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2. Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Philippian Church (Philippians 1:3-11)

I. Translation

1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 1:4 Always in my every prayer for all of you I pray with joy 1:5 because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 1:6 For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 1:7 For it is right for me to think this about all of you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you became partners together with me in the grace of God. 1:8 For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 1:9 And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight 1:10 so that you can decide what is best, and so be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

II. Outline

    A. Thanksgiving (1:3-8)

      1. The Frequency of Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:3)

      2. The Manner of Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:4)

      3. The Reasons for Paul’s Joyful Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:5-6)

      4. The Context of Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:7-8)

    B. The Content and Goal of Paul’s Prayer (1:9-11)

      1. The Content Proper: A Love Characterized by Increasing Knowledge and Insight (1:9)

      2. The Immediate and Ultimate Goals: The Glory and Praise of God (1:10-11)

        a. The Immediate Goal (1:10-11a)

        b. The Ultimate Goal (1:11b)

III. Thanksgiving and Prayer

A. Thanksgiving (1:3-8)

      1. The Frequency of Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:3)

Paul gives thanks (eucharisteo) every time he remembers them. It was common in the secular world of letter writing to open a new letter with thanksgiving to God.19 So Paul emulates here what is found in the culture at the time. But there are some important differences including his personal reference to God as my God. There are only two other certain instances where Paul refers (in his introductory prayer) to God as my God, namely, in Romans 1:8 and Philemon 4. This may also be the case in 1 Cor 1:4 though the text is in some doubt. The simple formula: “we thank God” is also found in 1 Thess 1:2 and Col 1:3.

In any case, Paul refers to God as my God20 which reflects the deep intimacy he shared with the Lord and the expression itself may well come from the Psalter. When the psalmist cries out for God’s help against his enemies he petitions the Lord: “Arise O Lord, Deliver me, O my God…” (Ps 3:7). David cried out to God for help, entreating him saying, “Listen to my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray.” And, when David was running from Saul he prayed to the Lord: “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge.” What incredible closeness to the Lord these passages speak of. Paul was undoubtedly drawn to these or similar texts as they ministered untold comfort during his difficult circumstances in prison.

There are several indicators in Philippians that reveal Paul’s close personal relationship with the Lord in spite of his trying circumstances. First, as a result of his intimacy with the Lord, Paul could eagerly expect and confidently hope, that in whatever circumstances he found himself, he would not be ashamed. He was confident that he would have sufficient courage so that Christ would always be exalted through him, whether in life or death (1:20). This can only come as a result of spiritually abiding in Christ (John 15:7-8). Second, the apostle goes so far as to say that “for him to live is Christ and to die is gain” and that he would much rather “depart and be with Christ” (1:21-23). Third, he rejoices in his ministry to the Philippians even though the cost to him was great and he was somewhat uncertain of the results (2:16-18).21 Fourth, his sufferings have brought him to the place where he wants to know Christ more than anything else. He talks about knowing Christ in terms of knowing the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, being conformed to the likeness of his death, and rising from the dead (3:10-11). There is much more in the letter that we could talk about as well. Paul was a man who knew his God; he referred to the Lord as my God. He understood the suffering and humiliation that Christ underwent for him (2:6-11) and now it was his turn to follow his master’s example.

      2. The Manner of Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:4)

Paul’s prayers for the Philippians grew out of his intense, deep, and personal love for the Lord and for them (1:7-8). He wants the Philippians to know that he prays for them often and that on each occasion that he does pray, he does so with thanksgiving and joy.

