Chapter 25: Results of Cultivating

Philippians 2:14‑16  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.”
“Do all-(things) without murmurings and (without) disputings, that ye-may-be unblameable and uncorrupted, children of-God unblemished, amidst (a) crooked and distorted race, amongst whom ye-appear as luminaries in (the) world, holding-out (the) word of-life.”
We have meditated a little on Philippians 2:12-1312Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12‑13), considering chiefly the words, “work out your own salvation,” (vs. 12) as they are translated in our Authorized Version: but we saw that another translation might be: “cultivate your own salvation.” It might be of interest to look at a few other passages where this Greek word might be translated in the same way:
Another important point in this verse is the use Scripture makes of the word “salvation.” If we think of the salvation of our souls only, many passages of Scripture will be very hard to understand: for that salvation was completed at the cross, and was given to us freely when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. We could not “work out,” or even “cultivate” this salvation: for it is complete and perfect forever: our souls are as safe now as they will be when we are at home in the Glory. But Scripture looks at salvation in various ways: as we have already seen, it speaks of the salvation of our bodies as well as of our souls: it looks at salvation as past, present, or future: according as redemption, grace, or glory are in view. For our souls, salvation is past: (See 1 Peter 1:99Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9); Eph. 2:5, 85Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5)
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)
; 1 Cor. 15:22By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2)). But for our bodies, the Lord keeps us safe day by day, and hour by hour, and this will not be completed until He has us safe at Home, spirit, soul, and body: as we see in Rom. 5:9,109Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9‑10): “Much more, being reconciled, we shall be kept safe in His life.” (Moule). This is present salvation; and in Rom. 8:23-2423And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (Romans 8:23‑24) we may see future salvation: “Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” (Rom. 8:23-2423And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (Romans 8:23‑24)). And see also Rom. 13:1111And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Romans 13:11). This salvation is “the deliverance that crowns the close of all the difficulties we may encounter in the passage through the desert-world, as well as.... the present guardian care of our God who brings us safely through. It is a salvation only completed at the appearing of Jesus.” (W.K.)
We also spoke a little of the tremendously important fact that it is GOD which worketh in you. In the Authorized Version it adds, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (vs. 13). But in the Greek New Testament the words translated “worketh” and “to do,” are the same. But it is quite a different word in verse 12, that has been translated “work out.” So I think it is, perhaps, clearer if we translate as we did in our last chapter: “Cultivate your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is the (One) working in you both the willing and the working for the sake of His good pleasure.” The word here translated “working,” means the “internal operation of power, though seen in results.” (J.N.D.). In verses 14 to 16 we will see the results: but let us never forget that it is GOD, not us, Who works out these results in us. Perhaps all my readers know in their intellect that the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer. (John 14:1717Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17); 1 Cor. 6:1919What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19), etc.); but do we not often seem to forget that He actually is in us? Do we not often seek to do the work ourselves? And is not this the reason we so often fail? You remember in Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20), we read: “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” As we are about to ponder the “results” we have just spoken of, we would be utterly hopeless and discouraged if we had to trust our own efforts to produce them: but let us never, never forget that “It is GOD which worketh in you” (vs. 13). It may seem strange to think that GOD must work even “the willing.” We are slow to believe that we are so bad by nature that we are not even willing, of ourselves, to produce these results. It must be GOD who works the willing, as well as the working. And both the willing and the working are for the sake of His good pleasure. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:99Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (2 Corinthians 5:9): “We are ambitious.... to be well-pleasing to Him.” (Literal translation). But God must work even this ambition in us.
THOU sayest, “Fit me, fashion me for Thee.”
Stretch forth thine empty hands, and be thou still;
O restless soul, thou dost but hinder Me
By valiant purpose and by steadfast will.
Behold the summer flowers beneath the sun,
In stillness his great glory they behold;
And sweetly thus his mighty work is done,
And resting in his gladness they unfold.
So are the sweetness and the joy divine
Thine, O Beloved, and the work is Mine.
(Gerhardt Ter Steegen)
Now let us seek to go on to verses 14 to 16: “Do all things without murmurings and (without) disputings, that ye may be unblameable and uncorrupted, children of God unblemished, amidst a crooked and distorted race, amongst whom ye appear as luminaries in (the) world, holding out (or, offering) (the) word of life.”
But let us arrange the first part of this Scripture in a slightly different way: to try and bring out more clearly the force which I think the Holy Spirit has for us in it.
We will find that the Spirit of God here lists seven results of His work in us: and you will remember that seven is the number of completeness, or perfection. These seven may be divided into three sections or classes,
1. Do all things without murmurings
2. and (without) disputings, that ye may be
3. unblameable
4. and uncorrupted, children of God
5. unblemished amidst a crooked and distorted race,
6. amongst whom ye appear as luminaries in (the world),
7. holding out (or, offering) (the) word of life.
