The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
January 29, 2012


1) Philippians 2:14-17 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 2:14-17
by Tom Edwards

As we continue through the Philippian letter, Paul exhorts the brethren to "Do all things without grumbling or disputing" (Phil. 2:14).  In some Bible versions, grumbling is rendered as "murmurings," "complaining," and "grudging."  For it comes from the Greek word "goggusmos," which is said to mean "to murmur, ...to utter in a low voice, privately; and because such murmurings are generally complaints, it denotes to manifest discontent" (Bullinger).  It is also the same Greek word that Peter uses when he instructs the Christians to "Be hospitable to one another without complaint" (1 Pet. 4:9).   

God's people have often fallen into the sin of murmuring -- even soon after the Lord had brought them out of their Egyptian bondage.  If you have a computer Bible, try doing a search on the word "grumbl*" (using the asterisk wildcard).  In the NASB, that will take you to verses that include "grumble," "grumbled," "grumbling," and "grumblings" -- 18 passages in just the Old Testament, as well as others in the New; and some of those in the New are referring back to God's people during Old Testament times.  According to Numbers 14:26-32,36,37, all of the more-than-600,000 fighting men of Israel -- except two -- died in the wilderness without ever possessing the promised land, due to their complaining toward God in connection with the negative report ten of the twelve spies had brought back concerning Canaan.  Those other two spies were Joshua and Caleb who, apparently, scouted out the land with more than their eyes.  For they also had hearts filled with faith and determination; and, therefore, strove to encourage the people to take possession of the land, which the Lord wanted to give them; but, from their faithless and murmuring disposition, the people then spoke of putting Joshua and Caleb to death, which led to God's glory suddenly appearing before Israel did so. And to those ten grumbling spies, who had filled Israel with complaints and hopelessness, the Lord then brought His wrath upon them in the form of a plague that ended their lives. 

Throughout that period of the wilderness wanderings, Israel grumbled over numerous things -- and often suffering as a result.  In citing Israel of old to the Corinthians, to show one of the things Christians should not do, Paul states, "Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:10).  Paul then goes on to say in verse 11, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction...."

Psalm 106, a historical psalm, shows Israel having made and worshiping an idolatrous calf in Horeb. "They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wonders in the land of Ham, and awesome things by the Red Sea."  They had come to despise the land God gave them, failed to believe His word, "grumbled in their tents," and did not listen to the Lord (vv. 19-27).  Is there not a connection here?  They forgot God and began murmuring.  Had they truly been mindful of the Lord in a reverent way, would they have been given to grumbling as they did? -- or if they were working out their salvation with fear and trembling?

In speaking of some of the wicked of his day, Jude describes them as being "...grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage" (Jude 1:16).  And, no doubt, there were often many who were this way toward the Lord.  John 6:41-43 shows of those who grumbled over the Lord's statement toward being "the bread that came down out of heaven."

In commenting on "without murmurings," Zerr points out that it "...means to do one's duty cheerfully, not secretly resenting the task required."

In Philippians 2:14, the Greek word for "disputing" ("dialogismos")  is said to pertain to "profitless disputings."  For "dialogismos" is also translated as "opinions," "speculations," "doubts," "thoughts," and even "dissension" in various places of the NASB.  So it is used primarily in expressing a negative way that should not characterize the Christian.  For instance, in 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul prohibits "wrath and dissension [dialogismos]" from accompanying the holy men who pray.  And in Luke 24:38, Jesus speaks of the "doubts" ("dialogismos") that had arisen in the hearts of those whom He was addressing.

So Philippians 2:14 cannot be used to assert that all disputing or debating would be wrong.  Notice, for example, Acts 19:8,9 (KJV): "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.   But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus."   The NIV renders "disputing and persuading" as "arguing persuasively" in Acts 19:8; and the NASB uses "reasoning" instead of "disputing."   Paul, for example, was doing more than merely disputing with his opinions or speculations.  Rather, he was using God's word to persuade others to understand, believe, accept, and obey the gospel.

