II. THE APOSTLE'S MIND ABOUT THE PHILIPPIANS.
"I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and void of offence to the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." — Phil. i. 3-11 (R.V.).
After the salutation, the first thing in the Epistle is a warm utterance of the feelings and the desires which Paul habitually cherishes in relation to his converts at Philippi. This is expressed vv. 3-11.
Note the course of thought. In ver. 3 he declares his thankfulness and in ver. 4 his prayerfulness on their behalf; and he puts these two together, without as yet saying why he thanks and what he prays for. He puts them together, because he would mark that with him these are not two separate things; but his prayer is thankful, and his thankfulness is prayerful; and then, having so much to be thankful for, his prayers became, also, joyful. The reason why, he presently explains more particularly. For, ver. 5, he had to thank God, joyfully, for their fellowship in the gospel in the past; and then, ver. 6, knowing to what this pointed forward, he could pray joyfully — that is, with joyful expectation for the future. And thus he prepares the way for telling what special things he was led to pray for; but first he interposes vv. 7 and 8, to vindicate, as it were, the right he had to feel so warm and deep an interest in his Philippian friends. The matter of his prayer follows in vv. 9-11.
First he thanks God for grace presented as an honor upon the Philippians. As often as he remembered them, as often as he lifted up his heart in prayer to make request for them, he was cheered with the feeling that he could make request joyfully — i.e., he could rejoice over mercies already given. We know that the Apostle, in his letters to the Churches, is found always ready to evince the same spirit; he is prompt to pour out his thanks for anything attained by those Churches, either in gifts or grace. We find it so in his letters to the Churches of Corinth and Ephesus and Colossæ and Thessalonica. He does this, always, in a full and hearty way. He evidently counted it both duty and privilege to take note of what God had created, and to show that he prized it. Like John, he had no greater joy than to hear that his children walked in the truth; and he gave the glory of it to God in thanksgiving. In the case of this Church, however, the ground of thanksgiving was something that bound them to Paul in a peculiar manner, and touched his heart with a glow of tenderer love and gladness. It was, ver. 5, "their fellowship in the gospel (or rather, to the gospel) from the first day until now." He means, that from their first acquaintance with the gospel, the Philippian Christians had, with unusual heartiness and sincerity, committed themselves to the cause of the gospel. They had made it their own cause. They had embarked in it as a fellowship to which they gave themselves heart and soul. There might be Churches, more distinguished for gifts than that of Philippi was, where less of this magnanimous spirit appeared. There might be Churches, where men seemed to be occupied with their own advantage by the gospel, their individual and separate advantage, but withheld themselves from the fellowship to it, — did not readily commit themselves to it and to each other, as embarking wholly and for ever in the common cause. This misconception, this servility of spirit, is but too easy. You may have whole Churches, in which men are full of self-congratulation about attainments they make in the gospel, and gifts they receive by the gospel, and doctrines they build up about it — but the loving "fellowship to it" fails. A large measure of a better spirit had been given to the Philippians from the first. They were a part of those Macedonian Churches, who "first gave their own selves" to the Lord and His Apostles, and then also their help and service. It was an inward fellowship before it was an outward one. They first gave their own selves, so that their hearts were mastered by the desire to see the ends of the gospel achieved, and then came service and sacrifice. Trials and losses had befallen them in this course of service; but still they are found caring for the gospel, for their brethren in the gospel, for their father in the gospel, for the cause of the gospel. This fellowship — this readiness to make common cause with the gospel, out and out, had begun at the first day; and after trouble and trial it continued even until now.
The disposition here commended has its importance, very much because it implies so just a conception of the genius of the gospel, and so hearty a consent to it. He whose Christianity leads him to band himself with his fellow-Christians, to get good by their help, and to help them to get good, and along with them to do good as opportunity arises, is a man who believes in the work of the gospel as a vital social force; he believes that Christ is in his members; he believes that there are attainments to be made, victories won, benefits laid hold of and appropriated. He is in sympathy with Christ, for he is attracted by the expectation of great results coming in the line of the gospel; and he is one who looks not merely on his own things, but rejoices to feel that his own hope is bound up with a great hope for many and for the world. Such a man is near the heart of things. He has, in important respects, got the right notion of Christianity, and Christianity has got the right hold of him.
