It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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 1:7-11
Praying For Others With A Heart of Love
Paul’s tone in verse 7 is all the more affable as he declares his affection for the Philippians. That affection is established on the experiences he shared with the Philippians as they stood beside him in his trials. Thus he passionately and fervently prayed for them with a joyful heart because they continue to invest in his ministry and support him in his trials. Moreover, the Philippians were steadfast in their faith in Jesus Christ as partakers with Paul in God’s grace. That grace was manifested through the death and resurrection of Jesus through whom salvation is offered to all. It is because of their faithfulness to God through Jesus Christ and the unwavering support that Paul calls God to witness the depths of his strong affection for them. He compares his love for the Philippians with the same kind of tender concern with which Christ loved the world when he gave himself for it. (Adam Clarke)
In verse 9, Paul further elaborates on his prayer for the Philippians. Consequently, he informs them he prays that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. That they Philippians had much love was evident in the way they supported Paul. Yet Paul was praying for them to grow deeper in love because no one can ever love too much. His prayer is that their cup of love would run over and floods their surroundings.
The love in question was not to be blind and uninformed. Instead, it was to abound in knowledge and insight so that they may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (v. 10). “Paul knew the danger of an undiscerning love. He rebuked the Corinthian church that seemed to glory in their “love” and “openness,” which lacked any sense of knowledge and discernment” (1 Corinthians 5:1-7). The love that Paul prays for the Philippians to possess is pure and blameless because it should not cause others to stumble. The Greek word that Paul uses implies the purification of metal. That means that our Christian character is purified of all evil and stand blameless in its affection toward others.
In verse 11, Paul highlights the ultimate aim of the Christian life that he prays for the Philippians to sustain and nurture. He prays for them to be filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. We are here reminded of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:19, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The image here is that of a verdant garden that is overflowing with ripen fruits. The only way for this to be possible is if the Philippians remain in Christ Jesus, who is the true vine (John 15:1-8). Finally, Paul prays that the righteousness of the Philippians is meant to win praises to God whose grace has been extended to them through Christ Jesus. It is to the glory of God that they should pursue whatever is pure, blameless, and holy. The fruits of righteousness of which they abound are to the glory of God. They should in no way take credit for any good work that is manifesting in their lives.
The introduction of the Epistle to the Philippians is not the fancy poetry of a sentimentalist. It is the reflection of an informed theologian who offers a prayer for those that have sustained him in his trial through their loving kindness. That prayer is grounded in a love that reflects the love of Christ for his church. Thus, Paul prays for that love to be pure and blameless.
Our love for others in the family of faith should compel us to pray for them. That does not mean we should not encourage them unto righteousness. To the contrary, we should remind them to be filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. That means they have to remain centered in Christ and be helped by the Holy Spirit of Christ.
More specifically, Paul teaches us that loving others does not mean we have to love their sinful ways. We need to pray for those we love to discern what is best. Their lives should be a living testimony for Jesus Christ. Our prayer should be that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—[they should] think about such things.
The commentary of Paul in verse 9 should cause disciples of Jesus Christ to be more intentional in the way they use the word love. Paul prays that the love of the Philippians abounds in knowledge and insight more and more. They should do so because they love Jesus Christ. Those who genuinely love Jesus would want to know more about him. Indeed, our love for Christ should compel us to learn about his truth. For, love is always the path to knowledge. And that love is pure and blameless because it is intended to glorify God.
Blessed Lord, may we learn to love one another with a love that is pure and blameless.