Hawthorne has suggested that “every time I remember you” (back in v. 3) indicates that Paul was not simply thinking about praying at random times per se, though he undoubtedly did that, but that he was thinking about praying at set times, much according to his Jewish heritage (Ps 5:3; Ezra 9:5; Ps 55:17; Dan 6:10; 1 Chron 23:30).22 Luke records the practice of Peter and John going up to the temple at the hour of prayer (i.e., 3pm; Acts 3:1). The Jews of Paul’s day regularly prayed: (1) early in the morning, in connection with the morning sacrifice; (2) at the ninth hour in connection with the evening sacrifice (3 pm); (3) at sunset.23 Thus there is evidence that prayer at set times was actually done by Christian Jews—and it is probably quite safe to say that Paul himself followed this tradition—but it is by no means certain that his comment in v. 3 can be limited to that. The language is just not specific enough to warrant such a narrow referent. He probably means that he prays all the time for the Philippians, not just at set times. In any case, he was in prison, and undoubtedly had many opportunities to pray for his beloved friends.

Let’s begin our discussion of this verse with a closer look at the word prayer (deesei). The word is used 18 times in the NT, 12 of which are in Paul (Rom 10:1; 2 Cor 1:11; 9:14; Eph 6:18 [2x]; Phil 1:4 [2x]; 1:19; 4:6; 1 Tim 2:1; 5:5; 2 Tim 1:3). The term can be used in a narrower way than the general term for prayer found in Phil 1:9 (proseuchomai) and may relate better to known, specific needs.24 Thus, for example, in Romans 10:1 Paul prays specifically for the salvation of his Jewish brethern. In 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul asks for specific prayer concerning deliverance from trouble. In Philippians the word occurs twice in 1:4, and in two other verses, namely, 1:19 and 4:6. In 1:19 Paul regards his imprisonment as coming to an end soon because the Philippians have prayed specifically for his release. In 4:6 the term probably refers to prayer for unity in the Philippians church. Thus in the book of Philippians the word carries a narrower sense than just general prayer.

The question arises, then, as to what specific needs are in mind in the use of the term in 1:4. This can be understood by looking at the letter as a whole and the problems within the church at Philippi. First, because of certain factions developing in the church, Paul’s immediate concern is with unity (4:2-3). Second, he denounces the false teachers in his letter and shows the Philippians a better way toward spirituality (3:1-21). Thus it seems that Paul’s prayers to make up what is lacking in the Philippians faith, that is, his prayer that God will bring them to maturity, includes prayers for their humility and unity, as well as prayers for their protection from false teachers.

It must be said, however, that while Paul makes these prayers for specific needs in the church, and even though these needs are connected to sin on the part of some members (e.g., 2:3-4; 4:2-3), he nonetheless, prays for all of them (huper panton humon) and he does so with joy (charas). The focus on all of them as we stated in the first lesson (Philippians 1:1-2), not only ensures the Philippians that Paul prays for all of them and not just a select group, but also anticipates the discussion about unity to come in the bulk of the letter. Again, the apostle’s procedure makes it plain to the Philippians that in Paul’s mind they are all valuable and equal members of the church.

Paul says that he always prays for the Philippians with joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23) and refers to the experience of “fullness of life” because of the presence of the Spirit within—regardless what the circumstances are. It is closely connected to feelings of well being and a deep and lasting peace grounded in the personal knowledge of God’s presence and sovereignty over all peoples and events.25 It is in this experience of joy that the apostle prays for the church. But he does so according to the following reasons outlined in vv. 5 and 6.

      3. The Reasons for Paul’s Joyful Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:5-6)

Paul gave thanks for the Philippians, and prayed for them with joy because of their participation in the gospel. The Greek word translated participation (koinonia) can be understood in at least a couple of ways. First, it might refer to the Philippians’ experience in salvation. In this case Paul is thanking God because he shares with the Philippians in the salvation offered in the gospel. A second way to understand it is as a reference to the Philippians’ participation in the furtherance of the gospel, namely, by helping Paul in his missionary work. This latter way is preferable here. First, koinonia in 1:5 must be understood in light of the term with which it is connected, namely, gospel (euanggelion). The term gospel occurs nine times in Philippians. For Paul the gospel was good news about Christ (1:27). But it was good news that must be “defended and confirmed” (1:7, 16), “furthered” (1:12; 2:22), “lived out in the face of opposition” (1:27); “contended for” (4:3), and “contributed (ekoinosesen) toward” (4:15). While Paul obviously had a deep personal fellowship with the Lord (cf. 3:10-11), the focus on the term gospel in the book of Philippians is on outward realities and one’s tangible commitment to promulgate the good news.

