Calvary Road Baptist Church

“BETWEEN THE LINES”

Philippians 2.14

In the course of my reading, I came across an author’s observation about Philippians 2.12-16. Let’s stand and read that passage together and then let me read what he wrote about the passage. I think you’ll like it. I hope you will like it:

12     Wherefore, 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.

13     For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

14     Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

15     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;

16     Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

He writes,

“A final word about verses 12-16: this passage is loaded with words for ‘work.’ The Philippians are to work out their salvation; God is at work, both to will and to work; and Paul labors and by his labors will be measured in the day of Christ. If anyone fears here some erosion of the doctrine of grace, seeking alternate definitions of the Greek words will not help. The three different words used are all properly translated ‘work’: perspiration, calluses, sore back, and bone weariness. From work, no doctrine of grace protects us; and there is no reason to protect Paul from himself in these sentences . . . The church is to actualize in concrete ways, in energy-burning, time-consuming endeavors, the mind of Christ. Is there not the danger of work slipping over the line into work righteousness? That danger has apparently driven some members and clergy straight to the hammock as the only place where a doctrine of grace can be kept safe. The danger, however, is not a real one at all for those who have attended carefully to Paul’s admonition.”

I believe that writer has a good appreciation, not only of Philippians 2.12-16, but also of the Christian life. He seems to agree with the Apostle Paul in another passage, specifically Ephesians 2.8-10:

8      For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9      Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10     For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

There are too many deadbeat church members populating even the best congregations. It ought not to be that way, don’t you think?

Many of you are aware that Charles Haddon Spurgeon is one of my heroes, in whose life the grace of God has always amazed me. Spurgeon pastored the huge Metropolitan Tabernacle in the last half of the 19th century, a Baptist church in London, England. Listen to what Eric Hayden, former pastor of that church, whose grandfather sat under Spurgeon’s preaching, said about Spurgeon: “When Spurgeon interviewed applicants for membership he always asked them, ‘If you become a member of this church, what form of Christian service will you undertake?’ He did not believe in carrying passengers on his ship - all were to be crew members!” That’s the question I should ask prospective members, perhaps right after I inform them that I expect them to tithe. Hayden continued on in quoting Spurgeon speaking about a condition that applies to our church as much as it did to his own: “We are still suffering from the inertia of past days when the whole duty of man was considered to have been fulfilled if the church rules were subscribed to and a seat was taken and constant attendance was kept up. We have done with such idle ideas. Our ministers must teach members that the church ought to be a hive of busy workers, that Christ should be honoured in the family and in the workshop and that when a Christian ceases to be aggressively useful, his spiritual life becomes a matter of question.”

That sentiment hits the nail right square on the head. When a sinner is saved he is saved to serve. And when a supposed convert does not want to serve Christ, or for some conjured up reason does not serve Christ, there is every reason in the world to doubt that he is really saved. After all, it was the work of faith, the labor of love, and the patience of hope that convinced Paul that the Thessalonian church members were the elect of God.[1] There is something terribly wrong in the life of a supposed child of God who will not or who does not serve God in and through his church. That reality agreed upon, because there is simply nothing to be found in God’s Word to refute this sentiment, we need to recognize that there is a right way to do the right thing. Are you painting a wall for Christ’s sake? Wonderful. Do a good job. Realize, however, that it is what you say to those around you while you are doing a wonderful job painting the wall that is ministry. Putting on a roof? Great. But it happens to be the words that come out of your mouth while you are roofing that is service to God. What I am trying to show you is that no kind of service to Christ, from pulling weeds in the front yard to watching kids on the swing, can be divorced from what you actually say and the words you speak. Are you not eloquent? Then serve God as a Moses or as a Paul.[2] Are you eloquent? Then serve God as an Apollos. However you serve God, you primarily serve God with your mouth.

With that understood, let’s focus our attention on the text for today, Philippians 2.14: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” You are going to serve God. That is what believers do. You are going to serve God in this church. That is what trained believers do. And because you are going to serve God and serve Him in this church, there is going to be opposition. That is what happened in Philippi, that is what will certainly happen someday in or around Calvary Road Baptist Church, and that is what God’s plan is for every believer. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” Second Timothy 3.12. So, you are going to serve God and there will be opposition. The opposition will be individual, meaning that you will be opposed when no one else in the church is opposed, and you will also be opposed corporately, meaning that the entire church will feel the pressure at the same time. How are you going to react when these difficulties arise? What will be your response when the kitchen gets hot? Clearly, serving God, engaging in spiritual conflict, is difficult at times. When it gets difficult, how will you handle it?

