Commentary on Philippians, 2:14-15 (Genuine Christianity)

“13 For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputes,”

“murmurings”  (Gr. goggusmos – 1112)

Grumbling, complaining.

Expression of one’s discontent, more privately than public.

Wuest:

“Refers not to a loud outspoken dissatisfaction, but to that undertone murmuring which one sometimes hears in the lobbies of our present day churches where certain cliques are “having it out,” so to speak, among themselves. The word refers to the act of murmuring against men, not God. The use of this word shows that the divisions among the Philippians had not yet risen to the point of loud dissension. The word was used of those who confer secretly, of those who discontentedly complain. The word is found in a secular document reporting an interview between Marcus Aurelius and a rebel. A veteran present interposes with the remark, “Lord, while you are sitting in judgment, the Romans are murmuring.”

“disputes”  (Gr. dialogismos – 1261)

Arguing, questionings, doubtings, reasonings.

Inward reasoning or deliberating with oneself, which can lead to disputings or arguing with others. 

Wuest:

“The word “disputings” is the translation of the Greek word that carries the ideas of discussion or debate, with the underthought of suspicion or doubt. The murmurings led to disputes.”

Preceptaustin:

“Disputing (1261) (dialogismos from diá = through or as a preposition to intensify meaning of + logizomai = reckon, take an inventory, conclude; source of our English dialogue) means literally reasoning through and so to think or reason with thoroughness and completeness, think out carefully, reason thoroughly, consider carefully, weighing. It refers to calculated consideration (good or bad as discussed below). It pictures one deliberating with one’s self which conveys the basic meaning of inner reasoning. Disputing implies a questioning mind and suggests an arrogant attitude by those who assume they’re always right. Arguing with others in the body of Christ is disruptive. That’s why Paul spent the first part of chapter 2 on humility.”

Paul may be primarily referring to “murmuring” and “disputing” with one another. However, even if that is the case, ultimately, the murmuring and disputing is with God, for to do so is not walking in humility before God – who is at work within us to carry out His will in our lives (Phil 2:13).

If we are all walking in the Spirit, and we all recognize that it’s God who is “working within us,” then that leaves no room for murmurings and disputing with one another – for we will all be walking in humility before God and before each other. There will be peace and harmony, not self-seeking turmoil. 

The Christian who is always grumbling within themselves or under their breath, is never happy about anything. He or she has a negative attitude about everything, and always “has a better way of doing things.” This type of attitude reveals itself in “disputes” with others. They just have to voice their opinion. They have to be heard. Rather than humbly submitting to the leadership that God has placed over them, they find fault with everything they do. They have issues with both the leadership and with other Christians. 

Such a person is not walking in fellowship with God. Such a person is lacking a gracious attitude that comes through an intimate walk with Jesus. Such a person is not in the Word of God and allowing it to transform their hearts. He or she is, instead, unspiritual or, to use an old word, carnal. You can allows tell when someone is walking close to Jesus, they have a gracious and sweet spirit, and always considering others before themselves. Such a wonderful atmosphere in a church that is full of such men and women of God. An assembly of such believers will be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. It’s through such Spirit-led churches that God carries out His plans and purposes in this world.

Christians who are always murmuring and disputing are more like the people of the world. Our attitudes are to be in contrast with attitudes and ways of those who don’t know Christ. Our lives are to be an accurate reflection of who we are in Christ, as “children of God,” as Paul discusses in the next verse.

Before we discuss the next verse, I think the question needs to be answered, “can we ever have sincere questions and concerns about what others (including leadership) are doing in our particular assembly?” The answer is yes. However, it must be with the right heart and attitude, and should never be divisive or for self-gain.You’ve probably heard the saying, “attitude is everything.” It really is. Same goes for right motives.

Those who walk in the Spirit, who are continuously in the Word of God, will be particularly sensitive and discerning about spiritual matters. We all need to humble ourselves before each other and discuss spiritual matters in a loving and gracious manner, with the goal of glorifying God in all things. Much can be accomplished when done in the right way – in a way that is honoring to the name of Christ (Phil 2:9-10).

“15 that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world;”

“blameless”  (Gr. amemptos – 273)

Faultless, irreproachable.

No charge can be brought against; no legitimate grounds for accusation; no justifiable criticism can be brought against; deserving no censure.

“pure”  (Gr. akeraios – 185)

Innocent, harmless, simple.

Unmixed; absence of foreign mixture; unadulterated; uncontaminated; without mixture with evil; free from guile; pictures one who is innocent and sincere.

“children of God”

Like begets like, therefore, as children of God we are to live as God is. Our lives are to be a true reflection of God, who is our Father. 

“without blemish”  (Gr. amomos – 299)

Spotless, without stain, above reproach, faultless, without rebuke.

Pictures the Old Testament sacrifices.

Preceptaustin:

Quote:
Amomos is used to describe a sacrificial animal for only a “spotless” and thus “perfect” sacrifice was fit to be offered to God. In the New Testament, the adjective is usually employed to portray what a Christian is and should be in the sight of God (Eph 1.4; Col 1.22; Jude 1.24;Rev 14.4-5). Of the 72 uses of amomos in the Greek OT, the Septuagint (LXX), a majority describe unblemished animals to be used for sacrifice.  Under Jewish law before an animal could be offered as a sacrifice it must be inspected and if any blemish was found it must be rejected as unfit for an offering to God. Only the best was fit to offer to God. In the Septuagint  we see amomos used three times noting that the Nazirite

“…shall present his offering to the LORD: one male lamb a year old without defect (amomos) for a burnt offering and one ewe-lamb a year old without defect (amomos) for a sin offering and one ram without defect (amomos) for a peace offering” (Nu 6:14).
Unquote

“crooked”  (Gr. skolios – 4646)

Curved as opposed to straight; abnormal curvature; deviation from the norm.