Second, in 4:15-16 Paul talks about how in the first days of their (i.e., the Philippians’) acquaintance with the gospel, nobody shared (ekoinosesen) with him in the matter of giving and receiving except the Philippians alone. These two verses have much in common with 1:5. Both 4:15-16 and 1:5 point back to the Philippians’ first acquaintance with the gospel. They both use the word fellowship (1:5 has the noun and 4:15 the verbal form of the same word). The latter refers to the Philippians’ gift for Paul in order to advance the gospel in the midst of his trials in prison. It seems likely, then, given both the consistent use of the term gospel in Philippians as good news to be advanced in one way or another, and the connections in 4:15-16 to 1:5, that what Paul has in mind in 1:5 is the Philippians’ participation in furthering the gospel by their financial gifts. This is not the only time where Paul joins the idea of the gospel and fellowship with the idea of giving—the latter as a tangible expression of participation in the gospel. 2 Corinthians 9:13-15 reads as follows:

9:11 You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God, 9:12 because the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God. 9:13 Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession in the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your sharing with them and with everyone. 9:14 And in their prayers on your behalf they long for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown to you. 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

But Paul may also mean more by participation in the gospel than just the gifts sent to him by the Philippians. They had furthered the gospel in their own context as well. He encourages them to stand firm against those who oppose them and to thus contend as one man for the faith of the gospel (1:27). In 2:16, if they do everything without complaining or arguing, they will shine like stars in the universe (world) as they hold out the word of God to a world in darkness. The reference, then, to their participation in the gospel from the first day until now refers not solely to their original support, nor their continued financial support of the apostle. While it includes these things, it is much broader and refers to any and every way in which they had advanced the gospel of Christ since the time of their conversion.26

While verse 5 looks at the faithfulness of the Philippians from the beginning of their conversion until the writing of the Philippian letter, verse 6 looks to the future and their continued faithfulness in Christian living and witness. Paul is confident that the Philippians will continue to live out the Christian life, including making specific contributions to the furtherance of the gospel because God is the ultimate author of their faithfulness. He espouses a similar theology in 2:12-13 where he encourages them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling because the One who is working in them, both the willing and the doing, is God.

Paul refers to the effect of the gospel in their lives as a good work. The expression good work cannot refer primarily to “the progress of the gospel,” by human means (i.e., through the Philippians), as Hawthorne suggests.27 Several reasons argue against such a narrow referent: (1) the “thanksgiving section” in 1:3-8 is for the Philippians’ participation in the progress of the gospel, not the progress of the gospel, per se; (2) the temporal indicators, “first day,” “until now,” and “Day of Christ Jesus” in vv. 5-6 indicate that a chronology is involved with the Philippians themselves as the subjects operating in the time frames laid out. This is true in v. 5 and therefore in v.6; (3) in v. 7 Paul says he thinks “this” (i.e., the contents of v. 6) about all of you (i.e., the Philippians). The “this” refers back to what he said in v. 6 and the all of you indicates that verse 6 refers to the Philippians and not just the progress of the gospel; (4) if the progress of the gospel were the good work to which Paul refers, then we would expect “through you” (dia humon) instead of “in you” (en humon)28; (5) it is superfluous for the apostle to say that the gospel will go forth until the day of Christ. The point is that God will continue his good work in the Philippians, as he will again discuss in 2:12-13, until the Day of Christ Jesus.

