(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 16, 2004
Without Grumbling or Disputing
Have you ever worked hard at something and then had those you prepared it for complain about how it did not meet their expectations? Perhaps you fixed you a very nice dinner and then had the kids turn their noses up at it. Perhaps you decided to put off getting something you have wanted for awhile so that you could buy your child a special toy, and then when you gave it to them they complained it was not the more expensive model their friends have. Or perhaps you remember doing something that was hard for you to do, but all your parents did was mutter something about how much more difficult it was when they were a kid. Or maybe you have to work with one of those people that always must take some other view. If you say red, they say green. If you say 6 feet high, they say 5′ 6″ high. If you say good, they say not so good. I think all of us can agree that grumbling, complaining and arguing is frustrating. How much worse are these things when they occur among the people of God?
Turn over to Philippians 2:14-16 and we will see Paul’s instructions to us concerning the proper conduct of a Christian and why we should not be those who grumble and dispute.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
Paul desires certain actions and attitudes by the Philippian Christians that will demonstrate the reality of their being children of God. Specifically here it is the absence of grumbling and disputing among them and having the character traits of blamelessness, innocence and being above reproach. This is a practical and specific outcome of their working out their salvation with fear and trembling commanded in verse 12. This is a reasonable command because God was at work in them both to will and work His good pleasure – vs. 13. Their behavior and attitudes will in turn affect the society around them because it will be in such contrast with the world. This glorifies God. It would also be a great encouragement and joy to Paul because it would demonstrate that his work among them was not in vain. Paul adds in verse 17 that even if they did not fulfill his desire for them, he would still rejoice in his service to God on their behalf.
These are commandments and principles that need to be applied in our own lives. We also need to practically demonstrate that we are children of God by our behavior and attitudes. Let us examine this passage more in depth and see how its truths can apply to our lives.
Verse 14 begins with a command – “Do all things without grumbling or disputing . . .”.
Do All Things. As already pointed out, this command is based immediately on the command in verse 12 to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” For that reason, the all things would be referring specifically to all those things that are part of working out your salvation. Remember that Paul does not mean here in any manner that you are to earn your salvation, for salvation from sin is only by God’s grace in justifying us on the basis of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He telling people that are already Christians to make sure that they let their salvation exhibit itself in how they live. God would do His part. They needed to do their part in walking by faith in obedience to God’s commands and the leading of the Holy Spirit and trust Him for the results and consequences.
Working out your salvation in turn takes us back to 1:27 and the command to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. The “all things” also refers to all things related to this conduct. We talked about that last week as well. There should be unity within the church because of our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Because there is encouragement in Christ; because there is consolation of love; because there is fellowship of the Spirit and because there is affection and compassion, then we are to be of the same mind, maintain the same love, be united in spirit and be intent on one purpose (2:1,2). As we work out our salvation we will increasingly turn away from our natural selfishness and empty conceit to a humility of mind in which we do consider others as more important than ourselves, and we will look out for their interests instead of just our own (2:3,4). This was the attitude that existed in Christ Jesus in His setting aside aspects of His deity and His glory to leave Heaven and come to earth as a man and then to die as the substitute sacrificial payment for man’s sin. God then exalted Jesus by raising Him from the dead and returning Him back to His glory in Heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession on our behalf. In the future, God will exalt Jesus even further with the name that is above every name and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.
We are to reflect Christ’s humility in our own lives knowing that God resists the proud, but gives His grace to the humble and that He will exalt the humble at the proper time (1 Peter 5:4,5). We are to be humble in our relationship with one another, which is foundational to having unity within the church. This then is also part of the “doing all things” that Paul commands here in Philippians 2:14.
In all our efforts to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and thereby demonstrating the reality of our faith in Jesus Christ, and in all our working together with one another with humble attitudes, we are to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
Without Grumbling. The word translated here as “without grumbling” (NAS), “complaining” (NKJV & NIV) or “murmuring” (KJV) is goggusmoV / goggusmos which the describes the low tone used in whispering a complaint or talking in secret such as in John 6:41-43 in which the Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 And they were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” The word can also used to describe more open verbal complaining too, such as in the Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20:11 when those who were paid, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked [only] one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?”
