Prayer: Towards excellence

A prayer for growth:  that your love for knowledge may abound

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, (Philippians 1:9, NIV)

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, (Philippians 1:9, NKJV)

  • Paul has in mind the most comprehensive Christian love
  • A love for knowledge and spiritual insight
  • Knowledge and judgment are essential elements of love.

“… love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth…” (1 Corinthians 13:6, NKJV)

  • Knowledge is frequently used by Paul:  mental grasp of spiritual truth and especially that practical and experiential knowledge of God which is available to those who have become Christians.
  • (All) Judgment (discernment) refers to a person’s ability to make moral decisions. The adjective “all” signifies “every form of”, perfect judgment (NEB “insight of every kind”).
  • Excellence which is experientially tested – to regard something as genuine or worthy on the basis of testing

 A prayer for excellence: abounding love which discerns what is best

… so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:10, NIV)

  • Growth in knowledge, growth in depth of insight founded in love for God and love for his revealed will
  • Discriminating love and knowledge:  not all love and all knowledge is excellent or good
  • Knowledge and insight without constraints:  there is always room for better understanding, sharper thinking and more precise outworking in Christian life
  • A prayer that spells the end of mediocrity, self-satisfaction and contentment
  • Paul is praying for a mature grasp of the meaning of the Gospel that is the fruit of sound instruction and full experience

Discerning what is best:  What is best?

  • Impossible to know what is best without a constant love for knowledge and understanding.
  • The ability to determine what is best among all that is good.
  • Love shaped and honed by knowledge and moral insight is the absolute requirement for testing and approving and developing as sense of what is vital.
  • Paul is praying for more than a mere maintenance of faith, but a positive improvement in their discipleship, until it is capped by the perfection effected by the last day of Jesus Christ.

“… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, NKJV)

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:11–14, NKJV)

  • What is best includes an increasing participation in the power of the resurrection and the sufferings of Christ.
  • What is best reflects one’s entire value system, priorities, heart and mind:  every fibre of our Christian life must become exceedingly and profoundly Christian.
  • We need to develop an understanding of what is right, how to do the right things; how to do the right things right.
  • It always implies full obedience to God’s already revealed in his Word.

A prayer with a long view

“so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ …” (Philippians 1:10, ESV)

so that you may approve what is superior, in order that you may be sincere and blameless in the day of Christ…” (Philippians 1:10, LEB)

  • The love for knowledge and insight is not merely an intellectual exercise – it has as goal purity, blamelessness and righteousness

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11, NIV)

  • The righteousness is not our righteousness, but that which comes from Christ.
  • Growth with a view to the day of Christ:  Paul is not threatening the Philippians with judgment, but he is spurring them on to maturity to be ready for the return of the Groom.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) (Revelation 19:7–8, NIV)

  • The church is a missionary outpost of heaven in a dying and decaying world, now under judgement of the Lord.  We need to live in such a way that we show we remember we are moving toward that day, and that we utterly constraint by it.

I was born in the fires of revival, and I do not intend to die in the ashes of its memory

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