In the previous post, we looked at “The Exuberant Joy of Gospel Fellowship” from verses 1-8. We saw that Paul was excited about his Gospel connection with the believers at Philippi. His prayer life showed tremendous gratitude and love for them. Paul’s connection to these believers sparked two Gospel responses laid out for us in verses 5-8. The first was Gospel comradery. They had companionship with one another that was developed by striving together to reach the same goal. This companionship began from the moment these Philippians came to Christ. The same Spirit residing in Paul was now the same Spirit uniting the Philippian believer’s hearts together. The second response was Gospel confidence. Paul was confident that God who began a good work in them would complete this task of sanctification until the day of their glorification. These two responses revealed why Paul was expressing exuberant joy in fellowship with these believers.
A Desired Response (1:9)
Paul continues his prayer for the believers in Philippi and will begin to reveal his reasons for this prayer (Phil. 1:9-11). There are two main clauses in this section of verses that will give us the “what” and “why” for this prayer. The “what” that Paul prayed begins in verse 9. He wants to give them the full purpose behind his prayer. He concluded verse 8 with the statement “with the affections of Jesus Christ.” This binding power of unity found in the gospel is initiated by the love and affections of Christ that exists in all believers. Paul was a recipient of this manifestation of love at his conversion (Acts 9:1-9). As Paul grew in his knowledge of Christ, his love for others grew as well. What drove a man who once hated, imprisoned, and murdered Christians (Acts 8:1-9:3) to love them unconditionally with the affections of Christ (Phil. 1:8)? It goes back to the truth of Phil. 1:6. God began a work in Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-9) that He would perform until the end of his salvation.
With this process that Paul experienced, he prayed diligently that their “love may abound still more and more.” He wanted to see the Philippians continue to grow in their love for one another. Paul did not pray that these believers would find this love or begin to love. He prayed that they would cooperate with the love that already existed in their hearts and allow it to grow continuously. There’s a paradox taking place within these verses. God said He would complete that which He started in verse 6. Now, Paul is praying that the believers would choose to grow in their love. This is the beauty of salvation all the way through. God begins our salvation and will complete our salvation. Even still, we are asked to cooperate with this inevitable process. Instead of spending endless hours trying to understand and explain this paradox in scripture, we should embrace both teachings as God has laid them out for us in His word. Instead of turning one against the other, allow the tension of both truths to motivate your heart to love God for who He is and love others more.
In what areas did Paul desire to see their love abound still more and more? The first word he mentions is “knowledge.” This is the Greek word “ἐπίγνωσις” which means to gain insight or consciousness. Paul wanted them to learn awareness about something. What was it? He wanted them to be aware of opportunities to choose the gospel over their desires. Specifically, choose to love someone else over themselves when there are opportunities to advance or hinder the gospel. The second word he uses is “discernment.” This is the Greek word “αἴσθησις” which carries the idea of grasping what is required for helpfulness in a relationship. What was it that Paul wanted these believers to grasp? He wanted them to grasp the importance of making the excellent choice when the gospel may be in jeopardy.
Paul wanted them to “approve the things that are excellent.” He wanted them to place value on the things that had eternal value. The excellent choice is “the gospel choice.” We need to get into the habit of asking ourselves this question, “will this advance the gospel or hinder the gospel in the lives of others?” The excellent choice is to allow the needs of my fellow believers to be more important than my own. This expression of selflessness is the definition of love that Paul prayed would abound still more and more. In summary, Paul’s prayer was that the Philippian believers would have the ability to recognize, discern, and prioritize the gospel in every situation in order to put the affections of Christ on display within Christian fellowship and day-to-day contact with the lost.
A Desired Result (1:10-11)
The second clause is found at the end of verse 10. This clause reveals the “why” of Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers. Paul was adamant that these believers learn to make the excellent choice. The question is why? There are two reasons as to why Paul made these statements. First, he wanted them to be “sincere” in life until they reached glorification. We see the phrase “day of Christ” mentioned once again(vs 10) just as he did in verse 6. As a reminder, the day of Christ is the glorification of the believer. This word “sincere” means to test by sunlight. When their lives are fully exposed, Paul wants the verdict to be pure and without accusation in their decision making for the gospel. The second reason as to why Paul made these statements was that he wanted them to be without offense until they reached glorification. The phrase “without offense” is one Greek word which carries the idea of giving no offense for someone to stumble. This is why Paul was adamant that these believers learned to make the excellent choice. To make the wrong choice, could cause other believers to stumble in their faith and hurt their process of growth. Paul’s prayer was that they would remain “without offense” in these areas throughout their sanctification.
What is the overall result of these believers growing in their love for God and others? We find the product in verse 11. The fruit of righteousness in them will be revealed to those that are around them. Notice that this righteousness was not the righteousness of man. Paul says, “which are by Jesus Christ.” This is the righteousness of Christ revealing itself through the heart and life of the believer. What is the evidence of this righteousness taking place? It is the believer learning to make the excellent choice in choosing to love others above themselves for the advancement of the gospel in their lives. The product of all this is such an amazing development. Notice the end of verse 11, “to the glory and praise of God.” This is the ultimate end of Paul’s prayer in this text. He wanted God to receive the glory and praise for what He was doing in the lives and hearts of His children.
I want us to ask ourselves a few questions from this text. 1.) How do we evaluate situations that affect others around us? Are we living the Christian life for the advancement of self? There will be daily choices that can hinder or help our effectiveness with the Gospel. Are we making the excellent choice that shows our love for others and priority for the gospel? 2.) Is our ultimate goal in life verse 11? Is it our desire to see God receive the glory and praise in our lives and fellowship? Having the right motive is very important in Christian living. We want to be able to do things out of a sincere heart and remain blameless (vs. 10). May everything we say and do be the excellent choice which ultimately brings God the glory.
Grace and Peace to you.