Now if we consider that the Apostle Paul, "the slave of Jesus Christ," was himself a marvellous embodiment of the spirit he is here commending to the Philippians, we shall easily understand with what satisfaction he thought upon this Church, and rejoiced over them, and gave thanks. Was there ever a man who, more than Paul, evinced "the fellowship of the gospel" from the first hour to the last? Was there ever one whose personal self was more swallowed up and lost, in his zeal to be spent for the cause, — doing all things for the gospel's sake that he might have part therein? Did ever man, more than he, welcome sufferings, sacrifices, toils, if they were for Christ, for the gospel? Was man ever possessed more absolutely than he with a sense of the worthiness of the gospel to be proclaimed everywhere, to every man — and with a sense of the right the gospel had to himself, as Jesus Christ's man, the man that should be used and expended on nothing else but upholding this cause, and proclaiming this message to all kinds of sinners? The one great object with him was that Christ should be magnified in him, whether by life or by death (ver. 20). His heart, therefore, grew glad and thankful over a Church that had so much of this same spirit, and, for one thing, showed this by cleaving to him in their hearts through all the vicissitudes of his work, and following him everywhere with their sympathy and their prayers. Some Churches were so much occupied with themselves, and had so little understanding of him, that he was obliged to write to them at large, setting forth the true spirit and manner of his own life and service; he had, as it were, to open their eyes by force to see him as he was. This was not needed here: the Philippians understood him already: they did so, because, in a degree, they had caught the contagion of his own spirit. They had given themselves, in their measure, in a fellowship to the gospel, from the first day until now. They had claimed, and they still claimed, to have a share in all that befell the gospel, and in all that befell the Apostle.
Paul ascribed all this to God's grace in them, and thanked God for it. True, indeed, much activity about the gospel, and much that looks like interest in its progress, may proceed from other causes besides a living fellowship with Jesus, and a true disposition to give up all for Him. The outward activity may be resorted to as a substitute for the inward life; or it may express the spirit of sectarian selfishness. But when it appears as a consistent interest in the gospel, when it is accompanied by the tokens of frank goodwill and free self-surrender to the Church's evangelical life, when it endures through vicissitudes of time, under trial, persecution, and reproach, it must arise, in the main, from a real persuasion of the Divine excellence and power of the gospel and the Saviour. Not without the grace of God does any Church manifest this spirit.
Now to the Apostle who had this cause of gladness in the past, there opened (ver. 6) a gladdening prospect for the future, which at once deepened his thankfulness and gave expectancy to his prayers. "Being confident of this very thing, that He that has begun a good work in you will perform it to the day of Jesus Christ." "Being confident of this very thing" is equivalent to "Having no less confidence than this"; for he desires to express that his confidence is emphatic and great.
The confidence so expressed assumes a principle, and makes application of that principle to the Philippian saints.
The principle is that the work of saving grace clearly begun by the Spirit of God shall not be destroyed and come to nothing, but shall be carried on to complete salvation. This principle is not received by all Christians as part of the teaching of Scripture; but without entering now into any large discussion, it may be pointed out that it seems to be recognised, not merely in a few, but in many passages of Holy Writ. Not to recite Old Testament indications, we have our Lord's word (John x. 28): "I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand." And there is hardly an Epistle of our Apostle in which the same principle is not presented to us, stated in express terms, or assumed in stating other doctrines, and applied to the comfort of believers (1 Thess. v. 23, 24; 1 Cor. i. 8; Rom. viii. 30). The ultimate salvation of those in whom a good work is begun, is, in this view, conceived to be connected with the stability of God's purposes, the efficacy of the Son's mediation, the permanence and power of the Holy Spirit's influence, and the nature of the covenant under which believers are placed. And the perseverance thus provided for is supposed to be made good through the faith, patience, fear, and diligence of those who persevere, and by no means without these. As to the place before us, whatever exceptions and whatever distinctions may be taken on the subject, it must be owned that, gladly recognising Christian character and attainment as a fact, he finds therein a warrant for emphatic confidence about the future, even to the day of Christ.