Spiritual behavior is almost always planned behavior. I have told you that hundreds of times. In Philippians 2.14, we see evidence of that being true by observing rules that Paul expects believers to plan to abide by during spiritual conflict. Paul’s commands clearly show you responsible to avoid two pitfalls, to steer clear of two kinds of mishaps, to in effect stay between two lines which will serve as guides when you are speaking the truth in love, when you are ministering grace to the hearers, when you are preaching, when you are testifying, when you are holding forth the Word of life.[3]

First, WHEN YOU ARE ENGAGED IN SPIRITUAL CONFLICT AND YOU ARE SERVING GOD, DO WHAT YOU DO WITHOUT MURMURINGS

Consider murmuring as the left line you are not to cross over.

Remember the way of the Israelites? Again and again and again, during the course of their wilderness wanderings after God had delivered them from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites found themselves facing obstacles and difficulties that looked foreboding. And what did they do? In Exodus 16, immediately after God delivered them by parting the waters of the Red Sea, the Israelites murmured that they had no food. So, what does God do? After Moses warned the people that their murmurings were not against him, but against the LORD, the LORD began to feed them with a supply of manna from heaven that continued without interruption for 40 years. Then, in Exodus 17, just a short time later, they murmured again for the lack of water. So, the LORD told Moses to smite the rock and it flowed with water aplenty for the entire nation. God was obviously greater than any problem they encountered, as He repeatedly demonstrated. Is He going to rescue them from Egyptian slavery to let them die from hunger or thirst in the desert? When they came to the edge of the Promised Land they murmured yet again, according to Numbers 14. They wished they had died in Egypt. Then they wished they had died in the wilderness. Then they accused God of bringing them this far just to have their wives and children killed. Then they said they were going to choose another leader and go back to Egypt. So, God decided that He was going to allow every one of the murmurers to die in the wilderness. It would take 40 years, but He was determined that not one adult who had murmured against Him would live to enter the Promised Land. Did that stop them from murmuring? No. When Korah rebelled against Moses’ leadership and God opened up the ground to swallow the rebels up, there were people who murmured against Moses and Aaron yet again. That’s in Numbers 16. So, God killed 14,700 of those murmurers in a plague.[4] However, that is still not the end of it. In Acts 6.1, we find that, 1500 years later, in the church at Jerusalem, there are some Greek speaking Jewish Christians who are, you guessed it, murmuring because they didn’t think the Hebrew speaking Jewish Christians in the church were taking care of their Greek speaking Jewish Christian widows properly. So, you have what seems to be a cultural characteristic of a people, breaking out in murmuring against their human leaders, and ultimately against God, whenever they come up against situations and difficulties that they hadn’t anticipated or that weren’t to their liking. Where is God at each of these times? In each situation, both during the time of Moses and during the early days of the Jerusalem church, God had only recently demonstrated His awesome power and might to miraculously solve a problem the people faced. Yet when a new problem comes up the people act like they do not have God to rely on and they must resort to grumbling against their leadership. In other words, they fold under pressure every single time they have opportunity to do so.

Now, pay heed to the warning of the Apostle in our text. Don’t you do that. Make up your mind right now that you will not behave that way in the face of the unexpected, in the face of the unanticipated, or in the face of a great obstacle. The solution to the problem (whatever the problem may be) is not to murmur. The solution is not to grumble and gripe against the leadership, and by implication, to grumble and gripe against God Who has provided that leader. Make up your mind right this minute, Christian, that nothing is ever solved by murmuring, and that God hates murmuring. Decide now to always keep murmuring somewhere off your port side.

Additionally, WHEN YOU ARE ENGAGED IN SPIRITUAL CONFLICT AND YOU ARE SERVING GOD, DO WHAT YOU DO WITHOUT DISPUTINGS

Consider disputing as the right line you are not to cross over.

Let’s get something straight about the way of spiritual endeavor. The religious crowd out there would have you believe that you are always in the wrong when you are contending for the faith, when you are disputing with lost people about one thing or the other. However, Acts 17.17 shows us that the Apostle Paul disputed with Jewish people and devout persons daily, with no suggestion that such disputing was wrong, or improper, or unspiritual. In Acts 19, just after being used of God to bring to Christ and then impart the Holy Spirit to a dozen men, this same Apostle Paul proceeded to dispute and persuade concerning the things of the kingdom of God for three months.[5] Disputing, you must understand, refers to verbal contests in which one person seeks to persuade the other of the superiority of his ideas or beliefs. And the religious crowd out there would seek to convince you that all such disputings are wrong. But they are wrong. When you are contending for the faith, when you are engaged in spiritual conflict to present Christ, disputing is not wrong. It is the right thing to do and it is the spiritual thing to do.

