The Bible says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” The verse previous to this one told us to work out our own salvation. If we do any work for God it’s really God who does the work. That is why He deserves all the praise and glory. Of course, God is looking for people whom He can use as His instruments in this world. He wants to work in us “both to will and to do.” Notice what must come first: the will. If your will is changed and surrendered, then you will do what He wants you to do. If we are going to “work out,” that is have the desired outward actions; then God must first work “in” us. He must touch our selfish hearts of stone and help us to desire to surrender our wills to His. Jesus Himself prayed that most important of all prayers, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
Instead of telling us what to do, we are told in the next verse what not to do. Phil. 2:14 says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” You might do all things. You might endure hardships. You might keep the faith when others have lost it, but if you have done all things with murmurings and disputings, then you will have done much more harm in spite of all the things that you did. To murmur is to complain. The children of Israel murmured against Moses in the wilderness, and there were very negative consequences as a result. Anyone can complain. There are ways of fixing what needs to be fixed, but complaining is not the way. Perhaps murmuring is so bad because of how much it hurts the effectiveness of the group.
Something else that hurts the congregation is disputings. The word that is translated “disputings” literally means intellectual reasoning. Elsewhere in the Bible it is translated as “doubting.” It refers to opposing and arguing against spiritual ideas and the ideas of faith. The natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God. The doubtful reasoning of the natural man opposes the positive ideas of faith. God forbid that a believer would get caught up in the intellectual reasonings of man. We must learn to think according to the principles of faith, and we must learn to interpret our circumstances according to the principles of faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
The Bible says in Philippians 2:15, “That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” To be blameless refers to our reputation among men. Of course, we are always blameless before God if we have found the forgiveness that is in Christ Jesus. The world will sometimes want to blame us because they feel guilty due to the fact that they are still under the guilt of their sins. The devil will want to blame us because he is the accuser of the brethren. But our goal and prayer should always be to have actions and behaviors that are blameless.
To be harmless refers to our effect upon others. The same word was used by Jesus when He told us to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. Everyone is either a good influence or a bad influence on those around them. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that believers are the salt of the earth. If we are blameless and harmless in the midst of this world we will have the effect that God wishes us to have.
In Phil. 2:15 we are called the “sons of God.” The children should take on the characteristics of their Father. If the Father is the right kind of father, and we know that God is; and if the children are the right kind of children, the attachment of the children to their Father should be obvious. We are not rebellious teenagers. We are loving and obedient children who wish to love, honor, and obey our Father. If you are going to claim to be one of the children of God, then you must make it a very high priority to have the behavior to back it up.
In order to emphasize the fact that we are supposed to be of the best possible behavior, we are also told that we should be “without rebuke.” Someone is rebuked in a situation where they have done something that they ought not to have done. If you do what you ought to do, and if you do the right thing, then you will be without rebuke. Of course, you might still be accused falsely, but God will know, and that is what really counts.
Why is it that believers should give such a great deal of attention to do the best they can to be blameless, and harmless, and without rebuke? The emphasis that is made here in Philippians 2:14 is concerning our testimony and our impact on unbelievers in this world. That is why it reminds us that we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom we shine as lights in the world.” The total testimony and influence that you will have on those around you will always be due more to how you live than to what you say. What you say is very important at times, but unless your behavior and manner of life are proper, what you say will become meaningless hypocrisy.
This is the same emphasis that Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The reason that works are more important than words as far as letting your light shine is because no matter what you say, if have the wrong works your words will be hypocrisy. The lost people of the world will be watching you. If you follow the Lord, your life will be different from theirs in ways that they will not be able to understand, but they will see the difference. The difference will be a bright and shining light that will draw some to Christ.
Notice that it says that we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.” Don’t be surprised when you observe the character of the world. Generally speaking the world is crooked and perverse. How do you be a testimony in a situation like that? The answer is obvious: don’t be crooked or perverse. If you follow the Lord and walk the straight path, then the difference between you and the world will be obvious. You will have a light that will shine based upon the works that you do and the life that you live.
