What’s up everybody! This is pastor Kerr Howell. Welcome to Gospel Home Brew a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you, so that you can help it stir in your spouses, families, classmates, and co-workers.
Last week we looked at the opening of the letter to the Philippians. I hope that by us brewing through theses verses three through eight you saw that the desire to see growth in your walk with Jesus comes by seeing what gospel partnership truly is and that by seeing this you came to see the beauty of prayer that is fueled by gratitude, community, and affection on the mission we have together.
We continue our look at this letter by focusing on the next two verses. Here Paul is crying out to Jesus in intercession for the Philippians to grow in three areas. So let’s begin by opening your Bible up to the letter to the Philippians and looking at verses nine through eleven. We will read it together:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
In last week’s session we saw that Paul was grateful for the friendship and partnership he had with Philippi. But, now he prays for these friends and partners. Paul did not only write to them about his affections for them, but now is displaying to them just how much he loves them. Prayer is evidence of love. I hope you see this in this part of the study.
Charles Erdman, the professor of practical theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, in 1932 stated It is so true “that we can render to our friends no greater service than by praying for them; and we here are shown and reminded that friendships in no way can be more lifted up and safeguarded than by prayer.” We need to all affirm that passion is one of the utmost importance in prayer, because it expresses our love to God and our worship of Him, and also our affection to those we have relationships with and are interceding for.
Why would I say that? Jesus is not just an object we look to, but a person we intimately know. He is the Emperor of the universe and of our lives, and the redeemer who is be treasured and prized. And because of this massively simple fact, we should express our love to other believers because we are not only gospel partners, but we are family. And mainly because we became family by a divine miracle.
And that should mean something to us!
In these verses we see that Paul was a very passionate man. He was not cold and stone, but warm and genuine. He truly loved the Philippians. He loved being their family. And in this prayer of his, he uses words to explain what matters most to him for them. And because of his passion for the Philippians, his affections for them overflow into his prayer for them. In this prayer we see that the Christian life is about the life of the mind, the life of the soul, and the life of the body. Read those verses again and see that the type of love that Paul is hoping to see grown is one that has to do with knowledge, discernment, and approving what is excellent (superior).
To Paul this is where the word of God becomes of the utter most importance. When we become Christians, we should be students of the Bible for the rest of our lives. We need to live in a wise manner, being informed by God’s Word on how to deeply love God and others. Their partnership mission is laced and fueled by the love they have for God, and because of that love they can learn and grow in their love for one another.
In these verses notice the cognitive words Paul uses: knowledge, discernment, and approving what is excellent. A.W. Tozer constantly reminded his congregation and his readers of his books, that what we think and believe about God will determine how we approach him and how we approach all aspects of life. Rightly thinking about God and His Word is paramount to how we follow and love Him.
There are countless examples in the scriptures of loving God with our hearts and minds. To Paul these two parts of believers were both important. We must worship and love Jesus with our hearts, but we must also love him with our minds. For example in Nehemiah chapter 8 the word of God is read out loud to the people and they express great affection when they hear God’s word. They are so moved that they raise their hands, they shout, “Amen!,” bow down, weep, and worship. This is not emotionalism, but is where they mind and heart connect to the Word of God. This is the type of Christian God desires us to be: Biblically informed and deeply affectionate toward Him, His words, and others.
One of the greatest detriments to the Christian life is that we never pursue wisdom and knowledge, and the consequences are that we make terrible choices, because we do what makes us feel good. We can see this in many ways. One of the ways we see this is that more and more Christians who are looking for spiritual highs driven by their emotions, and because of this we have seen false gospel principles infiltrate the church. Another way we have seen this take a turn for the worst is that we have believers who has sound doctrine (beliefs) but they have no genuine affection for Jesus or others. So we have churches filled with swayed and callous people.
This should not be according to Paul!
And we see this in his prayer for the Philippian church. I really love this prayer because it underscores the dual need for affection (love) and biblical knowledge and discernment.
Before we examine this prayer in detail, I would like to just look at some observations from Paul’s prayer. There are about six, but I will only look at three: Continuance, Uniqueness, and Relevance.
Three Observations from Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians
In verse four Paul states that he prays for them every time he prays. And in verse nine we get this prayer. It is because of Paul’s affection for the Philippians that leads him into this prayer. This is what people do for those they love—you pray for them. Do you love people? Do you pray for them? The Philippians were not just partners, but family. Family means that we are a band of brothers and sisters on mission and on our knees for one another. Displaying to us that what holds gospel partnership (family) together in not a building, location, or affinity, but loving intercession. Maybe one way this concept can become reality for you is for you to start praying for those you love and are in community with. If you are in community you will know some things about your family and things that are going on in their lives. Make these verses real in your life. Start praying for others, instead of yourself.
