Praying for a Smarter Love, part 2 (Philippians 1:9-11)

We are back in Philippians 1 today, looking at Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in 1:9-11.

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

We noted last week that Paul was praying that their love would increase and that it would be intelligent, that it would be boundless, but have boundaries—that we would express it in large measures, but in the right way at the right time for the right reason.

Another verse which expresses this balance is Romans 12:9

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

For love to be “without hypocrisy,” implying that it is quite possible for our love to be hypocritical (self-serving, for example), we have to abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.  Obviously, even knowing the difference involves a moral judgment, but then we have reject (literally “hate”) what is evil for our love to be genuine, and not let go of what is good, and right.

Far too often in the name of love we have jettisoned what is good and right and true in order to go with the flow of our culture.  But if our love is to be genuine, we have to hold the line on truth and “abhor what is evil.”

Genuine love takes a stand against evil.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:6, love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

Love deals with sin because sin destroys people.  Therefore, genuine love must discern sin and bring truth against it.

When love is increasing and intelligent, Paul says it then allows us to “approve what is excellent.”

The word “approve” is sometimes translated “discern,” but this one is a common word.  It is dokimazo in the Greek.  It has the idea of “to test in order to approve.”  It referred to testing money to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit, to test a candidate for political office and Luke 21:56 speaks of testing the sky to discern the weather.

Do you remember how, when you bought a pair of pants, a piece of paper with a number would be in the pocket?  That number showed that the pants had been tested, not to see if they would fail the test, but to prove that they were of good quality.

Paul is praying that they would abound in love and knowledge so that they would make good choices in their daily lives.

We might say that in this case Paul is concerned not so much with whether they can discern good from evil, but the good from the better and the best.  To be able to set proper values on things, activities or even people is not only distinguishing good from evil, but the good from the best.

We want to approve and pursue those things, activities and people that really matter in life, and not live trivial pursuits.

Sometimes Scripture is very clear as to what our priorities ought to be, such as “seek first the kingdom of God” and “Mary has chosen the better part.”  Paul, later in this book, will say, “This one thing I do.”

In order to approve the things that are excellent and do them, we must “renew our minds” through God’s Word so that we can “prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2) and “test all things; holding fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

We all face choices in life. Some are crucial, many seem less consequential.  How do we decide?  How can we make choices to do what is excellent, what is important?

Little choices may matter greatly.  Even gray areas can be vitally important for us to make the best choice.

Unless we have this knowledge and discernment guided love, we are likely to make poor, selfish choices of how to use our time and energy and money.

But Paul is praying that their love would ramp up to white hot and also be guided by cool reason and practical discernment so that they make excellent choices in how they will spend their lives.

Since the Bible doesn’t give us clear “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not” in every situation, we need a love guided by wisdom to make the right choices.

Now, Paul’s second request for the Philippians is that they would live an authentic life—that they would be sincere and blameless and fruitful (vv. 10b-11a).

and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness

Paul knew that when people begin to lose their love for Christ, their moral lives begin to go downhill.  Choosing the best in life consistently is that allows us to live sincerely, blamelessly and righteously.

Our English word “sincere” comes from the Latin sine cera, literally meaning “without wax.”  In the ancient world normal, everyday pottery would be thick and not very pretty.  But decorative pottery was thin and therefore could easily crack in the firing or drying process.  Less then honest dealers would fill those cracks with wax and repaint.

Honest dealers would put a sign marking their pottery as “sine cera,” without wax.

The Greek term for “sincere” is eilikrines, a compound word consisting of helios (“sun”) and krino, “to judge.”  When you take something out into the light of the sun it makes it easier to judge whether there are any cracks or smudges.  The sun exposes stains and blemishes in materials, or cracks in pottery, even beneath the wax.

God wants our lives to pass the test of exposure to the light, to the truth.  God wants us to live blameless lives.  The word “blameless” here is aproskopos, meaning “not stumbling.”  God wants us to be able to stand or walk without stumbling, without falling.

It makes a difference both where we walk and how we walk, according to Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

When we traffic in the ways of sin (v. 1), we are bound to stumble.  Later in Psalm 1 David describes their lives as like chaff, so insubstantial that a breeze blows it away.  But the man who delights in God’s law and consistently meditates on it will be as strong and stable as a vibrant tree.

Now, you and I both know that we sometimes fall.  We do sometimes stumble into sin.  But Scripture gives us clear instructions on how Christians are to deal with their sins.  Although judicially all our sins were forgiven at the cross, relationally we must come to the Father and confess our sins (1 John 1:9).

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Not only are we not to stumble, but we shouldn’t cause others to stumble.  Paul talks about this in terms of the strong not causing the weak to stumble, in Romans 14, by choosing NOT to do things which are lawful to do, but which would damage the conscience of weaker Christians.

Likewise, Jesus speaks of causing children to stumble and how damnable that is.

6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

The reality is that children practice in excess what their parents excuse in moderation.  So watch your life.  Not only do you not want to stumble, but you don’t want to cause others to stumble.