Without Disputing. The word translated here as “without disputing” (NAS) or “arguing” (NIV) (dialogismoV / dialogismos) actually refers to “thought,” “reasoning,” or “imagination,” and can be used in a good or neutral sense such as in Romans 14:11 where it refers to the “opinions” of a weaker brother. However, the word is usually used in a negative sense or context in the New Testament and refers to such things as “evil thoughts” (Mt. 15:19), the reasoning of the doubting Pharisees (Luke 5:22), the arguing among the disciples about which of them might be the greatest (Luke 9:46), the futile speculations of those that do not honor God (Rom. 1:21). In its context here in Philippians 2:14, it is used in a negative sense referring to disputing and arguing by either doubting God or being proud and contrary to others.
Grumbling is the starting point for disputing. We start with muttering something under our breath because we really do not want anyone else to hear the full expression of our bad attitude. But as the attitude gets worse, we put more voice to our complaints and share them with those we think would be sympathetic to us. This compounds itself as your comrades take your side and agree with you. This results in giving more public voice to your thoughts as you contend with whoever you believe is the cause of your troubles or have taken on as your adversary.
The first area in which we should be without grumbling and disputing is in our relationship with God. Grumbling and disputing are serious issues with God. God had freed the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, but then He ended up severely judging them because of their constant grumbling and complaining. Though God had graciously provided them freedom, water (Ex. 15:24) and food (Ex. 16:2f), that generation of Israelites still grumbled and complained resulting in God’s judgement of them. They complained about the manna, so God sent them quail and a plague (Numb. 11:31f). They complained that they could not conquer the people living in the land God had promised to them, and so God condemned all those 20 years and older to die in the wilderness. It would be their children that would enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14). They continued their complaining against God resulting in the judgement of Korah and those who joined his rebellion against Moses (Numb. 16), and death by fiery serpents (Numb. 21). The lessons are applied directly to us in 1 Corinthians 10:10 looks back to those events and warns, “nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
Grumbling and disputing are serious sins because they are the outward evidence of hearts that do not trust God. It states that we think we know better than God what is best for us. They are a denial of God’s goodness, omniscience and omnipotence. It is the same root of sin that caused Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. She believed the devil’s lie that God was holding back something good from her. She took matters into her own hands to gain what she thought was best, but when we are wise in our own eyes we make very foolish decisions.
There is also an aspect to grumbling that proclaims that God should be our servant, and not the other way around. Consider the many gripes that the Israelite had against God. When they did not have good water, they murmured instead of asking God to intervene. When they lacked food, they complained instead of requesting it from God. When the manna became tiresome to them, they complained again instead of humbly asking God for some variety. They had seen God free them from slavery with a mighty hand of amazing miracles, and now they doubted that He would care for them.
Is it really any different with you or I as we face various circumstances. Is God only good if everything in your life is comfortable and easy? Does God change character and become unfair to you when life gets tough and you suffer bad things? Intellectually we would deny such blasphemous accusations against God, but when we grumble and dispute we proclaim those very things. Grumbling says that God is not doing things the way that we think He should, and we resent it. He needs to get His act together and fix it according to our liking. The ugliness of it comes out a little better when stated that way, doesn’t it?
Grumbling comes naturally to us. I liked the little cartoon I saw years ago of a little tyke in a high chair with the caption under it reading, “Would you like a little whine with dinner?” What seems irritating but innocent only gets worse if not properly corrected. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and it takes parental discipline to drive it out and replace it with wisdom (cf. Prov. 22:15). A child who is not properly corrected to be considerate of others only becomes more demanding and rude. Such people become pretty nasty adults even if they coat their selfish scheming well with a decorum of charm. We have all met them. But should Christians have such character traits even if usually hidden well? No. Yet when we grumble and complain those are exactly the character traits that are being exhibited.
Grumbling and complaining should and will cease in the life of the Christian as they practically apply certain truths they profess to believe. First, that God loves us. This fact was proven by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross. Romans 5:8 tells us specifically that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God does not have to do anything else to prove His love. Since this is a proven fact, there can never be any legitimate reason to doubt it regardless of any circumstance we may ever find ourselves in. Paul endured some very nasty circumstances during his life, but he never doubted God’s love for Him in Jesus Christ, and he did not believe anything could separate him from it (Rom. 8:38,39).