That said, consider the warning of the apostle. This same style of verbal contest can deteriorate into prideful argumentation between believers. When you are humble and when you contend for the faith, disputings are proper when they are called for. However, when you are frustrated by events you cannot control, and you begin to take out your frustrations on other believers, you are wrong. When you are serving God, do not engage in disputes with other believers. When you do that you have crossed over the line and you are wrong. Such disputes with Christians, then, should always be held somewhere off to your starboard side. When you run between the lines, with murmuring off to the port side and disputing with Christians put off to the starboard side, you will be exactly where God wants you to be with respect to our text.

SERMON:

Working for the Lord is something every believer is to be engaged in. And working for the Lord properly calls for talking to people, occasionally contending for the faith. When that happens, there will rise up opposition to what you are doing. Frequently the difficulties you encounter are completely unanticipated. What do you do? Well, you keep on serving God. You keep on witnessing. You keep on testifying. You keep on inviting folks to church. And to make sure you don’t get off track and fall into patterns of behavior that can be destructive, there are these two things you must plan in advance to never do. Not that the Philippians were habitually guilty of either practice. It’s just that Paul wanted to take the precautionary step of warning them to never start doing these two things: First, never engage in murmuring. Don’t grumble and gripe and complain. What good can it possibly do? How does it ever help? And how does God feel about it? Second, don’t ever dispute with church members. How does that help? What problem does bickering with other church members ever solve? These are two guidelines Paul has given to us to keep us on the straight and narrow in our service to God as a church. Let’s make sure we stay between the lines, because when you cross over these guidelines you are in the wrong and in need of correction.

You well understand that Paul’s admonition to do all things without murmurings and disputings was written to a group of people who were saved people. They were Christian people. Not Christian people as they are defined in the 21st century, as a group of folks who agree with each other that they are going to heaven, who attend church only occasionally, and who never engage in any meaningful service to Christ. In Paul’s day, as my quotation of Spurgeon showed, it was not like it is today or during Spurgeon’s time. In Paul’s day, folks who claimed to be Christians, for the most part, were really saved people. And their spiritual condition was evidenced by their commitment to serving God, their tenacity in the face of spiritual opposition, and sometimes as we see from what Paul has written here their discouragement that can degenerate into murmurings and disputings amongst themselves. Saved people, after all, are not sinless people.[6] But they are saved. They do know Jesus as their Savior and they do love Him and they do actually live for Him. Unsaved people, on the other hand, sometimes pretend to be and sometimes actually think they are saved people. However, though they have conjured up sentimental feelings toward God and toward the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no real love, for real love is characterized not by feelings but by obedience. “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments,” Second John 6. Therefore, there is a real difference between people who are saved and people who are lost. And it’s a really big difference. The difference between those who are truly saved and those who are truly lost determines their eternal destinies, either heaven or Hell. Let me show you the difference by reference to something this word “murmurings” reminded me of.

Remember, Paul didn’t want the Philippians to be guilty of murmurings. He knew all too well that murmuring was a serious problem with the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings after God had delivered them from Egypt and before they were taken into the Promised Land. It was during one of the Israelite’s all too frequent bouts of murmuring that God did something He had never done before. Numbers 21.5-9 records the incident:

5      And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

6      And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

7      Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

8      And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

9      And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

This would be little more than an interesting historical event in the Old Testament, but for the Lord Jesus Christ’s comments to Nicodemus in John 3.14-15:

14     And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15     That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

From the words of the Savior, we know that we are given in scripture what is called a type and an ante-type. A type is something that happened in history that prefigured something astounding and important. The ante-type is the reality that was prefigured by the type. Especially for those of you here this evening who are unsaved, join with me for a few minutes to look at both the type and the ante-type.

THE TYPE IS THE FIERY SERPENT MOUNTED ON A POLE

Consider what we know of the Israelite’s experiences:

First, there was the poison. They were bitten by poisonous snakes. And the venom of the snakes was strong enough to cause certain death. The snake bites were fatal if untreated.

Next, there was the preponderance. “and much of the people of Israel died.” Tragic, isn’t it, that most of those infected by this poisonous venom died without any benefit of treatment. Being bitten by the snakes, they were sick unto death. The great preponderance of those bitten by these snakes simply died.

Third, there was the provision. The people came to Moses, admitting they had spoken against the LORD, pleading with him to do something for them. All Moses could do was pray and ask God to do something. The solution to their problem was quite beyond human capacity. God answered Moses’ prayer and directed that a fiery, or a bronze, serpent be constructed and mounted atop a pole at the center of the camp.