The idea of a good work, then, is broader than a reference to the progress of the gospel. It refers to God’s saving activity in their hearts and its expression in their lives. The specific focus in v. 6 because of the in you phrase is God’s work in their hearts. Their contribution to the furtherance of the gospel, as important as that is, is only an outward manifestation due the inward reality of the creative work of God. Because the Philippians had given themselves to the service of the gospel, it was clear to Paul that God had begun, was carrying on, and would complete, his good work in them (cf. 2 Cor 5:17).

The apostle says that God will perfect that good work in them until the day of Christ Jesus. Thus Paul responds to the Philippians, who are facing troubles on the inside (4:2-3) and troubles on the outside (1:26-31), by encouraging them with the truth about the certainty of their ultimate salvation. Such a salvation, the perfection of that which God had begun in them, will be complete at the day of Christ Jesus, that is, at the second coming of Christ (2 Thess 1:10). The expression the day of Christ Jesus is sometimes referred to by Paul as (1) the day (1 Thess 5:4; 1 Cor 3:13; Rom 13:12); (2) that day (2 Thess1:10); (3) the day of Christ (Phil 1:10; 2:16); (4) the day of the Lord (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Thess 2:12); and (5) the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ] (1 Cor 1:8; 2 Cor 1:14). We notice that only in Philippians is the term Christ associated with the day of the Lord.29 While it is difficult to say why this is, the expression itself—day of the Lord—is an expression drawn from the OT and carries with it both negative and positive aspects. In Joel 2:1-2 the prophet refers to the day of the Lord as a day of judgment and wrath (cf. Amos 5:20), as well as blessing and salvation (Joel 3:14-16). Both of these senses are present in the writings of Paul. He uses it both in its negative sense involving judgment and God’s anger, as well as to indicate blessing and the vindication of God’s saints. This latter sense is the meaning here since Paul is referring to the salvation of the Philippians. The mention of the day of the Lord in 1:6 and 1:10, like so many other comments in his introductory thanksgiving in Philippians, anticipates the mention of the judgment of the Philippians’ enemies (1:28) and the return of Christ for his people (3:20). Finally, we might also add that Paul’s reference to the day of the Lord as the day of Christ may imply his conscious conviction regarding the deity of Christ.

      4. The Context of Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:7-8)

v. 7 The context for Paul’s thanksgiving and confidence in the Philippians is his deep personal love for them and their mutual relationship. Paul says that it is right for him to think this about them. The Greek term for think in this context is not so much a reference to thinking or reasoning per se, or analyzing something, as much as it is a reference to a settled mindset or disposition (cf. Rom 8:6-7).30 Thus Paul has a settled attitude about the Philippians, including the joy he experiences when he prays for them because of their past participation in the gospel (v. 5), their future security with God (v.6) and their future faithfulness to Paul in prison (v.7). The emphasis on the right-ness of Paul thinking about the eternal security of the Philippians may be a polemical comment about what certain false teachers thought about the security of the Philippians. Perhaps these teachers had criticized them for their failure to conform to certain external religious practices like circumcision and so on that basis called into question their salvation. Paul says “no way, you’re saved.” The evidence of the grace of God is apparent in your lives!

The terms defense and confirmation (in respect to the gospel) could be taken in a technical sense and as a reference to Paul’s trial before Caesar (Acts 26:16; 2 Tim 4:16). Many commentators understand them as such. But it may be better to see it not only as a narrow reference to the particular occasion of his trial, but also in the broader sense of his apostolic ministry over the years. This is more consistent with our argument for the broader meaning of the expression good work in v. 6—referring to both the experience of salvation as well as the expression of it in one’s life. Thus we would also understand the meaning of partners in the grace of God to refer to the Philippians’ sharing not only in God’s salvation, but also contributing to Paul’s ministry and themselves holding out the word of life to unsaved people around them (2:16; cf. 1:26-30).

v. 8 In order to express the genuineness and depth of his love for them Paul introduces his next statement in v. 8 with an oath—God is my witness. Paul calls God as his witness regarding the sincerity and depth of his love for the Philippians. While the apostle used oaths on other occasions in his writings, they were not common (Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23; 1 Thess 2:5, 10). Here the message is clear: “God knows the reality in my heart: I love you.” Would that all Christian leaders had such a deep commitment to the people they led, and could thus invite God to test the sincerity of that love—confident that their words would be proven correct.