“perverted”  (Gr. diastrepho – 1294)

Similar to “crooked” (skolios)

Perverse, twisted, depraved, warped, corrupt.

Literally to twist throughout; to bend out of shape; to distort or warp or pervert; to turn away from the right path; a departure from the standard, acceptable norm; refers to the distorted or perverted moral condition and character of the unregenerate.

This verse is calling us to be a people set apart from the world, as a people who are set apart unto God. As “children of God,” who works within each of us to accomplish His “will” and “good pleasure” (vs. 13), our lives are to be a stark contrast to those who are of the world. What does that say about us if our lives look like those who belong to the devil, rather than to God (1 Jn 3:7-10). If we profess Christ, but our lives are consistently like those of the world, then obviously we are not who we say we are or who we think we are, but are in reality, children of the devil.

However, Paul is talking to Christians here, and he is instructing them to live lives that are “unmixed” (pure). We are not to “mix” with the world. We are to be pure in both inward character and the outward manifestation of that character. God has called us to be separated from the world. When we think of verses that command separation, we normally think of 2 Cor. 6:17 or 1 Jn.2:15 or Ro. 12:1-2, but here in this verse we have a word that is every bit as precise in its instruction, and that is the word “akeraios” (pure). We are not to “mix” the spiritual with what is worldly. Our inward heart and the way we live our lives outwardly are to pure, because that is who we are, a purified people unto God.

If you read my commentaries regularly, you know that one of my chief concerns is that so many churches today are “mixing” with the world, using the world’s ways in order to attract more people. According to their philosophy, to attract the people of the world we must be more like the world, even though they may not view it or explain it in those terms. However, if one is sincerely honest, I don’t think there can be any denial of the reasons for such a practice.

Christian leaders are held to the highest of standards, and they will give an account of how well they led God’s people who were entrusted to them. When I read verses like this one, and observe what is going on in the average church today, I sincerely have to wonder if pastors are reading these instructions, or if they understand the full import of what these verses command. 

Pastors, as well as each and every Christian, must be honest about what is being taught in Scripture. I recently watched a message online given by Francis Chan, who gave a wonderful testimony about the realization he came to about his life and ministry. God began to deal with him about what the Bible actually teaches. He began to seriously evalutate his life and church ministry in light of what he was he was reading in God’s Word. Over a period of months he took an honest look at what the Bible teaches, and he came to the conclusion that what he was doing in his church ministry simply didn’t line up with what he was reading, especially with what he was reading in the book of Acts. That experience changed his whole life. He could no longer justify the way they were “doing church,” and stepped down as pastor from the church he had started 12 years earlier. He now leads a network of churches that are far more simple, but more importantly, what he believes is more biblical, without all the glitz and glamour of what he practiced before. 

We are a called-out people, a people who are to be distinctly different from the world. We’re to be “blameless” and “pure.” We’re to be “without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation.” We’re to be seen as bright “lights” in a very dark and evil world. That’s who we are as “children of God.” Paul’s instruction teaches us that we’re not to have even the hint or trace of the type of life that characterizes those without Christ. 

I fear that the light that shines from our lives and from our churches today are not all that bright anymore. It’s more like a dim light that that has been darkened by compromise, by a love for the things of this world, and for the sake of “reaching” a lot of people. Instead of churches being designed for the purpose of gathering God’s people together for worship, teaching, prayer and fellowship, they’re being designed with the unsaved in mind. They want to provide an atmosphere that is comfortable for them, one that is not too unlike what they’re used to, with a focus on entertainment and meeting “felt-needs.” This is their way of “luring” people in. It’s the back door of getting people interested in Christianity.

But that is NOT what church is. Church is for CHRISTIANS. It’s an assembly of believers. The very word itself means “called out ones” (Gr. ekklesia – 1577). It’s a place where followers of Christ gather. If the unsaved want to join us, then wonderful! Once they see genuine faith and the power of God in our midst, will they not be brought under conviction of their sins and of their need for Jesus (1 Cor 14:24-25)? The lost need to see that we have something they don’t have, something that is radically and wonderfully different than what they have. They need to see that Jesus makes a difference, that He changes lives, that He gives them meaning and purpose – both here and in eternity.

I want to challenge everyone, myself included (I need this challenge as much as anyone, and more than many), to be genuine followers of Christ, to be honest about what the Bible teaches regarding the Christian life and our service to the Lord. We need to ask ourselves, “Does my life line up with what I’m reading? Am I living the life that God has called us to live, or am I going just to the point to where things start to get uncomfortable? Does my church line up with what I’m reading? Are we fulfilling what God has called us to do? Are we doing things God’s way, or are we, instead, compromising with the world?”

To be all that God has called us to be, to fulfill all that God has called us to fulfill, we must be willing to pay attention to every word in every verse in the Bible. Every word has significance, some more than others. We have here in Phil 2:15 a verse with some very potent words to consider and live by. We must be willing to deny ourselves in all areas for the sake of pleasing God in all things. So much that passes as Christianity in America is not true, biblical Christianity. We must learn to be discerning about such matters. That requires an honest and willing approach to God’s holy Word.