Philippians 1:9-11

Sermon preached on July 25, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Many years ago Chuck and Loni had a house fire and their house burned down. What was really sad about it was the fact that their house shouldn't have caught fire at all. The fire started in the garage that was across their driveway. The fire department arrived very quickly and we thought that they would soon have the fire in the garage under control and that everything would be okay. But the problem was that the fire department didn't have any water. All their trucks were there except for the water tanker. So basically what they did was stand around and watch the fire in the garage get worse and worse. Then they watched as the corner of the house closest to the garage caught on fire and started to burn. And that's the way it was. By the time the water tanker arrived it was too late—the fire was out of control and the house couldn't be saved.

A fire truck without water is almost useless. That's the way it is with a lot of things—they have to go together to be really effective. We have two such things in our text. Paul writes, (Philippians 1:9–11)

"And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound
more and more in knowledge
and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern
what is best and may be
pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ—
to the glory and praise of God."

What's noteworthy about our text is that Paul tells you that

your love needs to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.

At first glance it might seem surprising that Paul tied love to knowledge and depth of insight. We might think that Paul should have stopped after he told us that our love should abound more and more. We might think that would be a good and more normal way of putting it. Paul did put it that way in 1 Thessalonians 3:12. He said,

"May the Lord
make your love increase and overflow
for each other and for everyone else,
just as ours does for you."

But here it's different. Paul prayed that their love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Moisés Silva writes, (Philippians, p. 50)

"The central focus of Paul's concern is knowledge that cultivates love."

William Hendriksen adds, (Philippians, p. 60)

"love… needs knowledge."

Silva continues, (p. 50)

"we should note the ease with which Paul intertwines knowledge and love… Paul does not view love as mindless. Quite the contrary, knowledge is the way of love."

John Calvin wrote,

"The more we progress in knowledge, the more ought our love to increase."

Our text reminds me of what Paul wrote in Romans 10:2 about his countrymen, the Israelites, and their zeal. He said,

"For I can testify about them
that they are zealous for God,
but their zeal is not based on knowledge."

Zeal without knowledge is no good. In the same way, love needs knowledge. Knowledge is indispensable to love. Knowledge informs love. Knowledge gives love its proper focus.

But what kind of knowledge is Paul reffering to?

Colossians 1 is helpful here because to a certain extent Philippians 1 and Colossians 1 are parallel. Verses 4-6 of Colossians 1 speak about faith and love that spring,

"from the hope that is stored up
for you in heaven and that you have
already heard about in the word of truth,
the gospel that has come to you.
All over the world this gospel
is bearing fruit and growing,
just as it has been doing among you
since the day you heard it
and understood God's grace in all its truth."

The love the Colossian Christians were able to show came from a knowledge of 'the word of truth', the gospel message, the truth of God's grace. So it's not just any knowledge that Paul has in mind here—it is the knowledge of God's truth. William Hendriksen writes, (Philippians, p. 60)

"penetrating insight into God's wonderful, redemptive revelation will produce gratitude in an ever-increasing measure, which, in turn, will increase the supply and enhance the quality of love to God and to the brotherhood."

Insight into God's great work of salvation will help us to abound in love more and more. Such knowledge is so beneficial and will help us to love and we should.

For instance, the knowledge that we are sinners saved only because of God's grace and love— should help us love those who are lost.

What were you before you were saved? You were God's enemy. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:10

"For if, when we were God's enemies,
we were reconciled to him
through the death of his Son,"

Why were you saved? Was it because you were better than others, that you were more worthy, that you sought after it more than others, that God saw something good in you? No. Quite the opposite. According to Romans 9:12 those who are Christians are chosen by God,

"not by works
but by him who calls".

According to Ephesians 1 we were chosen before the foundation of the world, in accordance with "His good pleasure" (Ephesians 1:9) According to Ephesians 2, God made us alive when we were dead in trespasses and sins, when we were by nature objects of God's wrath.