When Paul says he longs for all of them he is referring to his desire to be with them and to see them again (cf. 2:26; see also 2:12, 23; Rom 1:11; 1 Thess 3:6; 2 Tim 1:4). In commenting on his plans after his release from prison he tells the Philippians that he wants to remain with them for their joy and progress in the faith (1:25). But his longings to be with them are not simply vague feelings, but indeed are the affection(s) of Christ Jesus. They are, as Martin has said, “nothing less than Christ’s love expressing itself through Paul.”31 Once again Paul’s deep love for the Philippians bubbles to the surface. It is a love that Paul had first experienced from Christ and continually learned in his walk with the Lord. It was out of this context that he had grown to love his friends in Philippi so much. We too may ask ourselves why it is that we do not love as we ought. Are we as close to the Lord as Paul was (cf. 3:10-11)? If not, let us be on our knees about this so that God may have his way in us and his kingdom may be exalted in and through our lives.

B. The Content and Goal of Paul’s Prayer (1:9-11)

      1. The Content Proper: A Love Characterized by Increasing Knowledge and Insight (1:9)

Having stated that he prays for them regularly (vv. 3-4)—and in keeping with his thoughts of love for the Philippians (vv. 7-8), Paul now moves on in vv. 9-11 to inform them of the content of things he prays for them: Out of his own love for them grows his prayer for their growth in love. He prays that their love may abound so that they may be able to discern what is best with the ultimate result of living lives to the glory and praise of God. The reason Paul tells them his prayers, indicating what he really desires for them, is that it gives his prayers an exhortational nature. That is, sharing his prayers in this manner may well be a form of implicit encouragement to act on what he is praying.32

There are several words in his prayer that need discussion and exposition in order to get the richness of what the apostle is asking God for. The first term is love. While Paul speaks only sparingly of love for God (Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 8:3), he nonetheless emphasizes love in relationships between Christians (1 Thess 4:9; Col 1:4; 3:19; Phlmn 5; Eph 4:2; 5:25; 6:23). Stauffer comments on Paul’s use of love (agape) in his letters:

Paul takes up the command of Jesus that we should love our neighbors, and establishes it in the same way as the Lord. But his true interest is concentrated on brotherly love. The organic principle which is given once and for all with the orientation of love to the neighbour is here worked out in terms of organisation (sic). Neighbourly love, once a readiness to help compatriots in the covenant people of Israel, is now service rendered to fellow-citizens in the new people of God. It implies making the welfare of the brotherhood the guiding principle of conduct.33

Stauffer goes on to talk about the influence of eschatology34 on Paul’s thinking about love:

Decisive definition is given to brotherly love, however, by the cosmic, historical kairos [“time”] which demands it. Brotherly love is the only relevant and forward looking attitude in this time of decision between the cross and the telos [“end”]. It stands under the sign of the cross. It is a readiness for service and sacrifice, for forgiveness and consideration, for help and sympathy, for lifting up the fallen and restoring the broken in a fellowship that owes its very existence to the mercy of God and the sacrificial death of Christ…With love the power of the future age already breaks into the present form of the world. As for Jesus, so for Paul agape is the only vital force which has a future in this aeon [i.e., now until Christ returns] of death.35

Thus love is the active pursuit of other people and those things which are beneficial for them. Paul wanted the Philippians to understand that this, not division (4:2-3) or selfish ambitions (2:3-4), should characterize their church. They ought to love one another, caring for the needs of others and humbly stand united in the defense of the gospel (1:26-30). There is an eschatology or future looking aspect to love in other letters of Paul and so also in Philippians. Paul says that it is his desire that their love abound…until the day of Christ.