Second, that God is good and will do what is best for us. This is another attribute that arises out of His love. In Romans 2:4, Paul said that the riches of God’s goodness were one of the things that should bring us to repentance. Earlier in our study of Philippians 1:6 we saw that Paul was also confident God would complete the good work He had started in them.
Third, God is omniscient and omnipotent so that He can carry out His promises. Nothing is stronger than God, so nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). Nothing is more intelligent than God, so nothing thwart His will. He has declared the end from the beginning. His counsel shall stand and God will do His good pleasure(Isa. 46:10). God is sovereign.
Paul took comfort in these various attributes of God in Romans 8:28 declaring “and we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It was for this reason that he could be joyful though he was imprisoned and there were other Christians who were purposely seeking to cause him additional distress. It was for this reason that Jesus could for the joy set before Him, endure the cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2). It is for this reason that godly people do not grumble and complain. They trust God in the midst of their circumstances even if the situation is not to their personal liking. Grumbling is a visible demonstration of a lack of trust in God.
We must remember that God’s purposes and our own do not always match. Most people are concerned primarily with being happy. They want to have enjoyable experiences and pleasurable circumstances. God’s greatest concern is our character as He conforms us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). What may be best for us may not match with what we want. Just as we might want to eat the fatted calf along with potatoes, pastry and ice cream every night, we also know that what is good for us is vegetables, fruit and lean meat. Though we may want comfortable circumstances, God may allow us to go through difficult times because it is best for our character development. That is why both Paul and James speak of being joyful in the midst of “tribulation” and “various trials” because as we go through them we develop the character traits of mature godliness (Romans 5; James 1). Christians who sets their goal on wanting God’s best in their life will be joyful even when life is tough because they know and can trust God to use it to make them what they really want to be – conformed into the image of Christ. Those that want God’s best only when it also fits within their comfort zone will grumble and complain about it. Which are you?
I will add to this again that such grumbling and complaining is also quite arrogant. Who are you or I to demand that God make things the way we want them? God is the eternal and holy creator of the universe. You and I are simply small little creatures He has made for His own good pleasure. God’s character is such that He loves and cares for us individually and even invites us to come to Him with all that is on our heart, but we do so with a proper reverence for Him. We make requests of Him. We do not demand.
The second aspect of doing all things without grumbling or disputing is that such should be the outworking of our humility as we work together in the body of Christ. This is not to say that there cannot be disagreement and differences of opinion in the church, but there is to be a major difference in the way such are handled as compared to non-Christians, and grumbling and disputing are not to be part of such disagreements.
There should be greater unity within the church to begin with simply because we already agree on all the fundamental issues of life including our purpose and who is our common leader who has given us a common set of commands and principles by which we are to live. Since we know that we exist to glorify God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as we follow the commands and principles of His word, we have already eliminated most of the conflicts that occur in the rest of the world. Never forget that the major reason for America’s current War on Terror is that there are people that want either their false God,
as in the case of Muslim terrorist, or their political system, as in the case of communist terrorists, to be established over other people regardless of what those people desire for themselves. The rest of the world still has major conflicts over purpose of existence and what commands and laws are to be obeyed.
Because Christians already have a basis for unity in believing the same fundamental truths of God’s word, our disagreements usually occur in the area of preferences. Sadly, those disagreements can often escalate into major conflict that can split churches simple because people forget about the commands given here in Philippians. A minor disagreement becomes a point of whispering among the people which can then grow into a faction and culminate in a splinter group that demands its way. When Christians are humble with each other they eliminate the cause of grumbling and disputing in several ways.
