Philippians 2:14
Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Without murmurings and disputings.—St. Paul seems purposely to leave this precept in perfect generality, so as to apply to their relations both to God and man. We observe, however, that the word “disputings” is mostly used of objections and cavils in word (see Matthew 15:19; Luke 5:22; Luke 6:8; Romans 1:21; Romans 14:1); although in Luke 9:47; Luke 24:38, and perhaps 1Timothy 2:8, it is applied to the inner strife of the heart. In either case it seems mainly to indicate intellectual questionings. Similarly, the word “murmuring” is used of outward wranglings of discontent (Matthew 20:11; Luke 5:30; John 6:41; John 6:43; John 6:61; John 7:12; Acts 6:1; 1Corinthians 10:10; 1Peter 4:9), proceeding not so much from the mind, as from the heart. The object, moreover, contemplated in Philippians 2:15 is chiefly good example before men. Hence the primary reference would seem to be to their relation towards men, in spite of the close connection with the preceding verse. Nor can we forget that it is on unity among themselves that the main stress of the exhortation of this chapter turns. Of course it is obvious that the disposition rebuked is sure to show itself in both relations; and that, if checked in one, the check will react on the other.

Philippians

COPIES OF JESUS

Php 2:14-16 {R.V.}.

We are told by some superfine modern moralists, that to regard one’s own salvation as the great work of our lives is a kind of selfishness, and no doubt there may be a colour of truth in the charge. At least the meaning of the injunction to work out our own salvation may have been sometimes so misunderstood, and there have been types of Christian character, such as the ascetic and monastic, which have made the representation plausible. I do not think that there is much danger of anybody so misunderstanding the precept now. But it is worthy of notice that there stand here side by side two paragraphs, in the former of which the effort to work out one’s own salvation is urged in the strongest terms, and in the other of which the regard for others is predominant. We shall see that the connection between these two is not accidental, but that one great reason for working out our salvation is here set forth as being the good we may thereby do to others.

I. We note the one great duty of cheerful yielding to God’s will.

It is clear, I think, that the precept to do ‘all things without murmurings and disputings’ stands in the closest connection with what goes before. It is, in fact, the explanation of how salvation is to be wrought out. It presents the human side which corresponds to the divine activity, which has just been so earnestly insisted on. God works in us ‘willing and doing,’ let us on our parts do with ready submission all the things which He so inspires to will and to do.

The ‘murmurings’ are not against men but against God. The ‘disputings’ are not wrangling with others but the division of mind in one’s self-questionings, hesitations, and the like. So the one are more moral, the other more intellectual, and together they represent the ways in which Christian men may resist the action on their spirits of God’s Spirit, ‘willing,’ or the action of God’s providence on their circumstances, ‘doing.’ Have we never known what it was to have some course manifestly prescribed to us as right, from which we have shrunk with reluctance of will? If some course has all at once struck us as wrong which we had been long accustomed to do without hesitation, has there been no ‘murmuring’ before we yielded? A voice has said to us, ‘Give up such and such a habit,’ or ‘such and such a pursuit is becoming too engrossing’: do we not all know what it is not only to feel obedience an effort, but even to cherish reluctance, and to let it stifle the voice?

There are often ‘disputings’ which do not get the length of ‘murmurings.’ The old word which tried to weaken the plain imperative of the first command by the subtle suggestion, ‘Yea, hath God said?’ still is whispered into our ears. We know what it is to answer God’s commands with a ‘But, Lord.’ A reluctant will is clever to drape itself with more or less honest excuses, and the only safety is in cheerful obedience and glad submission. The will of God ought not only to receive obedience, but prompt obedience, and such instantaneous and whole-souled submission is indispensable if we are to ‘work out our own salvation,’ and to present an attitude of true, receptive correspondence to that of God, who ‘works in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure.’ Our surrender of ourselves into the hands of God, in respect both to inward and outward things, should be complete. As has been profoundly said, that surrender consists ‘in a continual forsaking and losing all self in the will of God, willing only what God from eternity has willed, forgetting what is past, giving up the time present to God, and leaving to His providence that which is to come, making ourselves content in the actual moment seeing it brings along with it the eternal order of God concerning us’ {Madame Guyon}.

