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Neither Grumble Nor Dispute, Part 1

March 22, 2020

Phil 2:14



Bible References

Phil 2:14

Sermon Notes

Neither Grumble nor Dispute, Part 1 3.22.20


Well good morning, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. A warm welcome in the name of Jesus Christ out Lord to you who are joining us by live feed. It saddens me that we cannot gather together in person but I am thankful for the technology that we have to be able to connect together via the internet.

Before we begin this morning, I’d like to share with you some things from my heart regarding what’s going on in this world. These issues are different than what I will be preaching on this morning. I usually wouldn’t do this but provided this situation I want to share with you some pastoral burdens so you can be praying for them.

First, I want the whole congregation to pray that we can gather corporately on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday, along with Christmas, is the most important day in our church calendar. It is a day of hope, of light, and of redemption. Pray fervently that we could gather in person on this day. I really don’t want Easter to come and go without us gathering.

Second, I want you to be checking in with your brothers and sisters in this body. As we are isolated from one another, it’s important that we call, text, e-mail one another. I challenge you, dear friend, to contact five people from this body to see how they are doing. Be intentional about reaching out to one another during this time. Pick up the phone and give someone a call. See how they’re doing. Please do this this week.

Third, I want you to be praying that God would bring people in your path who need the love Christ. This is a very difficult time for many people, dear friends. Financially, socially, emotionally, this is very difficult. During this time, we want to shine forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to be strong. We want our witness to be bold and bright. Pray dear Christian, for God to bring to you, to this church people who need the love of Christ. Pray fervently. We don’t want to waste this opportunity. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send people our way.

Those three points are what the Lord has put on my heart. I ask that you think and pray about them.

Let’s go ahead and open to our passage for this morning. Our text is Phil 2:14. Paul writes this,

Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

This passage, v. 14, is the beginning of a long sentence that Paul begins here and ends in v. 16. If you read 2:14–16, you’ll notice that this is one long sentence. For this week and the next two weeks, we will be discussing this long sentence. Verses 15 and 16 build off of v. 14. That is, this long sentence in 2:14–16 is a long explanation of grumbling and disputing that we cover in today’s sermon. Hence, that is why I’ve titled this morning’s sermon, “Neither Grumble or Dispute, Part 1.” I plan on having three parts to this small series.

Every week I reevaluate whether I should pause my exposition of Philippians to cover what’s going on in our world. So far, I don’t feel that the Lord has been leading me in that direction. I

plan to continue in Philippians until we get to the summer. When the summer starts, we’re going to jump into the OT for a bit (I think we might cover the book of Ecclesiastes). We’ll spend the summer somewhere in the OT, and then in the Fall we’ll pick back up in Philippians.

Do All Things

Three points for you this morning based upon Phil 2:14. The first point is this, “Do All Things.” “Do All Things.” I get this point from the first three words of our passage.

Now if you will remember what we discussed last week, we discussed 2:12–13. And in v. 13 the command Paul gave was “to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In 2:14, the passage that we are exploring this morning, Paul tells us how we do that. How do we work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Answer: we do all things without grumbling or complaining. That’s the connection with last week’s sermon, with vv. 12–13.

The verb here, “do,” is all-inclusive. It is an expansive verb. Paul does not say, “Say all things” or “Think all thoughts.” He say’s “do.” To “do” is one of the broadest verbs to describe human activity. “Doing” entails every action. Further, Paul adds, the modifier “all things.” Once again, that is very general. There are no exceptions here in v. 14.

What this highlights is the nature of our Christian calling. The Christian calling is an all-inclusive reality. That is, Jesus’ lordship extends too all areas of our lives. Jesus wants it all. There is not one inch of our lives that Jesus does not want control of. Jesus’ lordship is all-inclusive. Jesus wants it all, dear friend.

When it comes to this topic of grumbling and disputing, we often associate it with just speech. Often when we think of grumbling or disputing, we think of speech. We think of how we talk. We often envision what Paul says here as a prohibition of the way we talk. Don’t complain with your words. Don’t be argumentative with your words. Something like that.

That is what Paul is touching on here. But he’s also touching on attitudes as well. To “do all things” entails more than just speech. It also entails the heart attitude. Complaining and disputing begins in the heart, dear friend. It starts as an attitude. This attitude can often be expressed through speech but it is also expressed through body language. Eye rolling, shrugging the shoulders, a loud sigh. Paul is touching upon these realities as well, not just speech. His touching about the deep heart attitudes that we have. Jesus lordship extends to all that we do, whether it’s our speech, our body language, or our deep heart attitudes. Because of that, we are to do all things without grumbling or disputing.


