Paul had just expressed his thanks for the Philippian believers in the previous verses. He had good memories of them. He had good fellowship with them. He had high hopes for them because of what God was doing in them. He had great love for them.
But he also prayed for them. This didn’t mean that they were spiritual losers who needed incredible changes to ever accomplish anything for the Lord. No, they, like us, were a work in progress. The Lord was working on them and helping them to become more and more like Jesus.
In verses 9-11, Paul expresses three specific prayers he had for the believers in Philippi. Do you notice the word he repeats three times in these verses? He uses the word “that” three times to tell us three prayer requests he had for the Philippian believers. If you ever wonder what to pray for other Christians, you can use these three prayer requests.
- We should pray that other Christians will increase their love the right way (9).
[Read Philippians 1:9.]
a. What is love?
“Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. … God’s agape love is unmerited, gracious, and constantly seeking the benefit of the ones He loves.”
Eph. 2:4-5 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
Rom. 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This is the kind of love that God has for us, that the Spirit produces in believers, and that we should have for others.
b. How does love abound?
Paul uses two thoughts here. Their love was to (1) abound, and (2) more and more. First, abounding can also mean overflowing (Rienecker). Think of someone pouring a drink and continuing to fill the cup until it is overflowing with more than is necessary. Second, this love is to be abounding more and more. You might wonder how much is too much here. If your waiter filled your cup and your saucer with coffee that would be a bit much. But what if they kept pouring and pouring until your plate, then your table, then the room was filled with coffee. That is a picture of more and more.
c. What do knowledge and discernment have to do with love?
How do you know how to best love another person? You need knowledge and discernment. First, your love should be informed by God’s knowledge. You gain this kind of knowledgeable love by reading the Bible and seeing how God loved the world and various people. Second, your love should use that knowledge to make the best decision. This is discernment. When someone has discernment, they use God-given knowledge to make decisions that are best.
ILLUS. When you love someone do you always do what they want? Someone who is an addict may ask you for money, but giving them money would not be loving, it would be enablement. When someone is thinking about a frivolous divorce, do you encourage them so they will be happy, or do you point them to God’s help found in the Bible.
How do you get to the point where you are abounding more and more in God’s love for others? It takes time and preparation. Read your Bible this week with the specific goal of finding and applying God’s wisdom to the people you are interacting with. Love them the way God loves. You will make mistakes, but keep loving and applying God’s wisdom to each situation.
- We should pray that other Christians will approve of excellent things (10a).
[Read Philippians 1:10.]
If your love is informed by what the Bible teaches, it should follow that your discernment about decisions, relationships, investment of time, entertainment, etc. should become better.
a. What does approving things mean?
Paul uses the Greek word δοκιμάζω that can mean “to test, assay, metals, 1 Pet. 1:7; to prove, try, examine, scrutinize, Lk. 14:19; Rom. 12:2; to put to the proof, tempt, Heb. 3:9; to approve after trial, judge worthy, choose, Rom. 14:22; 1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:22” (Mounce)
ILLUS. At this point in my life, it is hard for my eyes to discern the fine print on things. I will sometimes take a picture of the small print with my phone and then zoom in to read it.
I think that Paul’s readers may have been thinking of a chemist who discerns whether a piece of metal was actually valuable gold or false gold. Or they may have been thinking of a judge listening to a case and making a wise decision based on the evidence before him.
Paul prayed that the Philippian believers would examine the things they were involved with and determine their value.
b. Why approve excellent things?
ILLUS. During the last week, I have been going through the DSB Transport inventory of Garmin GPS units. Some of them have reached the end of their usefulness. Instead of spending lots of time trying to fix them, I discerned that it was a waste of time and threw out the troublesome devices.
Paul prayed that the Christians in Philippi would determine the value of the things they were involved with and keep the things that were excellent.
Rom. 12:2 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
1 Cor. 3:12-15 – “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
APPLIC. What is it that you are investing your time in? What entertainment do you allow in your home? What music fills your mind? What books are you reading?
The Lord wants us to examine what we are doing and see what is best, what is excellent. Take some time to consider how you are using your time and what would be best in light of what the Bible says.
- We should pray that other Christians will be sincere and inoffensive (10b-11).
[Read Philippians 1:10b-11.]
Have you ever met an offensive person? No matter what the situation, they always say the wrong thing. It is possible that we Christians can come across as unnecessarily offensive and insincere. Let’s talk about that.
a. What does sincere mean?
Another way to describe sincere is “pure, genuine” (Rienecker). When you meet a sincere person, you see someone who you don’t doubt their motives. They are what they are.
ILLUS. When the first computers and printers came out, you didn’t always know if what was on the screen would actually look like when you printed it out. But programmers came out with new software with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). This was a great thing because you were never surprised when you printed out the paper. It looked exactly like what was on the computer screen.
Paul prayed that the Philippian believers would be sincere, genuine, and pure examples of believers to all those who saw them. This should be our goal as well.
b. What does without offense mean?
Without offense means “blameless, clear; not causing one to stumble, not giving offense” (Mounce). It has the idea of someone who does not cause others to stumble in their spiritual journey.
1 Cor. 10:31-33 – “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
The truth is that some of the things we do have the possibility of causing someone to sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul said that “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” When we love other people, we should be willing to not do certain things if it would cause that person to stumble back into sin.
This is another evidence of agape love where we look at what is best for another person more than what we want to do.
c. What are the results of living this way?
The result of this kind of sincere, genuine, inoffensive, Christian lifestyle is that we will be displaying the fruit of Jesus’ righteousness in our lives. As others see the fruit in our lives, they will see a reflection of God in us. This will bring glory to God making Him look good to others.
We started these verses talking about how we can pray for others. Paul wanted the Philippian believers to grow in their love, discernment, and sincerity. There is no doubt that this is a good pattern for our prayers for other Christians. However, the more we looked into these characteristics, the more we see our own needs.
Perhaps this was intentional. As we see our needs and allow the Lord to make changes in us, we will desire these same things to be present in the lives of other Christians that we know.
Consider what the Lord has said in this Bible passage. As you see changes that need to be made, submit to the Lord and allow Him to change your life. Then pray for others in this church, in sister churches, and for those apart of missionary work in other countries. What a difference God wants to make in all of our lives!
GotQuestions, “What is love?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1469 on 7/31/2022.
Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, 650.
Mounce, Bill, “δοκιμάζω” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/dokimazo on 7/31/2022.
Mounce Bill, “ἀπρόσκοπος” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/aproskopos on 7/31/2022.
Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.