nextly in regard of the act: circumcising the heart, Deut. 30:6; taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh, Ezek. 11:19; 36:26, 27; causing light to shine out of darkness, 2 Cor. 4:6; and so renewing the will, to choose that which is savingly good, the natural bent of which, before the influence of this insuperable grace, stands another way, John 8:44, viz. to will and do contrary: yet he doth not necessitate by any compulsion, but powerfully, yet sweetly, and suitably to man’s free faculty, incline the will to that which is good, John 6:37, 44, i. e. to a certain effect. For the will influenced to will that it doth perform, it undoubtedly wills somewhat that is certain, and so is determined by God. And to do; to do that which is savingly good. Whereupon being made willing, it hath not only an inclination, and doth not only exert a woulding, but, being moved by God’s insuperable grace, 1 Cor. 3:7, that will is effectual, and is the very deed, where the command of the will is executed to the glory of God, as the author. As in alms, not only doth God incline the will to relieve the poor, but further contributes special gracious aids to perform what was deliberated, which evinceth that it is from another principle than ourselves. It is not, that ye may be able to will, and may be able to do; but he worketh both to will and to do: which connotes the very act itself; that ye will to believe, obey, pray, persevere, and that ye do believe, obey, pray, persevere: of unwilling, he makes willing; and further, to will and to do. It is true, to will, as it is an act of the will, is ours by creation; and to will well is so far ours, we being made effectually willing by God’s grace: yet not ours, as though of ourselves we begin to will, or go on, but it is of him who worketh in us. Not that we cannot will well, but that of ourselves we cannot will well. The precept therefore requiring our obedience does not show what we can or will of ourselves, but what we ought to will and to do by God’s special help. But though God work in us obedience, yet we obey, we ourselves act, being acted of God. Of his good pleasure; not for any previous disposition in any of us, but of, or according to, his own good pleasure, Luke 10:21; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:11, with 2 Tim. 1:9. In working out our own salvation, the very beginning in the will, as well as the perfection, is ascribed to the efficacy of God; his good pleasure is the procreating and helping cause of this work on the will, and not the will’s good pleasure.”*


*Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 3, pp. 691–692). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

Was Louis Berkhof an Antinomian? No.

Let’s let Berkhof speak for himself. Here he is specifically speaking on sanctification.  Please note what Berkhof points out about Karl Bath’s views of justification and sanctification. He writes, “And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner. It really becomes a declarative act like justification. McConnachie, who is a very sympathetic interpreter of Barth, says: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’.” However laudable the desire of Barth to destroy every vestige of work-righteousness, he certainly goes to an unwarranted extreme, in which he virtually confuses justification and sanctification, negatives the Christian life, and rules out the possibility of confident assurance.”

Berkhof states that  Barth is trying to prevent  self-righteousness in the believer but goes too far and confounds justification and sanctification. In fact what he criticizes Barth for, in my opinion, can be said of Tullian Tchividjian and his followers.  To be sure Berkhof is no antinomian but neither is he in the same field as Tullian on this topic.

2. IT CONSISTS OF TWO PARTS. The two parts of sanctification are represented in Scripture as:

a. The mortification of the old man, the body of sin. This Scriptural term denotes that act of God whereby the pollution and corruption of human nature that results from sin is gradually removed. It is often represented in the Bible as the crucifying of the old man, and is thus connected with the death of Christ on the cross. The old man is human nature in so far as it is controlled by sin, Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24. In the context of the passage of Galatians Paul contrasts the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, and then says: “And they who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.” This means that in their case the Spirit has gained predominance.

b. The quickening of the new man, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. While the former part of sanctification is negative in character, this is positive. It is that act of God whereby the holy disposition of the soul is strengthened, holy exercises are increased, and thus a new course of life engendered and promoted. The old structure of sin is gradually torn down, and a new structure of God is reared in its stead. These two parts of sanctification are not successive but contemporaneous. Thank God, the gradual erection of the new building need not wait until the old one is completely demolished. If it had to wait for that, it could never begin in this life. With the gradual dissolution of the old the new makes its appearance. It is like the airing of a house filled with pestiferous odors. As the old air is drawn out, the new rushes in. This positive side of sanctification is often called “a being raised together with Christ,” Rom. 6:4, 5; Col. 2:12; 3:1, 2. The new life to which it leads is called “a life unto God,” Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:19.

