Reflections on Philippians: 1:10


While my intention is only to comment on verses 10, it seems wise to provide the three verses that make up a single sentence of this note to the Philippians.

Before I go there though, the need to site three verses (a great many more in Ephesians and others) to account for a single sentence makes me wonder about the mysteries of how the divisions between verse were originally decided. I haven't enough biblical history to know the answer to this question--but if anyone has quick reference to which they could direct me, I'd be most interested. I understand why you might break a sentence in the middle of poetry--as they can ramble on forever; however, in the midst of a block of prose, I am left to wonder. Not to question so much as to want to consider the minds of those originally tasked with this project.

One further note: I realize that a reflection chopped up by verses must to some degree be recursive. And for this I do apologize because it become tedious to tread once again old territory. On the other hand, the composition of a coherent whole, even on so little a passage as three verses might entail too long a period of time. In other words, at least by commenting sequentially and frequently, I actually end up writing the commentary. Were I to wait until everything were distilled, gelled, and solid in my mind, there is every likelihood that I would not bother to say anything at all. (Which situation might, in fact, come as a relief to those three people who stop by once or twice a week. But so far, no one has been so cruel or kind as to say so.)

Philippians 1:9-11

9: And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10: so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
11: filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The other day I commented on the need for discernment and how much the gift seemed to be lacking in the world today. But today my attention is focused on Paul's own explanation of why that gift is so critical and so necessary. He lists two reasons. There are undoubtedly a great many reasons, but Paul here refers specifically to two--(1) that you may approve what is excellent and (2) be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. This second reason has some further amplification in verse 11--what the expected fruits of that purity are to be.

The first of these reasons is the beautiful and lofty center of evangelical Christian life in the world. It addresses quite directly the task we are assigned and that we need to assume if our lives are to be a proper Christian witness. When we talk about "lifestyle evangelism," it is this essentially point that must be addressed--we must "approve what is excellent." I like this because it makes the point sharply. We do not merely endorse what is good. Paul knows this because all of creation is good--God made it that way. Good is, for anyone living the Christian life, the least common denominator. God made all things good so endorsing what is good does not really instruct or raise people to new heights from which to see God. Moreover, what is good is subject to endless subjective qualifications and discussions.

Approving what is excellent requires a good deal more. It requires that first we identify and name "what is excellent." And then we must approve it. How does this actually take place? We approve what is excellent by doing it. What is excellent is not a matter of aesthetic appreciation and approval is not a matter of verbal endorsement. What is excellent is what most directly leads us into closer union with God. Approval of what is excellent requires that we act on the knowledge of its excellence. We approve prayer not when we tell others to do it, but when we ourselves pray. We approve liturgy not by demanding that others attend, but when we attend and help rather than merely sit in our seats. Approval is not merely a stamp or a seal that indicates that something is good (at least not in this case), rather, it is a way of life.

The time I have for this today is done. I will return soon with further reflections on the second half of the verse.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 20, 2004 10:45 AM.

Moody's Definitions of Love was the previous entry in this blog.

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