But Paul wanted their love not only to be present in “dribs and drabs” until the day of Christ, but to abound (perisseue) until the day of Christ. The term perisseue connotes the idea of “abundance,” “richness,” and “supply unlimited” and was a special word for Paul—used by him 26 of the 39 times in the NT—to refer to God’s gracious act on our behalf, and to the attendant blessing in our lives and our ensuing responsibility. First, it is an apt verb to refer to God’s amazing work in Christ for us. In Ephesians 1:8 Paul says that God has “lavished” (NIV) his grace upon us in salvation. In Romans 5:15 it characterizes the manner in which the blessing of Christ has been come to “the many.” In contrast to the sin of Adam, Jesus’ act of righteousness has caused grace to overflow (not trickle!) to the many. The ministry of the Spirit abounds in bringing about righteousness and life in comparison to the ministry of the Law which brought about sin and death (2 Cor 3:9).

Second, there is an intimacy that we as Christians experience which Paul loves to describe with the use of this verb. In the present age, with the giving of the Spirit and our participation in the kingdom, we receive overflowing comfort from Christ in our trials (2 Cor 1:5) and God himself fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we might overflow with hope (Romans 15:13).

Third, as a result of the overflowing grace of God expressed to us in the work of Christ and the sending of the Spirit, our lives are characterized by an abundance of provision for the performing of the will of God (2 Cor 9:8), and we ought to overflow in thankfulness to God (2 Cor 4:15; 9:12; Col 2:7), giving (2 Cor 8:2, 7), love for other Christians (1 Thess 3:12; 4:1, 10) and in our work for the resurrected Christ (1 Cor 15:58).

Paul wants their love to abound in the direction of knowledge (epignosis) and every kind of insight (pase aisthesei) so that they may be able to discern what is best and be filled with the fruit of righteousness. But what does he mean specifically by knowledge and every kind of insight. The first term knowledge is not what we generally think of when we speak about knowledge. We say that a person is “knowledgeable” or we refer to a particular discipline as a “field of knowledge.” In these cases we are basically referring to knowledge as factual information about this subject or that. But that is not what Paul has in mind here.

The term epignosis is used by Paul some 15 times in his letters36 and refers to such things as one’s personal knowledge of sin through the explicit demands of the Law (Rom 3:20). In Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays for the Ephesians (and others to whom the letter was sent) that God might give them spiritual wisdom and understanding so that they might have a better knowledge of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13; Col. 1:9). Thus it is a personal kind of knowing that is in view, not just mental assent to certain facts, like the width and depth of the Grand Canyon. Further, it is the kind of knowledge that is also closely related to ethics and behavior. Paul prays that the Colossians will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that they might walk worthily of the Lord (Col. 1:9-10). There is a focus in the pastoral epistles on the kind of knowledge that is according to the truth and leads to godliness (see 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; 3:7; Tit 1:1). Outside of Paul, 2 Peter 1:3-4 suggests that God’s power in our lives is made operative through our knowledge of him who called us (cf. 2 Pet 1:2, 8; 2:20). The writer of Hebrews also held a logical connection between epignosis and moral behavior (Heb 10:26).

Thus for Paul, the term epignosis refers primarily to personal knowledge of God through Christ and the lifestyle that flows from that. This is the case in Philippians 1:9 and is confirmed by the reference to purity and a blameless lifestyle in 1:10. But the term is also closely connected to the second word, namely, insight (aisthesei). The term aisthesei only occurs here in the New Testament. It does, however, appear 27 times in the Greek Old Testament, 22 of which are in Proverbs. In Exodus 28:3 it refers to wisdom given to men by God for making garments for Aaron. In Prov 1:7 it is associated with the fear of the Lord and must be sought after from God (2:3). It is concerned with practical matters like speaking (10:14; 11:9; 12:23; 22:12) and general prudence and discernment concerning how to live rightly in relationships. It can be referred to as “tact” and the ability to understand relationships and situations with a view to practical action.37 The reference to every kind of insight refers to the ability to make practical decisions in a wide range of situations.38 Thus it leads in Philippians 1:10 to an ability to discern or decide what things are best in certain situations and how to live a pure life. The point of what the apostle is praying, then, is that the Philippians’ love—love being defined as that motivation which leads to acts done for the benefit of others—would develop more in terms of their personal relationship with Christ and that it be expressed concretely in the every day living among the Philippians. This prayer, while general enough to be prayed for every Christian community, may have had special significance for the Philippians because of the problems of selfishness (2:3-4) and division (4:2-3) that had crept in.

