Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Religion


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, MA

First Advisor

Martin Hanna

Second Advisor

Jo Ann Davidson

Third Advisor

Felix Cortez



Philippians 2:12, 13 present two paradoxical statements in direct juxtaposition. Verse twelve is an appeal to work out one’s own salvation, whereas verse thirteen acknowledges that it is God who does the work. How could Paul comfortably hold both views and present them in such close juxtaposition? How can this apparent contradiction of concepts be reconciled?


While specialization in any given discipline affords the opportunity for greater depth of understanding, each theological discipline may augment one’s interpretation of a text. Philippians 2:12, 13 poses some interpretive challenges that can be mitigated by broadening one’s exegetical methodology to incorporate systematic theology. The Great Controversy metanarrative is chosen for its breadth and two aspects of its doctrine, namely, the character of God and human agency, are applied to the interpretation of the problem text. Chapter 2 outlines the parameters of the metanarrative under consideration, followed, in Chapter 3, by evidence of the metanarrative in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The fourth chapter outlines the tension in the Philippians 2:12, 13 text and Chapter 5 demonstrates how the Great Controversy metanarrative resolves the tension. Finally, we engage in the exegetical exercise of interpreting Philippians 2:12, 13 with the metanarrative as a tool.


The Great Controversy metanarrative imposes constraints on possible interpretations of Philippians 2:12, 13. To deny human agency would compromise Scripture’s revelation of God’s character. Yet God’s sufficient salvation must interface with humanity’s freedom to accept it without limiting divine omnipotence. The Great Controversy metanarrative provides a framework which allows us to affirm both verses twelve and thirteen of Philippians 2 without contradiction.


By applying the understanding of God’s character and human agency as conceptualized in the Great Controversy metanarrative, we arrived at an interpretation of the hapax legomenon κατεργάζεσθε as being in the intensive middle voice. Moreover, it was determined that human agency, as made possible by God’s prevenient grace, is essential in the process of salvation in the context of the Great Controversy.

Subject Area

Bible. Philippians 2:12, 13--Criticism, interpretation, etc.; Seventh-day Adventists--Doctrines--Great Controversy

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.