3. IT AFFECTS THE WHOLE MAN: BODY AND SOUL; INTELLECT, AFFECTIONS AND WILL. This follows from the nature of the case, because sanctification takes place in the inner life of man, in the heart, and this cannot be changed without changing the whole organism of man. If the inner man is changed, there is bound to be change also in the periphery of life. Moreover, Scripture clearly and explicitly teaches that it affects both body and soul, 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 6:15, 20. The body comes into consideration here as the organ or instrument of the sinful soul, through which the sinful inclinations and habits and passions express themselves. The sanctification of the body takes place especially in the crisis of death and in the resurrection of the dead. Finally, it also appears from Scripture that sanctification affects all the powers or faculties of the soul: the understanding, Jer. 31:34; John 6:45;—the will, Ezek. 36:25–27; Phil. 2:13;—the passions, Gal. 5:24;—and the conscience, Tit. 1:15; Heb. 9:14.

4. IT IS A WORK OF GOD IN WHICH BELIEVERS CO-OPERATE. When it is said that man takes part in the work of sanctification, this does not mean that man is an independent agent in the work, so as to make it partly the work of God and partly the work of man; but merely, that God effects the work in part through the instrumentality of man as a rational being, by requiring of him prayerful and intelligent co-operation with the Spirit. That man must co-operate with the Spirit of God follows: (a) from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations, which clearly imply that man must be active in avoiding the pitfalls of life, Rom. 12:9, 16, 17; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:16–23; and (b) from the constant exhortations to holy living. These imply that the believer must be diligent in the employment of the means at his command for the moral and spiritual improvement of his life, Micah 6:8; John 15:2, 8, 16; Rom. 8:12, 13; 12:1, 2, 17; Gal. 6:7, 8, 15.
E. The Characteristics of Sanctification

1. As appears from the immediately preceding, sanctification is a work of which God and not man is the author. Only the advocates of the so-called free will can claim that it is a work of man. Nevertheless, it differs from regeneration in that man can, and is in duty bound to, strive for ever-increasing sanctification by using the means which God has placed at his disposal. This is clearly taught in Scripture, 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:5–14; 1 Pet. 1:22. Consistent Antinomians lose sight of this important truth, and feel no need of carefully avoiding sin, since this affects only the old man which is condemned to death, and not the new man which is holy with the holiness of Christ.

2. Sanctification takes place partly in the subconscious life, and as such is an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit; but also partly in the conscious life, and then depends on the use of certain means, such as the constant exercise of faith, the study of God’s Word, prayer, and association with other believers.

3. Sanctification is usually a lengthy process and never reaches perfection in this life. At the same time there may be cases in which it is completed in a very short time or even in a moment, as, for instance, in cases in which regeneration and conversion are immediately followed by temporal death. If we may proceed on the assumption that the believer’s sanctification is perfect immediately after death—and Scripture seems to teach this as far as the soul is concerned—, then in such cases the sanctification of the soul must be completed almost at once.

4. The sanctification of the believer must, it would seem, be completed either at the very moment of death, or immediately after death, as far as the soul is concerned, and at the resurrection in so far as it pertains to the body. This would seem to follow from that fact that, on the one hand, the Bible teaches that in the present life no one can claim freedom from sin, 1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Rom. 3:10, 12; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8; and that, on the other hand, those who have gone before are entirely sanctified. It speaks of them as “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Heb. 12:23, and as “without blemish,” Rev. 14:5. Moreover, we are told that in the heavenly city of God there shall in no wise enter “anything unclean or he that maketh an abomination and a lie,” Rev. 21:27; and that Christ at His coming will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory,” Phil. 3:21.
F. The Author and Means of Sanctification

Sanctification is a work of the triune God, but is ascribed more particularly to the Holy Spirit in Scripture, Rom. 8:11; 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2. It is particularly important in our day, with its emphasis on the necessity of approaching the study of theology anthropologically and its one-sided call to service in the kingdom of God, to stress the fact that God, and not man, is the author of sanctification. Especially in view of the Activism that is such a characteristic feature of American religious life, and which glorifies the work of man rather than the grace of God, it is necessary to stress the fact over and over again that sanctification is the fruit of justification, that the former is simply impossible without the latter, and that both are the fruits of the grace of God in the redemption of sinners. Though man is privileged to co-operate with the Spirit of God, he can do this only in virtue of the strength which the Spirit imparts to him from day to day. The spiritual development of man is not a human achievement, but a work of divine grace. Man deserves no credit whatsoever for that which he contributes to it instrumentally. In so far as sanctification takes place in the subconscious life, it is effected by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit. But as a work in the conscious life of believers it is wrought, by several means, which the Holy Spirit employs.