Notice Paul does not just say that he just prayed for them, but continues to pray for them: Always in every prayer of mine. Just like Paul, continue to pray for those you love and are in community with. This alone will spice up your prayer life.
Paul always fills his letters with prayer, and the prayer to the Philippians is similar to these others letters. However, it has some distinctive qualities. One of these major distinctions is how Paul links growing love with knowledge and discernment. Many times he prays for love and knowledge, but here his prayer is about love that is informed by knowledge and is seen played out in life by discernment and this discernment is lived about by the Philippians being able to approve what is superior or excellent. Paul never encouraged Christians to just to grow in knowledge for knowledge sake. But, he would encourage the pursuit of knowledge to love God and others more. And he knew where to obtain this knowledge: God’s word. How do you view the word of God? Do you view the word of God as a vehicle to love God more, or is it a book of dos and donts? Is it sweet honey to your soul or is it stale bread?
This prayer is extremely relevant. This prayer is applicable. There is nothing in this prayer that should cause us to minimize its importance for our own lives today. You should be concerned about growing in love, knowledge, purity, and righteousness, and about loving and bringing God glory. This prayer is also memorable. This prayer is a wonderful gift to us! I believe God lead Paul to pray this for this church so that generation after generation would be informed in their prayers, so that they could pray it over themselves and others. Constantly pray this unique prayer over your everyday lives. Paul did and so should we.
The Gospel Prayer
Okay, since we looked at some observations about this prayer, let us now look at the prayer line by line and maybe even pray these petitions together. In verse nine Paul expresses the basic request he has for the church, and then in verse ten to the first part of eleven, he mentions the results he hopes God will cause to happen in them. And finally he shows what he sees as his ultimate goal: the glory and praise of God. So we will break down this prayer in three parts: petition, purpose, and praise.
Petition (Philippians 1:9)
The basic petition is for growth in love—a love that is informed by knowledge and discernment. His prayer is that their love be a love that keeps on growing or “abounding.” This helps us see that our love should not be static. This is important, because our love for God should be a love that is growing. Biblical love is not a mushy gushy love. It is not a hippie love (all you need is love). It is a love that is sacrificial. It is one that involves action. He desires their love to be visible. Biblical love makes the gospel visible. Notice also Paul does not specify who is to receive this love. The love he is praying for is not a love that only loves those who love you. The love that he is praying to grow is a love that loves everyone, including your enemies. This is a love that Christ has and a love that he cause to flow out of his children. He is concerned about the unity of the saints (all believers) in Philippi, but he praying more for them to realize the source of this love and the foundation of this love. Christ is the root of their love. Paul would say that the more you dwell on Christ’s love for you, the more loving you will become. Christ is their source and Christ is their foundation.
We not only need the power to love. If that would true then Paul’s prayer would simply be “may your love abound more and more.” But he does not stop there. He continues to write, “with knowledge and all discernment.” Again, not only do we need the power to love, but we also need knowledge and wisdom on how to love. Paul prays that their love would be about in the sphere of knowledge. To Paul love is not blind, but love is biblically informed. The word that Paul uses for knowledge he uses fifteen other times in his letters. This word has to do with spiritual knowledge, a knowledge of the things of God—as in knowing God and His will, or knowing His truth. Remember this is a letter and everything in this letter is building on each sentence. Later in Chapter three Paul expresses his greatest desire for them, namely, knowing Jesus (3:10). Showing us here that as we know Jesus more and more through His word—He who humbled Himself and went to the cross for us (2:5-11)—we will be transformed into compassionate people. The knowledge of Jesus should multiply our love for Christ and others. Love then must be rooted in knowing God. Otherwise, we cannot know how to love appropriately.
We learn from Jesus what it means to serve, forgive our enemies, and lay down our lives for others. Knowledge of how he loved us is necessary if we want to walk in love. Love today is probably the most missed used word. Love today is more associated with tolerance, feelings, and emotions than with truth and righteousness. Many people that you know or you may even be one of them, operate by “if it feels right, then it is acceptable.” But true love must be tied to the truth—this is what make it genuine godly love.