      2. The Goal: The Glory and Praise of God (1:10-11)

Paul really has two overarching and related goals in mind when he prays for the Philippians. The first concerns their holiness and the second concerns the glory of God. He prays that they might abound in love and then demonstrate that love in their relationships with one another so that they might be pure and blameless which itself will result in the praise of God’s glory. Thus there is an immediate goal as well as an ultimate goal.

    a. The Immediate Goal (1:10-11a)

The immediate goal that Paul has in mind actually has two purposes within it. Paul prays for their love to abound more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that they may be able to approve or decide what things are best. This, then, further achieves the purpose or goal of the development of sincere and blameless lives among the Philippians. The phrase decide what is best (dokimazein ta diapheronta) is important to Paul’s meaning. The verb dokimazein (“decide”) carries the idea of “to prove something as credible, worthy, or true by testing it.” It was used to refer to the testing of metals and coins to appraise their worth. It is used in Luke 14:19 when a man who was invited to the great banquet said that he could not come because he had just bought five yoke of oxen and he needed to go and test them out, to see if they were any good. The identical expression dokimazein ta diapheronta appears in Romans 2:18 where it refers to a Jew approving a higher moral standard according to the Law and the revealed will of God. 2 Corinthians 8:8 is another good example:

8:8 I am not saying this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love by comparison with the eagerness of others.

Thus the process of approving something is a process that involves testing with a view to a choice about the value of the thing in question. Here Paul says that he wants the Philippians to learn to approve ta diapheronta. The term ta diapheronta refers to that which is excellent, surpassing in value, or really matters and is critical. It is easy to see how things that surpass other things in moral and spiritual value are also more important.39 Paul wants the Philippians’ love to abound in practical discernment so that they can approve the best course of action in each specific situation in which they find themselves. The purpose of approving the things which are critical is to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ. Once again, in the introductory prayer, the apostle anticipates subjects to be taken up in the rest of the letter. The idea of approving the things which are excellent and, therefore, critical and more important, is taken up again by way of application in 2:14-15 and 4:9. He also gives them his own example in 3:1-21. He was one who possessed the kind of love and discernment for which he prayed for the Philippians.

The term sincere (eilikrineis) can be translated as “without spot” and refers to moral purity. Originally, the term was derived from two words: (1) “sun”; (2) “judge.” Together the sense was “tested against the light of the sun,” “completely pure,” and “spotless.” The picture may be, as Hawthorne has suggested, of someone bringing a garment or the like out into the sun to see if there be any stain or spot on it.40 From the time of Plato it has been used in a moral sense, as is the case here in Phil 1:10 and in the rest of the NT (see 1 Cor 5:8; 2 Cor 1:12; 2:17; 2 Peter 3:1).41

The other term, namely, blameless (aproskopoi) could refer to either putting a stumbling block in someone’s path or to stumbling oneself. In light of the only other usage in Paul in 1 Cor 10:32 (cf. Acts 24:16), it seems best to take it as a reference to causing someone else to stumble. This is also more likely in light of the focus on love in v. 9 and practical decision making in relationships entailed in that idea.