1. THE WORD OF GOD. In opposition to the Church of Rome it should be maintained that the principal means used by the Holy Spirit is the Word of God. The truth in itself certainly has no adequate efficiency to sanctify the believer, yet it is naturally adapted to be the means of sanctification as employed by the Holy Spirit. Scripture presents all the objective conditions for holy exercises and acts. It serves to excite spiritual activity by presenting motives and inducements, and gives direction to it by prohibitions, exhortations, and examples, 1 Pet. 1:22; 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:4.

2. THE SACRAMENTS. These are the means par excellence according to the Church of Rome. Protestants regard them as subordinate to the Word of God, and sometimes even speak of them as the “visible Word.” They symbolize and seal to us the same truths that are verbally expressed in the Word of God, and may be regarded as an acted word, containing a lively representation of the truth, which the Holy Spirit makes the occasion for holy exercises. They are not only subordinate to the Word of God, but cannot exist without it, and are therefore always accompanied by it, Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21.

3. PROVIDENTIAL GUIDANCE. God’s providences, both favorable and adverse, are often powerful means of sanctification. In connection with the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word, they work on our natural affections and thus frequently deepen the impression of religious truth and force it home. It should be borne in mind that the light of God’s revelation is necessary for the interpretation of His providential guidances, Ps. 119:71; Rom. 2:4; Heb. 12:10.
G. Relation of Sanctification to Other Stages in the Ordo Salutis

It is of considerable importance to have a correct conception of the relation between sanctification and some of the other stages in the work of redemption.

1. TO REGENERATION. There is both difference and similarity here. Regeneration is completed at once, for a man cannot be more or less regenerated; he is either dead or alive spiritually. Sanctification is a process, bringing about gradual changes, so that different grades may be distinguished in the resulting holiness. Hence we are admonished to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, 2 Cor. 7:1. The Heidelberg Catechism also presupposes that there are degrees of holiness, when it says that even “the holiest men, when in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience.” At the same time regeneration is the beginning of sanctification. The work of renewal, begun in the former, is continued in the latter, Phil. 1:6. Strong says: “It (sanctification) is distinguished from regeneration as growth from birth, or as the strengthening of a holy disposition from the original impartation of it.”

2. TO JUSTIFICATION. Justification precedes and is basic to sanctification in the covenant of grace. In the covenant of works the order of righteousness and holiness was just the reverse. Adam was created with a holy disposition and inclination to serve God, but on the basis of this holiness he had to work out the righteousness that would entitle him to eternal life. Justification is the judicial basis for sanctification. God has the right to demand of us holiness of life, but because we cannot work out this holiness for ourselves, He freely works it within us through the Holy Spirit on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to us in justification. The very fact that it is based on justification, in which the free grace of God stands out with the greatest prominence, excludes the idea that we can ever merit anything in sanctification. The Roman Catholic idea that justification enables man to perform meritorious works is contrary to Scripture. Justification as such does not effect a change in our inner being and therefore needs sanctification as its complement. It is not sufficient that the sinner stands righteous before God; he must also be holy in his inmost life. Barth has a rather unusual representation of the relation between justification and sanctification. In order to ward off all self-righteousness, he insists on it that the two always be considered jointly. They go together and should not be considered quantitatively, as if the one followed the other. Justification is not a station which one passes, an accomplished fact on the basis of which one next proceeds to the highway of sanctification. It is not a completed fact to which one can look back with definite assurance, but occurs ever anew whenever man has reached the point of complete despair, and then goes hand in hand with sanctification. And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner. It really becomes a declarative act like justification. McConnachie, who is a very sympathetic interpreter of Barth, says: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’.” However laudable the desire of Barth to destroy every vestige of work-righteousness, he certainly goes to an unwarranted extreme, in which he virtually confuses justification and sanctification, negatives the Christian life, and rules out the possibility of confident assurance.

3. TO FAITH. Faith is the mediate or instrumental cause of sanctification as well as of justification. It does not merit sanctification any more than it does justification, but it unites us to Christ and keeps us in touch with Him as the Head of the new humanity, who is the source of the new life within us, and also of our progressive sanctification, through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The consciousness of the fact that sanctification is based on justification, and is impossible on any other basis, and that the constant exercise of faith is necessary, in order to advance in the way of holiness, will guard us against all self-righteousness in our striving to advance in godliness and holiness of life. It deserves particular attention that, while even the weakest faith mediates a perfest justification, the degree of sanctification is commensurate with the strength of the Christian’s faith and the persistence with which he apprehends Christ.*

*Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 533–537). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.