So let me ask you a question. When the Bible rubs against your preferences, who wins? Christian and listener be encouraged by this prayer. Pray for help in loving in a way that honors an accurate view of Jesus and His word. Know Jesus deeply and allow Him to soften your heart and mind toward others. Knowledge will ask “what is right,” and discernment will ask “what is best?” The Philippians needed to grow in their knowledge of Jesus’ love for the church and how they were united together as a family. They needed to know that they should love by putting the needs of others ahead of their own needs. But how can they and we know this? By knowing and treasuring Jesus and His word.
Purpose (Philippians 1:10-11)
The two petitions involve a Christian’s growth in a Jesus-like character. The first purpose of the petition was so that they are able to “approve what is excellent (or superior). The word for approve means to “put to the test, or examine.” Paul is praying for the Philippians to choose the things that are best in this life and their relationships. He is praying for them to have discernment in order to properly distinguish between right and wrong, between the better and the best, between the things that matter and things that do not matter. What things are superior to Jesus? How would you know these things outside of his word? Knowing what is right and doing what is best are things he is concerned about.
In knowing Jesus—who is excellent, best, and superior—one finds a life that matters as well as the knowledge to inform and empower excellent love for one another. Also, Paul links this approving with a certain day—the day of Christ. Showing us that by knowing Jesus and pursuing a life that matters, we are living in view of the “day of Jesus.” This is a wise life. A Life like Jesus’, who always did what pleased the Father.
Another purpose for the petition was so that they would be pure and blameless. He wanted to see them fit and prepared for this coming day. Guys Jesus is coming and Jesus wants us to be ready. This part of the prayer is not a work based achievement, but a grace act of dependence. God saves us for good works, not because of good works. And God is the one who energizes our obedience. So do not let this part of the prayer condemn you, but encourage you that Jesus will finish what he started, just like Paul reminded the Philippian church in verse six.
The fact is that His coming should change the way we think and live. We are going to see Him! And this fact should cause us to be “pure” and “blameless.” The word pure has to do with our inner character. Pure means “sincere, without hidden motives or pretenses.” By Paul using this word he is showing us that true Christian discipleship is about being authentic and real. The word blameless has to do with our outer character. Blameless means “without offense or not causing offense.” Yes people will be offended by the gospel truth, but Paul did not want them to offend by how they lived. He desired for them to live in such a way that the Philippians made the gospel visible by their lives.
The last purpose for the petition was so that they would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” The righteousness that Paul is talking about is not one a believer obtain for themselves, but a righteousness that is given to the believer by God by faith alone. This is a forensic righteousness. We are made righteous and acceptable to God through Jesus. This is an alien righteousness, because it comes from outside ourselves. This is a practical righteousness. Meaning, out of our position of righteousness, through Jesus, we are called to live righteously. The fruit (evidences of growth) that Paul is stressing here is one that should grow out of the relationship a believer has with Jesus. He is telling us that when we plant our roots in the streams of Jesus, fruit emerges. And the fruit he is talking about here is right relationship with themselves and others. He is praying for the fruits that comes only from the Vine—Jesus.
Praise (Philippians 1:11)
So why does Paul pray these things? This verse cause my mind to go to the prayer of Jesus that he taught his disciples to pray: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Everything Jesus prayed and Paul prayed were infused for the fame and renown of God. Paul ends this prayer with the glory and praise of God. He wanted these things to happen in them so that the world would know their Savior and Dad. Jesus prayed for the same thing in John seventeen. Jesus also told his disciples that “My Father is glorified by this: that your produce fruit and prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). God-centered prayers long to see the fame of God known. We are to be children who live for the Fame of His name. By Paul praying these things he is saying to us that we must be dependent on Jesus to glorify God and bear fruit. Most of the time when we pray we may not have God’s glory in view, because let’s be honest, it is easier to pray our list then to beckon heaven for the glory of Jesus to spread across the earth. Sometimes I wonder if we do not focus on the glory of Jesus and God the Father because we know that this comes on his terms and not our own. Our list is on what we want to see. But Paul’s prayer shines light on what God desires to see: His glory and praise cascading the earth. So let us be a people who pursue to know Jesus and His word more, so that we can live in such a way to displays to the world who Jesus is, so that we can love the way love was intended to live out, and so that we can see God glory and praise in His people and those who we live around.
This is pastor Kerr. I hope this prayer would be answered in your life. May your love abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is superior, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Jesus, filled with the fruit of righteousness that only comes through Jesus, as we will see the glory and praise of God fill the earth.
See you next week!