“This I Pray…” – Part 2

Intro: We will consider part 2 of last week’s lesson. Last Sunday morning we studied the powerful prayer of the apostle Paul in behalf of the Philippian Christians found in Philippians 1:9-11 – And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

What can we pray for that will make this church stronger? What do we need?

In a cursory look at the words of Paul’s prayer I see 4 specific requests. What does Paul want God to provide for the Christians in Philippi? The first 3 requests are delineated by the word “that”. The last by the word “being”

  • verse 9 – That your love may abound…
  • verse 10 – that you may approve…
  • verse 10 – that you may be sincere…
  • verse 11 – being filled…

Last week we studied Paul’s first request… Vs. 9 – “That your love may abound”. We concluded:

  • Love is primary. Without love we are nothing, and we can do nothing that matters.
  • Love is the foundation of the gospel message. God loved us first.
  • Love is learned. God teaches us to love through the example of His own love for us.
  • Love is dynamic. We must strive to grow in our ability to love – to abound more and more.
  • Love is intelligent. Biblical love is more than emotion or sentiment. It is accomplished through the knowledge of what is right and what is best for the other person. If love is to abound it musty abound in knowledge.
  • Love is discerning. We love others and God by making choices based upon the knowledge He provides. Real love does not condone or approve of everything. Growing in love that we discern.

I. “That you may approve the things that are excellent…” (v. 10) Approve is from a commonly used New Testament verb that is variously rendered “allow, examine, prove,” and even “discern.” Jesus used the term in rebuking the Pharisees because they could not recognize the implications of His miracles: Luke 12:56 – Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?

A. But the word is often used to reference an examination or testing. It was used of assaying metals to determine their purity or genuineness. The scriptures often speak of a need for examining or testing what one believes or practices. Notice how this word is used elsewhere in the apostle’s teaching to point to individual responsibility:

• 2 Cor 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.

• Gal 6:4 – But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else. (HCSB)

• 1 Thess 5:21-22 – Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

B. The Christian must discern all things in relation to the word of God. Test all things by the ONE standard. Do you know the difference between right and wrong? Can you take the word of God and “approve” it.

• 2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

C. But the testing and approving that Paul desires here goes beyond just a recognition of right and wrong. Paul’s appeal is for believers to study, investigate, and determine the best possible ways to obey and please the Lord, and then to live accordingly. He prays that they may approve the things that are excellent (NKJV). The word here is diaphero (dee-af-er’-o), which means to differ, and by implication to surpass or be better than something else. Thus it denotes value, what really matters.

1. Consider a few other renderings of this verse:

so that you can determine what really matters (HCSB)
so that you may give your approval to the best things (Bible in Basic English)
that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good (NCV)
so that you can decide what is best (New English translation)
so that you may have a sense of what is vital (Goodspeed Translation)

2. Paul’s prayer is that they will not simply seek a bare minimum standard, but desire to excel and go beyond, by seeking those things that are excellent. As we mature in love we can accept as proved the things that are better over the things that are good; and the essential over the valuable. Some things right within themselves are not good for the Christian because they are not best for him.

a. Paul said it was this mature love that would cause a strong Christian to forgo his own liberties to safeguard the practice and conscience of another weaker Christian. If we desire to abound we will avoid every occasion that might draw us away from God, and approve of those things that draw him closer.

b. “Approving what is excellent” is a positive imperative. So many Christians define their spiritual identity by the things they do not do, rather than the things that they do. Being a Christian is more than avoiding what is wrong, it is recognizing the best thing to do, and doing it.

c. This proving requires us to renew our thinking and learn to think biblically. To let the word of God dwell in us richly. Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.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.

