Philippians Bible Study, Week 4
It is right that I think/feel this way about you because I have you in my heart. For whether I am in bonds/imprisoned, or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you are co-sharers of God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in real knowledge and discernment so that you may be able to approve 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. Philippians 1:7-11
Things to Think About
What do you think Paul would have been like to meet in person?
How would you describe Paul’s affection for the Philippians? (1:3-8)
When you pray for people, what do you generally pray for?
What things, specifically, does Paul pray for in verses 9-10? How do these things compare with your priorities as a Christian?
How do love and knowledge and discernment go together?
Paul’s Affectionate Heart
Paul is portrayed by some as a stern, uncompromising man. Some have even suggested that Paul did not like women. However if we read the New Testament without these negative preconceptions, we see Paul as a man with an affectionate and passionate, pastoral heart. As pointed out in the introduction, Paul was no snob. He befriended people from all sections of society, including women, slaves, and foreigners. His ministry co-workers also came from all levels of society. Paul was a loyal friend and an encouraging ministry colleague.
In his letter, Paul expresses his affection for the Philippians effusively. He has them in his heart (Phil. 1:7). [See endnote 2 for an alternate translation.] Paul longs for them with the same affection and compassion that Jesus displayed (Phil. 1:8). The Greek word for affection used here is translated literally in the old King James Version as “bowels”. In ancient times the bowels were considered as the seat of deep emotion. Even today we talk about “gut feelings”. Thankfully, modern Bible versions translate the sense of the word rather than its literal meaning.
Paul is not shy about honestly sharing his feelings and emotions with the churches. In Philippians he shares his affection and joy. In other letters, Paul freely shares his distress and his tears (e.g. 2 Cor. 2:4). How does this compare with your church leaders? Would you like your church leaders to share their honest emotions with church members? Their highs and lows?
Paul is also an optimist. Paul is convinced in God’s ability to work powerfully and effectively within individual people, and within the church. And he is convinced that God’s work will be accomplished.
His letters at some points may seem harsh and uncompromising, but in real life, Paul was a faith-filled, optimistic, gracious, and loving leader. He was also smart, educated, passionate, persistent, and resilient. God used all of these qualities, plus he empowered Paul to be a remarkably effective apostle. What personal qualities do you have that God can use in ministry?
The Defence and Confirmation of the Gospel
Even while Paul is away and in prison, the Philippians remain partners in Paul’s ministry and sharers in God’s grace. (We looked at this in last week’s session.)
The defence (apologia) and confirmation (bebaiōsis) of the gospel may simply refer to Paul’s defence of the gospel against detractors and false teachers; and confirmation may refer to his preaching and proclamation. However, both apologia and bebaiōsis are technical, legal terms. Perhaps Paul is alluding to his legal trial where he would have the opportunity to publicly defend and confirm the Gospel. Moreover, Paul uses similar words, apologia and kerugma (proclamation), in 2 Timothy 4:16-17 where he speaks about another legal trial. So what Paul seems to be saying in Philippians 1:7 is that whether he is locked away, or whether he is publicly defending the Gospel while on trial, the Philippians are sharers with him of God’s grace. Paul continues with the legal terminology in verse 8, “God is my witness . . .”
Love and Discernment
Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church is that their “love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” Paul not only associates love with knowledge, he emphasises this connection. The Greek word translated as discernment (NASB), or depth of insight (NIV), is used only this one time in the New Testament. It is a word used in Greek philosophy to mean moral insight. For the Christian it probably means spiritual insight.
Christian love should be one of our highest virtues (1 Cor. 13:13). However in contemporary Christianity, love is often portrayed in superficial, sentimental ways. Real Christian love has very little to do with sentimentality. God wants love that is based on real knowledge and depth of insight, and not shallow sentimentality. He wants love that is not just grounded in knowledge, but abounds in knowledge. Heart and brains! Love and knowledge! Christian love involves our feelings (emotions), knowledge (intellect) and our will (volition); and real love will produce action, not just sentimental gestures.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is that they will be discerning. We need to be discerning too. God wants us to discern what is ethically, morally and spiritually best, and focus on these things (Phil. 4:8). We need to attach our affections to the most excellent and worthwhile things. We need to approve (test or prove) God’s will and discern God’s ways. As Romans 12:2 says:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
One very effective way of renewing our minds and gaining spiritual discernment is through regular Bible reading, assisted by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 5:14 says that “solid food” (weightier Biblical theology) is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to discern, or distinguish, good from evil.
If we continually apply knowledge and discernment in our lives, and are able to approve the things that are excellent, we will be pure (transparent) and blameless on the Day of Christ (Phil. 1:10).
Fruit of Righteousness
In Philippians 1:11, Paul speaks about “having been being filled with the fruit of righteousness”. “Fruit” is the result, or product, of God working in our lives through Jesus Christ, by the agency of the Holy Spirit. (cf Gal. 5:22 and Eph. 5:9). Ephesians 5:9 links the fruit of light: goodness, righteousness and truth, with finding out what pleases God.
Paul’s ambition was to please God (2 Cor. 5:9), and to bring glory and praise to God. This should be our goal too. We can only please God when we discern his will and act on it in obedience and righteousness.
Do you find it difficult to discern God’s will? We all do at times. Keep seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit, and keep reading the Bible. He wants to reveal his will to you.
. . . we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10
 Paul mentions many women in his letters: Apphia (Phm 1:2), Claudia (2 Tim 4:21), Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), Euodia (Php 4:2), Julia (Rom 16:15), Junia (Rom 16:7), Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1:5), Mary (Rom 16:6), Nereus’ sister (Rom 16:15), Nympha (Col 4:15), Persis (Rom 16:12), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Priscilla (Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19), Rufus’ mother (Rom 16:13), Syntyche (Php 4:2), Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom 16:12). These women were actively involved in significant ministry, some as leaders.
 The NEB and the NRSV believe that this phrase should be translated as, “because you [the Philippians] hold me [Paul] in your heart.” Either way, there is a lot of mutual affection between the Philippians and Paul.
 2 Corinthians 10:1 may explain why their are different views of Paul: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you – I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!”
 Paul uses a more emphatic form of the word knowledge (epignosis). The NASB translates this word as “real knowledge”.
 It was love that motivated Jesus to endure an unjust, humiliating and painful death.
 Knowing God means having a close personal relationship with him. The more we really know God and who he is, and the more we know about God, the more we will love him. The more our love is based on real and accurate knowledge the more resilient and enduring our love for God will be.
© 3rd of June, 2010; Margaret Mowczko