Approving what is Excellent
We’ve been looking closely at Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11. We now see that learning how to love with knowledge and discernment is absolutely essential if we are to “approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (v. 10).
Paul refuses to let Christians settle for mediocrity. He prays that our love would grow in knowledge and discernment so we can identify what is above average, what is superior, what is of moral and spiritual excellence, what really counts, and pursue it (see Phil. 4:8).
I find it fascinating that when Paul finally gets around to how we should prepare ourselves for the end of the world, for the coming of Christ, he says nothing about stockpiling of food or guns or digging an underground shelter or quitting our jobs or rushing off to the mountain tops. He says we need to be diligent to cultivate a more discerning and knowledgeable love! He tells us that we need to develop greater moral purity and blamelessness.
Learning how to love with knowledge and discernment is absolutely essential if we are to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (v. 11a).
It’s unclear from Paul’s language whether this is the fruit that consists of righteousness or the fruit that comes out of righteousness. It may be both. What’s important to note is that this fruit comes not as a result of our efforts unaided, but through Jesus Christ, which is to say through the empowering that he supplies by his Spirit.
Of this we may be sure: it has nothing to do with “religion” or self-made efforts to impress others with our spirituality.
There are many in the professing Christian church who give mere lip service to the importance of cultivating a spiritual culture and family affection in which love that is characterized by knowledge and discernment can flourish. They say to themselves, “You know, that’s just not who I am. I’m not in to that right now. Our church has a different calling. We first need to get our theological ducks in a row. We have to be diligent to dot all our doctrinal ‘i’s and cross our theological ‘t’s. Then, if we can find time and energy we’ll be more conscientious about loving others.”
If you want to know the value and importance Paul placed on the ever-increasing and abundant growth of our love for one another, look at v. 11. This is what brings glory and praise to God!
“By this,” said Jesus, “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).