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# Philippians 1:9-11
## Opening — Paul’s Prayer
This morning we conclude our look at the opening section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
In verses 1–2, we have the opening salutation which identifies the author, Paul, and with him Timothy—The young man he has mentored.
It also identifies the recipients—all the saints at Philippi who along with the overseers and deacons constitute the church of Christ at Philippi.
The in verses 3–8, we have Paul’s typical expression of thanksgiving in which he expresses his joyful gratitude to God for the Philippians and their continued participation in the gospel; both by their firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by their faithful support of Paul even as he is in prison for the defense of the Gospel.
In these two sections we also see many of the themes that will reappear throughout the letter.
The Philippians position and security in Christ
2. Paul’s special affection for the church at Philippi
3. Responding joyfully in the face of hardship
Now, in verses 9–11, we have set down Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers.
He has already mentioned the frequency with which he prays for them.
In these verses we will get a glimpse of the contents of those prayers.
[Read 1:9–11]
Given the bold affirmation in verse six that their salvation and sanctification are God’s work which cannot fail, our human reasoning might think of prayer as a mere formality with no real consequence for them.
After all, if it is all God’s work, and God cannot fail, then Paul can surely relax his frequent prayers, and the Philippians can relax their participation in the work of the gospel.
Now I trust, that even hearing that expressed, should make you a little uncomfortable.
You should recognize that that statement is at odds with the revelation that we have in Scripture.
Scriptural reasoning is that God is at work, and therefore, we have a responsibility to respond to that work.
God’s absolute sovereignty in the work of Salvation in no way reduces our responsibility to respond, both to the command of the gospel (repent and believe cf.
Acts 17:30), and to the work of the Spirit in sanctification.
Paul will flesh this out further in chapter 2:12–13 and 3:12–14.
However, I find it instructive that Paul follows his confident statement regarding the certainty of the completion of sanctification in them with a prayer for their continued growth in sanctification.
How do we understand this?
We cannot fully comprehend it for, “who has known the mind of the Lord?”
But something I have found helpful is to understand that God sovereignty ordains the ends as well as the means.
In other words, God has not only ordained the Philippians ultimate sanctification (the ends), but also the means by which their sanctification is to be accomplished such as prayer, study, and faithful endurance in hardship.
## Growth in Sanctification
In Paul’s prayer for their continued growth in maturity what does he focus on?
What sort of things might we prayer for?
Increased biblical knowledge?
All of these are essential to a believers growth, but Paul gets right to the heart of the matter—love.
### Love
The first thing we must ask is whither he is talking about love for God or for fellow believers?
I believe both are in view.
Growing in our love for God will result in increased personal holiness, a boldness to speak the truth and a love for the Word of God.
Likewise, growing love for the believers will result in humility, unity, and faithful service to the body of Christ.
Love is a central theme of the Christian life.
Salvation is the ultimate expression of God’s love towards us which results in a heart that loves God above all else, and therefore loves his people.
As believers, the Philippians are already experience this love, but Paul prays for their love to grow—to “abound more and more”.
An abundant, ever-increasing love is one sign of growth in sanctification as a believer.
Indeed growing in their love toward one another is important as there seem to be signs of division creeping into the Philippian church (cf.
2:1 ff and 4:1 ff).
That Paul prays this for them should not be surprising then for this is how love grows.
Our love grows in difficult circumstances.
The kind which stretch it to its full potential.
Do not be surprised then, when you pray for increased love, if you find yourself providentially placed in situations where it is difficult to be loving.
Love grows when it is put to the test in situations and circumstance which require us to love more sacrificially and deeply.
Our sinful flesh balks at these circumstances.
It will ask things like, “Who is my neighbor?”,
and “How many times must I forgive?”.
Yet it is through the work of the Spirit in these trying times that our love abounds “more and more”, as we imitate the selfless love of Christ.
This too is a mark of our growing sanctification.
In this work of sanctification, love does not stand alone.
This is not the modern concept of love which is unmoored from any objective foundation.
Love works hand-in-hand with another mark of maturity for which Paul prays—knowledge.
### Knowledge
In order to love God truly, we must know God truly—as he has revealed himself.
I can no more love God apart from knowledge about him, than I can love my wife while ignoring everything I know about her.
Paul prays for the Philippians to have love with knowledge.
As we live the Christian live our growth in knowledge about God is in two overlapping spheres.
1. **Revelational Knowledge** — This is knowledge of what God has revealed in his Word.
A sure mark of growth as a believer is an increased knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.
By this, I do not mean just knowing facts about Scripture, but knowing how to handle it rightly and to apply it consistently in our lives.
2. **Experiential Knowledge** — This is the knowledge of God’s character that comes from a life time of trusting him.
We know of God’s faithfulness because we have seen it.
We know of his mercy because we have experienced it time and again.
This knowledge deepens our love for and trust in God.
We find ourselves to be less shaken by trials and hardships when we have walked through these before and seen God provide.
Now, Before we continue I want to give two warnings regarding this subject of knowledge.
1. Experiential knowledge must always submit revealed knowledge (i.e.
God’s work trumps my experience).
2. Just as love without knowledge is empty, so too is knowledge without love (1 Cor 13:1–3).
The absence of love shows our “knowledge” to be worthless.
### Discernment
Paul also prays for their love to be joined with discernment.
Discernment, as it is used here, is the ability to differentiate between the true and false, and to determine what is real.
Love, when coupled with discernment, is more effective.
Discernment allows us to determine where the real need is, and what it is.
It helps us know how best to apply love in each situation and circumstance.
Love is not just emotion or depth of feeling.
For love to truly benefit others and glorify God requires the application of discernment by the Spirit-transformed mind.
How do we grow in discernment?
By prayer, for it is a work of the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit in us.
We also hone our discernment through use by applying careful biblical thinking to all areas of our lives.
This ability to discern, sharpened by constant use, is a mark of spiritual grown and maturity.
> “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14 ESV)
## Fruits of Sanctification
[Read 1:10–11] Notice the transitional phrase “so that”.
Paul has been praying for their growth in specific areas of sanctification; now he prays for the fruit produced by that growth.
He mentions three things which result from the growth of love, knowledge and discernment in a believers life.
### Approve what is excellent
The first result of this growth is that they would “approve what is excellent”.
The word “approve” here refers to the practice of proving something through testing.
It is similar to how they would test the purity of metals, by exposing them to intense heat.
Through this process of maturing we come to confirm and do those things which are truly pleasing to God.
This works out both internally, and externally.
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