As to the application of this principle to the Philippians, the method in which the Apostle proceeds is plain. He certainly does not speak as by immediate insight into Divine counsels about the Philippians. He is directed to utter a conclusion at which he had arrived by a process which he explains. From the evidence of the reality of their Christian calling, he drew the conclusion that Christ was at work in them, and the further conclusion that this work would be completed. It may be asked how so confident an application of the principle now in view could be reached on these terms? How could the Apostle be sure enough of the inward state of his Philippian friends, to enable him to reason on it, as here he seems to do? In answer, we grant it to be impossible for any one, without immediate revelation on the point, to reach absolute assurance about the spiritual state of other people. And therefore we are to keep in view, what has already been suggested, that the Apostle, speaking to "saints," really remits to themselves and to their Lord the final question as to the reality of that apparent saintship. But then, we are taught by the Apostle's example that where ordinary tokens, and especially where more than ordinary tokens of Christian character appear, we are frankly and gladly to give effect to those signs in our practical judgments. There may be an error, no doubt there is, in unbounded charity; but there is error also when we make a grudging estimate of Christian brethren; when, on the ground of some failing, we allow suspicion to obliterate the impressions which their Christian faith and service might fairly have made upon us. We are to cherish the thought that a wonderful future is before those in whom Christ is carrying on His work of grace; and we are to make a loving application of that hope in the case of those whose Christian dispositions have become specially manifest to us in the dialogue of Christian friendship.
However, the Apostle felt that he had a special right to feel thus in reference to the Philippians — more, perhaps, than in regard to others; and instead of going on at once to specify the objects of his prayers for them, he interposes a vindication, as it were, of the right he claimed (ver. 7): "Even as it is meet for me to be thus minded with respect to all of you, because I have you in my heart, you who are all partakers of my grace, not only in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, but also in my bonds." As if he would say, — There are special ties between us, which justify on my part special tenderness and vigilance of appreciation and approbation, when I think of you. A father has a special right to take note of what is hopeful in his son, and to dwell with satisfaction on his virtues and his promise; and friends who have toiled and suffered together have a special right to cherish a deep trust in one another's well-tried fidelity and nobleness. Let strangers, in such cases, set, if they will, a slight value on characters which they hardly know; but let them not dispute the right which love has to scrutinise with delight the nobler qualities of those who are beloved.
The Philippians were sharers of Paul's grace, as sharing his enthusiasm for the successful advocacy and confirmation of the gospel. So they had their share in the grace that was so mighty in him. But besides that, the Apostle's heart had been cheered and warmed by the manifestation of their sympathy, their loving thoughtfulness in reference to his bonds. So he joyfully owned them as partakers in spirit in those bonds, and in the grace by which he endured them. They remembered him in his bonds, "as bound with him." Every way their fellowship with him expressed itself as full and true. No jarring element broke in to mar the happy sense of this. He could feel that though far away their hearts beat pulse for pulse with his, partakers not only of his toil but of his bonds. So he "had them in his heart": his heart embraced them with no common warmth and yielded to them no common friendship. And what then? Why then "it is meet that I should be thus minded," "should use love's happy right to think very well of you, and should let the evidence of your Christian feeling come home to my heart, warm and glowing." It was meet that Paul should joyfully repute them to be sincere — to be men cleaving to the gospel in a genuine love of it. It was meet that he should thank God in their behalf, seeing these happy attainments of theirs were so truly a concern of his. It was meet he should pray for them with joyful importunity, counting their growth in grace to be a benefit also to himself.
It would be a helpful thing if Christian friends cherished, and if they sometimes expressed, warm hopes and expectations in behalf of one another. Only, let this be the outcome of truly spiritual affection. Paul was persuaded that his feelings arose from no mere human impulse. The grace of God it was which had given the Philippians this place in his heart. God was his record that his longing after them was great, and also that it was in the mercies of Christ. He loved them as a man in Christ, and with Christlike affections. Otherwise, words like these assume a canting character, and are unedifying.
Now at last comes the tenor of his prayer (ver. 9): "That your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that you may approve the things that are excellent," and so on.
