This morning we begin a new sermon series on the Letter of Paul to the Philippians. Paul wrote this letter to the Christians/Saints in Philippi while he was imprisoned in Rome. Philippi was an important city to Paul. This was where Lydia was converted, Paul and Silas were imprisoned, and the “Philippian Jailer” was converted (Acts 16). The Philippians loved Paul and were concerned about him in prison (Phil 4:10); so, they sent a man named Epaphroditus to deliver a gift to help meet his needs. Paul was greatly blessed by Epaphroditus and the Philippians’ kindness, so he decided to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians with this letter (Phil 2:25) to encourage them to live out a joyful faith in Christ. We shall begin by studying the first section in which Paul thanks God for the Philippians’ partnership in the gospel and prays that they would have even greater fruitfulness in the gospel for the glory of God.
Paul Thanks God for Them (3-8)
Paul wrote that he thanks God for the Philippians “always in every prayer of mine” (1:4). He specifically thanks God for the Philippians partnership (koinonia) in the gospel (1:5) and that this partnership endures during good times and bad (1:7). When Paul speaks of their partnership, he uses the Greek word Koinonia. Koinonia is an important aspect of the Christian life because it refers to the fellowship the believers have with one another and their commitment to helping, serving, encouraging, honoring, and loving one another.
Paul also encourages them with the truth that their good works are from God and that God will bring them to completion in them (1:6). Paul encourages them to keep doing their good works because it is God continuing to work in them. This is like Paul’s exhortation to the church in Galatia, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).
Paul Prays that They Abound (9-11)
After giving thanks to God for the Philippians, Paul reveals his heartfelt prayer for them. He prays that they would abound in love (1:9). He wants them to have more than enough love. He wants their love to overflow and spill out onto those around them. They will know we are Christians by our love for one another (John 13:35).
Pay close attention to what Paul says next. He does not just say, “Love one another!” He says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (1:9). In verses 10-11, Paul explains four reasons why he wants their love to be mixed with knowledge and discernment: 1) “that you may approve the things that are excellent…”, 2) “…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”, 3) “…being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ…”, and 4) for “…the glory and praise of God.”
Paul’s Purposeful Prayer
Paul wants the Philippians to have the proper balance of love and discernment. He wants them to love unconditionally like Christ loves us, but he cautions them against an undiscriminating love that is divorced from the truth. Christians must have discernment and discriminate between good and evil and right and wrong. Paul wrote in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Christian churches that are lacking discernment often welcome and approve of sinful activities in the name of love. The church in Pergamum was rebuked by Jesus for a lack of discernment (Rev 2:14).
Paul wants them to have proper discernment but cautions them against a discernment devoid of love. If unchecked, discernment can have a singular focus on what is wrong. Discernment devoid of love is toxic because it just seeks to root out and destroy. Paul wants them to be discerning but also to remember that the greatest commands are to love the Lord and to love your neighbor (Matt 22:37-40). The church in Ephesus was rebuked by Jesus because they “abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4).
Let us seek to abound more and more in love for Christ and for one another. Let us be careful to mix our love with Christian discernment so that we can approve of what is good and reject what is wrong. Let us commit to one another in the fellowship and partnership of the Gospel.