Finally, the perception. As wonderful as God’s provision for the venom that was coursing through their veins was, it would do them no good unless and until they looked at it. “Daddy, come outside the tent. Moses said that if you would but look to the bronze serpent mounted on the pole you would live and not die! Please, Daddy. Please look at the bronze serpent. I love you, Daddy.” Some few who had been bitten did look and lived. Sadly, many, if not most, did not. I can imagine their replies to the urgings of their loved ones. “Are you crazy? I will live if I just look at some stupid bronze snake on a pole? Can’t you see I’m sick? Leave me alone.” And Daddy died. And Mommy died.

THE ANTE-TYPE, OF COURSE, IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

You are no Israelite wandering with your people in the wilderness, but you are wandering through the wilderness of life a directionless sinner. Consider what the Lord Jesus Christ said to Nicodemus in John 3.14-15, and see the application to your own life:

First, there is the poison in your system. It isn’t venom from a fiery serpent that resulted from a bite. Instead, it’s sin that’s coursing through your eternal soul. Not the result of a serpent’s bite, this venom called sin is the result of the serpent’s influence and persuasion in the Garden of Eden. It affects everyone, you included. And if you aren’t treated with the antidote you will die and go to Hell, “for the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6.23.

Second, there is the preponderance. In Numbers 21, we are told that many of those bitten by the fiery serpents perished. The preponderance of those afflicted with that snake venom died a painful and agonizing (Should I add needless?) death. The parallel runs from the type to the ante-type, as well. In Matthew 7.13-14, the Lord Jesus Christ warns His listeners that “broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat, Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” My friend, listen to me. You sit where you are poisoned with the venom of sin. Perhaps you know full well that you are not saved. Perhaps you are one of the multitudes of so-called Christians in America deceived by modern religious leaders into thinking you are saved. Either way, know this to be true: Most people do not get saved. The great preponderance of folks who are born into this world will live out their lives and die in their sins and go to Hell. It is likely that you will, as well. I wish that were not so. I do not want that to be so. But it is not wise to pretend that what God’s Word says it says about others and not about you.

Therefore, here you are, poisoned by sin and with the preponderance of your pals and acquaintances doomed to spend eternity in Hell. Just know that God has made for you a Provision. We cannot take the parallel between the Old Testament type of a brazen serpent and the New Testament ante-type, the Lord Jesus Christ, too far. For one thing, the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, not something crafted by man or by God. For another thing, the Lord Jesus Christ is not a passive figure mounted on a pole. He suffered and bled and died to become the satisfaction for your sins. The parallel between the Lord Jesus Christ and the brazen serpent in the wilderness is this: The serpent was hoisted on a pole for all to see. The Lord Jesus Christ was hoisted on the cruel Roman cross He was nailed to to give up His life and to pour out His blood for our sins. Understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only provision for your sins that God has made. As one who is poisoned by a venom that condemns your soul to Hell, as you lie in your sins weak, helpless, and without the strength to do anything to save yourself, know that there is One Who is ready to save you to the uttermost from your sins, Hebrews 7.25.

However, what good is provision without perception? As that serpent was lifted up by Moses for dying Israelites to but look to for physical healing from the venom of poisonous snakes, so must the Lord Jesus Christ have been lifted up, lifted up on that cross to atone for your sins, lifted in the eyes of sinners so you will but look to Him for salvation. You see, my friend, all you need do is look to Jesus and live. Look with the look of faith. Look upon Him as they of old looked upon that brazen serpent. Doing that, you are saved from your sins.

You don’t need to talk to me in order to be saved. You don’t need to join the church in order to be saved. You certainly don’t have to be baptized or perform any works of righteousness in order to be saved. People are saved from their sins who trust Jesus. People are saved who look to Him with the look of faith for their salvation from sin. Are you a sinner, poisoned with the venom of sin by that old serpent who lured our parents into sin in the Garden of Eden? To be sure, you are. Sinning is in your blood. Sinning is in your soul. Yes. You are poisoned indeed with the poison of sin. Will you be saved? I don’t know. The preponderance of those poisoned with sin are not saved, but die in their sins and go to Hell. Don’t think you are immune to the poison of sin. Don’t think you alone of all sinners will escape the judgment and wrath of God for sin. That’s just the delirium produced by this poison called sin. It affects the brain as well as the heart and soul.

God’s provision for this malady is Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ, Acts 4.12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” If you will but look upon Him with the eye of faith, if you will but trust Him (to put it another way), if you will come to Him by faith (to phrase it yet a third way), He will save you.

Don’t delay, my friend. God has promised that His Spirit will not always strive with man. There will not always be a witness to your heart and to your conscience telling you that you need to be saved. Look to the Lamb of God while you can.



[1] 1 Thessalonians 1.3-4

[2] Exodus 4.10-12; 1 Corinthians 2.1, 4

[3] Ephesians 4.15, 29; Philippians 2.16

[4] Numbers 16.49

[5] Acts 19.8

[6] 1 John 1.8



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org