Paul has given us a lot to think about (and do):
- He’s exhorted us to be likeminded with our fellow believers.
- He’s encouraged us to set aside rivalry and conceit.
- He’s told us to imitate Jesus and His willingness to set aside His own rights in order to serve others.
- He’s assured us that God was pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice and placed Him as Lord over all creation.
- He’s pointed out that the obvious response to this is to work diligently at living out our salvation in a practical way.
- And he’s bolstered us with the reminder that God is the one who changes our hearts (in Christ) and gives us the desire and the ability to please Him.
Now he’s going to get practical and tell us how to apply the reality of our salvation to our daily lives. What does he tell us to do (or not do) next? “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (KJV).
Ouch . . . We need to look more closely at this verse and the ones that follow. Again, don’t be dismayed by the length of this post. Your actual study time won’t be that long! (And a big part of this post is an explanation of the children’s activity.)
Assignment: Pray for a soft and teachable heart as you study today. Then read Philippians 2:1-16. Think about this passage as an entire unit. Paul is not writing a collection of disconnected verses to the Philippians (and us). He is communicating a message, and he is building one thought on top of another. What he has been saying all through chapter 2 relates to what he is saying in verse 14. Let’s head right to our lexicon and find out exactly what murmurings and disputings are.
- Open Blueletterbible.org and search on Phil. 2:14.
- Click on “Interlinear” in the “Tools” menu, and scroll down to murmurings.
- First of all, take a look at the English transliteration of this Greek word! Goggysmos! You can even click on the arrow in the “Pronunciation” box and hear the word. It sounds unhappy! Repeat the word a few times. Doesn’t it sound like someone murmuring? (or like some wild word out of a Dr. Seuss book?)
I’m going to try to memorize this Greek word and bring it to mind when I’m tempted to murmur. I think it might help me remember how ugly murmuring is!
Write this Greek word down in your notebook.
- Next, look at the word’s usage. What kind of murmuring is this? Is it an out-in-the-open sort of grumbling, or is it done in a less obvious way? Keep taking notes!
- Scroll down further on the page and read the four verses that are given under “Concordance Results Using KJV”. Remember, these verses all use the exact same Greek word — goggysmos — that we are studying.
Does that one about being hospitable without “goggymos-ing” convict you as much as it does me? Note any new insights you gain from reading these verses.
- Now let’s look at disputings. What does it mean? Even though the original Greek word is obviously related to our English word, dialog, it has a different meaning than we associate with that word. Are we talking primarily about arguing with other people or with ourselves (and God)? Record what you are learning about this word.
- Scroll down and read the other verses that use this same Greek word. Take notes on how the word is used.
I was surprised to find that disputings has to do with inward doubting and deliberating. Combine the meaning of this word with the meaning of murmurings – an expression of secret displeasure — and we learn that Paul is not focusing on our need to forego openly arguing with others. He’s going behind our closed doors and telling us to quit grumbling and deliberating inside our own heads.
Let’s go one more step in studying this verse. Let’s look at a commentary for more insights.
- Open Biblestudytools.com and search on Phil. 2:14.
- Scroll down to the selection of commentaries listed under “Study Tools”, click on John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, and then on “Philippians 2:14″.
- Read Gill’s comments on murmurings. It takes a bit of patience to read and make sense of these long sentences. What three groups does Gill list as ones we should not be murmuring against? List these in your notebook. Are you ever guilty of expressing secret displeasure in any of these areas?
- Read the comments on disputings. This is so good. We’re to do — “without hesitation” — all that is consistent with God’s revealed will. How often do we know exactly what we should do, but hesitate and debate with ourselves and God, because we don’t want to do it or because we don’t trust God?
This is when, instead of debating with ourselves, we can speak God’s Word to ourselves. We can recite to ourselves the words of verse 13. It’s God who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. This doesn’t mean we just sit back and wait for Him to make us want to do something. We can’t blame Him for our disobedience.
It means stepping forward and working out our salvation, starting with what God has done in us when He saved us (vs. 12). It means availing ourselves of the ability and energy He gives us to do what pleases Him, and trusting Him with the results (vs. 13).
This is the attitude we need if we’re going to lay down our lives and our rights for the good of others. This is the mindset that goes hand-in-hand with being in “full accord” (vs. 2) and doing “nothing through strife or vainglory” (vs. 3). If we are grumbling and deliberating in our own hearts, we will not be ready to lay down our desires and our lives for the good of others. If we don’t trust God, we will desperately cling to and try to protect what we think are our rights. We have to repent of our murmurings and disputings and trust God.
- Pray about what you have learned about murmurings and disputings. Do you do all things without sinning in these ways? Praise God, we are saved by grace and not by our ability to keep His law! But we can praise God as well for the grace that not only saves us but also goes on to give us the power to become more and more like Jesus. Through Him, we can learn to put these sins aside. When we do, we will be shining lights in a dark world!
- Take some time to meditate on and pray over this verse and the verses that precede it. In what ways do we murmur and dispute? How can we murmur without words? What are we forgetting about God when we hesitate to do what we know He wants us to do?
In what ways is God calling you to think and act differently? In what ways is He calling you to work out the saving work He has already done in you?
For your children:
This verse is one that parents often quote when children are arguing among themselves or grumbling about something they have been been asked to do.
We need to take this verse one step farther, however. When our children argue with each other, and when they grumble against our authority over them, they are ultimately arguing with and grumbling against God. If we only try to settle arguments, if we just design ways to discipline them for bickering and grumbling, but fail to address their distrust of God, we will still leave them with unchanged hearts.
Bring out the dress-up box and let the children act out a Bible story today!
Read Exodus 16:1-8 with your children. Talk about the story and discuss verse 8 where Moses points out that the Israelites’ murmurings are actually against God. Help your children understand that God is in control of all things. When we grumble about our circumstances or about what we are asked to do, we are grumbling against God who has allowed those very circumstances for our good.
He has given little brothers to help big sisters learn to be patient and kind. He has given us work to do to help us mature and to keep us from sinful laziness. He has given us less than we often want because He knows how easy it is for us to love things more than we love Him. Assure them that God loves us and knows what is best for us. We need to learn to trust Him.
Then read all of Numbers 11. Have the children tell the story back to you. Then let them dramatize this account. They should have a grand time getting sick and dying as they gorge on the meat that covers the ground! And when they’re all done, they will remember what happened to God’s people when they chose to not trust Him.