Be ready for the day of Christ. 1:3-11


As is typical of Paul's letters, following the greeting he gives thanks and prays for the welfare of his readers. His thanksgiving is by no means an oblique prayer on behalf of his readers, rather it is made directly to God for the wonderful work he is performing in the Philippian congregation. Paul probably has in mind the financial contribution the congregation is making to his missionary work. Paul then prays for the perfection of his readers; he prays for their spiritual insight so that they might reap the full harvest of righteousness - the fruits of God's redeeming love.

The passage

v3. Following the greeting, v1-2, Paul gives a big "thank you", not to the church, but to God; "Every time I think of you I thank my God."

v4. The first ground for Paul's thanksgiving is the joy he feels when he prays for the Philippian church. "When I pray for you, and that means all of you, I always feel very happy."

v5. Paul gives a second reason for his thanksgiving: he is thankful for the Philippians' practical interest and involvement in his gospel ministry.

v6. Third, Paul is thankful because he is sure that the Philippians will persevere in gospel ministry. He has a sure belief in God's grace at work in the Philippian church, a sovereign grace which will continue to affect the inner disposition and the outward activity of the members of the congregation. This work of God, in their lives, will continue until the advent of Christ.

v7. In v3-6, Paul expresses warm affection for the Philippian believers and he now explains the reason for his strong feelings. Whether, during his time in prison, or during those times when he was free to defend and establish the truth of the gospel, the Philippians have stood with him and supported him in his ministry, a ministry graciously given to him by God.

v8. Finally, Paul calls on God to confirm his love for the Philippian church, a love derived from Christ and empowered by Christ.

v9. Paul's love for the church prompts him to utter a prayer for them. Great love already exists in the church, a love toward God, toward each other, toward the world, and of course, toward Paul himself. Yet, their love, like the love of all, is imperfect. So, Paul prays that their love might abound more and more "in deeper knowledge and broader perception."

v10. With the quality of their love improved through knowledge, the believers in Philippi will be better able to distinguish between good and evil. If they can possess a true gift of discrimination, they will find that their behavior toward others is sincere and does not give offense, or lead another into sin. This applied discrimination will prepare them for their reign with Christ in eternity. The word translated "pure" in the NIV actually means something like "genuine" or "sincere", while the word translated "blameless" means something like "without causing offense."

v11. Paul gives another picture of this love, refined by the knowledge of God, it is behavior which "abounds in the fruit of right-doing". Paul's prayer is that the Philippians might be "filled" with this fruit, this ethically sincere and non corrupting behavior, this "harvest of righteousness." It is a fruit which comes "through Jesus Christ", a fruit "which Christ produces." Jesus is the prompting-cause of this fruit in that he shapes right-doing in our lives through the indwelling Spirit.

Living in love

Paul's prayer for the church was that they might grow in love. First, that their love might be insightful, a love lived out in wisdom and knowledge. Second, that their love might be active, a love lived out in deeds of righteousness.

The Philippian church certainly lived out the command of our Lord to "love one another". It was not just compassion, but a bonding to Jesus, to each other, and to their apostle/prophet. Paul's needs were their needs; Paul's ministry was their ministry. It was for their Christian love that Paul gave thanks to God, and he did so in the knowledge that their love would further mature as the indwelling Spirit of Christ continued his sanctifying work within. It was within this context that Paul prayed for the Philippians; he prayed that they might grow in love.

Paul prayed for an insightful love. He prayed that their "love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight." A love without direction is of little value. Understanding the character of God, his will for us in the present and in the future, is an essential characteristic of effective love. How can I love God if I do not understand him? How can I love my neighbor if I do not know what is God's will for my neighbor? How can I love God, my neighbor and myself, if I do not have the ability to discern the shades, the subtleties of truth, as they interact with darkness? Love must be insightful.

Paul prayed for an active love. He prayed that the Philippians' love might foster a life "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ." A love that is not lived out, is a love without substance. Living out love in righteousness, through the power of the indwelling Christ, is an essential characteristic of effective love. How can I love God if all I do is please myself? How can I love my neighbor if I blindly ignore their practical needs? Love must be active.

Filled with the fruit of love that is both insightful and active, Paul prayed that the Philippians live, mindful of Christ's coming. Let us also, through Christ's life-changing power, similarly prepare for that coming day.


1. Paul describes the love he wants for the Philippians as both discerning and active. What does he mean by this?

2. How can Paul be so sure that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion"? v6

3. What does "until the day" mean? v6, 10.

4. In what sense do the Philippians "share in God's grace" with Paul?

5. In what sense does Paul use the idea of longing for them with the "affection of Christ Jesus"? Is it actually the affection of Christ, or like the affection of Christ?

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