The first two are linked together very closely: very strong negatives. The three that follow are linked together in the Greek Testament because there each begins with “a,” which I have attempted to translate (very feebly) by using three words that each begin with “un.” The “a” of the Greek is a negative in somewhat the same manner as “un” is a negative in English. The last two are very strong positives. So we may see there is a progression from a strong negative to a strong positive. And I doubt not this is as it should be in the Christian life.
The first word we must look at is “murmuring.” It is the translation of a Greek word pronounced something like, “gongusmos,” and you can almost hear the grumblings and mutterings, in the sound of the word. The children of Israel murmured very often. It was one of their chief sins. They murmured at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:1111And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? (Exodus 14:11)), though this word is not used of them there. They murmured at Marah (Ex. 15:2424And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? (Exodus 15:24)) where this word (with an added preposition) is used of them in the Greek Old Testament. We find it again in Ex. 16:22And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: (Exodus 16:2) in the wilderness of Sin; and again in Ex. 17:33And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? (Exodus 17:3) at Rephidim (where this work exactly is used). They murmured again at the return of the spies. (Num. 14:2, 27, 29, 362And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! (Numbers 14:2)
27How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. (Numbers 14:27)
29Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, (Numbers 14:29)
36And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, (Numbers 14:36)
); and also against Aaron, (Num. 16:1111For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the Lord: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him? (Numbers 16:11)). I think the particular word used in this verse in Philippians is used seven times in Exodus and Numbers.
The word translated “disputings,” is “dialogismos,” from which we get our word “dialog.” It begins with an inward questioning, that may be silent, and then these inward questionings become doubts. But when they grow bolder and are uttered, then they are disputings. You may see them well illustrated in Mark 2:66But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, (Mark 2:6) & 8, where they are well translated “reasoning.” The Lord often had to meet this spirit. If you will ponder these two words, you will see they are the roots of a very large range of sins: most of which, perhaps, are due to a lack of real, simple, living, obedient faith. When we were children, how often our mother used to quote this verse in Philippians to us! But it is not the children only who need to hear this word: much as most of them may profit by taking heed to it.
The second group of results are in the words: a-memptos; a-keraios; and a-momos; all, you will note, begin with “a.” The first word of this group, amemptos, means “blameless.” There should be nothing in our lives of which anyone can take hold, and blame us. The Lord could say, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:4646Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? (John 8:46)). Not one could. He was absolutely and altogether amemptos, unblameable. Not only must we learn not to murmur and dispute, but we must learn to walk blamelessly through this evil world.
Near where I live there is a dear Christian laborer: he labors in the rubber or coconut plantations: he comes from the island of Timor, and speaks no English, and I am sure has never heard of a-memptos: but he thoroughly understands the meaning of this passage in Philippians. He has spread the gospel wherever he works: and yesterday he told us, laughing, “I have to be the best laborer in the plantation, or my boss would never put up with me.” A Christian official for whom he once worked told us that he is the best laborer he ever had. He knows the meaning of amemptos, though he has never heard the word. May we be more like him!
The fourth word is a-keraios, which literally means “unmixed.” Wine unmixed with water is akeraios. It is sometimes translated guileless, innocent, simple, pure: I have translated it “uncorrupted” for the sake of using a word beginning with “un-,” to try and link these three words together, as the Holy Spirit has done in Greek. But I am not at all satisfied with this translation, without an explanation. It describes a man with unmixed motives. I think the best illustration I know is the man who would not wear a garment of woolen and linen. (Lev. 19:1919Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. (Leviticus 19:19); Deut. 22:1111Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together. (Deuteronomy 22:11)). Abraham was such a man as this; but, alas, his nephew Lot often put on this kind of garment. Abraham, at times, failed to be an amemptos man, as, for example, when he went down to Egypt; but he always was an akeraios man. Amemptos relates to the judgment of others: akeraios describes the intrinsic character. (In this connection may I earnestly commend to my readers Mr. J. G. Bellet’s pamphlet, Woolen and Linen.)
