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 defense 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.
The expression of love in verses 3-6 is absolutely justifiable because of the mutual love that is shared within the hearts of believers. As discussed previously, believers share a great many truths in common. Mission, love, and allegiance tie all believers together. It is especially fitting to use the word, “partakers” to describe Christians. It is the word partnership or fellowship used in verse 5 and the prefix “sun” meaning together.[i] Believers share fellowship together. They are in battle together for the truth. It is vital for Christians to understand the depth of their own bond: Christians share in each other’s trials and victories.
The connection of the saints is a tremendous encouragement, but it is easy to forget. It is easy to forget that your brothers and sisters are laboring with you in prayer and working to see the same gospel truth proclaimed in the face of a dying world. It is difficult to remember, but it must be remembered that Christians are not alone in the mission of God. You are not alone in the advancement of the Gospel.
Pay close attention to Paul’s prayer in verses 9-11 in light of the connection that he has with other believers. His prayer is specifically targeted toward the advancement of the Gospel. His prayer is progressive in nature, beginning in love and being built up to the display of the character of God.
First Paul prays for the love of believers to increase. This is not surprising. Love is the greatest mark of a believer in Jesus. When a Christian exhibits an unconditional love for a world that rejects them, they validate their faith by their similarity to Christ. The world will recognize Christians by their love. (John 13:35) If you do not have love, you do not know Jesus. (C.f. the whole book of 1 John) Paul prays for the increase of this love among the saints. This is how believers ought to pray for one another: that love may increase, for in the increase of our love, the glory of God’s love will be displayed all the more.
This prayer for the increase of love is coupled with a specific charge of growth. Love must grow with “knowledge and discernment.” (v. 9) These two words indicate both a deep foundational and penetrating understanding of truth: knowledge; and an external, perceptive, almost environmental understanding of truth: discernment. When combined, these two words summarize Godly wisdom. Wisdom that is the result of disciplined searching to find truth as well as experienced.
In order for love to abound this way, it must be practiced. The prayer for love to grow in this way demands action from those who read these words. One cannot learn to discern if they do not dare to venture out in love. One cannot seek deep foundational truths of love if they are unwilling plumb the depths of what this knowledge implies. To grow in this way demands action, for there is no other way to learn such love.
Verse 10 gives the reader the motivation for such a prayer: holiness. Paul and Timothy are concerned for the righteous lifestyle of their readers. Through their prayers they are calling the Philippian believers to pursue a life of holiness and devotion to the Lord. So that on the day when Christ returns to claim His bride, they will be found to be without blemish.
It is a peculiar belief that Christians hold. The belief that the church is the bride of Christ and that He will one day return to claim His own. Seriously, think about that for a moment. Christians believe that God became a man, living a perfect life; forgave all who believe in Him by dying on a tree; rose three days later, giving life to those who trust in Him; ascended into heaven; and is going to come back on a white horse to reclaim His beloved (those who believe). We sound a little crazy. But only if it is not true. If it is true, then it is the most precious of all truths and demands that we live accordingly. We pursue holiness because Christ is real and what He says about Himself is true. He really is God. He really is good. He really does love. And He really is returning.
So now we pursue knowing Him to the fullest. We seek after His great name and yearn for His presence. In doing so we become conformed to His likeness and enjoy the “fruit of righteousness” afforded in knowing Him. (v.11) It is in knowing Him and following His commands that these truths are made manifest in our lives. He is the source of righteousness and it is by His strength that you are able to be righteous. Cling to Christ. You have a little time on this earth. Get to know Him, that you may see glory.
[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 68). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.