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