The last word in this second series is a-momos. This is the word that is continually used in the Old Testament, and the New, for an unblemished sacrifice. We find it in Ex. 29:11And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, (Exodus 29:1), and often in Leviticus, and again in Numbers. In 1 Peter 1:1919But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:19) we find it again: we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:1919But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:19)). I think “without blemish” here tells of His inward perfection, and “without spot” of His outward perfection. But in Lev. 22:21-2221And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. 22Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the Lord. (Leviticus 22:21‑22), without blemish refers to outward blemishes. In Col. 1:21-2221And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (Colossians 1:21‑22) we read: “You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblemished (amomos) and unreproveable in His sight.” Again, in Jude 2424Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (Jude 24) we read of One who is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you unblemished (amomos) before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” I judge from these Scriptures that amomos describes the condition in the sight of God, as amemptos in the sight of man; and akeraios the intrinsic character. Those who know their own hearts best, know best how far in practice we now are from being amomos (unblemished): though as seen in Christ, even now God sees us unblemished. But we can thank Him that the object He has in view for us; the object toward which He is working in us, is that we should be in our daily life unblemished: and the day is surely coming when He will present us thus unblemished before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
But we must look a little more closely at verse 15, for it is of peculiar interest: “That ye may be unblameable and uncorrupted, children of God unblemished amidst a crooked and distorted race, amongst whom ye appear as luminaries in (the) world, holding out (or, offering) the word of life.”
Most of this verse is based on, but not quoted from, Deut. 32:55They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5), in the Greek Old Testament. In Deut. 14:11Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. (Deuteronomy 14:1), looking at Israel as God’s chosen and separated people, we read: “Ye are the children of the LORD your God”. But in Deut. 32:55They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5), looking at their rebellious walk and ways, the Spirit of God says: “They have sinned, (they are) not children to him, (they are) blemished (momos: note, without the ‘a’), a crooked and distorted race.” Israel has ceased to be “children to Him,” and have, instead, become “a crooked and distorted race”; blemished, instead of unblemished. Now the saints at Philippi have God working in them so that they, once poor sinners of the Gentiles, have become “children of God,” (Gal. 3:2626For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)) and they are to be unblemished children, amidst the blemished, crooked, and distorted race: which described not only Israel, but the Gentiles also.
“Among whom ye appear as luminaries in (the) world.” Or, it might equally be translated, “Among whom appear ye as luminaries in (the) world.” The verb “appear” is used in the middle voice, and then is used for the rising, or appearing, of heavenly bodies. (J.N.D. Note in large New Testament). We find the same thing in Matt. 2:77Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. (Matthew 2:7), “the star that was appearing,” or, “the appearing star.” The word translated “lights” (phoster) in the Authorized Version is the word used of heavenly luminaries, and is only used on one other occasion in the New Testament: Rev. 21:1111Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; (Revelation 21:11): “He carried me away in the spirit and showed me.... the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light (phoster) was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” To me, there is something inexpressibly beautiful in all this. The Christian is represented as a heavenly light, a new and beautiful star, perhaps; appearing amidst a crooked and distorted race: and the light that shines from this luminary is the light of heaven; but it appears in (the) world. There is no article— no “the”— in the Greek with the word “world”; this gives the sense in the whole world: it has the effect of emphasizing the greatness of the sphere in which the Christian is to shine. It is the universe of mankind, including those as yet outside the sound of the gospel. (Vaughan).
Even in earthly things men look for guidance to the stars. A man lost on the prairie may find his way home by the stars. In navigation, sailors look to the stars, especially to the North Star. In an important survey, we always run our base-lines by the stars, particularly the North Star: and so keep them from becoming crooked and distorted. Thus these `luminaries,’ these ‘heavenly lights’ in this dark world, need to remember that those who walk in darkness have their eyes upon them: but just as other stars point to the North Star, let us ever have our eye fixed on ‘The Bright and Morning Star,’ and then our path will not be crooked, and we shall not lead astray those watching us. It was a star which led the wise men to the Savior at Bethlehem when He was a Babe. How good if we too can be like that!
And while the Christian sheds this heavenly light in the poor dark world, at the same time he is to hold out— to offer— the Word of Life. The word translated “hold out” is used of holding out, or, presenting, a cup of wine to a person at a feast. It is as though he holds out a cup of the water of life, and offers it to all in the world, crying, “Whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely!” (Rev. 22:1717And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)).
Beloved, such is the picture the Spirit of God has drawn of the Christian as he passes through this scene. Do you turn from it in hopeless despair, saying, “Never can I attain to such heights as this?” You are right. You never can, most certainly, in your own strength: but never forget, “It is God that worketh in you.” And you may turn to One, and only One, Who ever has passed through this sad world and presented these seven lovely traits, or results. In this exquisite chapter we have seen this One treading those seven steps downward, from the throne to the cross: we have seen Him also on that upward path from the grave to the glory, again seven steps: and now, in rapture, we gaze upon Him once more, in these seven steps through this world: the only One Who ever has trodden that path, as God has marked it out. May you and I, Beloved, seek grace to “follow His steps!” (1 Peter 2:2121For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21)).