Let this first be noted, that it is a prayer for growth. All that grace has created in the Philippian believers, everything in their state that filled his heart with thankfulness, he regards as the beginning of something better still. For this he longs; and therefore his heart is set on progress. So we find it in all his Epistles. "As you have received how you ought to walk and to please God — so abound more" (1 Thess. iv. 1). This is a very familiar thought, yet let us spend a sentence or two upon it. The spiritual prosperity of believers should be measured not so much by the point they have reached, but by the fact and measure of the progress they are making. Progress in likeness to Christ, progress in following Him; progress in understanding His mind and learning His lessons; progress ever from the performance and the failures of yesterday to the new discipline of to-day, — this is Paul's Christianity. In this world our condition is such that the business of every believer is to go forward. There is room for it, need of it, call to it, blessedness in it. For any Christian, at any stage of attainment, to presume to stand still, is perilous and sinful. A beginner that is pressing forward is a happier and a more helpful Christian than he is who has come to a stand, though the latter may seem to be on the borders of the land of Beulah. The first may have his life marred by much darkness and many mistakes; but the second is for the present practically denying the Christian truth and the Christian call, as these bear on himself. Therefore the Apostle is bent upon progress. And here we have his account of that which suggested itself to him as the best kind of progress for these converts of his.
The life of their souls, as he conceived it, depended on the operation of one great principle, and he prays for the increase of that in strength and efficacy. He desires that their love may abound more and more. He was glad to think they had shown, all along, a loving Christian spirit. He wished it to grow to its proper strength and nobleness.
No one doubts that, according to the Scriptures, love is the practical principle by which the fruits of faith are brought forth. The Christian character peculiarly consists in a Christlike love. The sum of the law from which we fell is, You shall love; and, being redeemed in Christ, we find the end of the commandment to be love, out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. Redemption itself is a process of love, setting forth from heaven to earth to create and kindle love, and make it triumph in human hearts and lives. Every one that loves is born of God and knows God. No point is so well settled. Nobody doubts it.
Yet, alas! how many of us are truly aware of the great meaning which apostolic words, which Christ's words, carry, when this is spoken of? or how shall it be made inwardly and vividly present to us? In the heart of Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, was a great purpose to awaken in human hearts a deep and strong affection, kindred to His own — true, tender, resolute and enduring, all-prevailing, all-transforming. Apostles, catching the fire in their degree, were full of the wonder of it, of the glad surprise and yet the sober reality of it; and they carried about the gospel everywhere, looking to see men thrill into this new life, and become instances of its strength and gladness. And we? Let each man answer for himself. He is a happy man who can answer clearly. What is it to have love for the inspiration of the heart and the life: love submerging the lower cravings, love ennobling and expanding all that is best and highest, love consecrating life into a glad and endless offering? Which of us has that within him which could break into a song, like the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians, rejoicing in the goodness and nobleness of love? "That your love may abound." In our tongue it is but one syllable. So much the easier for our perversity to slide over the meaning as we read. But all our earthly life is too short a space for learning how deep and how pertinent to ourselves this business of love is.
No doubt, the kindness the Philippians had shown to the Apostle, of which he had been speaking, naturally prepares the way for speaking of their love, as the verse before us does. But we are not to take the word as referring only to the love they might bear to other believers, or, in particular, to the Apostle. That is in the Apostle's mind; but his reference is wider, namely, to love as a principle which operates universally — which first holds lowly fellowship with the love of God, and then also flows out in Christian affection towards men. The Apostle does not distinguish these, because he will not have us to separate them. The believer has been brought back in love to God, and having his life quickened from that source he loves men. The manward aspect of it is made prominent in the Bible for this reason, that in love towards men the exercise of this affection finds the most various scope, and in this way also it is most practically tested. The Apostle would not grant to any of us that our profession of love to God could be genuine, if love did not exert itself towards men. But neither would he suffer it to be restricted in the other direction. In the present case he gladly owned the love which his Philippian friends bore to himself. But he sees in this the existence of a principle which may signalise its energy in all directions, and is able to bear all kinds of good fruit. Therefore his prayer fixes on this, "that your love may abound."
Now here we must look narrowly into the drift of the prayer. For the Apostle desires that love may abound and work in a certain manner, and if it shall, he assures himself of excellent effects to follow. Perhaps we may best see the reason which guided his prayer, if we begin with the result or achievement he aimed at for his Philippian friends. If we can understand that, we may the better understand the road by which he hoped they might be carried forward to it.
The result aimed at is this (vv. 10, 11): "that you may be sincere and without offence until the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." The last end is the glory and praise of God. This, let us be assured, is no mere phrase with the Apostle. All these things are real and vivid to him. If he were to come among us, knowing us to be professed believers, then, strange as some of us may think it, he would actually expect that a great degree of praise and glory to God should accrue out of our lives. The time he fixes on for the manifestation of this, the time when it should be seen how this has transpire, is the day of Christ. That great day of revealing shall witness, in particular, the consummate glory of Christ's salvation in His redeemed. And he prays that to that day and at that day they may be sincere, without offence, filled with fruits of righteousness.