II. The conscious aim in all our activity.

What God works in us for is that for which we too are to yield ourselves to His working, ‘without murmurings and disputings,’ and to co-operate with glad submission and cheerful obedience. We are to have as our distinct aim the building up of a character ‘blameless and harmless, children of God without rebuke.’ The blamelessness is probably in reference to men’s judgment rather than to God’s, and the difficulty of coming untarnished from contact with the actions and criticisms of a crooked and perverse generation is emphasised by the very fact that such blamelessness is the first requirement for Christian conduct. It was a feather in Daniel’s cap that the president and princes were foiled in their attempt to pick holes in his conduct, and had to confess that they would not ‘find any occasion against him, except we find it concerning the laws of his God.’ God is working in us in order that our lives should be such that malice is dumb in their presence. Are we co-operating with Him? We are bound to satisfy the world’s requirements of Christian character. They are sharp critics and sometimes unreasonable, but on the whole it would not be a bad rule for Christian people, ‘Do what irreligious men expect you to do.’ The worst man knows more than the best man practises, and his conscience is quick to decide the course for other people. Our weaknesses and compromises, and love of the world, might receive a salutary rebuke if we would try to meet the expectations which ‘the man in the street’ forms of us.

‘Harmless’ is more correctly pure, all of a piece, homogeneous and entire. It expresses what the Christian life should be in itself, whilst the former designation describes it more as it appears. The piece of cloth is to be so evenly and carefully woven that if held up against the light it will show no flaws nor knots. Many a professing Christian life has a veneer of godliness nailed thinly over a solid bulk of selfishness. There are many goods in the market finely dressed so as to hide that the warp is cotton and only the weft silk. No Christian man who has memory and self-knowledge can for a moment claim to have reached the height of his ideal; the best of us, at the best, are like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, whose feet were iron and clay, but we ought to strain after it and to remember that a stain shows most on the whitest robe. What made David’s sin glaring and memorable was its contradiction of his habitual nobler self. One spot more matters little on a robe already covered with many. The world is fully warranted in pointing gleefully or contemptuously at Christians’ inconsistencies, and we have no right to find fault with their most pointed sarcasms, or their severest judgments. It is those ‘that bear the vessels of the Lord’ whose burden imposes on them the duty ‘be ye clean,’ and makes any uncleanness more foul in them than in any other.

The Apostle sets forth the place and function of Christians in the world, by bringing together in the sharpest contrast the ‘children of God’ and a ‘crooked and perverse generation.’ He is thinking of the old description in Deuteronomy, where the ancient Israel is charged with forgetting ‘Thy Father that hath bought thee,’ and as showing by their corruption that they are a ‘perverse and crooked generation.’ The ancient Israel had been the Son of God, and yet had corrupted itself; the Christian Israel are ‘sons of God’ set among a world all deformed, twisted, perverted. ‘Perverse’ is a stronger word than ‘crooked,’ which latter may be a metaphor for moral obliquity, like our own right and wrong, or perhaps points to personal deformity. Be that as it may, the position which the Apostle takes is plain enough. He regards the two classes as broadly separated in antagonism in the very roots of their being. Because the ‘sons of God’ are set in the midst of that ‘crooked and perverse generation’ constant watchfulness is needed lest they should conform, constant resort to their Father lest they should lose the sense of sonship, and constant effort that they may witness of Him.

III. The solemn reason for this aim.

That is drawn from a consideration of the office and function of Christian men. Their position in the midst of a ‘crooked and perverse generation’ devolves on them a duty in relation to that generation. They are to ‘appear as lights in the world.’ The relation between them and it is not merely one of contrast, but on their parts one of witness and example. The metaphor of light needs no explanation. We need only note that the word, ‘are seen’ or ‘appear,’ is indicative, a statement of fact, not imperative, a command. As the stars lighten the darkness with their myriad lucid points, so in the divine ideal Christian men are to be as twinkling lights in the abyss of darkness. Their light rays forth without effort, being an involuntary efflux. Possibly the old paradox of the Psalmist was in the Apostle’s mind, which speaks of the eloquent silence, in which ‘there is no speech nor language, and their voice is not heard,’ but yet ‘their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.’

Christian men appear as lights by ‘holding forth the word of life.’ In themselves they have no brightness but that which comes from raying out the light that is in them. The word of life must live, giving life in us, if we are ever to be seen as ‘lights in the world.’ As surely as the electric light dies out of a lamp when the current is switched off, so surely shall we be light only when we are ‘in the Lord.’ There are many so-called Christians in this day who stand tragically unaware that their ‘lamps are gone out.’ When the sun rises and smites the mountain tops they burn, when its light falls on Memnon’s stony lips they breathe out music, ‘Arise, shine, for thy light has come.’

