Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 04 (“Paul’s Pastoral Prayer”)
[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 21 April 2019)]
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Phil.1:1-11- (ESV)~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Quite often we hear people say, that God has a wonderful plan for your life, most of the times, meaning that God will help you achieve your dreams. When we however, look at the Word of God, we will discover that life for a believer has nothing to do with your earthly, materialistic dreams – because it is in the end all about, the “unholy trinity, me, myself and I”and God is definitely not interested in those kind of dreams, on the contrary, God wants us to focus on Him and Him alone ~ “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile”(Jer.29:13-14).
Moses says in Ps.91, that when we hold fast to God, He will do great things for us, but first and foremost, the focus is on God and holding unto God… ~ “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him”(Ps.91:14-15). We must never focus on ourselves; we must focus on God, without having expectations of Him fulfilling our dreams, etc. The Word of God is full of promises that when we hold on to Him, we can and will experience hardship – we will experience trials. Moses prioritises the fact that we must first focus on God and “…hold fast to Him in love,”and then, and only then will He deliver us, etc.
Exactly this (and more) is what Paul is praying for his fellow-saints in Philippi when we look at 1:9-11 and this will also be the text on which we will focus today ~ “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Our outline for today’s teaching is as follows:
- Filled with Love (1:9);
- Filled with the Spirit of Discernment (1:10);
- Filled with the Fruit of Salvation (1:11).
- FILLED WITH LOVE (1:9):
We see in 1:9a that Paul’s prayer to God, is that the love of the Philippian believers would abound more and more. What is interesting is that Paul does not specify the object for their love, in other words, he does not say to whom their love must be directed. Must their love be directed towards God? Towards their fellow-brothers? To the lost world? Towards themselves – so called “self-love?”Who has Paul in mind here?
It is as if Paul intentionally left the object for their love undefined because he wanted them to love both God and one another. Kent Hughes writes that the old Latin commentator Bengel said, “The fire in the apostle never says, ‘It is enough.’” To which Hughes adds, “Paul is passionate here – more love, more love!”
For Paul, it is common sense and, I believe it was also common sense to the Philippian believers, that they as believers must love God, as well as their neighbour. This conviction was based on what Jesus said in Matt.22:37-39 ~ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
When Paul then prays ~ “that your love may abound more and more,”it implies that the object of their love must be God and their neighbour. Who was their neighbour? Modern man, is mostly inclined to think that the neighbour is simply one’s fellow-man. But this is not in accordance with what the Bible teaches. When Jesus wanted to send a dramatic and memorable message out about “who is my neighbour”, he used a Samaritan to display neighbourly love. Our neighbour doesn’t only mean our next door neighbours. It could mean the stranger you give a helping hand to, the person you give an encouraging word to, the one who hates you should be the one you pray for. Jesus also gives us the answer in Luke 29, after a lawyer asked Him who our neighbour is, by telling the man a parable ~ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 29:27-37).
Jesus fulfilled the Law by saying that not only should we love our enemies, like the Samaritan, but also pray for them.
Paul prays that their love must abound andthe word“abound”in the Greek [περισσεύω(pĕrissĕuō)],meansto exceed in something. In this case, an exceeding knowledge of a spiritual or moral nature such as awareness of one’s sinfulness (Rom.3:20), or knowledge of God(Col.1:10) and His Truth (Titus 1:1).
“Abound”also means to grow.Their love must therefore, grow more and more, but it must abound (or grow) with knowledge and discernment. What is knowledge? The meaning of “knowledge”[ἐπίγνωσις(ĕpignōsis)] is tohave full insight of something. In this case then, “abound”generally refers to an exceeding knowledge of a spiritual or moral nature.
Their love must grow by feeding, or by being fed by knowledge of a spiritual or moral nature such as awareness of one’s sinfulness (Rom.3:20)or knowledge of God (Col.1:10)and His Truth (Titus 1:1).By growing in awareness of sinfulness and the knowledge of God and His Truth, the love of the saints in Philippi will grow.
How do we grow in the knowledge of God and His Truth?
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a fuller appreciation of his Godhead. We must make a study of God’s attributes (e.g. God is Infinite – He is Self-Existing, Without Origin; God Is Immutable – He Never Changes;God Is Self-Sufficient – He Has No Needs; God is Omnipotent – He Is All Powerful; God Is Omniscient – He Is All-Knowing; God Is Omnipresent – He Is Always Everywhere; God is Wise – He Is Full of Perfect, Unchanging Wisdom; God Is Faithful – He Is Infinitely, Unchangingly True; God Is Good – He Is Infinitely, Unchangingly Kind and Full of Good Will; God Is Just – He Is Infinitely, Unchangeably Right and Perfect in All He Does; God Is Merciful – He is Infinitely, Unchangeably Compassionate and Kind;God Is Gracious – God Is Infinitely Inclined to Spare the Guilty; God Is Loving – God Infinitely, Unchangingly Loves Us; God Is Holy – He is Infinitely, Unchangingly Perfect; God Is Glorious – He is Infinitely Beautiful and Great).
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a clearer sight of His humanity; mission/calling to this world and the accomplishment of that mission.
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a more discerning and full persuasion, that He was fore-ordained to be THE Redeemer. Christ was the person pitched upon from eternity to be the Saviour of the elect of God ~ “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of youwho through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God”(1 Peter 1:20-21).
