“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11).
These verses near the beginning of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi contain Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. These words were written from prison to a church that was very close to Paul’s heart. They had helped him in his work from the start (Phil. 4:15). This is a prayer that the church might have a love that was developed and filled with knowledge. He prayed that their love might “abound”, not just be adequate to get by. The word translated “abound” here means “to be over and above” (Young’s). I had a math teacher when I was in high school that would not give an “A” even if you had an average of 100 unless your work was “over and above.” The grading system stated that to receive an “A” the student must exceed the assignment of the teacher. It appears to me that this is the kind of love that Paul is praying for the Philippians to develop. Should our love today be any less?
This love was to abound in knowledge and in judgment. Knowledge comes through studying and meditating on God’s word. Through knowing God’s will, we come to more fully understand Him and His requirements for us, we more faithfully seek to obey Him, we walk more closely with Him, we partake more fully of the presence and blessings of His Spirit, and we become more like Him in character. Later in this same chapter Paul urges them to “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (v. 27). This comes through this educated love that Paul writes of in our text, and this should be the aim of every Christian. We often pray in our public prayers, “Help us to be better Christians each day.” This comes only from the same educated love of which Paul prays. Love abounds only when we are willing to follow God’s word in everything we do (Col. 3:17).
In our daily lives, all of us are often faced with decisions; we are all confronted with many different things and we must choose what we shall accept. As Christians we ought to always choose the things that are excellent, and not those things that are trashy. This applies to the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the entertainment we choose, the material we read, the music we listen to, the art we view, the friends we associate with, etc. Hebrews 5:14 explains how we learn to make these decisions. It is when we “exercise our senses” that we are able to “discern good from evil.” Many never learn this because they never take the time and the effort to learn God’s word and make proper application. They are seeking to just get by instead of “abounding.”
Paul wanted them to be sincere. The origin of this word is uncertain. Some think it came from a word meaning sun, and thus we are to be as sincere as sunshine. Others say it comes from a verb meaning to turn; thus we are to be sincere enough to stand being rotated about and inspected in every way. Young’s Concordance defines it as “unsullied” which means “not spoiled or made impure.” Obviously it involves being genuine and not hypocritical. This is also indicated by Paul’s prayer that they be “without offence till the day of Christ.” Without offence means without sin. Notice that this is a thing that is to continue till the day of Christ. In Christ we are never to become satisfied with where we are, but we are ever to be striving to “grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). The life of the Christian is to be one of continued growth and one that is lived “without offence.”
If the fruits of righteousness are “by Christ Jesus” (ASV-“through Christ Jesus”), it is easy to see why the world is such an unrighteous place. Most of the people of the world either do not know of Christ or they have rejected Him. Either way the world is deprived of the fruits of righteousness.
Let each one of us as Christians strive to have an educated love that we might be able to be and do as Paul describes here.
-Paul M. Wilmoth