PAUL'S PRAYER for the Philippians is very interesting and instructive. It takes the Philippians up a staircase of maturing that ends in the glory and laud of God. Each step upward results from reaching the step before.
|Philippians 1:9-11 || || ||For the glory |
and laud of God.
| || || ||for the day of Christ filled |
with the fruit of righteousness
that is through Jesus Christ
| || ||that you may be sincere |
and no stumbling block
| ||for you to be testing what |
things are of consequence,
|And this I am praying, that your love |
may be superabounding still more and
more in realization and all sensibility,
The words "for" or "that" begin the phrase at each ascending step. "For" is the translation of eis (meaning "into"), which carries the idea of "toward a goal." The word "that" could also be translated "in order that." So both of these words, which Paul uses to link the prayer together, are words of progression and direction.
Paul's initial request in the prayer is that their love would overflow, particularly in the areas of realization and sensibility. The Philippians had love. They exhibited their love, not only in their repeated financial support of Paul (4:16), but also in their friendship and concern for him (1:7). So evident was their love and unity in purpose with Paul that he considered them "joint participants" with him in grace (1:7).
What Paul meant by this request can best be understood by considering the results he expected it to bring. The Philippians would be "testing what things are of consequence." When their love was well seasoned with a realization of God and His purpose, and a sensibility (a perceptive awareness of the people and circumstances in their environment), their behavior would be affected. They would be circumspectly considering the outcome and lasting results of their conduct and intercourse with others.
Seldom are life's decisions easily divided into black and white or right and wrong. Choices must be made between two things that are both good, or maybe two things that are not so good. The responses made to people and situations often yield lifelong results. An alloy of love, realization and sensibility is what one needs to keep a steady hand on the disposition and a strong grip on a God-pleasing life.
"Testing things of consequence" could also have an application to beliefs. As the structure of Paul's letters implies, he was persuaded that what one believed would determine the character of conduct. The enemies of the cross (3:2,18,19), who were among the Philippians, were a negative example.
When the Philippians had a love tempered with realization and sensibility, they would be equipped to test things of consequence. This would result in a life characterized by sincerity and constancy, and a life that was not a cause of stumbling to others. The Greek word for sincere is a compound: "sun-judge." The idea is that something has been examined in broad daylight and found free of defect. The Latin word "sincere" is also picturesque in its etymology. It is a compound of "sin," meaning "without," and "cerus," (from which we get "caries", as in dental health) meaning "rottenness." The sincere life is one with "no cavities." Sculptors sometimes used wax to hide scratches or cracks in their work. A sincere statue was one with "no wax." The scratches and cavities in one's life are often causes of stumbling to the weaker in faith. If one has an abundance of love for brothers and sisters in Christ, he will be truly concerned that he not be a detriment to their faith.
There are many blessings affixed to the life of constancy and sincerity. Respect, an honorable reputation, and helpfulness to others are only a few, but Paul focuses on something else. He rushes ahead to the day of Christ, and sees the Philippians standing before their Lord. The loving and righteous acts of their lives are many, and he sees them as trees laden with good fruit, pleasing to the Lord. Such a life honors Christ, and when Christ is honored, His God and Father is praised and glorified. How often do we stop to think, that individual decisions and actions of daily life have the potential to honor and glorify God? The glorifying of God is also the outcome of living according to the disposition of Christ (2:5-11). In many ways this is a prayer for the development of the disposition of Christ within us. May we pray it for ourselves and for each other.
© J. Philip Scranton