Undoubtedly one way of ‘holding forth the word of life’ must be to speak the word, but silent living ‘blameless and harmless’ and leaving the secret of the life very much to tell itself is perhaps the best way for most Christian people to bear witness. Such a witness is constant, diffused wherever the witness-bearer is seen, and free from the difficulties that beset speech, and especially from the assumption of superiority which often gives offence. It was the sight of ‘your good deeds’ to which Jesus pointed as the strongest reason for men’s ‘glorifying your Father.’ If we lived such lives there would be less need for preachers. ‘If any will not hear the word they may without the word be won.’ And reasonably so, for Christianity is a life and cannot be all told in words, and the Gospel is the proclamation of freedom from sin, and is best preached and proved by showing that we are free. The Gospel was lived as well as spoken. Christ’s life was Christ’s mightiest preaching.

The word was flesh and wrought With human hands the creed of creeds.

If we keep near to Him we too shall witness, and if our faces shine like Moses’ as he came down from the mountain, or like Stephen’s in the council chamber, men will ‘take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.’ Php 2:14-16. Do all things — Especially all good offices to each other, not only without contention, (Php 2:3,) but even without murmurings — At your duty, or at one another; and disputings — With each other, or altercations, which are real, though smaller, hinderances of love. It seems the apostle had in his eye not so much obedience in general, as those particular instances thereof, recommended Php 2:3-5. That ye may be blameless — In yourselves; and harmless — Toward others: the sons of God — The God of love, acting up to your high character; without rebukeΑμωμητα, maintaining an unexceptionable character; in the midst of a crooked — Guileful, serpentine; and perverse — Froward or obstinate generation — Such as the bulk of mankind always have been; crooked by a corrupt nature, and yet more perverse by custom and practice: among whom ye — Who know the truth and walk according to it; shine as lights in the world — Or, as luminaries, as the word φωστηρες signifies, being the name given to the sun and moon by the LXX., Genesis 1:16. Doddridge renders the clause, “Ye shine as elevated lights in the dark world about you;” thinking, with Mons. Saurin, that the expression is used in allusion “to the buildings which we call light-houses, the most illustrious of which was raised in the island of Pharos, where Ptolemy Philadelphus built that celebrated tower, on which a bright flame was always kept burning in the night, that mariners might perfectly see their way, and be in no danger of suffering shipwreck upon the rocks which they were to pass in their entrance into the haven of Alexandria.” Holding forth — To all men, both in word and behaviour; the word of life — The doctrine of eternal life made known to you in the gospel, by which you have been directed to steer safely for the blessed haven of glory and immortality, and whereby they may receive the same benefit. That I may rejoice. — As if he had said, This I desire even on my own account, for it will greatly increase my rejoicing in the day of Christ — The day of final judgment; that I have not run — Or travelled from place to place in the exercise of my apostolic office, declaring the gospel of the grace of God; in vain, neither have laboured in vain — In the work of the ministry, but that the great end of it has been answered, at least in part, to the glory of God, by your salvation and usefulness in the world.2:12-18 We must be diligent in the use of all the means which lead to our salvation, persevering therein to the end. With great care, lest, with all our advantages, we should come short. Work out your salvation, for it is God who worketh in you. This encourages us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain: we must still depend on the grace of God. The working of God's grace in us, is to quicken and engage our endeavours. God's good-will to us, is the cause of his good work in us. Do your duty without murmurings. Do it, and do not find fault with it. Mind your work, and do not quarrel with it. By peaceableness; give no just occasion of offence. The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness, even as the light-house warns mariners to avoid rocks, and directs their course into the harbour. Let us try thus to shine. The gospel is the word of life, it makes known to us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Running, denotes earnestness and vigour, continual pressing forward; labouring, denotes constancy, and close application. It is the will of God that believers should be much in rejoicing; and those who are so happy as to have good ministers, have great reason to rejoice with them.Do all things without murmurings and disputings - In a quiet, peaceful, inoffensive manner. Let there be no brawls, strifes, or contentions. The object of the apostle here is, probably, to illustrate the sentiment which he had expressed in Philippians 2:3-5, where he had inculcated the general duties of humbleness of mind, and of esteeming others better than themselves, in order that that spirit might be fully manifested, he now enjoins the duty of doing everything in a quiet and gentle manner, and of avoiding any species of strife; see the notes at Ephesians 4:31-32. 14. murmurings—secret murmurings and complaints against your fellow men arising from selfishness: opposed to the example of Jesus just mentioned (compare the use of the word, Joh 7:12, 13; Ac 6:1; 1Pe 4:9; Jude 16).

disputings—The Greek is translated "doubting" in 1Ti 2:8. But here referring to profitless "disputings" with our fellow men, in relation to whom we are called on to be "blameless and harmless" (Php 2:15): so the Greek is translated, Mr 9:33, 34. These disputings flow from "vain glory" reprobated (Php 2:3); and abounded among the Aristotelian philosophers in Macedon, where Philippi was.

