Session 3

Philippians Study – Session 3

(Philippians 1:8-11)


1.      I want to begin this session by directing your attention to two Bible passages:

·         John 13:34-35 – These words were spoken by Jesus to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion.  They were meeting in an upper room on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem where they had just observed the Passover meal and where Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper.  Judas Iscariot had just left the room to do his treacherous work of betrayal.  After Judas had left, Jesus explained that before long he would be going away.  He told the disciples they would need to draw strength and encouragement from each other.  That is when he made the statement in this passage. 

·         Philippians 1:8-11 – These words were written by Paul about 30 years later and addressed to what I believe was his favorite church. 

2.      Christianity has been called, and I believe rightly so, the religion of love.  Over and over we are told in Scripture that the distinguishing mark of genuine Christians is their love one for another.  In the John 13 passage Jesus commands us to love one another.  In the Philippian passage, Paul tells us how to do that. 

3.      In the Greek vocabulary there are several words that are translated with the English word “love.”

·         Philia carries the idea of friendship, affection, or brotherly love.  It is loving those who love us in return.

·         Eros carries the idea of sexual desire.  It is self-centered, taking what it can for one’s own benefit or pleasure.

·         Agape carries the idea of unselfish, self-giving love that has nothing to do with the person being loved but everything to do with the one doing the loving. 

      Another way of looking at that is philia involves give and take, eros is all take, and agape is all give. 

4.   It seems to me the heart of this passage in Paul’s prayer in verse 9 that the Philippians’ “…love may abound still more and more…” The word “love” in that statement is the word agape, the highest kind of love.  I think in Philippians 1:8-11 Paul spells out four essential characteristics of Christian love.



1.      Unintelligent love can be dangerous, especially to object of that love.  For example, no‑one would question love of child who puts cold, wet kitten in microwave oven to warm it.  But that love is little consolation to kitten!  Ignorant love, love not thought out can be dangerous!

2.      Paul was well aware of that.  That is why he said in verse 9, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment..."  Two phrases are used in that statement to describe what means to love with intelligence.

·         “real knowledge" is particular Greek word meaning full or complete knowledge gained by experience.  Paul often used this word in relation to knowing the will of God.  However, when Paul used this word in relation to knowing God’s will, it was not used merely in the sense of intellectual understanding.  He also used it in the sense of practicing the will of God (see Colossians 1:9-10).  So, to love people in an intelligent way with “real knowledge” means to love them enough to tell them the truth, especially about God and will of God.  But means more than that.  We must tell the truth to people about God’s will with sensitivity.  That's where "all discernment" comes in. 

·         "all discernment" carries idea of tact.  It means communicating the truth to a person in such way doesn't destroy that person or undermine what trying to accomplish.  It is quite possible be long on love but short on tact.   I knew a man like that once.  He was a dedicated Christian who had a heart of gold.  He really loved people.  But he was so insensitive and tactless, that in spite of his best efforts, he hurt more people than he helped.

3.      Much harm can be done by well-meaning people who fail to love others in intelligent way. There is an old story about a young chaplain in prison who was called on walk with condemned prisoner to electric chair.  As they came to the door of the execution room, the chaplain did not know what to say to the condemned man.  And so without thinking, took condemned man's hand and in most pastoral voice could muster blurted out "More power to you!"

4.      Christian love must be intelligent, characterized by "all knowledge" and with tact "real discernment."



1.      In first part of v.10 Paul explains why Christians should love in “knowledge” and “discernment.”  We should love that way " that (for the purpose of) you may approve the things that are excellent." That is an interesting phrase.  It has been translated in various ways.  For example:

·         RSV ‑ "…distinguish the things which differ…"

·         WMS ‑ "…approve the better things…"

·         KNOX ‑ "…learn to prize what is of value…"

      The phrase carries the idea of not merely distinguishing between that which is good and that which is evil.  Instead, it means having the kind of discernment that is able to distinguish between that which is good and that which is best. 

2.      We do not usually have much difficulty distinguishing between good and evil.  More often than not that choice is rather clear-cut.  But where we often stumble is at point of choosing between what is merely good and what is best.  As one person said, "It's possible that we can do less than our best by doing good."

3.      There are many things in life that not in and of selves wrong.  But in comparison with the really important things of life, they are trivial or inconsequential.  And if we allow the less important things to dominate our thoughts and to monopolize our time and energy, they can distract us from things in life that matter the most.  In our personal lives we are constantly choosing between what is good and what is best. 

