The passage from Holy Writ to which we would call attention in this article reads, in full, as follows: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may he sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
This passage is a statement by Paul to the congregation of Philippi concerning his prayer to God for her. It is more than an exhortation to the congregation. Certainly there is also an indirect exhortation to the congregation in this prayer unto a more earnest walk in love, but it is nonetheless the prayer of the apostle to God. No doubt, this is a brief summary of the content of his daily prayers for her. Rut it touches the very heart of the prayers that Paul has sent up to the throne of mercy, and which prayers, therefore, are present before God.
That this is a prayer of the apostle directed to God is evident, first of all, from the fact that the apostle speaks in the immediate context of his prayers to God for the congregation upon every remembrance of them. The writer “makes prayers for them.” He wrestles before the throne of God in their behalf. And having added the great confidence he has in God concerning them, namely, that he who has begun the good work in them will finish it even unto the day of Jesus Christ, he now continues to tell what his prayer is in their behalf. And therefore we hold that this is a prayer to God for the church.
Then, too, it should be evident from the very content of this prayer itself. For the increase of love in knowledge and all judgment is not something that the believers can simply give themselves. For this they too are dependent upon the ever new supply of the Spirit of grace. It is dependent upon Him who has begun this good work in the saints, and who having begun this work does now not leave it in its further development and continuation in the power and freewill of man, but who also gives the continuation of faith and love even to the very end. Perseverance of the saints rests in the preservation of God!
Our Reformed fathers felt this truth very keenly when they, in the Staten-vertaling, translate “And this I pray God. . .” They added the name God as being understood from the context. In our interpretation of this prayer as not simply referring to an exhortation to the congregation, but very really as a prayer to God, we are in good company.
Paul has reason to pray this prayer in behalf of the believers in Philippi. And what were these reasons? Briefly we can state it as follows: Although there was love in the congregation at Philippi so that the believers esteemed one another in the Lord, yet, it must be added, that this love was not yet perfected as it ought to be.
Surely there was spiritual life in this church. They had had fellowship in the gospel from the first day that it had been preached to them by the riverside until the very moment in which Paul is writing this letter from the prison in Rome. Had not this church sent once and again to fulfill the needs of Paul when he was laboring in Thessalonica? And had not they recently sent, by the hands of Epaphroditus, a gift for the temporal needs of Paul. Surely the bowels and mercies in Christ were in evidence in this church. And Paul also receives these gifts not simply as a gift, as a thing in itself, but rather does he look at it as a fruit of grace, a fruit of righteousness in their lives. It is such a fruit that it is a sacrifice of a sweet savor unto God and unto the glory of God’s name.
It was not because there was not spiritual life at all in this church that Paul writes as he does. Hence, he writes not simply “that your love abound”, but he writes, “that your love abound yet more and more”! He writes in the same strain as John does when he says: I write you not because ye do not know these things, but because ye do know them!
What was there then, to speak very concretely, wrong in this church in the life of her love?
There seems to have been a lack of love, a lack of all seeking the one thing in Christ. There was the case of Euodias and Syntyche, women who were living at odds with one another. That was a lack of heaven’s wisdom and understanding due to the lack of love being perfected in their mind and understanding. They are told by Paul that they should walk in love. No, they must not “patch up” their difficulties, it must not be a mere give and take proposition, but it must be a matter of being “of the same mind in the Lord”! That is different. It is that which is excellent.
But shall this lack be supplied then it must come from heaven, from God who had begun this good work in them and who shall therefore also certainly finish it even unto the day of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Only when the love of God comes mightily and richly in our hearts shall we even understand and be able to practice this more excellent way.
And that is what the apostle prays for to God!
The supply from the Holy Spirit must come. Paul is, indeed, in prison far removed from this church, but God is very near to his help. In Him he places all his confidence and trust.
Yes, this love must become yet more and more abundant “in knowledge and all judgment”. For without this knowledge and judgment there can be no “being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How come? What is this “knowledge and all judgment”?
