Philippians 1:9-11 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What is significant about the fact that the apostle Paul is praying for these people in whom God is very evidently working—these people who are spiritually healthy Christians?

The apostle informs these Philippian Christians—people in whom God is very evidently working—that he is praying for them. We pray for the conversion of the lost; we pray for fellow believers in times of special need; but we tend to discount or even omit a continued ministry of prayer for healthy, vibrant Christians (like these Philippians). We often tend to view prayer as a rescue operation, rather than as ongoing life support. Prayer is not an occasional vitamin supplement, it is rather a part of a regular balanced diet of daily spiritual nourishment. This is why we find the apostle Paul praying for this spiritually healthy body of Christians, and this is why we should pray likewise for one another.

2. What is the apostle’s prayer for the Philippian church? See Philippians 1:9a (printed below) To what specifically do you think the apostle is referring?

I pray that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and all insight (Philippians 1:9)

The apostle informs these Philippian Christians that he is praying that their “love may abound more and more.” The love of which the apostle speaks is a broad, all-encompassing Christian love: it is love for Christ’s kingdom, love for Christ’s people, and above all, it is love for Christ Himself. Christ is the supreme object of our love; and as our love for Him increases, that love will be extended to His people and it will also embrace His cause; after all, what is dear to the beloved will become dear to the lover.

3. When the apostle prays that our love for Christ would grow, is he only praying that we would come to have a deeper feeling of love for Christ? See Philippians 1:9b (printed above under question #2)

The apostle’s prayer is not only that our love for Christ would increase in our hearts, but also that it would involve our intellect: we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our mind (Matthew 22:37). So it is that the apostle informs the church: I pray that your love may abound “in knowledge and all insight.” The knowledge of which the apostle hear speaks is first and foremost knowledge of God Himself (Colossians 1:10). Furthermore, this knowledge is the knowledge of the truth of God (i.e., biblical doctrine), note (1 Timothy 2:3-4). “Insight,” or, “discernment,” is the ability to apply biblical knowledge to the situations and decisions of life; it is also the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and error, good and evil, on the basis of biblical knowledge.

4. Why does Paul pray that Christians would grow in knowledge and insight? See Philippians 1:9-10a (printed below)

I pray that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and all insight, (10) so that you may discern the things that are worthy (Philippians 1:9-10a)

Paul further explains that the purpose of our growth in (biblical) knowledge and discernment is that we may “discern the things that are worthy.” The Greek term translated “discern,” has first the meaning of putting something to the test and thereby causing its true quality and identity to be revealed or made known (note 1 Corinthians 3:13). The second meaning of this term is to accept that which has passed the test and thereby has shown itself to be approved (note 1 Corinthians 16:3). The phrase translated, “the things that are worthy,” is literally, “the things that are different;” i.e., the things that stand out as spiritually and morally good, right, superior; the things that are worthy of applause, acceptance and imitation (note Philippians 4:8). Thus the apostle Paul’s desire and prayer is that Christian people may be able to recognize and adopt those attributes and practices that are pleasing to God.

5. In making his prayer for the church—namely, that our love for Christ would abound in knowledge and insight so that we may discern the things that are worthy—what is the apostle Paul’s ultimate objective and desire? See Philippians 1:10b-11 (printed below)

…in order that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ—(11) being filled with the fruit of righteousness which is through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:10b-11)

The objective of the apostle’s prayer, first stated in negative terms, is that you may be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” To be “pure” is to be unmixed (devoid of any alloys; purged of all foreign elements) and undiluted (not “watered down” with sub-Christian thought or practice, but found to be at full potency in Christ-like life). To be “blameless” is to be nonchargeable; not subject to the words, “I have this against you;” on the contrary, it is to be worthy to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” By God’s grace, we are to be pure and blameless “for (or, “with regard to,”) the day of Christ;” i.e., in anticipation of and in preparation for the day of Christ’s return in glory. The objective of the apostle’s prayer stated in positive terms is that you may be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” The fruit of righteousness is the fruit that consists of those qualities God defines as righteous and pleasing in His sight, those attributes that are a reflection of His own moral character and being and that are produced in the Christian by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The ultimate purpose for bearing the fruit of righteousness is for “the glory and praise of God.”