Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lights in the Darkness

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Paul wants the Jesus believers at Philippi to “work out” their salvation, that is, to let it be demonstrated among them together as a community. What he particularly has in mind here is the expression of unity, the single-hearted, single-minded love and focus that manifests the mind of Jesus the Messiah among them.

Everything is to be done without complaining and disputing. Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech has it as, “Be ever on your guard against a grudging and contentious spirit.” Other versions say:
  • “without grumbling or arguing” (Contemporary English Version)
  • “without murmurings and questionings” (Context Group Version)
  • “without grumbling or questioning” (English Standard Version) – grumbling against and questioning each other.
  • “without kvetching or arguing” (Jewish New Testament)
Wuest, in The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, is a bit wordier but brings out the nature of what Paul is addressing. He renders the key terms here as, “discontented and secret mutterings and grumblings” and “discussions which carry an undertone of suspicion or doubt.” This has everything to do with how we are to relate to one another, that we must not grumble and mutter against each other, or look upon one another with suspicion and doubt, questioning each other’s faith, motives or commitment. Instead, we should become “blameless and harmless, or as Wuest puts it, “guileless in [your] simplicity.” That is, we should be open, honest and straightforward with each other — WYSIWYG, “What You See Is What You Get.”

When we are transparent and non-toxic with each other, we will become “children of God without fault.” Paul is not implying that this is how we become children of God. We already children of God by faith in the Lord Jesus, for “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). But the point here is that we need to conduct ourselves in a way that is “without fault,” a way befitting the children of God that we are, particularly because we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Paul is drawing a sharp contrast here that alludes to Deuteronomy 32:5, a prophecy Moses gave: “They have corrupted themselves; they are not His children, because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation.” The believers at Philippi were living in a society that was twisted and contorted and curved in upon itself, a culture that turned away from God (much as we see today). It is precisely for this reason, then, that we must be open and honest with each other. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Then we will “shine as lights in the world.”
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:8-10)
Light shines in the darkness of the world and the world cannot overcome it. The value of light is that it enables people to see. When we live open, honest and transparent lives with each other, in love and unity, the world can see the True Light, Jesus, shining through us. When light shines in the darkness, it brings hope and life. “Holding fast the word of life,” is how Paul says it (some translations have “holding forth the word of life,” which fits the context better). We become torchbearers so that others may see.

The “word of life” is the good news of the gospel, the announcement about King Jesus. George Lamsa, working from an ancient Aramaic version of the New Testament, translates this as “For you are to them the light of life” (Translation From the Aramaic Peshitta). Paul’s overall concern is that the gospel keeps advancing and that the Lord Jesus be glorified more and more.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there anyone in your circle of relationships about (or against) whom you have secretly muttered or harbored suspicions and doubts?
  2. What can the divine humility of the Lord Jesus teach us about that?
  3. What action can you take that might help to resolve such a situation?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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