Paul then goes on to show why we should strive to avoid grumbling and the wrong kind of disputing in the very next verse: "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15).  As Christians, we have a need to be concerned about what kind of influence we are projecting.  In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul commends them for having become "imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit...."  He goes on to say about them, "so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth" (1 Thess. 1:6-10).  The KJV uses the word "followers" instead of "imitators."  But the imitators are those who follow in the teaching of Paul, which is the teaching of God.

To shine as lights, we are not to be showoffs; but to shine in such a way that we may cause others to glorify God because of our good works (cf. Matt. 5:14-16).  Our motivation should always be to want to serve and please God above all others, that we might be honored by Him (cf. Jn. 12:26).  Rather than being like those who merely sought after the praise of men (cf. Jn. 12:42,43).

Paul then points out one of the things that will characterize those who are blameless, harmless, the sons of God, and the lights in the world.  He states, "holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain" (Phil. 2:16).  The KJV renders this as "holding forth" (Phil. 2:16); but in order to do that, one must be holding fast the word.  So these thoughts are not contradictory.  They both come from the Greek word "epecho," which Thayer defines as "to have or hold upon, apply, to observe, attend to  1a) to give attention to."

Holding fast God's word is necessary to shine as a light for Christ.  Jesus says, "...'I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life'" (Jn. 8:12).  When we are truly following Jesus, then it will be His light that we are reflecting in our lives.  Similarly, we talk about "the light of the silvery moon"; but it actually doesn't have its own light.  Rather, it reflects the light of the sun.  As Christians, we are to reflect the light of the Son of God.  By doing so, we bring glory to His name.  In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus states the following:  "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

In the parable of the seed and the sower, note what the Lord says about the seed in the good soil: "And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and HOLD IT FAST, and bear fruit with perseverance" (Luke 8:15).  

The importance of doing this is also seen in 1 Corinthians 15:1,2: "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, IF YOU HOLD FAST THE WORD which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain."

The Bible also speaks of other things we are to hold fast.  For example: "...hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).  Also, if we who are Christians want to continue to be the Lord's house, we need to "hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end" (Heb. 3:6); and to, therefore, "encourage one another day after day...lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (vv. 13,14).

Paul shows that if the Philippians hold fast to the gospel, then he will not be running nor toiling in vain (Phil. 2:16).  He does not mean by this that his salvation was dependent upon whether they would hold fast the word or not.  For we have seen that not to be the case in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, where Paul speaks of those who receive a reward when their works remain, and those who suffer loss yet are still saved when their works are burned up.  These works (which are depicted as gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw) represent two different groups of converts that Christians win to the Lord: those who will remain true to the Lord during the fiery testings (the gold, silver, precious stones), and those who will perish (the wood, hay, and straw).  Paul, therefore, means that his running or toiling would be vain in relation to the Philippians, if they keep not the faith.  For if they would not, Paul would suffer over them emotionally, though it wouldn't impair nor nullify his salvation.

Furthermore, when we think of "running," we think of activity; but if it is not in accord with God's word then it really won't profit a person.  Many religious people today, for instance, are very active in doing that which they believe God wants them to do; but when they are actually going against His word in doing so, they are not pleasing Him, nor would that be the way of salvation.  Paul viewed many of the Jews of his day to be in that category by their persisting in the way of Judaism during the Gospel Age.  He says concerning them, "For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge" (Rom. 10:2).  Paul is saying this about them because, in spite of their determination and enthusiasm toward serving and living for God, they did not know or accept His righteous plan of salvation as set forth in the gospel. Instead, they sought to find justification by keeping the Law of Moses, which could not save them (cf. Gal. 2:16). 

This is why Paul earnestly strove to help others learn the truth, and to exhort them to live according to that.  In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul explains, "For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain" (1 Thess. 3:5).  The very fact that Paul's labor could have become a vain thing with these Thessalonians indicates that "once saved always saved" is not true.  Rather, salvation can be lost.  For how could Paul's work with these be all in vain if they could end up in heaven, regardless of how far they would veer from God, due to sin?  