First, sincere: that signifies simplicity of purpose, and singleness of heart in following out that purpose. Sincere Christians cherish in their hearts no views, no principles, adverse to the Christian calling. The test of this sincerity is that a man shall be honestly willing to let light shine through him, to evince the true character of his principles and motives. Such a man is on the road to the final, victorious, and eternal sincerity. For the present there may be within him too much of that which hinders him, and mars his life. But if he is set on expelling this, and welcomes the light which exposes it, in order that he may expel it, then he has a real, present sincerity, and his course is brightening towards the perfect day.
Second, without offence. This is the character of the man who walks without stumbling. For there are obstacles in the way, and they are often unexpected. Grant a man to be in a measure sincere — the call of the gospel has really won his heart. Yet as he goes, there fall in trials, temptations, difficulties, that seem to come upon him from without, as it were, and he stumbles: he fails to preserve the uprightness of his life, and to keep his eye fixed with due steadiness on the end of his faith. Suddenly, before he is well aware, he is almost down. So he brings confusion into his mind, and guilt upon his conscience; and in his bewilderment he is too likely to make worse stumbles before long. He who would be a prosperous Christian has not only to watch against duplicity in the heart: he must give diligence also to deal wisely with the various outward influences which strike into our lives, which seem often to do so cruelly and unreasonably, and which wear some false guise that we had not foreseen. Paul knew this in his own case; and therefore he "studied to keep a conscience void of offence." We may have wisdom enough for our own practice as to this, if we know where to go for it.
Third, filled with fruits of righteousness — which is the positive result, associated with the absence of guile and the freedom from stumbling. A tree that bears any fruit is alive. But one that is filled with fruit glorifies the gardener's care. "Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples." Distinct and manifold acts of faith and patience are the proper testimonies of the soul that is sincere and without offence.
This is the line of things which the Apostle desires to see running its course towards the day of Christ. Now let us ask, In what circumstances is the believer placed for whom Paul desires it?
He is placed in a world that is full of adverse influences, and is apt to stir adverse forces in his own heart. If he allows these influences to have their way — if he yields to the tendencies that operate around him, he will be carried on in a direction quite different from that which Paul contemplates. Instead of sincerity, there will be the tainted, corrupt, divided heart; instead of freedom from offence, there will be many a fall, or even a complete giving up of the way; instead of fruits of righteousness filling the life, there will be "wild grapes." On the other hand, if, in spite of these influences, the Christian is enabled to hold his course, then the discipline of conflict and trial will prove full of blessing. Here also shall the promise be fulfilled that all things work together for good to them that love God. Strong temptations are not overcome without sorrow and pain; but being overcome, they turn out ministers of good. In this experience sincerity clears and deepens; and the bearing of the Christian acquires a firmness and directness not otherwise attainable; and the fruits of righteousness acquire a flavour which no other climate could have developed so well. This hard road turns out to be the best road towards the day of Christ.
The effect, then, of the circumstances in which the believer is thus placed will be according to the way in which he deals with them. But plainly, to deal rightly with them, implies a constant effort of JUDGING the things within him and without him, the world within and the world without, that he may "approve what is more excellent" — that he may choose the good and refuse the evil. Discerning, distinguishing, as to opinions, influences, feelings, habits, courses of conduct, and so forth, so as to separate right and wrong, spiritual and carnal, true and false, must be the work in hand. There must be the prevailing practical mind to elect and to abide by the proper objects of choice, to cleave to the one and to put away the other.
So we can understand very well, if the Philippians were to be sincere, without offence, filled with fruits of righteousness, that they must, and ever more and more searchingly and successfully, "approve the things that are more excellent." The phrase is also rendered "try the things which differ"; for the expression implies both. It implies such a putting to proof of that which is presented to us, as to make just distinctions and give to each its proper place — silver on the one side, dross on the other. What is the whole life and business of the Philippians, of any Christians, as Christians, but that of following out perpetually a choice, on given principles, among the multitude of objects that claim their regard? The fundamental choice, arrived at in believing, has to be reiterated continually, in a just application of it to a world of varying and sometimes perplexing cases.
