Philippians 2:14-16 Devotional
Philippians 2:14-16. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.
Reflection. Earlier in the epistle, Paul prays that believers be pure and blameless on the day of Christ (1:10). How might we go about achieving that? According to this passage, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (2:14). Christ provides us with the profoundest expression of such obedience (2:5-8). He was a “servant.” But he did not go about his task begrudgingly. The Son did not resent the Father but rather submitted humbly to him. We’ve already encountered Jesus’ “mindset” (2:5): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition…Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests” (2:3-4). It’s far from outlandish to suggest that the reason we grumble and argue is that we do not possess that same mindset. We are selfish, proud, self-centred and unconcerned about the interests of others. And as long as we are we will not live in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27). So Christian, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (2:14).
Quite remarkably, a result of this is being blameless, pure and without fault (2:15). The “children of God” are not those with a mark on their forehead but people who live markedly different lives. “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (2:15). Considering one of our points from last week, I do not think Paul is only referring to verbal grumbling, as if we could claim obedience to God while muttering to ourselves and in our hearts. Therefore this is certainly a challenge to most—myself included. Christ set the bar incredibly high. Yet this is the standard that Paul exhorts us to pursue.
At least one of the ways we soften this searching exhortation to imitate Christ is by saying, ‘Don’t forget: he was God.’ But the Christ hymn does not let us off so easily (2:5-11). For he was “made in “human likeness” (2:7), “being found in appearance as a man” (2:8). Thus we do Christ’s obedience a terrible disservice when we wrap it up in his divinity. Let us imitate Jesus Christ the man. Only do not feel burdened or guilty by your failings. Paul was no stranger to them, knowing he would not be counted righteous apart from Christ (3:9). Instead let Christ’s example fuel your obedience. Delight in his grace and be determined to show it in how you live.
To me, 2:16 has always seemed out of place. What is this “word of life”? I think it is a reference to the gospel message. For Paul then mentions perseverance, “hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” In other words, there is a link between holding onto the word of life and standing on the day of Christ. Of course, for Christians, our access to this word is in Scripture. Therefore the application is, straightforwardly: read your Bible. However we must move beyond that generic line of thought. The Christian is not simply someone who reads their Bible. They are those who understand that apart from God’s inspired and effective Word they might not persevere.