It's amazing how much richness there is in God's Word. In looking at just a few verses and letting truth be revealed and sink into our souls, so much can learn of Christ and of living in Him.
Awhile back, I did a My Prayer post from Ephesians 1 on praying for wisdom. Wisdom was something I was praying for fervently in my life at that time and in studying that Scripture, I was surprised, challenged and encouraged. I learned about wisdom. I gained wisdom. And I hope in sharing with you, I shared some wisdom.
Philippians 1 contains another prayer:
While this prayer was said by one person for others, the words can still be our prayer for our own lives, as well as for fellow believers. The words also contain teaching for us on prayer, love and identity.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more..."
In the previous verses, the writer Paul (see this post to get a little background on him) has just expressed thanks to God for the Philippian believers. They have "partnered in the gospel" and Paul is confident Jesus will continue to work in them. (Philippians 1:3-6) In a later chapter, we find that the Philippians have been generous and have "shared in the matter of giving." (Philippians 4:14-16)
The Philippians have expressed love through generosity. And Paul prays that their love may "abound more and more."
Abound (from the Greek perisseuo) - to occur or exist in large quantity. This greek word is also translated as "increase", "abundance", and "excel."
The opening of this prayer is for love to increase, to occur, to exist more and more, and to be in abundance. In our loving God and loving others, we should never settle. We should never be complacent. We can always grow in love.
"... in knowledge and depth of insight..."
There is a specific way in which Paul prays this love will abound: knowledge and depth of insight. A knowledge of Jesus and insight into His character and will.
Looking at the word knowledge in a dictionary, gives us this definition: "acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles". The original Greek word, epignosis, speaks of coming to a greater understanding of something previously known and of a participation by the "knower" in the "object" of which they have knowledge, and such that the knowledge has influence in the "knower".
In other words, it's not just a knowing of facts, but a growing in understanding through relationship. And that relationship influences and affects one's life.
Insight means "an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing." Paul prays that the believers will recognize who Jesus really is and will see His will for them, that they may know Him more.
The prayer is that love will increase through a deeper relationship with Christ, a relationship that truly affects our lives and influences who we are.
Why does Paul pray their love will abound in this specific way? They already know Jesus and believe in Him. They're showing love in being generous. They're doing good things. Why this prayer?
"... so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ..."
Some other versions of this phrase read:
"...that you may approve things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ..." NKJV
"... for I want you to always see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and to be inwardly clean, no one being able to criticize you from now until our Lord returns." TLB
"... for I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return." NLT
Knowing Jesus and growing in relationship with Him causes us to know what is right, to desire what is right and to keep our perspective and priorities right.
Pure - free from blemish, clean, innocent
Blameless - not deserving blame, free from guilt, not at fault.
I don't know about you, but when I read about being "pure", "blameless", "without offense" and "inwardly clean", it seems an impossibility. I am guilty of sin. I struggle with sin. I can have feelings and thoughts that are wrong. I don't look in the mirror and see someone "free from blemish". Romans 3:23 says all have sinned, all fall short of God's glorious perfection. And yet, through relationship with Christ, we are purified, we are cleansed. Guilt and fault are removed. In knowing Jesus, not only can we know and desire what is right, but we are made right with God.
These early Christians faced persecution for their faith in Christ. Paul himself was "in chains for Christ" when he wrote these words (Philippians 1:12-14). I'm sure reading words that spoke of who they were in Christ was encouraging to these believers; that they could know, without a doubt, that whenever the day came that they would see Christ face to face, He would embrace them as His own; that they would not be turned away as guilty, that blame would not be cast, because their sins and faults were removed and they were pure children of God. We too can have this confidence.
"... filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God."
In being made right with God, we are filled with fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, perseverance, godliness, self-control, faith and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-9). These qualities come in knowing Jesus more. Living in them and living them out in our everyday lives brings glory and praise to God.
Praying that love may abound in our life is not about some emotion, some good feeling we get. Praying for abounding love is praying to know Jesus and desire Him; to be filled with fruit that displays His love to those around us.