II. That ye may be sincere and without offence (v. 10). Paul prays for their character. Do we pray for the development of our character as much as we do for our health or physical needs? His request is presented in both a positive and negative approach

A. We are to be sincere. The most appropriate derivation of the word sincere here means “tested by the light” “In ancient Rome fine pottery was relatively thin and fragile and often developed cracks while being fired. Unscrupulous shops would fill the cracks with a hard, dark wax, which would be concealed when the object was painted or glazed but would melt when the pottery was filled with something hot. In ordinary light, the deception was usually undetectable, but when held up to the sunlight it was clearly exposed, because the wax appeared darker. Reputable dealers would often stamp their products sine cera (“without wax”) as a guarantee of high quality.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary) It translated pure in 2 Peter 3:1, indicating a need to be undefiled by sin of evil things around us.

B. In the negative sense we are to be without offense. The word may be either passive, meaning “blameless” (RSV, NASB, NIV), or active, “giving no offence,” or “without offence,”

1. In the passive sense (blameless) it would mean that we should be able to have a clear conscience before God. Acts 24:16 – This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Philippians 2:15 – that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 1 Thessalonians 3:13 – so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

2. In the active sense (give no offense) it would mean we should not do anything that would cause others to stumble, or sin. 1 Corinthians 10:32 – Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God. What does it take to live in this way?

a. It requires a desire and effort to comprehensively obey the words of God. In Malachi’s rebuke of the people following the return of Israel to the land, he turns his attention to the responsibility of the priest… Mal 2:7-9 – For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”The Priests of the OT were called to be teachers of the law (people should seek the law from his mouth), but they did not keep it themselves (departed from the way) and did not apply it justly to all alike (showed partiality in the law). In this they had caused many to stumble at the law. If we strive to live blamelessly, we will not give offense to others. Jesus taught the severity of the one who gives offense: Mark 9:42 – “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

b. Til the day of Christ. The day of Christ is the day of judgment when “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Because we are now preparing for the Lord’s coming we must grow in love so that we may be able to live in sincerity before God and without offence in our relations to men. “Til” (eis) is better rendered – “with a view to,” or “against” this day that we must be sincere and without offence.

III. Being filled with the fruit of righteousness (v. 11).Paul prays for a harvest. If these Christians were governed by love, knowledge, discernment, seeking to do what is best, and striving to live blameless before God and others, they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness. There are two possible meanings:

A. The fruit is righteousness. Righteousness refers to right doing. It is conduct pleasing to God. 1 John 3:7 – Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. The life of the Christian is defined, not just by what he believes, but also by the good things he does. Our lives need to be filled with good works, just as a tree is filled with fruit that defines it. (little grapefruit tree with huge grapefruit – who would expect that much?) Eph 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. I know Christians who have the fruit of righteousness hanging from every limb. Do others even know what kind of tree we claim to be?

B. Connected with this idea is the second view of this phrase: The fruit is what righteousness produces. It describes the character of the fruit. James connects this fruit with spiritual peace. James 3:18 – 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. Was Paul praying for peace for the Philippians?

1. This fruit would necessarily include those things that Paul describes as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

C. Which are by Jesus Christ. The Christian is who he is because of his union with Christ. Because we belong to Christ and are united in him we bear the fruit of righteousness. We are nothing of ourselves. Jesus himself said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

D. Unto the glory and praise of God. Paul shows that we should “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). His prayer has been aiming at this result. He prayed for the kind of growth and fruit-bearing in the lives of the Philippians that would give such glory to God.

1. Others may also give glory to God when they see Christians manifesting their love and devotion to God through faithful service. Jesus charged his disciples to let their light so shine before others “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).“Herein is my Father glorified,” Jesus says, “that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8).

• 1 Peter 2:11-12 – Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Conclusion: What if God gave this church what Paul asked for the Philippians?

  • If we abounded in love, knowledge and discernment
  • If we learned to choose the excellent things of life (not being satisfied with just getting by) and sought to be more spiritual everyday
  • If we were pure and gave no occasion for others to stumble because of us
  • If we looked for the day of Christ and lived to bring glory and praise to God.

God can give us all that. We need to ask Him every day and strive to be closer to Him.