First, humility allows us to cover with love a lot of things that might be otherwise irritating because we value to opinions and desires of others (1 Pet. 4:8). As I pointed out several weeks ago, if the issue is important to the other person, but not so important to you, then why not seek to please them? The same would be true if someone else had a special concern or desire and you could reasonably accommodate it, then why not do so? Because Jesus is Lord and not we ourselves, things do not have to be done our way. We can humbly agree to let things be done someone else’s way. If two people are accommodating to each other and neither is selfish, then the source of conflict is eliminated. That is the way a godly marriage is to work. It is also a reason that the Christian will more easily submit to leadership than the non-Christian. There is not only the Scriptural command to do so (Heb. 13:17), but without selfish pride, there is no longer a force that drives a person to demand they get their own way.
The second reason humility eliminates the cause of grumbling and disputing is because it is also the basis for quickly working out differences instead of marshaling others to take your side of an issue. Humility places greater value on the relationship than on any particular issue of preference. Pride demands power and control at the expense of any relationship. The humble person follows the scriptural commands to work things out in private first, including any sin issue (Matt. 18; Gal. 6) If things still cannot be worked out, they are brought privately before some other godly Christian or Christians for their counsel, which would often be a group of church leaders (1 Cor. 6:5). If the issues still cannot be resolved, the humble godly Christian would rather be wronged and defrauded than be contentious himself (1 Cor. 6:7). Of course at that point, there may also be an issue of sin involved on the part of the stubborn person which would have to be dealt with appropriately by the church leaders. Frankly, the only disputes that should ever become public are those that revolve around an issue of sin from which the one sinning will not repent. The public part of that is when the lack of repentance reaches the point of having to tell the church as part of church discipline (Matt. 18:15-17).
Christians can hold legitimate differences of opinion about things, and they can even passionately debate an issue. However, humble Christians also humbly listen to the what the other person is saying and consider the pros and cons of the arguments. That includes being willing to change their own mind as they consider the other point of view. It also means that even when passionate, the truth is spoken in love (Eph. 4:15). They are never to descend into the kind of arguing that occurs among non-Christians, and which becomes so blatant in too much of politics, especially in an election year.
Grumbling and disputing are things that should not be part of the life of a Christian. If you recognize that they are part of your life, then do not despair, for there is hope. James 3:1-10 addresses the use of the tongue stating, Let not many [of you] become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many [ways.] If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they may obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and [yet] it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the [very] world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of [our] life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; [it is] a restless evil [and] full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless [our] Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come [both] blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
If you are not yet perfect and your tongue is that way with grumbling and disputing being part of your speech, then take your encouragement from what Paul said back in verses 12 & 13. Yes, you need to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You need to be serious about doing your part in developing a character that is humble and puts the other person before yourself with the practical outworking of controlling your tongue. Make every effort to refrain from grumbling or disputing. As you do, remember that you are not alone in this, for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. He who began a good work in you at your salvation is able to complete it. God is busy at work in conforming you to the image of His son. You may not be what you want to be, but neither are you what you once were.
As you do gain control of your tongue, you will accomplish what Paul says in verse 15 and “prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” We will look at these positive traits of the true Christian next week.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word “grumbling” is said. Talk with your parents about any grumbling you do and how to change it to praise.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How do you feel when someone grumbles or complains about you? What is the context for Paul’s command in Philippians 2:14? What do the “all things” refer to in the immediate context? In the overall context? What is “grumbling”? What is “disputing”? What is the relationship between the two? Why is grumbling against circumstances so serious a sin? What was God’s response to grumbling in Exodus and Numbers? What does grumbling against God reveal about us in our relationship with God? What eliminates grumbling against God? Are you actively putting the various aspects of this cure into practice? What is God’s purpose for your life? How does that match your own purpose for your life? If they do not match, who should change? Why? Why is grumbling against other believers a serious sin? What kinds of things do true Christians usually grumble and dispute about? How does humility cure grumbling and disputing? Are you actively putting this cure into practice? If not, why not and when will that change? How does James 3:1-10 apply to your life? What are the source of encouragement for an imperfect person? How are you doing at proving yourself to be a child of God?
Without Grumbling or Disputing – Philippians 2:14
Do all things
goggusmoV / goggusmos
dialogismoV / dialogismos
Without Grumbling or Disputing toward God
Overcoming by Believing God
Without Grumbling or Disputing toward other Believers
The Cure of Humility
Taming the Tongue – James 3:1-10
The Proper Responses of Imperfect People
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