Now what exactly do these words “grumbling” and “disputing” mean? They both refer to heart attitudes that manifest themselves in our thoughts, proceed to our body language, and then come out of our mouths. They start in heart, move to the mind, and then manifest themselves through our bodies.

This notion of “grumbling” can also be understood as “complaining” or “murmuring.” The background here is found in the OT. Paul picks up this concept of “grumbling” from the book of Exodus. Turn with me to Ex 16:1. I’ll read through v. 8. The passage reads,

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”

What’s going on here is this. The Israelites had just been rescued from Egypt. God had just manifested his power, sovereignty, and faithfulness to the Israelites. God had rescued them and then what is their response to God? They murmur, they complain, they grumble. Look at v. 3. They Israelites say, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Basically, their hangry. To be hangry means to be hungry and angry at the same time. They were hangry. And in their moment of hangriness, they forget God’s faithfulness, they forget God’s power, they forget what God had done, and the bicker, complain, murmur, and grumble.


Now we need to ask the question here what is it that made what the Israelites did sinful? Their complain was rooted in them being hungry. Now is it wrong to be hungry? No. Is it wrong to tell other people that your hungry? No, it’s not. It’s okay to be hungry and it’s okay for you to tell other people you are hungry. In fact, its absolutely necessary in life to inform other people you are hungry. Think of a newborn baby. If they didn’t cry to be fed, they might die. Sometimes it’s very important to tell people you are hungry. So, that can’t be a sin.

We can stretch and extrapolate this idea even more. Let’s say you’re having bad stomach pain. Like really sharp pain. And you think to yourself, “Well I don’t want to be like the Israelites so I’m not going to tell anyone about my stomach pain.” The pain gets worse and worse. And you

end up passing out, your rushed to the ER, and they have to do emergency surgery on your stomach because your appendix just burst. You telling your family members during this time that your stomach hurt would not have been complaining. By not telling anyone, you had actually made the situation worse. There are times when you absolutely should tell other people that you are hungry, sick, whatever. To do that is not to complain.

Complaining is different. Complaining is rooted in thanklessness and selfishness. Going back to the Israelites in Ex 16. God had just rescued them from their slavery in Egypt. He had kept his word to them and rescued them. Their response, “We need food. We want to go back to Egypt. At least we had food there. God, you haven’t done anything for us.” They were thankless. To complain is to thanklessly express your selfishness.

My Story

Let me give you an example of this from my life. It’s funny. I encourage you to laugh. During our family vacation in Florida over Christmastime, my parents were nice enough to take our whole family to Disney. Our kids had not been to Disney. They were very excited. My parents were very excited. My wife was excited. I, on the other hand, had my reservations. Waiting in lines with thousands of other people and paying $ 10 for a bottle of water, no thanks. But being the loving son, husband, and father that I am, I went.

So we get there and it just happens to be one of the busiest days of the years. We went on the Friday before kids went back to school from Christmas break. There were tens of thousands of people. The lines are like miles long. One of the rides that we had a “fast pass” to, broke down right before we were about to get onto it. We had to wait to sit down and eat even though we had a reservation. Not ideal circumstances.

But everyone had a great attitude. Even our kids. Me, no. I had a terrible attitude. Kathryn go ahead and give your amen. I was so unpleasant the whole time. Selfish. Pity party. Rolling my eyes. Rather than being thankful for the manifold blessings that God has given me—salvation in Christ, parents who love me and love my children, a wonderful wife, children who are healthy, having the money to go to Disney world, being able to move and travel freely in the greatest Country that has ever existed—I’m complaining, rolling my eyes, and grumbling. I acted lawfully. Good thing the elders didn’t see me. I might not be up here preaching if they did.


This coming week (and maybe these coming months) there’s going to be ample room for us to complain about what’s going on. We’re in some difficult times. This sickness and the complications that it will bring to our daily lives with result in ample opportunity to complain, grumble, and murmur. We’re going to be tempted to have pity-parties. We’re going to be tempted to forget all that God has blessed us with. We’re going to be tempted to neglect to goodness and love of God. That’s going to be the temptation. We’re going to need to fight that. We’re going to need to do all things—taking care of the kids, grocery shopping, dealing with our finances, having to stay cooped up in our houses for days on end—without grumbling.

And the way we do this, the way don’t complain during difficult circumstances, is we must cultivate a spirit of thankfulness. We must combat gambling with thankfulness. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Thess 5:18. He writes,

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

There is nice symmetry between what Paul says in Phil 2:14 and what he says in this Thessalonians passage. The Phil passage is what we don’t do; the Thessalonians passage is what we do do. Don’t grumble in any circumstance but do be thankful in every circumstance.