Whereas “sincere” focuses primarily upon our own character, “blameless” focuses more on the result of my character.  Will my life result in blame?

Notice that Paul qualifies this with “until the day of Christ” (cf. v. 6).  He is referring here to the day Christ returns and we stand before the Bema seat to give an account for our lives.  To be sincere and blameless before our fellow man is one thing, but to stand before Jesus Christ sincere and blameless must be our goal and our desire.  This requires more of us.  It makes our choices in life much more serious.

The emphasis here shows that the future coming of Jesus Christ should be much more than a prophetic curiosity, but a truth that has significant impact on how I live my life each moment.  Knowing that Christ may return at any moment and I may have to give an account of my life should lead me to make different choices and live completely committed and pure.

1 John 2:28-3:3 says…

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Christ may appear at any moment.  So every moment I must live as if it were the moment and live so that “when he appears I may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”  Since Jesus is sincere and blameless, and we will be made like him (3:2), we should want to “purify ourselves” (3:3).

So live today as if it were THE DAY.

Paul indicates in Philippians 2:15 that we need to be “blameless and pure” in the midst of a “crooked and depraved generation.”  This means it certainly won’t be easy.  Everything around us will have a great attractional pull on our lives.  It will be difficult to be “blameless and pure” but if we can, we will “shine like stars.”

The third aspect of authentic living that Paul speaks of here is that we would be righteous.  But Paul indicates that this righteousness is based not so much on our own efforts, but in cooperation with and dependence upon God to produce this kind of righteous life.

In three ways Paul emphasizes this dependence upon God.  When Paul says we are to be “filled with fruit” he uses the passive voice, indicating that we are being filled by someone else, not ourselves.

Now, to “be filled” with something is a picture of being controlled by something.  When someone is “filled with anger” or “filled with fear,” it means that anger or fear controls them.  Thus, to be “filled with the Spirit” means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and here to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness” means that righteousness is controlling our lives, it dominates our lives.

Using the perfect tense here, Paul is indicating that this filling was completed in the past BUT has still continuing results of producing more and more righteousness in our lives today.  I believe Paul is referring to the gift of a righteous life that we received when we were united with Christ.  When we believed in Christ and the Spirit baptized us into Christ, we were united with Christ and received all His benefits.

Thus, His perfect righteousness was credited to our account.  Now, positionally, or definitively, when God looks at believers He sees not their sins, but Christ’s righteousness.  In God’s eyes were stand perfectly righteous.  That is the completed part in the past.

But that righteousness is now manifested in our practical, daily lives—again through faith—as we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, believing that the Christ who lives in us will live His righteousness through us.

Also, by using the imagery of “fruit” Paul is again emphasizing that this kind of life comes from our connectedness to the source of life.  It reminds us of Jesus’ teaching in John 15 that we cannot produce fruit on our own, but simply through abiding in Christ.

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Every good thing that comes from our lives is produced out of our regular communion with Jesus Christ.  When we fail to “tarry there,” we cut ourselves off from the source of life.  We are like a hose that could produce water, but we have failed to turn the spigot.  But the real power is not in the faucet, but in the vast reservoirs of Jesus Christ.

You’ve heard of Lawrence of Arabia.

After the Great War, Lawrence was in Paris with some of his Arab friends.  He showed them the sights of the city: the Arch of Triumph, the Louvre, Napoleon’s tomb, and the Champs Elysees, but none of those impressed them.  The one thing that did interest them the most was the faucet in the bathtub at their hotel room.

They spent much of their time in the room, turning the water on and off.  They found it amazing that one could simply turn a handle and get all the water he wanted.  Later, when they were ready to leave Paris and return to the Middle East, Lawrence found them in the bathroom with wrenches trying to disconnect the faucet.

“You see,” they said, “it is very dry in Arabia.   What we need are faucets. If we have them, we will have all the water we want.”

Lawrence had to explain to them that the effectiveness of the faucets did not lie in themselves but in the vast reservoirs of water to which they were attached.  And even beyond that it was the rain and snowfalls of the Alps that produced the water for the reservoirs.

Are you attached to the source of spiritual power, Jesus Christ?  And do you access that power through daily communion with Him?

Now, the end result of increasing and intelligent love and an authentic life that shines with righteousness is that we glorify God.  Paul says all this is “to the glory and praise of God.”

This is the great goal of all of life.  This is what all creation exists for—to bring glory and praise to God.

Adam Clarke says…

“Every genuine follower of God has his glory in view by all that he does, says, or intends.  He loves to glorify God, and he glorifies him by showing forth in his conversion the glorious working of the glorious power of the Lord.”

What an excellent prayer this is!  In our day, when we tend to voice prayer requests for physical needs primarily, we need to follow Paul’s example of putting the spiritual needs of others high on our prayer lists.  Christians still need God’s supernatural enablement to value highly the things of greatest importance as revealed in Scripture.  Only then will we make choices that will prepare us to give a good account of ourselves at the judgment seat of Christ and bring maximum praise and glory to His name!

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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