Blameless and Harmless

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 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; 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.”
—Philippians 2:14-16

IN PHILIPPIANS 2:12 and 13, the Apostle Paul urges the Philippians to work out their own salvation, and assures the brethren that God was cooperating—working in them to will and to do of his good pleasure. To Paul—who was blessed with such a deep insight into all that is required in the Christian life—‘holding forth the Word of life’ for the blessing of others was part of the Divinely provided means of working out one’s own salvation.

The apostle’s sequence of thought is enlightening. First: “Work out your own salvation.” (vs. 12); then: ‘Do all things without murmurings and disputings.’ (vs. 14); in order ‘That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke’ (vs. 15); ‘holding forth the Word of life.’ (vs. 16) To be blameless, harmless, and without rebuke as we hold forth the Word of life, is of vital importance if our efforts are to contribute to the working out of our own salvation.


To be blameless is to be devoid of any disposition to do evil. We are not to be controlled by anger, malice, hatred, or strife; and are not to seek vainglory. We should be harmless, not merely from God’s standpoint, or so far as the brethren would see, but so far as possible, harmless in the sight of the world before whom we are to reflect the Gospel light.

We should not compromise the truth in order to please the world, nor should there be anything in our conduct or character to which the world can point as being evil. Our position should be like that of Daniel, of whom it was said by his enemies, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”—Dan. 6:5

To be blameless in the sight of God is to have our hearts’ intentions always pure, just, loving, and kind. But this does not mean that the world will approve our course in life. Indeed, we should expect to have opposition from the world. If we have the friendship and approval of the world, then we should seriously question our standing before the Lord. Jesus did not please the world, but those of the world who were not prejudiced against him on account of his teaching found no fault with him. Pilate said, “I have found no cause of death in him [Jesus].”—Luke 23:22

Our concern should be that no just cause for blame be given through our wrongdoing. II Corinthians 6:3 speaks of “giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.” Paul outlines the manner in which this can be done, saying:

“In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, … in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, By the Word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”—II Cor. 6:4-10


In our text, Paul indicates that we are to hold forth the Word of life amidst ‘a crooked and perverse’ people. This means that we should not refrain from bearing witness to the truth simply because the majority of those with whom we come into contact are not Christians. It will not injure us nor mar the purity of the truth to let it shine in a wicked world. It has been well said that a ship is safe in the ocean as long as the ocean is not in the ship. So it is in our ministry of the truth. We should keep ourselves unspotted from the world, and guard well the purity of the message we proclaim, making sure that it is not mixed with worldly philosophy. Each Christian who does this will be as a beacon in a dark world of sin and sorrow.

We are not to expect that the world will be converted. It was not converted in Paul’s day, and will not be until the kingdom is established. It was a perverse and crooked generation to which Paul preached, and every generation since that time has been the same. ‘Perverseness’ implies unwillingness to be guided by the Lord. ‘Crookedness’ is not always a way of open wickedness, but like a crooked line which goes in various directions, it implies a doing of both right and wrong. Amid these conditions we are to let our light shine, showing “forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (I Pet. 2:9) Paul tells the Philippian brethren that if they would continue doing this, he would be able to look back upon his own ministry and feel that he had not labored in vain. This is a strong statement!

If the love of God fills our hearts, we cannot help telling others about the Gospel. Those who erroneously suppose that all who are not now converted must suffer an eternity of torture are often zealous in proclaiming error. We who know the plan and love of God should not be less zealous simply because we know that the world will not be converted until the next age. We are to let our light shine just the same, for out in the darkness there is one here and one there whom the Lord will reach with the message which we proclaim; and rich will be their blessing, and our blessing.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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