The foundation for your testimony is your manner of life and your habits and your daily behavior, but there is still one more ingredient that is necessary in order to be a light in a dark world in every way that you need to be. Philippians 2:16 says, “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.” You may have a manner of life that will attract people to the light, but once they are attracted, they can only be saved if they hear certain words, the words of the gospel of Christ. Romans 10:14-15 says, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” The word that is translated “preach” in this passage is the word that means to evangelize, to present the gospel.
One thing better than being a testimony yourself is to help others to become a testimony. Paul said that because of the testimony of the Philippians, he would rejoice in the day of Christ Jesus, that he had not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Paul did not consider himself successful based upon what he had done, but based upon what those had done whom he had taught. Much more will get done in the spread of the gospel when each believer does their part in the little corner of the world where God has put them. Some people have ministries where their claim to fame is all the things that they have done. Too bad there are not more ministers like Paul, who do everything they can to get others to accomplish the same things they are accomplishing. That’s what Jesus did. He said to the disciples, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Paul continued to emphasize how much he desired to have a part in the increased faith of the believers in Philippi. He said in Philippians 2:17-18, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do you joy, and rejoice with me.” Paul knew that if he was put to death because of his faith in Christ, that he would become a martyr, and therefore a hero of the faith, and therefore an encouragement to the believers in Philippi. Consistent with the great goal that he had to help others have a stronger faith, Paul knew that there was a good side to being in a Roman prison under a possible death sentence. Such a possibility gave him joy. He saw the hand of God in everything that happened to him.
Paul wrote in Philippians 2:19-21, “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” These verses show once again some of the difficult circumstances in which the Christians of the first century lived. Evidently there was no mail service that could be trusted. The only way that Paul could communicate with the believers in Philippi was to send a trusted courier. In this case it was Timothy. The reason that Paul sent Timothy to Philippi was because he could not find anyone else to send. The reason that Paul could not find anyone else to send was made very clear. Paul said, “For all seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.”
It seems hard to believe that the Apostle Paul had difficulty finding someone who would make this trip for him and for the sake of the gospel. The same problem exists today. There are too many who name the name of Christ who have gotten distracted by pursuing making a living and making in a way in life. This would not happen if every Christian dedicated in their hearts their secular careers to God. Whatever you do, should be done to the glory of God. Whatever you do should be consecrated to His service. There is no difference between the secular and the sacred. Everything is sacred if you are doing what God wishes you to do. No matter what is your occupation, you can pray each day that your efforts would somehow glorify the name of Christ. If this is truly your attitude, then you will be able to change gears when an opportunity comes along to do something out of the ordinary for Christ. Make a habit out of seeking “the things that are Jesus Christ’s,” and then you will also do it when something bigger comes along.
Paul said in Philippians 2:22-24, “But you know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he has served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord, that I also myself shall come shortly.” Paul was not married, and of course he had no children of his own. That which you have given up for God, He can more than repay. Paul had spiritual children, which will prove to be of greater importance in eternity. For the widow and the fatherless and the forsaken, there is spiritual family to which they can belong: the family of God.
Notice Paul’s attitude concerning his hope to be able to get out of prison and visit once again the Christians in Philippi. Paul said, “So soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord, that I also myself shall come shortly.” Evidently Paul’s case before the Romans was going to be decided soon. In his difficult circumstance Paul was trusting in the Lord. He was not trusting in the justice of the legal system, and he was not trusting in his status as a Roman citizen. He was trusting in the Lord. It is also important to note that Paul was not claiming to know how the Lord would work things out. Paul did not have any kind of vain boast that somehow he knew the details of the will of God. We know the will of God in a matter after that matter takes place. We might hope and pray that a certain thing will happen, but we do not know what God is going to do or what He is going to permit to happen, not until it happens. The same principle is taught in James 4:13-15 that says, “Go to now, you that say, To day or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. For that you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.”
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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