The Fruits of Righteousness
Paul continued his thought in Philippians 1:7,8 regarding his confidence that the Lord would continue working through them - "Just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ." The apostle affirmed the appropriateness of him praying for them as one who loved them and was a joint partaker with them of God's grace. Notice the reference to his "chains". Clearly, Paul was in prison at the time of writing, but that did not prevent him from continuing to defend and confirm the wonderful gospel message!

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:9-11). Here we see several important qualities that Christians need if they are going to remain faithful and finish the good work the Lord has started in them.

First, Paul prayed that their love would abound. Love is a quality we must have to be genuine slaves or bondservants of God. However, we don't just want a little bit of it--we want love that abounds! We want a great quantity of it. The more love we have, the better. It is impossible to have too much sincere love.

But, how is it that one's love may abound "more and more"? The answer: "in knowledge and all discernment" (i.e., judgment). In other words, he prayed that their love would grow through increases in what they knew and in their ability to make proper judgments. The question we must ask is this: How can one grow in knowledge and discernment? That is, how can one become more knowledgeable of God's truth and better equipped to make sound judgments? Isn't the answer obvious? Through prayerful studying of God's word! If this is true, then it logically follows that we will never abound in love as God wants us to until we become serious students of His word!

This thought fits well with Philippians 1:10,11 also. Christians are to "approve the things that are excellent." Paul didn't say just approve the things that are good but that which is excellent! Often, you will be faced with choices in life that are not about what is right and wrong. Sometimes it is simply a matter of deciding what is good and what is better. If we are learning and striving to apply God's will personally, then our love will abound in knowledge and discernment. We will consequently be equipped to not only know right from wrong but also to "approve the things that are excellent" according to the standard of God's word.

Not only that, but we will be "sincere" and "without offense". To be sincere means to be pure. Back in the days when all pottery was fashioned by hand, those selling different pieces of pottery would sometimes attempt to cover up blemishes and small cracks with filler, hoping the potential purchaser wouldn't look too closely or examine the piece in sunlight. Pottery that is unblemished is pure or sincere. What does that have to do with Christians, you ask? Simply this: we must be sincere or pure in our lives; attempting to cover-up our sins and imperfections won't work! We may be able to disguise our blemishes from others, but we can't hide them from God! We need to be pure as Christians! We must live the godly life He calls us to live. Pretending to be pure isn't good enough.

If a Christian abounds in purity, love, knowledge, and discernment (as he seeks that which is excellent), his life will be "filled with the fruits of righteousness" (Phil. 1:11). This simply means that his life will be filled with the benefits of doing that which is right. Let it be remembered, however, that the fruit of righteousness is for the glory and praise of God, not man. As Jesus declared in Matthew 5:16 - "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." There is nothing wrong with others seeing our good works, as long as we make sure the glory is directed to the Heavenly Father and not to us!

We will continue studying Philippians 1 tomorrow.