Paul’s desire for the Philippians is that they would do everything they were supposed to do without murmuring and disputing. To murmur is to complain discreetly. It is meant to pass the complaint along to just a few in the immediate vicinity of the complainer. To dispute is to disagree with somebody over something or to take exception to something.
When the saints murmur and dispute they sow the seeds of discord in the congregation [Prov 6:16-19] and diminish the unity of the Spirit and the like-mindedness of the brethren. Like Paul said, we are to “be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind,” [Phil 2:2]. So, we are to keep from murmuring and disputing.
When the Jews murmured in the wilderness, God plagued and killed many of them [Num 14:36-37;16:41-49]. We are told in the New Testament to learn from their mistake [1 Cor10:10-11]. Murmuring and complaining like that is an abomination to the Lord.
Disputing is the result of dissension and disagreement [Acts 6:9; 15:2]. It has no place in the church because it causes people to disagree and divide. And there is no way to have unity in the congregation and disputing at the same time. Like Amos asked, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” [Amos 3:3].
Now if a congregation can do all things without murmuring and disputing, the congregation is going to benefit in several ways.
They will be blameless – 15 – in answer to Paul’s prayer in 1 Thes 5:23– saints should not allow themselves to be used of the devil to divide the flock – they are to be blamed if they do
They will be harmless – 15 – which is what we are supposed to be Matt 10:16– Paul warned the Galatians not to devour each other Gal 5:15
They will be without rebuke – 15 – 1 Cor 1:11 Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians for their contentions – Mk 9:33-35 Jesus had to rebuke the disciples for disputing among themselves
They will shine as lights in the world – 15 – [in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation] – this crooked generation is “dog eat dog” – we are different – our testimony is found in Jn 13:34-35
They will hold forth the word of life – 16 – our purpose is to propagate the gospel [Ps 68:11] – we will be more effective if we can work together to this end – fighting among ourselves hinders the work [Eph 4:29-32]
They will make the preacher’s work profitable – 16 – if the Philippians, because of murmuring and disputing, could not carry on the work that Paul had begun among them, then his labor among them was worthless – but if they could get along and continue where he had left off then his work among them was worthwhile – how many dead churches are left after splits have splintered the original work
They will cause the preacher to rejoice – 17 – to sacrifice and serve them to strengthen their faith [Rom 1:11-12] was a cause for joy to Paul [Heb 13:17] – John said it this way, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” [3 Jn 4].
They will also have joy with the preacher – 18 – a congregation that is getting along together is always happier than one that is fussing – the preacher is happier and so are the people.