Philippians 1:9-11 Abounding Love WC McCarter
I have made it my practice in recent years to pray for people when they come to mind. There is no better time to pray than when you are thinking of someone. I also receive many text messages, emails, and phone calls with prayer requests. It is too easy to say that you will pray and then forget about the person or issue. I have made it my practice to stop what I am doing and pray for that person as soon as I hear the request. Not only do I pray for individuals when I think of them or receive a prayer request, but I also pray for our church as often as I think to pray. I cannot give you all of the content of my prayers for the church, but I can say that I thank the Lord for all of you; I thank Him for our leadership; I thank Him for those who serve here; I thank Him for your generosity; I also pray that He would continue to bless us; I ask that He would make us to grow in our knowledge of Him; I ask that He would give us a fruitful ministry, loving hearts, unity, and a continued willingness to minister to the nations with the Good News of Christ. These are just some of the things that I continually pray for our church. Let me ask you: Do you pray for us? What is the content of your prayers for the church here in Rural Hall?
After stating the context of his prayers for the Philippians and the reasons for thanksgiving, now Paul gives us the content of his prayers for the church. He will broaden his explanation of what he meant by the “good work” that was started in them.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Abounding Love (9)
Last week, we discussed Paul’s thankfulness for the Philippians. They had become wonderful ministry partners. The apostle was often reminded of their willingness to support him and his Gospel ministry. Paul said that when he thought of them, he could not help but give thanks. He told them that he made requests to God for them in prayer, and now he gives them some of the content of those prayers.
When Paul writes a letter to his congregations, he often shares some of the content of his ongoing prayers for them. This letter is no different. Here, in verses 9-11 is Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. In the New Testament, prayer is commanded, assumed, and exemplified. The Lord Jesus taught the disciples to pray, and Paul is no different. By his own testimony we learn that he was constantly in prayer for his churches throughout the Empire.
The first part of his prayer is that the Philippians’ love would abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment. Apparently, love is something that had marked the Philippian church for some time (it is supposed to mark all Christian churches. Paul is not rebuking them for their lack of love. Rather, he is encouraging them to love more and more.
Notice that a Christian’s growth in love is a result of his/her growth in knowledge. So then, Christian love is not mushy or flaky. It is linked with our spiritual learnedness. Let me point out a few more things here. I think that Paul is talking about their capacity for love. He wants to see their capacity to love abound more and more. They are already loving, but he wants them to become even more loving. A Christian’s capacity to love God and people can continue to develop throughout their life. The question is, How does this growth happen? The apostle communicates that we become more loving the more we increase in our knowledge of the things of Christ and in spiritual discernment.
Discerning Excellence (10)
The word “excellent” or “best” is the same word used by Jesus in Matt 6:26 and 10:31. These two places give us examples of what Paul means. God can look at sparrows and people and clearly see that people are of much more value. Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians will be able to have the same kind of discernment. Christians ought to be able to look at situations, decisions, even temptations and clearly know what is the more excellent way.
The Philippians (and us) needed an ever-abounding knowledge so that they could know the things that really matter, the things to which they should be devoted (excellent/sincere). Notice that the apostle makes love something of the mind. Love abounds where there is knowledge, discernment, approval, and sincerity. Also, it is not a bad idea to be “without offense till the day of Christ.” Abounding in love, abounding in a thorough knowledge, and approving the things that are excellent will go a long way to helping a believer remain without offense. I think this tells us something about some people. If all they ever do is pick little arguments or make a “big stink” about things that do not matter then they are probably not growing in love or knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord. If you know someone in the church that is sincere about all the wrong things then pray this prayer for them.
Being Filled (11)
We should want for ourselves, our families, and our church to arrive at the Day of Christ “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” What a marvelous picture! I see a link here with the “fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22. I think these two phrases parallel one another because Paul adds the phrase here, “which are by Jesus Christ.” The fruits that Paul wants for the Philippians are “by Christ Jesus” much like the fruit that Paul wanted for the Galatians was “of the Spirit.” The righteous fruits that God desires He also works in the life of the believer. They are by Christ Jesus, of His Spirit which is in our hearts. God has “given us the Spirit in our hearts.” That is why God is found to be most glorious. Paul finishes the passage with the phrase “to the glory and praise of God.”
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) One simple, but helpful, definition given for this kind of love is the “placing of high value on a person.” If you place a high value on someone then you will go out of your way to benefit them. You will go above-and-beyond to comfort, aid, bless, care for, and preserve their life. He is not rebuking them for a lack of love, but prays that God will continue what He started in them.
(2) God is the One who starts the good work in us and He is the One who will complete that work until the Day of Christ. The “fruits of righteousness” that we long to be filled with are “by Christ Jesus…of the Spirit.” We cannot boast. It is not of us that anything good will come. It is by the work of God. It is all to His glory. We must recognize God as most glorious for what He has done and what He will do and respond in praise to Him.