Note, too, that Paul refers to the gospel as "the word of life" (Phil. 2:16).  Can any other message be said to have life?  Other writings might be interesting, lively, entertaining, provocative, and really stir the emotions; but Jesus says of His message that "...the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life" (Jn. 6:63).  Soon after Jesus said this, many of His disciples ceased following Him. He then asked the apostles in John 6:67, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Peter's response to this is a powerful acknowledgment of his faith in Jesus and His teachings.  Peter rhetorically asks in verse 68, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life."  To Peter, there was nowhere else he could turn for words of eternal life, but to the Lord. God's word, therefore, does more than evoke emotion.  It also instills and helps us cultivate faith, hope, peace, love, patience, along with many other needful virtues. God's word is a message that can change our lives for the better.  By it, we are born again (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23).  It sets forth a new way of life for while on earth, and it leads to a life that is everlasting in heaven. 

As food is necessary for the body, God's word is necessary for the soul.  And, so, we hear the Lord say in Matthew 4:4 that "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."  If man, however, were just a fleshly form, a mere mortal creature, than food and water for the body would suffice; but man is more than that.  For man also has an inward, eternal spiritual part called the "soul" or the "spirit."  It needs the spiritual food of God's word that no other message can supply.  

In Philippians 2:17, Paul then states, "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all."  This entire phrase of "poured out as a drink offering" comes from just one Greek word ("spendo"), which Thayer defines as "1) to pour out as a drink offering, make a libation  2) in the NT to be offered as a libation  3) fig. used of one whose blood is poured out in a violent death for the cause of God."  James Strong defines it as, "Apparently a primary verb; to pour out as a libation, that is, (figuratively) to devote (one's life or blood, as a sacrifice)...."

Literal drink offerings (or libations, as they are also called) were part of the Law of Moses (Exod. 29:38-41).  Here, in Philippians 2:17, Paul is likening his service to his brethren to that.  For a drink offering can be poured out just once, and that was what Paul was doing with his very life, which was being poured out as a sacrifice for his brethren, in a manner of speaking.  Throughout his life as a Christian, Paul continued to serve his brethren in this sacrificial way.  And then, as he was very near to the end of that life, he declares in the last of his New Testament epistles, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come" (2 Tim. 4:6).  

Paul was certainly willing to be of this type of sacrifice for the brethren.  This attitude that we find he had toward the Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians 12:15, is probably typical of how he felt toward serving any Christian.  He states, "I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?"

E. M. Zerr views the libations as a minor sacrifice compared to some of the others.  He writes: "These liquid offerings were 'poured' upon the main sacrifice to combine a service to God. They might well be called a minor offering or sacrifice, and that upon which they were poured a major one in comparison.  Paul was willing to represent himself as a minor sacrifice, poured out upon the major one of the faithful service of the Philippians.  Even that humble service would cause him to joy and rejoice with the brethren."

That sounds like an attitude Paul would have, in taking upon himself a role of humility and servitude, to think of others as being more important than himself -- attitudes that we also find in Jesus Christ, Paul's great example.  For Paul truly had been developing the mind of Christ in his own life; and this all helps us better understand Galatians 2:20, where Paul declares, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself up for me."

So may we who are Christians take heed to Paul's exhortation in Philippians 2:14-17 to "Do all things without grumbling or disputing,"  to be "...blameless and innocent...children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," and shining "... as light in the world, holding fast the word of life...."  For this is the way of righteousness, which brings glory to God; and by submitting to it, our Lord will one day take us to that eternal glory where He Himself dwells in heaven above. 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* The family and friends of Guy Wheeler (Ken Robertson's  uncle) who recently passed away.

* Anthony Webb Sr. who has been having thyroid trouble.

* Jean Calloway is now out of the hospital and recuperating at home.  She is still having some pain in her leg, and her kidneys have not been up to par. 

* Mike Dubose who is suffering from cancer and receiving continual treatment for it.

* Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who is healing from wrist surgery. 

* Clifton Trimble who has not been well.

* Geneva Wilson who is very weak physically and housebound.

* Shirley Young who experiences fibromyalgia every day, and with some days more so than others.

* Cheryl Crews who has chronic ailments and has also been experiencing nausea, due to some of her medication. 

Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson who are seeking employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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