Have you ever read a passage in the Bible, that you find yourself drawn to reading again, and again? Maybe a passage that tells you something different each time?
While doing a little search in the Bible for the prayers of Paul, I came across such a passage. For weeks, I have been drawn back to this passage nearly every day. At least to me, it is fascinating, and I discover something new each time.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 NKJV)
The first time I read this passage, I thought “I will try to be like that”. The next time I thought “I know a Christian friend that needs to read this passage and work on a few things.” And the next time “I need to teach my family to do what this passage says”, then the next time I thought “I REALLY need to do what this passage says!”
Then something in this passage struck me as not being right. There is a word that does not belong there, or is incorrect. That was disturbing, because why would Paul (guided by the Holy Spirit) put a word in his paragraph that shouldn’t be? (It is an insignificant word, that I am sure most people pass right over.) I thought about that off and on throughout the day recently until it dawned on me that word is the most important part of this passage. That word is pivotal to the passage. It is the foundation of Paul’s prayer.
It is the word “in”.
The first part of this passage, Paul’s prayer is that the recipients of his letter know that he was praying that their love would abound still more and more.
The second part of this passage is his prayer that they have knowledge and all discernment.
Those are two different things. Two different topics. Love is the first topic, knowledge and discernment is the other. Both are needed, sort of like healthy food and exercise or hard work, but they are completely different.
So why does Paul not put a grammatical separator between these two different topics?
Another thought was maybe “in” is supposed to be “of”. That would certainly make the passage complete. Paul would be saying then that you should have growing love of knowledge and all discernment… That certainly works. I am sure we ARE to have a love for those things and I am sure Paul would say so too. But it does not say “of”. It says “in”.
I came to realize that you cannot have good, godly, meaningful, productive knowledge and discernment without love. In fact, you cannot continue to do the rest of that passage without love. Much like you cannot have good , meaningful, productive exercise or work without food (fuel) in your stomach.
You see, God is love. Love permeates all He does. Since we are part of a relationship that involves God, our self, our family, and our friends, love MUST be part of that relationship. For us Christians to be effective for Him, we MUST HAVE “abounding” (ever growing and overflowing) love at our heart.
says: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,”. (1 Peter 1:22 NKJV)
We must have love IN our heart as we pursue and do these items Paul mentions:
-“Knowledge.” This is knowledge of the Bible. We must read/study our Bible. This will give us intelligent affection toward others.
-“Discernment.” You must have biblical knowledge to have biblical discernment. Discernment is an action word, it is the ability to choose correctly between right and wrong. It is to have good judgment. To have practical application of knowledge.
-“Approve all things that are excellent.” Using knowledge, and discernment, we can recognize excellent things, and approve of them. Conversely, we can recognize the bad things, and avoid them, or get them out of our lives. We can point out these excellent and/or bad things to our family and friends with love. Later in his letter, Paul gives a list of things he considers excellent: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Php 4:8)
-“That you may be sincere”. Sincere means to be pure, genuine, judged by sunlight. (in biblical times when purchasing pottery, you would hold the pot up to the sunlight to make sure it did not have thin places in the wall of the pot, or have cracks that the seller would fill with wax to temporarily hold fluids. Those that looked strong and flawless in the sunlight were called sincere)
-“Without offense”. The Greek word used here literally means “to lead into sin.”
-“Filled with the fruits of righteousness”. Being righteous produces fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23)
So, Paul is praying that love must be IN our efforts of studying the Bible so we may distinguish between good and bad things to be flawless and strong so we will not be led into sin, but bear fruit out of our righteousness. Fruit is the actions we do. Walking our talk. We MUST have love in all our biblically based actions we do.
It is my prayer as well that all of you overflow with love which will permeate your biblically based decisions and actions as you endeavor to grow and maintain a righteous and fruitful life.