In summary, then, Paul wants the Philippians’ love to abound more and more in personal knowledge about God and spiritual relationships and insight concerning how to act in specific situations. The reason he prayed for this was so that the Philippians might learn to judge for themselves as to what was most important and valuable and live pure lives without offending others. This, then, is the way he wants them to live in light of the day of Christ (i.e., his coming) where they will experience the consummation of their salvation (cf. discussion of 1:6) as well as testing (cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15).

    b. The Ultimate Goal (1:11b)

Paul wants the Philippians to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ and to be filled with the fruit of righteousness (pepleromenoi karpon dikaiosunes). There are some who argue that by “fruit of righteousness” (dikaiosunes) Paul here is referring to fruit that comes from a right standing with God (i.e., fruit that arises from our justification) as its source. Others argue that what Paul is referring to is fruit that is righteous in character without any explicit reference to God, Christ, or the Spirit as its source. While all commentators realize that Paul is talking about a lifestyle honoring to God and ultimately characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, the latter option is preferable since it is in keeping with the OT background (Amos 6:12; Prov 3:9; 11:30)42 of the phrase and recognizes the parallel between this phrase, “filled with the fruit of righteousness” and the other modifiers in v. 10, namely, “sincere” and “blameless.” In any case, what Paul undoubtedly has in mind here is the fruit produced by the Spirit as we walk with him (Gal 5:16-24). His own life, expressed in emotional language in 3:1-14, is a testimony to the Philippians concerning the “pattern” (3:17) he wants them to follow. He wants the lives of the Philippians to be marked by a crop of righteous fruit to the glory and praise of God. Now that’s a goal worth shooting for!

IV. Principles for Application

    1. Do we thank God often enough for other Christians?

    2. We need to ask ourselves how we pray for other Christians. Is it with joy? If so, why? If not, why?

    3. Do we share with other Christians in need? Is it time to review this area in your life?

    4. Are there any Christians in our lives that we love as much as Paul loved the Philippians?

    5. What is one specific thing you could do to help another Christian(s) with their growth?

    6. Is your life characterized by righteousness as Paul prayed?

19 So Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, WBC, ed. Ralph P. Martin, vol. 43 (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 15, who cites Adolf Deissman, Light from the Ancient Near East (New York: George H. Doran, 1927; reprint Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 168, n. 3.

20 There is no indication here that Paul’s intends to say that his God is just one of many gods, i.e., my God as opposed to your God. What he is referring to is the close personal relationship he enjoys with the one God of the universe who has made himself known particularly in Christ Jesus the Lord

21 Philippians 2:1 is notoriously difficult to interpret. We will discuss the imagery in some detail when we come to the verse in our exposition, but suffice it to say here that Paul rejoices in his ministry to the Philippians even though it comes with a price tag attached.

22 Hawthorne, Philippians, 16-17.

23 See Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 293; SBK 2:696-98.

24 See BAGD, s.v. dehvsi".

25 Cf. TDNT, 9: 369-70.

26 See Gordon D. Fee, Philippians, NICNT, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 84-85.

27 Hawthorne, Philippians, 21.

28 P. T. O’Brien, Philippians, NIGTC, ed. I. Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 64.

29 O’Brien, Philippians, 65.

30 Fee, Philippians, 89; O’Brien, Philippians, 66-67.

31 Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, NCB, ed. Matthew Black (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 67.

32 So Martin, Philippians, 68.

33 Ethelbert Stauffer, TDNT, 1:50-51.

34 “Eschatology” is a fancy word which generally refers to the study of doctrines and ideas related to the end-times.

35 Stauffer, TDNT, 1:51.

36 He uses the verbal form only on one occasion (2 Cor 1:13).

37 Cf. O’Brien, Philippians, 77.

38 Cf. O’Brien, Philippians, 76-77.

39 See BAGD, s. v. diafevrw 2.

40 Hawthorne, Philippians, 28.

41 Friedrich Büchsel, TDNT, 2:397-98.

42 See Fee, Philippians, 103-04.

Related Topics: Prayer