“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 be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. “
That your love may abound . . .!
The apostle does not pray that the church at Philippi may have love. He was deeply aware that love resided especially in this church, and in the hearts of all the members thereof. For this the apostle raises continual thanksgiving to God. He was so sure that they possessed this love because they had communicated it to him, not only in word, but in deed.
But he prays that that love may abound!
O, indeed, there were perhaps many other things for which the apostle could have prayed, also as they pertained to this particular church. Was it not small in numbers and strength? Could he not have prayed that the Lord would add to their number, so that the burden of the work of the church could have been more easily borne? Was it not a church which suffered reproach for the sake of Christ? And would it not be permissible to pray that the Lord provide for this church peace and prosperity if it be His will? But for this he does not pray. On the contrary, he reminds the church that it is given them of grace in the cause of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer with Him.
Rather, his prayer is, that their love may abound yet more and more!
But this is not all! Notice that the prayer is: that their love may increase in knowledge, and in all judgment, so that they may be able to approve the things which are excellent, in order that they may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
What the apostle really is desirous of is that the church may increase in spiritual sensitiveness, such spiritual sensitivity that will keep the church above reproach unto the coming of the Lord.
Love that abounds unto spiritual sensitiveness!
That is what the apostle prays for in our text!
But what does this mean? And why was this so necessary? And how did the apostle prayerfully expect this desire of his heart to be fulfilled?
That there is a need for the church of Christ in the world to be spiritually sensitive there can be no question. However shall this need be realized, there must of necessity be a constant increase in knowledge and discernment.
When the text speaks of knowledge, the reference is not, of course, to natural knowledge of natural things. As much as natural knowledge of natural things may be necessary for the realization of one’s place in the world, and this acquired knowledge may be obtained through much study of the sciences and humanities, the apostle is not at all concerned about it. He is not interested in, nor does he pray that the members of the church have a well-rounded education. Nor is he concerned even about their natural knowledge of spiritual things, important as this may be. One may very well have a head full of this knowledge and yet his heart is far from the Lord. It is always the danger of the theological professor and minister of the Word, as well as even the lay member of the church, when they approach the Word of God that they do this only to acquire a head full of Scriptural knowledge. And this knowledge may be so exact that they know about the doctrines of Christian faith so that they can develop and teach and even defend these doctrines, yet it is no more than an intellectual gymnastic with them, while they are strangers to the mercies of salvation and stand outside of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, Whom to know is eternal life. Important as Christian education is, and as necessary as the accumulation of Scriptural knowledge may be, if it is no more than this, it avails nothing. It must be a knowledge of love shall it profit us; a knowledge of the heart, in which the love of God has been spread abroad.
Notice, however, that the apostle’s prayer does not stop with his desire that the church be adept, and increase in this principle, spiritual, saving knowledge; but he adds to this knowledge “and in all judgment.”
The knowledge for which he prays therefore, is twofold. On the one hand, it is the knowledge of principle; while on the other, it is the knowledge of practice. He would not only be concerned, that the church increase in spiritual knowledge, but he is also concerned that the church be spiritually able to apply that knowledge. For instance, one may know from the heart that God is the holy and exalted one, but unless this knowledge brings him into the dust before Him, it avails nothing. Or again, one may know from the heart that before God he is a sinner, but unless he, humbles himself and repents .of his sin, it is not enough. And again, it must be stressed that also this judgment or discernment must be more than intellectually logical, — it must be spiritual. This is what is meant by spiritual sensitivity.
And how necessary it is that we possess this spiritual sensitiveness! How sad it is when our spiritual development goes in the opposite direction! When our spiritual life becomes more and more obtuse! When our spiritual senses are dulled and blunted. When we become s1ow to understand, and to respond in the spiritual sense of the word! When we begin to act indifferently and insensitively to spiritual things! How appalling it is when the members of Christ’s Church become accustomed to corrupt speech, to carnal pleasures, worldly fashions, and are no longer able to protest against profanity, against what is evil. How the Holy Spirit of Christ must be grieved when those who bear the name of Christ are playing ball as it were with the world, and no longer are walking antithetically in the world! Though there is no specific indication that the church at Philippi was in immediate danger of becoming spiritually dull, the apostle is fully aware that this may become the danger of becoming spiritually dull, the apostle is fully aware that this may become the danger of the church in the world. And surely this applies to the church as we see it today.