If you know that you have been saved by grace like that—then how can you not show love for sinners and want them to be saved? If you know that, you will not be like James and John in Luke 9, when they saw the Samaritans not welcoming Jesus, said to Him, (Luke 9:54–56)

"Lord, do you want us to call
fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

But Jesus turned and rebuked them and said,

"You do not know
what kind of spirit you are of,
for the Son of Man did not come
to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

If you have your eyes opened to the extent of God's grace to you, that every day, in yourself, you deserve God's wrath, you will truly have great humility. As the prophet Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:22,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

If you know the truth Bildad expressed in Job 25:4–6,

"How then can a man
be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman be pure?
If even the moon is not bright and the stars
are not pure in his eyes,
how much less man,
who is but a maggot— a son of man,
who is only a worm!"

—than you will never look on other sinners and think that they're too bad for God's grace. You'll never think that you're better than they are. You'll never be cold and heartless toward them. Knowledge of God's grace will help your love toward the lost grow and abound.

Another way that knowledge of the gospel truth can help us love others has to do with men and women being made in the image of God.

This is vitally important. People who don't know that everyone is made in the image of God often end up hating people that aren't like them. For example, the Nazis believed that Jews, Poles and Russians were sub-human. It was therefore easy to liken them to rats, vermin and others things that needed to be exterminated. The Nazis thought they would be doing a great service to the world by killing them. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Every human being is made in God's image. Think about that. Every human being has been made to be like God and bears marks of His image. Although the fall into sin has marred and defaced this image, it still exists in every human being. Genesis 9:6 shows us that. It says,

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man."

Human life is sacred. If you take a human life you are committing one of the greatest sins possible. God's image is there and if you take a human life you are sinning against God, against His rule, His power, against His goodness.

If you believe that all human beings are made in God's image—that should give you a great respect for every one of them. It will teach you that life is precious. It will teach you that God is the governor of life, that it is His right to give and take life. Knowing those truths will give you an entirely different attitude toward the elderly and help you see their worth and the value of their lives.

We see the same attitude today toward unborn babies. Some will tell you that they're not really human beings until they're actually born. They don't believe unborn babies bear God's image. That makes it easy to kill them.

It's the same thing with euthanasia and assisted suicide. How do you love people that are suffering and near the end of their lives? Do we get doctors to give them an overdose of morphine or some other drug and call it 'love' and 'death with dignity'. No. No. No.

It is certainly true that we don't want to see anyone suffer unnecessarily or to see suffering prolonged. Such things should break our hearts and cause us to mourn and grieve.

Nevertheless, our attitude should be like that of David toward King Saul. When Abishai urged David to kill King Saul, David replied, (1 Samuel 26:9–11)

"Don't destroy him!
Who can lay a hand
on the LORD'S anointed and be guiltless?
As surely as the LORD lives,
the LORD himself will strike him;
either his time will come and he will die,
or he will go into battle and perish.
But the LORD forbid that
I should lay a hand
on the LORD'S anointed."

Life is sacred. For a non-Christian who is dying we need to respect their life and tell them about Jesus. We need to tell them that death is not natural, that it is not the end of existence, that there is hope for them in Jesus Christ—that with Him they can have life eternal.

Death is such an evil. For a non-Christian it means that they have lost the meaning of their creation—to reflect God's glory and to serve Him. It means the end of all hope. It means eternal suffering. They can call it death with dignity if they want—but there's no dignity in their deaths. Their deaths consist of the utmost indignity. When they stand before the Great White Throne they will find themselves naked and full of shame. They will feel the way that those who tried to hide in caves in Revelation 6:15f. We read,

"They called to the mountains
and the rocks,
'Fall on us and hide us
from the face of him who sits on the throne
and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?'"

There is no such thing as death with dignity. To die without knowing the Lord is the utmost indignity.

Or consider the deathbed sufferings of Christians. Their lives are sacred. Even though they are going to be with the Lord, we must respect that it is God's prerogative to give and take life. There is hope there. There is glory there. They are united to Christ. Christ will make their lowly bodies like unto His glorious body. We must be patient and rejoice that soon, (Revelation 21:4)

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away."

