PHILIPPIANS, PART 3

Paul’s Prayer, 1:9—11

Can there be any doubt how much Paul loved his friends in Philippi?

God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  (verse 8)

Verses 9—11 make up the prayer which he first referenced back in verses 3 and 4.  Paul’s genuine love and affection for these people and his thanks for the times of fellowship they all shared together in the past, led Paul to pray for them.  Concern for others should always be manifested first, not in a phone call or an encouraging word (although there is nothing wrong with these things!) in prayer.  We are in the habit of saying, “The least I can do is pray for you.”  However, if we believe the Bible, we would recognize that far from being the “least,” prayer is the best thing we can for anybody in need!

1.  The petition, 1:9

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…

The basic petition of Paul’s prayer is that his reader’s love for each other may continue to grow.  The Philippians already had love for each other, but Paul’s desire was that it would continue to grow.  In all areas of our Christian life, we should be growing, never standing still.

The word Paul used here is agape, a word for love that crowds Paul’s writing.  Agape is a divine kind of love that is only possible between Christians.  According to what Paul wrote elsewhere, “love” is a fruit of the Spirit—

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22)

It is the Holy Spirit that enables Christians to live properly and love properly.  In fact, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is so vital in regards to enabling us to love one another, that without His help, the Christian is incomplete—

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  (Colossians 3:14)

There is no limit as to how much we should love each other.  In the natural, we cannot love each other enough; it is only possible as we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to live and work through us.  In a sense, that takes all the pressure off us!  All we have to do is walk in step with the Spirit.

The love that is supposed to exist between members of Christ’s Body is continuous, never stopping but always giving and always conscious of its debit—

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  (Romans 13:8)

The phrase “more and more” is a way of translating a word that suggests “overflowing.”  Paul wants love between members of the Philippian church to be overflowing all the time.  However, love’s manifestation and growth is not Paul’s only concern.  Love must not be mindless and undiscerning.  The Christian is supposed to be wise and intelligent in his faith, well rounded and grounded in his faith.  So, Paul adds “in knowledge and depth of insight.”   The love that exists between believers is not supposed to be based on emotional sentiment, but on knowledge of the Word of Gold.  Spiritual knowledge of God’s Word, as revealed by the Holy Spirit, enables the believer to love as God commands.

A further ingredient of love should be “depth of insight.”  Love between members of the Church should be judicious.  A Christian who posses love but lacks discernment (“keen insight”) may be very energetic and eager and enthusiastic about his faith, and his motives may be pure and honorable, but such a believer, without insight, will be easily led astray and probably end up doing more harm than good to his church.

2.  The immediate purpose of the petition, 1:10

…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…

This flows naturally from what Paul just said in verse 9.  When we live and love in an atmosphere of discernment, we are able to discern what is best for us and for the Church and we are able to make the right choice in that regard.

The word “discern” (“approve” KJV) is dokimazein, and is a Greek very used for assaying metals to detect any flaw.  It’s a skill all Christians should posses.  “Best” is translated “excellent” in the KJV and itself comes from a Greek word meaning something superior or best.  Only those skillful in living are able to see what is best or excellent for themselves and others.  This skill comes from the Holy Spirit within all believers.  No Christian is exempt from acquiring and practicing this skill!

In choosing what is best, the believer is choosing a way that is “pure and blameless,” thus they will be “pure and blameless.”  One that exercises this spiritual skill of discernment will be ready for Christ’s Second Coming.  “Pure and blameless” does not mean perfect and sinless.  The idea is one of sincerity.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, our sincerity will be real and our motives will stand up to God’s scrutiny.  Sincerity is complete openness to God.  Adam Clarke:

The soul that is sincere is the soul that is without sin.

As we walk in love, using our knowledge of Scripture and exercising spiritual discernment, we will live a “blameless” life, that is, a life that is not offensive to God or God’s people.  Some things in life are clearly right or clearly wrong.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the right from the wrong.  A Christian who lives a “blameless” life is one who lives, not according to the question, “Is it harmful,” but rather, “Is it helpful?”

Paul wants his friends to love each other and live in such a way as the entire Church is blessed by the kind of life each member lives.

3.  The ultimate aim of the petition, 1:11

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

The kind of person that will be commended by Christ will live a life marked by “the fruit of righteousness.”  How can people tell if you are a Christian?  How can people tell your life has been transformed by the presence of Christ?   It’s in how you live and interact with others!  Nobody can see Christ in you, but they can see how you act and how you react to things around you.   Paul wants his readers to be full of the “fruit of righteousness.”  Again, back to Galatians 5—

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (verses 22, 23)

When we allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow and be seen in our lives, our works will reflect this righteousness.  No mere human being can produce the fruit of the Spirit on his own without the  help of the Holy Spirit.  They are HIS fruit growing out of your life!  Note what Jesus told His disciples in John 15:5—

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Perhaps one simple reason why so many Christians feel as though they are living pointless, aimless lives is because they are not rooted deeply enough in Christ and are therefore bearing little, if any fruit!  There is a kind of Christian-envy in some circles; we look with envy and jealousy at how some Christians seem to always get their prayers answered or how they are always doing things in the Church and being blessed while we never seem to have this experience.  The problem is usually inside us!  As we open up our lives to Christ; as we open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit and as we step out in faith and let that Spirit take control and live through us, we will find the quality of our Christian lives soaring through the roof!

Christians that bear no fruit are a terrible testimony to God.  Christ died so that you could have His righteousness in you; so that His Spirit could take up permanent residence in you; so that you do the work of Christ in the power of the Spirit; if you are not doing that, you are making His work on your behalf nothing.  But just as tree filled with good fruit honors the gardener, so the believer with the fruit of righteousness brings glory and praise to God.

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