Do all things without murmurings; the apostle here subjoins to his exhortation to condescension and humility, a dissuasive from the opposite vices, moving them to do all that was incumbent on them as Christians without private mutterings, secret whisperings, and complainings, which might argue their impatience under the yoke of Christ, while put upon doing or suffering such things; either reflecting on God’s providence, as the Israelites of old, Numbers 11:1, &c.; 1 Corinthians 10:10; reckoning they had hard measure: or rather, (here considering the context), grudging at others, as the Greeks and Jews had done, Luke 5:30 John 6:41,42 Ac 6:1; yea, and some of the disciples were found guilty of this ill temper against their Master, John 6:61. Christian charity disallows grudgings, 1 Peter 4:9 Judges 1:10; and also disputings; hot and eager contests and quarrellings about those things wherein the life and main business of religion is not concerned, but the unity of the Spirit of holiness is opposed, Matthew 18:1 Mark 9:33 Luke 9:46 Romans 14:1 2 Corinthians 12:20, with 1 Timothy 1:6 2:8. Do all things,.... Not evil things, these are to be abhorred, shunned, and avoided, even all appearance of them, they are not to be done, even the sake of good; nor all indifferent things at all times, and under all circumstances, when the peace and edification of others are in danger of being hurt by so doing; but all good things, all that are agreeable to the righteous law and good will of God; all those good things which accompany salvation, as hearing the word, and attendance on ordinances: all church affairs relating to public worship, private conference, everything at church meetings, and which concern the discipline and laws of Christ's house; and all things that are civilly, morally, spiritually, and evangelically good; even all things that God would have done, or we would desire should be done to us by fellow creatures and fellow Christians: let all these be done

without murmurings; either against God and Christ, as if anything hard and severe was enjoined, when Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden light, Matthew 11:30, and none of his commands grievous; and because their presence is not always enjoyed, and that communion and comfort in ordinances had, which may be desired: or against the ministers of the Gospel, in whose power it is not to give grace, comfort, and spiritual refreshment; any more than it was in Moses and Aaron to give bread and water to the Israelites in the wilderness, for which they murmured against them, and in so doing against God himself, Exodus 16:2; or against one another, because of superior enjoyment in nature, providence, and grace; but all things, both of a moral, civil, and religious nature, with respect to God, and one another, should be done readily, freely, cheerfully, and heartily; and also without

disputings; or "without hesitations", as the Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions render it. Whatever appears to be agreeable to the will of God, should be done at once without dispute upon it, or hesitation about it, however disagreeable it may be to carnal sense and reason; the will of God is not to be disputed, nor flesh and blood to be consulted, in opposition to it; nor should the saints enter into any carnal reasonings, and contentious disputations, either at their public or private meetings, but do all they do decently, and in order, and in the exercise of brotherly love.

{6} Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

(6) He describes modesty by the contrary effects of pride, teaching us that it is far both from all malicious and secret or inward hatred, and also from open contentions and brawlings.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Php 2:14. With Php 2:13 Paul has closed his exhortations, so far as the matter is concerned. He now adds a requisition in respect to the mode of carrying out these admonitions, namely, that they shall do everything (which, according to the admonitions previously given, and summarily comprised in Php 2:12, they have to do, 1 Corinthians 10:31) willingly and without hesitation,—an injunction for which, amidst the temptations of the present (Php 1:27-30), there was sufficient cause.

χωρὶς γογγυσμ.] without (far removed from) murmuring. The γογγυσμός (Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 358), that fault already prevalent in ancient Israel (Exodus 16:7 ff.; Numbers 14:2), is to be conceived as directed against God, namely, on account of what He imposed upon them both to do and to suffer, as follows from the context in Php 2:13; Php 2:15; hence it is not to be referred to their fellow-Christians (Calvin, Wiesinger, Schnecken burger), or to their superiors (Estius), as Hoelemann also thinks. Comp. on 1 Corinthians 10:10.

