Tuesday, August 4, 2020

From Love to Discernment

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

As he usually did, Paul began this letter with a prayer for the people to whom he was writing. There is a chain in Philippians 1:9–11 that we want to look at today.

First, Paul prayed that their love may abound more and more in deep knowledge and insight. The love that the Bible wants us to have is not a shallow, superficial, “happy-face” kind of love. It is not “sweet and sugary.” Rather, it is a full and deep love, a love characterized by mature knowledge and insight. It is a love that embraces doctrinal teaching and Bible study, not a love that focuses only on emotional experiences. It is a love that is familiar with suffering and pain.

Second, Paul wanted their love to be seasoned with insight so that they would be “able to discern what is best” (v. 10). The verb discern is the word used in Greek for assaying gold and coins, to tell the true from the counterfeit. The world is full of false wisdom, and Satan has always made sure that there is plenty of folly in the church as well. Paul wanted them to love God with their intellects so that they could judge and discern the bad from the good, and the good from the best.

Third, the purpose of this discernment was not knowledge and judgment for its own sake but for personal growth, that they would be “pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (vv. 10–11). In other words, they must be able to discern what was best so that they might do what was best, and so that their righteousness would overflow. The verb filled here implies not just full to the brim but full to overflowing. The church is to be a garden brimming with fruit for all humanity.

Finally, all of this is “to the glory and praise of God” (v. 11). It is to move toward worship. We don’t love God with an anti-intellectual warm-fuzzy love. We are to love Him with knowledge. But knowledge is not for its own sake but for discernment. Discernment shows us which good works are best and to help us grow abundant fruit. All this, however, is not so that we can have a “good healthy church,” but so that we can turn it all into praise and worship of God.

Consider Paul’s chain of thinking from this passage. How do you measure up? Are the words best, pure, and blameless characteristics of your life? Can you point to fruit from your righteousness in Christ? Use discernment to establish concrete ways that you can better glorify God with your life.