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a greater insight into His sufferings – It is not without reason that the history of these is so largely penned by all the four evangelists.
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a more fruitful understanding and acceptance of his resurrection and going to His Father ~ “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead”(Phil.3:10-11).
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies greater satisfaction about His imputed righteousness – the righteousness that He imputed into us.
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a better understanding for His role as High Priest and the pity and compassions of Him that intercedes on our behalf.
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies being better acquainted with His great power, and continual presence with His church which is so nearly related to Him.
- Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a more earnest looking forward to wards His second coming ~ “For, Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay” (Heb. 10:37). And Col.3:4 ~ “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
- FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT OF DISCERNMENT (1:10):
Why must the saints in Philippi’s love, abound more with knowledge and discernment? 1:10 gives us the answer ~ “…so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
How can one grow in love if the knowledge that he gains and feeds his love with, are contaminated with worldliness and/or unholiness? He must be able to discern between what is good and right and holy.
According to the Greek, “discernment”[αἴσθησις (aisthēsis)]is the mental ability to understand and discriminate between relations. This isespecially acquired through experience. It is the ability to rightly and accurately judge well in light of God’s counsel.
Paul prays that the Philippians might have knowledge and insight, enabling them to choose what is best from the various moral options that confront them. If they do this consistently, they will be “pure”and“blameless”on the day when the Messiah returns.
The implication of all of this, is therefore, that if their lives are filled more and more with knowledge and discernment, their hearts of love will grow. We see then that love and knowledge and discernment must grow – the more knowledge and discernment, the more love they will have. Or, if you want, their love must grow and the food for that growing process is growing knowledge and discernment.
How can we develop our discernment? Some people think that discernment is a mystical ability, like even when you see someone for the first time you already automatically know them. You know what they think, who they are, and what they do. Although God is capable of revealing one’s heart issues to a prophet, the gift of discernment should not be confused with psychic mind-reading, which is false.
There are also some who think of discernment as a gift that can be instantaneously received through an encounter with God. People who think of discernment in this way usually spends too much time asking God for it, but don’t read and obey the Bible enough. That is also wrong.
Discernment is a gift, one that is developed through a deep relationship with God. It is characterised by a disciplined adherence and dependence to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”
Here are some ways you can develop discernment:
- Build Yourself Up in the Word of God. When we study the Word of God, it becomes the basis for which we judge all other things. Hebr.4:12 tells us ~ “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
- Pursue Intimacy with God.Developing an intimate relationship with God requires that we pursue holiness ~“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”(Hebr.12:14). When we are able to build an intimate relationship with Him and seek Him and His plans, He will guide us and reveal to us things that only He knows. Hebrews 4:13 tells us ~ “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
- Train Yourself to Know the Difference:Another way to develop discernment, is through basic application of God’s Word in everyday circumstance. When we apply God’s Word, carefully testing if something is true (from God or not), we will be able to develop discernment ~ “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”(Hebr.5:14).
Paul prays that the Philippians’ love will grow with knowledge and all discernment, so that… “…you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”(Phil.1:10). The motivation for growing and having discernment, is to be able to approve what is excellent. Without writing it, Paul implicates that, that which is NOT excellent, should be resisted and rejected. The reason for this, being to be pure and blameless when Christ returns and we will stand in the presence of God on the Day of Judgment ~ “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor.5:10).
- FILLED WITH THE FRUIT OF SALVATION (1:11):
Paul says in 1:11 that we must be… ~ “…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”With these words, Paul does not want to tell us that this is a third thing that we must be filled with (i.e. to be pure and blameless, as well as possessing righteousness)on the contrary, no one can be filled with purity and be blameless, if he does not possess righteousness. Righteousness is to have a righteous stand before God, which means that you are justified, declared righteous, because you have had your sins cleansed by Jesus ~ “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”(2 Cor.5:21).
Possessing Christ’s righteousness must and will result in producing fruit for God. Such inner qualities, partially described in Gal.5:22–23 (a.k.a. “The Fruit of the Spirit”), will be evident to others. So, a life that exhibits such traits is to the glory and praise of God.
Paul also says that this righteousness only comes from God through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross at Calvary.
The Christian life is intended to be fruitful not only in activity, but in character (Gal.5:22–23 – “The Fruit of the Spirit”), and 1:11 reminds us that the means to this is the living Lord Jesus Christ and the goal is nothing other than the glory and praise of God (cf.Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
- CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:
Having analysed Philippians 1:9-11 and Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, we see that this prayer is Gospel-centred. His petitions before God was so designed to advance the Gospel in the lives of the PhilippianChristians.
Dear brother and sister and friends, let us be reminded today that we have been commemorating the death of Jesus on Friday and today, His resurrection! He is the only One who possesses perfect love and discernment. He is the righteous One! Praise be to His Name for imputing that righteousness to His chosen ones. We are therefore called to pray, first and foremost for our love to abound more and more; for our love to be more knowledgeable, and for us to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
Let us put the priorities of the Gospel at the centre of our prayer lives for ourselves, and also for others.
When was the last time you prayed for someone that hated you, despised you, and wanted to do you harm? That is what Jesus expects of those who are His own and those who are Jesus’ enemies He desires that they repent and trust in Him.