Approving the things which are excellent!
That is, of course, the end of the knowledge and discernment, for which the apostle prays.
The things excellent are those things which differ from all others because of their goodness. They are the things of God Who is the Excellent One. They are the things of His Spirit and truth, the things of His kingdom. They are the things of which God approves, and which He expects that we shall approve.
When our spiritual knowledge and discernment are what they ought to be, we are able also to discern the things which excel because of their goodness, and choose them. Then we also approve them because God does. This requires a spiritually developed taste and desire for that which transcends. Negatively, this implies that we learn to abhor all that which is evil, corrupt and ugly, — the things of darkness. And positively it implies that by grace we, acquire a taste for those things which are in harmony with the being and will of God. It means that we find our delight in those things which are pleasing to Him.
And how necessary that is!
As we are by nature, tie do not, neither can we choose or approve of these excellent things. Only by grace do we acquire a new taste. So that the things of darkness become repulsive, while that which is good becomes the object of our delight and approval.
But even so the prayer of the apostle is not ended.
He also has in mind the end purpose of this spiritual sensitiveness, and for that he also prays.
That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ!
One who is sincere, according to the original text, is one who is unmixed; pure in walk; able to stand the true and severe judgment of the light. One, therefore, who is sincere must be able to stand in the light of God’s judgment, and not be consumed.
That one is without offence implies that he walks so circumspectly that no one stumbles over him, nor is he the cause of stumbling in others. It means that you are never found in places where you are not expected to be as a child of light. Your walk of life is never such that another does not really know who you are.
All this means that if we do not develop spiritual knowledge and discernment, we will be spiritually dull. If we are spiritually dull, we cannot be quick to approve the things which are excellent. And if we cannot do the latter, we will be insincere, and become stumbling blocks to others. Then we will enter Folly’s Temple and eat of her dainties, and at the same time be the occasion for others to stumble and to walk with us in the ways of darkness.
Till the day of Christ!
Rather, into the day of Christ!
The day of Christ is Christ’s day. It is the day of His full revelation. It is the day of His complete victory, when all darkness will be forever banished and destroyed, and when only the things that are excellent shall remain and abide forever. It is the day when His people whom He has redeemed shall be like Him, and reflect perfectly His saving grace in them. It is the day when Christ shall receive all His own and present them to the Father, without spot or wrinkle in the assembly of the elect.
The prayer of the apostle is, therefore, that the church may be spiritually sensitive, developing in spiritual knowledge and discernment, so that they are always approving the things which are excellent, in order that they may be sincere and without: offence into that blessed day when Christ shall take them and present them to the Father. Thus the children of God will be prepared to stand forever in the midst of all that is excellent in the new creation where righteousness shall dwell, and when God shall be glorified when He beholds in that people the perfection of His grace.
That your love may abound . . .!
That is the source of all this spiritual sensitiveness!
It is the love of which you and I have been made the living and conscious subjects!
O, surely, this love does not have its source in us!
Love has its source only in God, Who is love! And always this love of God is first. We love only because He first loved us. He sheds abroad in our hearts His love, but in such a way that we love Him, our neighbor, all the brethren, and all things excellent. Also here, as it is always, love is a bond of perfection. First, as it flows from God to us, as it is His purpose to make us perfect as He is perfect. Then, as it returns to God Who gave it, it is the desire and longing of our new will to be perfect as He is. But then, too, it is not only the desire for our own perfection that we seek, but also the perfection of the neighbor and all the holy brethren.
See to it that that love abounds yet more and more!
Like the volcano which can no longer contain itself, but continues to spout forth lava; so also see to it that the love of God in our hearts overflows in a never ending stream.
One who does this by the grace of God shall never be ashamed; for he will be walking in the way of sanctification and perfection, without which no one shall see the Lord. And when the Lord’s day shall come, he shall stand in spotless perfection before the face of His God.
The prayer of the apostle has an answer!
The church shall be perfected in glory!