Lights to the World
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”- Philippians 2:14–15
Light is an important metaphor in Scripture, and it is one applied both to God and His people. Regarding the Lord, for instance, shining light is often used to describe His glory and purity, His majesty and goodness (Num. 6:25; Pss. 36:7–9; 43:3–4; Isa. 2:5). This is remarkable when we consider that God’s original intent in calling a people for Himself was to make them His lights to the world (Prov. 4:18; Isa. 42:6; 60:1–3). The covenant community was called out of darkness and given the vocation of reflecting the splendor and purity of the Lord to all creation.
Of course, as a collective body, old covenant Israel did not fulfill this calling to shine forth God’s glory and righteousness (2 Kings 17:7–23). Thus, the prophets looked for our Creator to intervene at the last day and make His people shining lights who would show the world the goodness and majesty of God (Dan. 12:1–3). But what the prophets did not fully understand was that the last days would be brought forward in time, and they would overlap with earthly history for a time. This is the period between Christ’s advent and return, a time in which the promise of God to make His people lights in the world is being fulfilled. Jesus essentially makes this point in Matthew 5:14–16, telling us that we are lights of the world. Those who have placed their faith in Christ alone cannot help but illumine everything around them; they have new natures and shine forth the Lord’s glory and goodness as they begin to understand what it means to be the lights of God in this world.
Paul conveys the same point in today’s passage, reminding us that as the new covenant people of God, we have been made into lights who shine forth “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). Thus, we shine as the lights the Father has made us in Christ as we serve others “without grumbling or questioning” (v. 14). Working out our salvation in fear and trembling is no easy task (vv. 12–13), especially when we must deal with other repentant sinners and with decisions, made by church leaders, that we do not always understand. We are tempted to complain and grumble constantly in these situations, but such behavior does not show forth the peace and righteousness of God that He is manifesting in His church in the present age (Eph. 2:11–22).
Since we are already lights to the world in Christ Jesus, we can, by His Spirit, show forth the glory and goodness of God in line with the Father’s plan. We will fail from time to time and need reminding that shining as lights excludes grumbling and complaining. So the question remains, are we grumbling and complaining about our church leaders over every given matter, or are we working to support them as they follow Christ?
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 4:9