διαλογισμῶν] not: without disputes (Erasmus, Beza, and many others, including Schneckenburger), de imperatis cum imperatoribus (Hoelemann, comp. Estius), or among themselves (Calvin, Wiesinger), and that upon irrelevant questions (Grotius), and similar interpretations, which, although not repugnant to Greek usage generally (Plut. Mor. p. 180 C; Sir 9:15; Sir 13:3-5), are at variance with that of the N. T. (even 1 Timothy 2:8), and unsuitable to the reference of γογγυσμ. to God. It means: without hesitation, without your first entering upon scrupulous considerings as to whether you are under any obligation thereto, whether it is not too difficult, whether it is prudent, and the like. Comp. Luke 24:38, and on Romans 14:1; Plat. Ax. p. 367 A: φροντίδεςκαὶ διαλογισμοί, Tim. p. 59 C: οὐδὲν ποικίλον ἔτι διαλογίσασθαι. Sir 40:2. The Vulgate renders it rightly, according to the essential sense: “haesitationibus.” The γογγυσμοί would presuppose aversion towards God; the διαλογισμοί, uncertainty in the consciousness of duty.Php 2:14. γογγ. Many Comm[7]. understand γογγ. and διαλογ. as referring to God. This interpretation appears farfetched and unnecessary. The whole discussion preceding has turned on the danger to their faith in being disunited. Is it not natural that when he speaks of “grumblings” and “discussions” he should point to their mutual disagreements? Would not these be the common expressions, e.g., of the variance between Euodia and Syntyche? May they not be connected with the ἑτέρως τι φρονεῖν of chap. Php 3:15? There has never been a hint of murmuring against God up till now. Cf. 1 Peter 4:9, Wis 1:11, φυλάξασθεγογγυσμὸν ἀνωφελῆ καὶ ἀπὸ καταλαλιᾶς φείσασθε γλώσσης. On γογγ. see esp[8]. H. Anz, Dissertationes Halenses, vol. xii., pars 2, pp. 368–369.—διαλογ. Probably = disputes. Common in this sense in later Greek. Cf. Luke 9:46. Originally = thoughts, with the idea of doubt or hesitation gradually implied. See Hatch, Essays in Bibl. Greek, p. 8.

[7]omm. Commentators.

[8] especially.14. Do &c.] The general principle of holiness of life in the power of the Divine Indweller is now carried into details, with a view to the special temptations and failings of the Philippians. See above, on Php 2:2.

all things] Observe the characteristic totality of the precept. Cp. Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 4:31; and see 2 Corinthians 9:8.

without murmurings and disputings] amongst and against one another. For the word “murmuring” in a similar connexion cp. Acts 6:1; 1 Peter 4:9; and for “disputing,” James 2:4. This reference suits the context, and the indications of the whole Epistle as to the besetting sins of Philippi, better than the reference to murmurs and doubts as towards God. And such sins against one another would be prevented by nothing so much as by the felt presence of “God working in them.” See below, on Php 4:5.

“Disputings”:—for example, about the duties of others and the rights of self. The older Latin versions render detractiones.Php 2:14. Ποιεῖτε, do) with His good pleasure. Sons ought to imitate their father, Php 2:15.—χωρὶς γογγυσμῶν, without murmurings) in respect of others. To this refer ἄμεμπτοι, blameless. Not only brawlings and clamours, from which the Philippians had now withdrawn, are opposed to love, but also murmurings. Doubting is joined to these, as well as wrath, 1 Timothy 2:8. [A man may either cherish both in himself or rouse them in others.—V. g.] Inquire or accuse in my presence; do not murmur behind my back or in secret.—καὶ διαλογισμῶν, and doubtings, disputings) in respect of yourselves. To this refer ἀκέραιοι, ‘indelibati,’ Php 2:15, unimpaired [Engl. Vers. harmless], viz. in the faith [Php 2:17]. Many words of this sort are both active and passive at the same time; comp. Romans 16:19, note. Ἀκέραιον is applied to a patrimony, that is uninjured, unimpaired, in Chrys. de Sacerd. § 17.Verse 14. - Do all things without murmurings and disputings. Obedience must be willing and cheerful. The word rendered "murmurings" (γογγυσμός) is that constantly used in the Septuagint of the murmurings of the Israelites during their wanderings. Διαλογισμοί may mean, as here rendered, "dis-putings," or more probably, in accordance with the New Testament use of the word, questionings, doubtings. Submission to God's will must be inward as well as outward. Murmurings (γογγυσμῶν)

See on Jde 1:16; see on John 6:41. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:10.

Disputings (διαλογισμῶν)

See on Mark 7:21. It is doubtful whether disputings is a legitimate meaning. The kindred verb διαλογίζομαι is invariably used in the sense of to reason or discuss, either with another or in one's own mind, Matthew 16:7; Matthew 21:25; Mark 2:6; Luke 12:17. The noun is sometimes rendered thoughts, as Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; but with the same idea underlying it, of a suspicion or doubt, causing inward discussion. See 1 Timothy 2:8. Better here questionings or doubtings. See on Romans 14:1. The murmuring is the moral, the doubting the intellectual rebellion against God.

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