(We encourage you to read all of Philippians 1 each day this week. As you do today, focus on verses 9-11, printed below.)
9 This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. 10 I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. 11 I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.
In yesterday’s reading Paul told the Philippians that he prayed for them. In today’s reading he outlined what he prayed for them. He prayed that their love might keep deepening, enriched by growing knowledge and insight into God’s purposes. That, he said, would empower them to discern “what really matters.” And living with that kind of insight-fueled discernment would fill their lives with “the fruit of righteousness” in ways that honored God.
Lord Jesus, I want to be spiritually complete. I want a life filled with the spiritual fruit you wish to grow in me. Thank you that ultimately Paul’s prayer was for me as well as for his first-century friends. Amen.
* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 85). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Homer A. Kent, Jr., comment on Philippians 1:9, 11 in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged: New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994, p. 791.
What is ‘love?’
Ah, the age-old question. Sorry if an early-90’s club song is now stuck in your head…
For many of us, we might think first of the concept of love as a feeling or emotion portrayed in those classic songs, movies and stories. On a deeper level, love can be embedded in some of our most powerful memories – a big hug from my dad after a tough day at school, the best BBQ ribs I ever tasted, holding my child for the first time. Those memories are indeed powerful because they have some powerful feelings attached to them.
In the church, we learn even deeper spiritual concepts of love. Love as defined in the vows of a Christian marriage covenant, loving our neighbors as Jesus taught us, or the concept of love as an action – when we serve others through our sacrifices of time, resources, energy and comfort.
But Paul’s prayer to the early church in Philippi was that their love would deepen specifically in “knowledge and all kinds of insight” (v.9). Why?
Here’s where the mission comes in. The “so that” Paul uses in verse 10 lines up the specific end goal of why he prays for that knowledge and insight. And this is the part that made my ears perk up. “So that you will be able to decide what really matters…” To me, these words ring with a sense of mystery of the unknown, intrigue my thoughts and start me dreaming.
What new and profound insights am I destined to find out as I continue to grow in my faith?
What have I learned thus far on my faith journey?
How has my life already been changed because of Jesus?
How has my faith encouraged me to deepen my understanding of the world around me?
To the Philippians, this line must have sounded even more mysterious as the gospel of Jesus was such a new and developing concept to them and the faith was in its infancy. Or perhaps it was more of a motivation for them to keep pressing ahead in their work. Maybe Paul in his eloquence used this line as a way to get their ears to perk up as mine did.
For me, those new and profound insights have been made real in the ways that God has transformed my life through new experiences. My concept of love has changed drastically in just the last three years as my wife and I went from zero to three kids in that short span through the foster/adopt process as well as having two biological children. Becoming a dad has changed my view of God as a father. My understanding of how much (more) he must love me based on how much I love my daughters is unfathomable. Love as sacrifice has taken on a whole new meaning.
This passage also reminds me that spiritual changes in me have only come when I actively pursue a relationship with Jesus. These changes are the “fruit of righteousness” that Paul mentions.
Paul is telling the early church (and us) that we will learn more and more the “whys” of following Jesus as our love and knowledge of Him grow deeper. The “whys” will be manifested in the fruit that our lives bear. And when those around us can see the fruit of the Spirit that we bear, the good news of Jesus is shared and our lives begin to glorify God – the end goal Paul speaks of in verse 11.
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