The “knowledge” here spoken of is not simply a knowledge of facts as they appear to the natural man, but it is the knowledge that is exact and precise; it is the knowledge by which one sees the very truth and reality of things in the light of the soul-searching Word of God. It sees through the difficulties of the problems of life as originating in sin, under the wrath of God, but also sees that the joy and happiness is in walking together in the Lord. And since it is a knowledge of love, of the love of God multiplied in our life, it is a knowledge, that acknowledges the truth. It is for this reason that the Staten Vertaling translates this by “erkentenis”. The Greek “epignoosis” means accurate knowledge, penetrating insight. And he who under the love of God had this knowledge surely acknowledges the truth. Where this is done in sincerity, there the truth is obeyed. That must be more and more the reality in the hearts and lives of the church in Philippi.
Closely connected with the foregoing, in fact included in it, is also the matter of “all judgment”. This is translated in the Staten Vertaling by “in alle gevoel”, in all feeling. The term in the Greek really allows for more than one rendering. The thought expressed in this term is that of accurate moral judgment. Greijdanus translates it as “in alle fijngevoeligheid”. I believe the Rev. H. Hoeksema in his school- lectures spoke of it as “spiritual sensitiveness.” It is really such a walking in love that one instinctively feels whether it is in the way and mind of Christ or not. It is like a Helen Keller, who, although both blind and deaf, can nonetheless feel the presence of people near her. She has a very keenly developed sense of feeling. A Maestro musician has this in music, in the detecting of the flaws in the rendition of music. So the Christian has this in the art of living the life of godliness.
The apostle adds: in all judgment. It is a spiritual sensitiveness all along the line. Life is full of judgments that must be made along the whole line of God’s commandments. And always it must be: Love for God above all and for our neighbor as for ourselves. When the love of God floods our souls in this knowledge of his will then the moral judgment becomes keen. Then we are not like the floundering man who drowns, nor are we like the drunken man in his stupor, nor like the blind man feeling his way at the wall, but we are like the wise who are perfect in their ways.
Such the Christians at Philippi must become.
Then their lives shall be constantly filled with the fruits of righteousness which are in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
This being filled here is not a momentary something. The apostle employs a term in the Greek that refers to our lives as not filled with gaps of foolishness, blindness, envy and stupor of sin. Then our works will be full before God. They shall be as full as the law of God itself, when we have love abounding in knowledge and all spiritual sensitive judgment. Then each will surely esteem the other greater than themselves. Euodias and Syntyche will seek and find each other in the Lord. The find and the intent that was in Christ will then be in them. And great joy in the Holy Spirit will be their portion.
Such is the fruit of righteousness. It is peace and rest of soul. It is the quiet contentment of godliness that is the great gain. And it is all in Christ Jesus our Lord. In and through Him God sheds this love abroad in our hearts upon the prayers of the saints. And it is all fruit in our lives as branches in the vine, Christ Jesus. For without Him we can do nothing. But we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. Then the weak are made strong, and the barren are made a fruitful vine.
And herein is the Father the heavenly Husbandman glorified, that we bear much fruit.
Such is the ever repeated teaching of the Scriptures. So it is also here. Paul adds: unto the glory and praise of God.
The thought is, no doubt, that in this fruitfulness of love in all knowledge and spiritual sensitive judgment, the glory of God’s work of salvation is manifested. God is objectively glorified in it. His virtues of holiness, justice, power and grace, mercy and love are manifested in the same. He is our Maker and we are his workmanship in our being fruitful in the Lord. And that is ever more unto his glory.
This is also unto his praise. Praise is the recognition of the glory as this is expressed from the lips of men and angels and all of God’s creatures.
And this latter is the highest end of all.
Thus Paul surely has a prayer to God, which rests in God’s own purpose to save to the utmost, a prayer that is to the glory of God and to the joy and salvation of the saints.