A “Marrow” Man on Sanctification

The following is a quote from Thomas Boston, a man involved in the “Marrow” controversy, on sanctification. This quote is fitting in light of the recent controversy on sanctification. It is rather strange that people are trying to lump Tullian Tchividjian with the” Marrow” men. The following quote would seem to be something that Tullian would seem uncomfortable with – exhorting believers to holiness with the use of the Law and also with threats.

This double seal answers to the two parts of the covenant; Jer. 32:40, “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” This covenant shall not fail on God’s part, for it hath this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his;” nor on the part of the saints, for it hath this seal, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Let us attend,

1. To the seal itself, which, in its general nature, is a command of sanctification; in which consider, to whom it is directed, upon whom this awful charge is laid. They are the Lord’s own words, directed to every one that nameth the name of his Son, that is, to all who profess Christ. And this character of professors serves not only to distinguish them from those without the church, who are incapable of apostacy; but also shows the obligation laid on them to holiness by their profession, the holy name named by them binding them to a holy life. The inconsistency between the holy profession and an unholy life, which, though men join together, God will have separated, sooner or later, for he will strip them either of their fair name, or their foul heart and life, in time or in eternity. Consider, the duty commanded, “to depart from iniquity,” as from a thing one formerly stood to and followed. Iniquity is that thing which we all naturally follow as a master and leader; but there must be a falling off from it, an apostacy, or falling away from sin, as the word imports. And this is the way to prevent apostacy from the Lord; for this does import, that it is some one iniquity or other indulged, and left to reign in the heart, which betrays professors into apostacy, as Judas, Demas, &c. Consider,

2. How this can be a seal to secure the saints and elect ones from apostacy, since it is but a commandment? To this I answer, that the nature of the preceding seal would seem to have required this expression, “And they that are his depart from iniquity.” But it is in form of a command, to show that the saints depart from iniquity by choice, and that they are by the Lord himself powerfully determined to this choice; so that their perseverance is both rational and gracious. It is a command, at the same time it is a powerful and efficacious command of God, like that in Gen. 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light;” a command which effects what it requires in all who are his. It is such a command as that in Num. 16:26, (quoted above), which brought away from the tents of Dathan and Abiram, all who were not to be swallowed up with them. And this command is going through wherever the gospel is preached, and will go till the last day; like a brisk wind separating the corn from the chaff, carrying away from the tents of sin all who are ordained to eternal life, though others dwell on in them still. Thus, though the profane and hypocritical, and all who are not the Lord’s, are still held by some one bond of sin or other which is never broken: yet this powerful word looses the bands of all sin, sets them and their sins asunder, and keeps them asunder, who, being sealed with the first seal, are his. And all this God’s efficacious word can do, as well as keep the world from returning into its primitive mass of confusion; Heb. 1:3, “Upholding all things by the word of his power.” And so it is a seal securing them from apostasy.”*
*Boston, T. (1851). The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: A Series of Sermons and the Christian Life Delineated. (S. M‘Millan, Ed.) (Vol. 10, pp. 11–12). Aberdeen: George and Robert King.

