Love seems to be a word that is used commonly these days. It’s an emotion. It’s a strong feeling for someone. A man falls in love with a woman. A person might have love for pets or gardening or music. Another person might want to do acts of charity out of compassion. All these seem to come under the topic of love.
After Paul spoke on the amazing transformations that happened in his own life and in the life of the Philippians from Phil.1:1-6, he now wants them to grow in love. The Bible uses different words for love in the Greek language. Storge – familial affection, Philia – brotherly love, Eros – romantic or sexual love and Agape – this is God’s perfect love, the love of God for man. Paul was not satisfied with the status quo of the Philippian believers. He wanted them to grow in love. Before we look at how they can grow in love, let’s see what are some of the signs of lack of that Agape love?
- A person without Agape love has a desire to hurt others. We see this happen in so many families, friendships and sadly even in the church family. Some such Christians wanted to hurt Paul while he was in prison (Phil.1:16-17)
- A person without Agape love want to put self as the center of the universe. Such a person is always concerned only about their own welfare. Paul says in Phil.2:2-3 to not do anything from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as better than themselves.
- A person without Agape love considers other people less than themselves. Such a person tends to always look at others as inferior to themselves. (Phil.2:3).
- When there is a lack of Agape love, there is usually an unhealthy disagreement and competition for superiority. Who is big? Who is small? Who was there from the beginning? Eudia and Syntyche were two women who had labored side by side for the progress of the Gospel (Phil.4:1-2). Yet now there seems to be a form of unhealthy competition between them.
Paul now prays in Phil.1:9-11 that their love may abound more and more. He wants this love to be based on knowledge and insight. He prays these things so that they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. He wants the lives of the Philippian believers to be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Finally, Paul wants all this for the purpose of the glory of God. Let’s unpack them one by and one.
Grow in Love
It was Paul’s prayer and desire for the Philippian church that their love may abound more and more. He was calling for a love that will benefit others without expecting any reciprocity or mutuality. When you give a gift on a special occasion to your friend, he or she in turn might give a gift for your special occasion too. But when you love in a way where the other person cannot pay you back or return the favor done out of love, that is a love without reciprocity. Paul wants the Philippian believers to grow in their love.
Love has boundaries
After Paul says that they grow in love, he defines “how” it grows. He says that increase of this love and its influence on others is based on knowledge and insight (verse 9b).
How do you get this knowledge and insight? Knowledge and insight come through listening to the truth and by being obedient to the truth. Truth has the ability to change our lives. A selfish person becomes a loving person because the truth from God’s Word has changed the person. Knowledge and insight are procured through the intentional efforts of individual Christians to read and study the Scriptures, be around those who teach and interact with Scriptures, and be obedient to what the Scripture says.
Be Blameless at Jesus’ Coming
Paul’s prayer in verse 9 and 10 is that they grow in love more and more with knowledge and insight, so that they may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. This agape love that we have been discussing about is a behavior. It is not simply an abstract thought. It is a behavior, which leads one to be “pure and blameless” (verse 10). If you are living for personal fulfilment in this life, you will be living for self, and not living in love for God and love for others. Paul is praying that when Christ comes, He will be able to see that you and I are operating out of His love, which has benefitted others.
Be filled with Fruit of Righteousness
Paul continues telling here in verse 10 and 11 that the Philippian believers may be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. How is a person’s life filled with fruit of righteousness?
The moment one trusts Christ as Savior, we are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. We have a right standing before God. The word “fruit” implies that it is a process. When a tree is planted, after a few years, we look for fruit. If there is no fruit even after many years, there may be something wrong with the tree. Fruit of righteousness is the life of Christ operating in us to produce the fruit. Whenever you are thinking of others, praying for others, visiting others, meeting others’ needs, your life is filled with the fruit of righteousness.
Let God to be praised
The ultimate end of love in the believers is “God’s glory” (verse 11). In your way of reaching out to your spouse, other family members or faith family, sharing your resources, praying and interceding for others, in all these things you need to be asking, who is made big here? God is the One Who should be made big! In fact, we see that is what exactly Jesus did. He made God big by dying on the cross. He glorified the Father.
In light of this important prayer that Paul prayed for the Philippians, what is it that you and I could be doing today? Look at Jesus! Make efforts to know the truth as revealed in the Scripture and be obedient to it. Make efforts to read the Scriptures, meditate on it, participate in life groups and be obedient to what you learn. This way as Paul prayed for the Philippians, we too might grow in love with all knowledge and insight, be filled with fruit of righteousness, be blameless at the coming of Christ and all these done for God’s glory!
Click link to watch the sermon titled “Growing in Love,” from the book of Philippians.