Philippians 1:9
(9, 10) If we study carefully the opening thanksgivings and prayers of St. Paul's Epistles, we may note that he always thanks God for what is strong in the Church to which he writes, and prays God for the supply of that in which it is weak. Here he thanks God for the characteristic enthusiasm and large-heartedness of the Philippians; he prays for their advance in knowledge, perception, judgment--the more intellectual and thoughtful side of the Christian character--in which they, and perhaps the Macedonian Churches generally, were less conspicuous. In the opposite case of the Corinthian Church (see 1Corinthians 1:4-10), he thanks God for their richness in all utterance and all knowledge, but he bids them "wait" for Him who shall "establish them as blameless," and exhorts them to unity and humility.

(9-11) In this sentence, the original shows that there is not the three-fold parallelism which our version would suggest. St. Paul's immediate prayer is that "their love may abound in knowledge and all judgment." To this is subjoined, as an immediate consequence, "the proving the things that are excellent." The final result of the knowledge and judgment so applied, is "that they may be sincere and without offence."

(9) That your love may abound more and more in knowledge.--The original verb here signifies to "overflow," a sense which our word "abound" properly has, but has in general usage partially lost; and St. Paul's meaning clearly is that love shall not only primarily fill the heart, but "overflow" in secondary influence on the spiritual understanding. (1) The "knowledge" here spoken of is the knowledge gradually rising to perfection, so constantly alluded to in these Epistles. (See Ephesians 1:17, and Note there.) Since it is clearly a personal knowledge of God in Christ, it may be gained, under His inspiration, by one of many processes, by thought, by practice, by love, by devotion, or, perhaps more properly, by some or all of these combined. Here St. Paul singles out the way of love--the enthusiasm of love to God and man which he knew that the Philippians had--and prays that it may overflow from the emotional to the intellectual element of their nature, and become, as we constantly see that it does become in simple and loving characters, a means of spiritual insight, in "knowledge and all judgment," or rather, all perception. (2) The word "perception" properly applies to the senses, and seems here to signify the insight which recognises a truth as the eye recognises an object. In the same sense (Hebrews 5:14) Holy Scripture speaks of those who "by use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil." In fact, the "perception" here spoken of differs from knowledge in dealing not with general principles, but with concrete examples and questions. (3) Accordingly he connects with it, as a direct consequence, the power of "approving" or "testing" the things that are excellent. Now the word here translated "excellent" carries with it the idea of distinctive and relative excellence, conspicuous amidst what is either evil or defective. To "test" is obviously first to distinguish what is the best, and then by trial to prove its absolute goodness. Clearly the process may be applied either speculatively to truths or practically to duties. In Romans 2:18, where exactly the same phrase is used, the latter application is made.

Verse 9. - And this I pray. This is the purport of the prayer already mentioned in Ver. 4. The conjunction ἵνα marks the end of St. Paul's prayer, and so its purport. That your love may abound yet more and more. Your love; not love for the apostle only, but the grace of Christian charity. St. Paul finds no fault with the Philippians, but "ignis in apostolo nunquam dicit, Sufficit" (Bengel). He prays for their continued growth in love, but not unintelligent love. In knowledge and in all judgment. Ἐπίγνωσις is a stronger word than γνῶσις: it means full, complete knowledge. The Greek αἴσθησις (literally, sense) occurs only here in the New Testament, though αἰσθητήρια (organs of sense) is found in Hebrews 5:14. "Discernment," the rendering of R.V., is more correct than "judgment." It is, Bishop Wordsworth says, "that delicate tact and instinct, which almost intuitively perceives what is right, and almost unconsciously shrinks from what is wrong." It cannot exist without love. "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." With love there comes a spiritual sense, spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, a sense of the beauty of holiness, a fine perception of Christian propriety; ἡ ἀγάπη οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ.