4.      And that is true in our expression of love for others as well.  For example‑‑

·         It may be good send a card or flowers to a friend who is ill.  However, it may be best go to that friend's home and prepare meal or clean the house. 

·         It may be good give financial assistance to a person in need.  But it may be best help that person out of the situation that caused the need. 

5.   The point is that Christian love must never be content with merely doing good for others.  It must always seek to do what is best for others.



  1. In the last part of verse10 two things are said about the example of those who love.  First, the verse says that Christians should be characterized by "sincerity."  The English word sincere comes from two Latin words.  The Latin sine cera literally means without wax. There is an interesting picture behind that phrase which illustrates the kind example that should accompany Christian love.
  2. The Romans produced very fine porcelain that was greatly valued and that brought a high price.  The porcelain was very delicate and it was difficult to fire in kiln without producing small cracks.  Dishonest dealers filled the cracks with pearly‑white wax that could not be easily detected in the dark shops.  Only if the product was held up to the sun or used for while did cracks become apparent.  Honest dealers would mark their products sine cera meaning “without wax”.

3.   When the Scripture says that love should be accompanied by sincerity, it is saying the lives of those who love must be able stand the test of close examination.  When those whom we love examine our lives, should find no cracks, no glaring faults.

  1. Second, verse 10 says that Christians should be characterized by “blamelessness."  It is important to understand that “blamelessness” in the eyes of God is not something we achieve; it is something we receive.  Christ, by virtue of His sacrifice for our sins, presents us blameless before God (see Colossians 1:21-22).  However, in this case Paul is not speaking of “blamelessness” in the eyes of God.  He is speaking of “blamelessness” in the eyes of people.  The idea behind word is living in such a way that our lives do not cause others to stumble.  It means to have a positive rather negative impact on others. 
  2. I think it is important to understand that neither of these words in verse 10 that speak to the example of Christians (“sincere…blameless”) mean that Christians must be perfect to love others.  No-one is or ever has been perfect except for Jesus, Himself.  The idea behind these words is that as Christians, we must constantly be evaluating how our lives are impacting the lives of those around us.  When we stumble and fall, as we invariably will, we seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those we have harmed, pick ourselves up, and continue living as God has called us to live.  That’s the kind of example that gives credibility to the love we express toward others. 



1.   Paul touched upon this idea in verse 9 where he used the word “discernment.”   But now in verse 11 he returns to the idea and deals with it in more detail.  Verse 11 tells us that love is to come from a person who has "been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ"...

  1. "Fruit of righteousness" means essentially the same thing as the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22‑23.  When someone comes to you in spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self‑control, it's hard to reject their love.  That is the kind of spirit we should have toward others.  It is just the opposite of a harsh, judgmental, condemning, holier than thou type spirit. 
  2. William Barclay makes an astute observation about the meaning of this phrase.  He writes: "There are people who are themselves faultless, but who are so harsh and hard and austere that they in the end drive people away from Christianity. There are people who are good, but they are so critical of others that they repel others from goodness. The Christian is himself pure, but his love and gentleness are such that he attracts others to the Christian way and never repeals them from it."
  3. It is never enough merely to love others.  We must lover others in a way and with a spirit that is winsome and attractive to them.


1.      I do not remember where I read it, but I remember reading sometime ago about a young missionary who departed from United States for the South American country of Brazil to begin missionary service there.  On his arrival in Brazil, he met with the retiring missionary whose place was he taking.  As the two people talked, one young and idealistic and enthusiastic and the other patient and gentle and wise with years, the retiring missionary said this: "Son, I want to give you just one word of advice. When I first came to this country I didn't learn to speak language of these people very well, but I did learn one thing. I learned to love them. And that has made all the difference in the world in my ministry to them."

2.      Love is one thing every person can do.  It is, indeed, a basic requirement of Christianity.  The very best thing you can do for any person is simply to love that person.

    • Love with intelligence (“real knowledge … all discernment”
    • Love by seeking the best for others (“approve the things that are excellent”
    • Love by setting a good example for others (“sincere … blameless”
    • Love others with the right spirit (“filled with the fruit of righteousness”)

3.   That's exactly what Jesus had done for us.  And that is what He wants us to do for each other.  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."