We are not to love by killing, but by pointing all to Jesus, and His love and the hope of salvation that they can have in Him.

Knowledge of the gospel truth will also help you love in that it will help you make

a distinction between the sinner and the sin.

We are called to love sinners. We are to seek their salvation. We are to pray for them. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:44–45,

"Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons
of your Father in heaven."

When they were nailing Him to the cross, Jesus said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing."

Jesus is held up as an example to us. In 1 Peter 2:20–23 Peter wrote,

"But if you suffer for doing good
and you endure it,
this is commendable before God.
To this you were called,
because Christ suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps.
'He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.'
When they hurled their insults at him,
he did not retaliate;
when he suffered,
he made no threats."

The beginning of Romans chapters 9 & 10 show how much the apostle Paul desired the salvation of his countrymen. In chapter 9 wrote,

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying,
my conscience confirms it
in the Holy Spirit—
I have great sorrow
and unceasing anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself
were cursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my brothers,
those of my own race,
the people of Israel."

We are to love the lost. We are to have a passion for their salvation.

But knowledge of the gospel message is also essential. An integral part of the gospel is repentance. John the Baptist began his ministry declaring, (Matthew 3:2)

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Matthew 4:17 tells us about the beginning of Jesus' ministry. We read,

"From that time on Jesus began to preach,
'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'"

On the Day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed, (Acts 2:38)

"Repent and be baptized,
every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive
the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Hebrews 12:14

"without holiness
no one will see the Lord."

We are to love sinners and that means that we need to urge them to repent.

The world today thinks that love means that you'll accept them and their sin.

If you don't accept their sin and say that their sin is okay, then you're not loving. The world demands that we accept and condone their sin. Homosexuals demand that you not only to accept them, but their lifestyle. If you say that homosexuality is a sin they will accuse you of fostering hate. In Britain and Canada it's already happening. Christians are being charged under the Hate Crimes laws because they hold and teach that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin.

But, and this is the key, if we accept and condone their sin, there's no hope for them. Sinners need to repent of their sin. If we truly love someone, we will warn them of the consequences of their sin, we will urge them to turn from it. Knowledge is so essential to love. In that case it shows what love must demand.

Lastly, for Christians, knowledge will help you love God as you should.

God's ways are often mysterious. Many times He doesn't do things the way we expect, the way we want Him to.

We see this in Matthew 16 with Peter. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to go to Jerusalem, be arrested, suffer many things, be killed and rise from the dead. Peter said to Jesus, (Matthew 16:22)

"Never, Lord!
This shall never happen to you!"

Peter loved Jesus. His love was based on a certain degree of knowledge. He knew that Jesus was from God and was a wonderful and glorious being.

But Peter's knowledge was inadequate. Jesus came to this earth to suffer and die. That's the only way sinners could be saved. Jesus willingly taking up the task was part of His glory. His work was glorious. Without Jesus dying on the cross there would have been no salvation for us. Peter grew in knowledge and He came to see that God's way was best. Peter came to see that Jesus' work was His salvation. That knowledge led Him to love, value and appreciate Jesus even more than He did before.

It's often the same way with us. We are confused by what God is doing. He doesn't seem to be doing what is best for us. We want His providence to be different.

But we should believe what the Bible says about God being wise and good and having a wonderful plan to bring us to glory. How wonderful it is that we have Romans 8:28 which says,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

Knowing that, we, like the apostle Paul, can rejoice in Jesus in any situation, any circumstance, knowing that we are in His hand and that He is leading us to glory. What love you should have for Jesus—your Good Shepherd. Love Him with everything in you. He died for you. He rose again for you. He is ruling all things for His glory and for the church. (Ephesians 1:22) He is ruling for your good—to bring you to glory and everlasting fellowship with Him. Love Him, serve Him, rejoice in Him.