1:8-11 Shall not we pity and love those souls whom Christ loves and pities? Those who abound in any grace, need to abound more. Try things which differ; that we may approve the things which are excellent. The truths and laws of Christ are excellent; and they recommend themselves as such to any attentive mind. Sincerity is that in which we should have our conversation in the world, and it is the glory of all our graces. Christians should not be apt to take offence, and should be very careful not to offend God or the brethren. The things which most honour God will most benefit us. Let us not leave it doubtful whether any good fruit is found in us or not. A small measure of Christian love, knowledge, and fruitfulness should not satisfy any.And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more,.... As a proof of his great affection for them, he puts up this petition on their account; which supposes that they had love, as they must certainly have, since the good work of grace was begun in them; for wherever the work of the Spirit of God is, there is love, which is a fruit of the Spirit; and where there is not love, there cannot be that good work; for it signifies nothing what a man says, nor what he has, nor what he does, if love be wanting; but this grace was in these Philippians, they had love to God, to Christ, to one another, to all the saints, and to the ministers of the Gospel, and particularly to the apostle, of which they had lately given him a proof: and it also supposes, that this grace, which was implanted in them in regeneration, was in exercise, which is meant by its "abounding"; it was not only a principle in the heart, and expressed by the mouth, but it was in action; it lay not in word, and in tongue, but showed itself towards the objects of it in deed and in truth; and it was in a very larger and lively exercise; it abounded, it flowed and overflowed; it rose up out of the heart, as water out of a fountain; it was as grace is said to be, a well of living water, springing up, and spreading itself various ways; wherefore the apostle did not pray that they might have love, nor merely that their love might abound, but that it might abound "yet", might continue to abound, that there might be no stop put to its flow and exercise, and so concerns the perseverance of it, and its actings; and that it might abound "more and more"; which regards the increase of it, and enlargement of its exercise. The Syriac version reads it, that it "may be multiplied and abound"; intimating, that spiritual love cannot be exceeded in; there is no going to an extreme in the exercise of it; natural love may, but not spiritual; God and Christ can never be loved too much, nor saints, as saints, though they may as men: wherefore let love abound ever so much to these objects, it is capable of abounding more and more, without any danger of excess; and it is to be wished for; for where it is ever so large and abundant in its actings, it is not perfect, nor will it be in this life; so that there is always room for such a petition; besides, the apostle knew how apt love is to grow cold, and saints to sink in their spiritual affections through the prevalence of sin, the cares of the world, and temptations of Satan: he adds,

in knowledge and in all judgment; that is, either with knowledge and judgment; and the sense be, that as their love abounded, so their knowledge might be increased, and their judgment in spiritual things be better informed and established. Some Christians are more affectionate, and less knowing; others are more knowing, and less affectionate; it is well when love and knowledge go and keep pace together: or it may be rendered "by knowledge", suggesting, that love is increased thereby, which is true; for the more saints know of God and Christ, the more they love them; and the more they know of one another's grace and experience, the more they love each other: by "knowledge" may be meant the knowledge of God; not that which is general, is by the light of nature, and is very obscure and insufficient to salvation; but that which is special, is of God in Christ, as a God gracious and merciful, as a covenant God and Father in him; and which at best is imperfect, and needs increasing: and also knowledge of Christ; not general, notional, and speculative, as that he is the Son of God, the Messiah, and Saviour of the world in common; but that which is special, spiritual, and saving; and which is a knowledge of approbation, whereby a soul approves of Christ above all others, as a Saviour; a fiducial one, whereby it trusts in him, and commits itself to him; an experimental and practical one, to which is joined a cheerful obedience to his commands and ordinances, and becomes an appropriating one; yet is in this life imperfect, and so needs increasing; and all means should be used in order thereunto: moreover, the knowledge of one another may be included; an increase of which is necessary to promote brotherly love, and make communion with one another delightful and profitable. By all "judgment", or "sense", as in the Greek text, is designed a spiritual apprehension, judgment, and sensation of things. The Syriac version renders it, "all spiritual understanding", and may intend a spiritual perception, and sense of the love of God shed abroad in the heart, an enlarged experience of the grace of God, and particularly faith, which is expressed by all the live senses; as by "seeing" the Son, the glory, fulness, suitableness, and excellency of him, and the unseen glories of another world; by "hearing" the joyful sound, the voice of Christ in the Gospel, so as to understand and distinguish it; by "smelling" a sweet smell in the person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, which are of a sweet smelling savour to faith, as are also the things of God, and of the Spirit of God; and by "tasting" how good the Lord is, how sweet is his word, and delicious his fruit; and by "feeling", laying hold on Christ, embracing and handling him, the word of life: and now a believer having these his spiritual senses exercised, he is capable of discerning between good and evil, and so of approving things most excellent; which is the end of this petition, as appears from the following words.

Philippians 1:8
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