Thursday, February 10, 2011
Tuesday we looked at the first part of this passage, the affection Paul feels for the Philippians because of their shared experience of the gospel. Today and part of next week, we’ll move into look at the detail of Paul’s prayer in verses 9-11. As we look at the prayer to think about what we desire to be as the people of God, what we rejoice in as we look at one another, and what we ought to be praying for ourselves and for one another.
II. Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians.
This prayer has about three parts to it. It’s a prayer first of all that they would grow in love, followed by a prayer that they would grow in knowledge and that prayer for knowledge comes in various parts. It talks about knowledge, and discernment, and choices – all based on true knowledge.
Then, the prayer segues into an expression of Paul’s desire that the Philippians would live a godly life. So you have this first petition that they would grow in love, then knowledge, then a godly life. I’ve outlined the prayer in seven parts, and as we look at those seven parts, remember that they all relate to one of those three themes: love, true knowledge, and godliness.
As you think about those seven parts, be asking yourself these three things: What ought I to be desiring myself because of what Paul prays here; what ought I to be rejoicing in, in my brothers and sisters in Christ, because of what Paul prays here; and what ought I to be praying for, for my brothers and sisters in Christ because of what Paul prays here? We’ll look at the first three parts this week and save the rest for next week.
First of all, “That your love may abound still more and more.” Paul has just made it emphatically known that this is a loving congregation that is easy for him to love, because they’re so loving. And yet the very first prayer for them is that they would abound all the more in love.
If the Philippians needed Paul to pray for them that they would abound in love, then surely the rest of us do. And so Paul’s prayer is a prayer for the increase of Christian love, real love; not sentimentality, but real Christian love.
Where there is a true knowledge of Christ, an apprehension of the grace of God to us in Jesus Christ, there is always love. Love is a hallmark of the true knowledge of God, of the experience of His grace, of the experience of His love. If you have really known God’s radical life-transforming love, you will manifest something of that love in your life in your relationships with others. And so Paul’s first prayer for the Philippians and for you and me would be that we abound in love.
Then secondly, he goes on to pray “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge….” Knowledge of the truth; knowledge of God.
Paul is concerned for the Philippians and for you and me to increase in true, practical, character-transforming, biblical knowledge of God: love and knowledge go together. Love increases true knowledge of God and results from true knowledge of God, and true knowledge of God is to accompany Christian love and produce it. And so he prays that they would grow in the knowledge of God.
And think of how Paul groups that idea of truth and knowledge over and over in his ministry. In I Timothy 1:3-5, Paul tells you what the whole focus of his teaching ministry is (I Timothy 1:5), “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience,
and a sincere faith.”Instruction and love—truth and love, knowledge and love—go together in the Christian life.
The more we truly know the truth, the more we ought to manifest that truth in Christian love, so that our reputation ought to be those who care with deep conviction about truth and who love generously and lavishly because of that deep conviction about the truth. In our world today that is countercultural, where most people think that in order to love you can’t believe that anything is true; Paul saying, no, gospel love is manifested precisely and only where true truth is embraced about God.
And then third, he goes on, to pray for “discernment.” It’s not enough that to grow in the knowledge of the truth; you need to know how to wield that truth in good judgment and discernment, and so notice his words:
“That you would abound in love more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.”
Paul is praying for the Philippians - and for you and me – to cultivate good judgment and discretion.
How important is that? Have you ever known a parent with a really smart child, and that child is off in college, and that parent is concerned because that really well-educated, really gifted, really intelligent young person is making the goofiest choices you’ve ever seen in your life! And that parent is deeply concerned, because that parent doesn’t want his or her child just to be smart; he wants that child to use good judgment, be wise in discernment: that’s exactly what Paul is praying for the Philippians and you and me: not just that we would know stuff, but that we would have judgment and discretion and wisdom as we apply the truth which is ours.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 1:46 PM