John Owen on Rewards

4. We must also consider that holiness is not confined to this life, but passeth over into eternity and glory. Death hath no power over it to destroy it or divest us of it; for,—(1.) Its acts, indeed, are transient, but its fruits abide for ever in their reward. They who “die in the Lord rest from their labours, and their works do follow them,” Rev. 14:13. “God is not unrighteous to forget their labour of love.” Heb. 6:10. There is not any effect or fruit of holiness, not the least, not the giving of a cup of cold water to a disciple of Christ in the name of a disciple, but it shall be had in everlasting remembrance, and abide for ever in its eternal reward. Nothing shall be lost, but all the fragments of it shall be gathered up and kept safe for ever. Every thing else, how specious soever it be in this world, shall be burnt up and consumed, as hay and stubble; when the least, the meanest, the most secret fruit of holiness, shall be gathered as gold and silver, durable substance, into God’s treasury, and become a part of the riches of the inheritance of the saints in glory. Let no soul fear the loss of any labour, in any of the duties of holiness, in the most secret contest against sin, for inward purity, for outward fruitfulness; in the mortification of sin, resistance of temptations, improvement of grace; in patience, moderation, self-denial, contentment;—all that you do know, and what you do not know, shall be revived, called over, and abide eternally in your reward. Our Father, who now “seeth in secret,” will one day reward openly; and the more we abound in these things, the more will God be glorified in the recompense of reward. But this is not all, nor that which I intend. (2.) It abides for ever, and passeth over into glory in its principle or nature. The love wherewith we now adhere to God, and by which we act the obedience of faith towards the saints, faileth not; it ends not when glory comes on, but is a part of it, 1 Cor. 13:8. It is true, some gifts shall be done away, as useless in a state of perfection and glory, as the apostle there discourseth; and some graces shall cease, as to some especial acts and peculiar exercise, as faith and hope, so far as they respect things unseen and future;—but all those graces whereby holiness is constituted, and wherein it doth consist, for the substance of them, as they contain the image of God, as by them we are united and do adhere unto God in Christ, shall in their present nature, improved into perfection, abide for ever. In our knowledge of them, therefore, have we our principal insight into our eternal condition in glory; and this is, as a firm foundation of consolation, so a part of our chiefest joy in this world. Is it not a matter of unspeakable joy and refreshment, that these poor bodies we carry about us, after they have been made a prey unto death, dust, worms, and corruption, shall be raised and restored to life and immortality, freed from pain, sickness, weakness, weariness, and vested with those qualities, in conformity to Christ’s glorious body, which yet we understand not? It is so, also, that these souls, which now animate and rule in us, shall be delivered from all their darkness, ignorance, vanity, instability, and alienation from things spiritual and heavenly. But this is not all. Those poor low graces, which now live and are acting in us, shall be continued, preserved, purified, and perfected; but in their nature be the same as now they are, as our souls and bodies shall be. That love whereby we now adhere to God as our chiefest good; that faith whereby we are united to Christ, our everlasting head; that delight in any of the ways or ordinances of God wherein he is enjoyed, according as he hath promised his presence in them; that love and good-will which we have for all those in whom is the Spirit, and on whom is the image of Christ; with the entire principle of spiritual life and holiness, which is now begun in any of us,—shall be all purified, enhanced, perfected, and pass into glory. That very holiness which we here attain, those inclinations and dispositions, those frames of mind, those powers and abilities in obedience and adherence unto God, which here contend with the weight of their own weakness and imperfection, and with the opposition that is continually made against them by the body of death that is utterly to be abolished, shall be gloriously perfected into immutable habits, unchangeably acting our souls in the enjoyment of God. And this also manifesteth of how much concernment it is unto us to be acquainted with the doctrine of it, and of how much more to be really interested in it.

*Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 374–376). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

A Preview of Jeffrey Johnson’s The Kingdom of God

The Davidic Covenant

Our effort to understand the dichotomous nature of the Abrahamic covenant may be helped by observing a similar dichotomy  in the Davidic covenant. Was the Davidic covenant a covenant of works or of grace? That is to say, was the promise to David  conditional or unconditional? The answer depends upon who is asked. If we asked King David, he would respond by saying that the promise of an eternal kingship was unconditional. Yet if we asked any of David’s children, they would have to answer by saying that they had been given a legal condition to obey.

These unconditional and conditional dimensions of the Davidic covenant are clearly seen in Psalm 132:11-12: ” The LORD swore [unconditionally] to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons [conditionally] keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne’” (words in brackets are Jeffery Johnson’s).

For this reason, David sternly warned his son, Solomon, to obey God:

When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying,  “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn,  that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel’ (1 Kings 2:1-4).

Years later Jeremiah reminded the sons of David that they were under the covenant of works:

Thus says the LORD: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation (Je 22:1–5).

Admittedly, it would have been pointless for God to give a promise to David that was dependent upon David’s children keeping the law if it were not for the fact that the promise was speaking of Christ Jesus and His future obedience. Solomon succeeded David, but it was not Solomon whom God ultimately had in mind when He established the Davidic covenant. Rather, it was Jesus Christ. For Christ was not only a descendant of David, He was the only descendant of David that perfectly kept the law, as evidenced by His resurrection from the dead.

Peter picked up on this theme in his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost. After pointing out that David was convinced that one of his descendants would sit upon his throne forever, Peter went on to proclaim that this promise was fulfilled at the resurrection of Christ from the dead:

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,  he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:29-36).

Christ, the son of David, is qualified to sit upon an everlasting throne because He was declared righteous in His resurrection. Without this legal righteousness, Christ would have remained in the grave, and the establishment of the kingdom, promised to Abraham and David, would not have been accomplished.

Many other parallels could be pointed out between the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, such as types and antitypes and eternal elements, and the natural and supernatural dimensions of each. Nevertheless, this understanding of the unconditional and conditional sides of the Davidic covenant is sufficient to help us better understand the dichotomous nature of the Abrahamic covenant.*

* Jeffery Johnson, The Kingdom of God (Conway, AR: Free Grace Press, 2014), p. 43-46