Our study of the Phil 2:12 ‘fear and trembling’ relationship with God so familiar in IFB circles now closes. I feel I’ve been pedantic, which I don’t want. But because the ‘fear and trembling’ thing is so IFB pervasive, and so detrimental to spiritual life and witness, it seems necessary.
Any IFB lurkers may be nonplussed by this. They of all people insist they stand for the ‘fundamentals’ of the faith. But as said last week, the IFB view of the Trinity may not be as orthodox as some suppose.
Jesus and the Trinity
Philippians 2 puts Jesus’ and the Philippians’ experience in parallel.
Of course differences exist. Jesus didn’t need redeeming. And Christ is the only natural Son of God. None-the-less, believers are adopted children of God. And it disrespects neither to say that we have God as our Father and Christ as our brother. And whereas Phil 2 more hints than states that like Jesus, we will be exalted in time, [2:8-9], Ro 8:17 makes it explicit:
‘…and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
In Phil 2:1ff, Paul describes the lifestyle to which we are called. His case for that is based on this reasoning:
In our identification, experience, attitude, behavior and destiny, Christ and God’s people are bound inseparably [Phil 2:1-18 cf. Ro 8:31-39].
The Heart of the Problem
If phobos [fear] and tromos [trembling] in Phil 2:12 are best translated:
‘…work out your own salvation with “fear and trembling,”‘
then that ‘fear and trembling’ must apply to Christ’s relationship with the Father no less than ours. If Jesus lives in unending fear and trembling before the Father, then he is subordinate to the Father. That is thoroughly heretical. From an orthodox standpoint, it is blasphemous.
If the Son fears and trembles before the Father, we cannot say that the Son is of one substance with the Father. To use the language of the Church Fathers, we cannot say, ‘homoousios to Patri,’ [one substance with the Father]. Instead we can say only that the Son is LIKE the Father.
This was the great issue at the Ecumenical Church council at Nicea in 325. At stake was nothing less than the full deity of Jesus Christ.
Throughout Philippians 2, Paul presses the believer’s experience into the mold of Christ. Today, the church still holds to this. Believers in Christ will still answer the call to the lifestyle of encouragement, consolation, love, fellowship, affection and compassion. They do so knowing that Jesus’ life and their life is one, that his relationship with the Heavenly Father is also theirs. They address him as ‘Daddy’ [Ro 8:15].
Believers will not surrender Jesus’ full, natural sonship within the Trinity. Their own adoption depends on it. Much less will or should they surrender ‘of one substance with the Father’ to gratify the unholy and unregenerate egoism of IFB preachers who abusively pastor themselves on others by keeping them in fear and trembling in Yahweh’s sacred Name. Quite frankly, such pastor/scoundrels are not worth it.
Bible translations in spoken language are critical to breaking the hold that so many IFB preachers retain over congregations. They know that as the people in the pews gain confidence and ability in using the Bible, their ability to profit from the obsequious servility of the members is broken.
I for one say, ‘it can’t happen soon enough!’