When we have all this in view it is easy to understand the scope of the Apostle's prayer about the growth and education of their love. Out of love this needed discrimination must come. For
1. No practical discriminations or determinations are of any worth in God's sight except as they are animated by love, and, indeed, determined by it. If a Christian should choose anything, or reject anything, yet not in love, his choice as to the matter of fact may be right, but for all that the man himself is wrong.
2. Love alone will practically carry through such habitual discrimination, such faithful and patient choice. Love becomes the new instinct which gives life, spring, and promptitude to the process. When this fails, the life of approving the things that are more excellent will fail; the task will be repudiated as a burden that cannot be endured. It may still be professed, but it must inwardly die.
3. Nothing but love can enable us to see and to affirm the true distinctions. Under the influence of that pure love (that arises in the heart which God's love has won and quickened) the things which differ are truly seen. So, and only so, we shall make distinctions according to the real differences as these appear in God's sight. Let us consider this a little.
Evidently among the things that differ there are some whose characteristics are so plainly written in conscience or in Scripture, that to determine what should be said of them is matter of no difficulty at all. It is no matter of difficulty to decide that murder and theft are wrong, or that meekness, benevolence, justice are right. A man who has never been awakened to spiritual life, or a Christian whose love has decayed, can make determinations about such things, and can be sure, as he does so, that as to the thing itself he is judging right. Yet in this case there is no just apprehension of the real difference in God's sight of the things that differ, nor a right mind and heart to choose or to reject so as to be in harmony with God's judgment.
And if so, then in that large class of cases where there is room for some degree of doubt or diversity, where some mist obscures the view, so that it is not plain at once into what class things should be reckoned — in cases where we are not driven to a decision by a blaze of light from Scripture or conscience — in such cases we need the impulse of the love which cleaves to God, which delights in righteousness, which gives to others, even to the undeserving, the brother's place in the heart. Without this there can be no detection of the real difference, and no assurance of the rectitude of the discrimination we make.
Now it is in such matters that the especial proof and exercise of religious life goes on. Here, for example, Lot failed. The beauty of the fair and prosperous valley so filled his soul with admiration and desire, that it chilled and all but killed the affections that should have steadied and raised his mind. Had the love of the eternal and supreme maintained its power, then in that day when God on the one hand and Lot on the other looked down on the plain, they would have seen the same sight and judged it with the same mind. But it was otherwise. So the Lord lifted up His eyes and saw that the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly; and Lot lifted up his eyes and saw only that the plain was well watered everywhere, as the garden of the Lord, as the land of Egypt.
But the love of which the Apostle speaks is the breath of the upper world and of the new life. It cleaves to God, it embraces the things which God loves, it enters into the views which God reveals, — and it takes the right view of men, and of men's interest and welfare. The man that has it, or has known it, is therein aware of what is most material. He has a notion of the conduct that is congruous to love's nature. What love knows, it is the nature of love to practise, for it knows lovingly; and at every step the practice confirms, establishes, and enlarges the knowledge. So the genuine growth of love is a growth in knowledge (ver. 9) — the word implies the kind of knowledge that goes with intently looking into things: love, as it grows, becomes more quick to see and mark how things really are when tried by the true standard. Conversing practically with the mind of God in the practice of life, love incorporates that mind and judges in the light of it. This prepares a man to detect the false and counterfeit, and to try the things that differ.
Not only in knowledge shall love grow, but "in all discernment," or perception, as it might be rendered. There may be instances in which, with our best wisdom, we find it hard to disentangle clear principles, or state plain grounds which rule the case; yet love, growing and exercised, has its percipiency: it has that accomplished tact, that quick experienced taste, that fine sensibility to what befriends and what opposes truth and right, which will lead to right distinctions in practice. So you discriminate by the sense of taste things that differ, though you can give no reason to another, but can only say, "I perceive it." In this sense "he that is spiritual judges all things."
For all this the aid of the Holy Spirit is held out to us, as we may see in 1 John ii. He makes love to grow, and under that master influence unfolds the needed wisdom also. So comes the wisdom "from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and of good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James iii. 17). It is hidden from many wise and prudent, but God has often revealed it to babes.
From the Epistle to the Philippians by Robert Rainy, D.D., Principal of New College. Edinburgh. Published by FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY in 1990. Digitally produced by Colin Bell, Julia Neufeld and the Online
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To the Philippians - R. Rainy
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