The reason why we can be thankful even in difficult circumstances is because God is good. Jesus is risen from the dead. We have hope. We always have hope, dear friend. Always. Because we always have hope, because God is always good, because our souls are always secure with Christ, we therefore can always be thankful, and we can always not complain. Praise the Lord.



Now we look at the second attitude that Paul tells us we should always avoid. Turn back to Phil 2:14 with me. That attitude, Paul specifies, is “disputing.” “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” If you have a different translation than the ESV, like a NIV, you will notice that your word for “disputing” is “arguing.” These English concepts of “disputing” or “arguing” get us close to what Paul is saying here. Paul doesn’t use this word very often in his epistles. But there are two other places where he uses it which help illumine what Paul is saying in Phil 2:14.

Rom 14:1

For our first passage, turn with me to Rom 14:1. Paul writes this,

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

That last word, “opinions,” is the Greek word for “disputing” that occurs in Phil 2:14. Paul states in this Romans passage that church should accept those weak Christians who have misguided beliefs. Those who are mature in the church in Roman should not quarrel with the weak brother or sister about their wrongly held beliefs. In the body of Christ, we all have differing beliefs regarding issues that are not essential. Paul is commanding the Roman church to not quarrel over these unimportant issues. They should have unity, even when they’re not in total agreement about everything. Total agreement is not essential for church unity.

1 Tim 2:8

Now turn to 1 Tim 2:8. Paul writes this there,

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling

The last word in this v., “quarreling,” is the same word that occurs in Phil 2:14. I take it what Paul is saying here is that he wants the men to come together and pray in a spirit of love and

unity. He does not want the men to come together and bicker with one another about unimportant matters. Paul doesn’t want that type of culture within Timothy’s church. He wants unity, not quarreling.


Bringing this brief study of this word to a conclusion. What Paul means when he says that we are to do all things without disputing, Paul means that he doesn’t want them engaged in unnecessary conflict, dispute, argumentation between members of the church about unimportant and frivolous matters. So many things that we get angry about, that we fight with other people about in the church, are just not that important. There are some people in life who are quarrelsome, nitpicky, and make mountains out of mole hills. Paul is discouraging that. He is saying here to us, “Don’t be like that.” Don’t be unnecessarily argumentative.

How often have you gotten into an argument with your spouse over something so unimportant. Kathryn and I don’t argue a lot. But we argue a little. I imagine that every couple does. They are never about important matters. One of us, or both of us, should just move on. So much of what we make a big deal of in this life just isn’t worth the energy fighting.

Now sometimes we should be argumentative. Specifically, over certain doctrines, we should make a big deal when those are reject. Far too often, though, we don’t find ourselves in that situation. More often than not, our disputes with one another are unimportant, they don’t matter, we should just move on.

How often have you gotten into an argument with your spouse over something so unimportant. Kathryn and I don’t argue a lot. But we argue a little. I imagine that every couple does. They are never about important matters. One of us, or both of us, should just move on. So much of what we make a big deal of in this life just isn’t worth the energy fighting.


This should be especially true in light of what were going through right now with this virus. Think about all the difficulty this virus is causing people in this world. That’s a big deal. It’s a big deal what we are going through. And then think about the numerous unnecessary disputes that occur at churches across this world. In light of this situation, those pretty, personal arguments just don’t matter, do they? No, they don’t. Dear friend, what matters is eternity, not these petty disagreements we get into with one another.

The application for this last point of “disputing” is this. Don’t nitpick. Don’t make mole hills out of ant hills. Don’t be quarrelsome. Don’t look for a fight, an argument, or an opportunity to tell someone else their wrong. Don’t do that. That’s what Paul is telling us to not do. Do all things without the inner attitude of disputing, arguing.

The way we combat this spirit of disputing, or engaging in unnecessary arguments, is we have to heed what the Proverbs say about letting things go. These are some passage the Lord has been using in my life to help me with this sin.

Prov 12:16,

A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

Prov 19:11,

A man's insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.

Prov 29:11,

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Prov 19:11,

A man’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.

Dear brothers and sisters, what we need in our church and in this world is less disputing. We need Christians who are willing to swallow personal offence and not make a mountain out of a mole hill. We need one another during this time. My prayer is that during this pandemic we wil will be able to recalibrate our understanding of what is important. So that when we come together, we will relate to one another with love, sacrifice, and self-giving. Praise the Lord. Pray with me.

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