A Gospel-Driven Prayer (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 1:9–11   |   Friday, October 12, 2012   |   Code: 2012-10-14-MR



We find ourselves again this morning in the book of Philippians. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We’ve subtitled the book of Philippians, “The Gospel-driven life.” Paul is concerned, above all, that his dear friends in Philippi would be living consistently with the implications of the Gospel that they had believed. As we’ve said multiple times before, and will continue to say, chapter 1 verse 27 is the theme verse of the epistle. In it, Paul commands the Philippians: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”


Paul desires that the Philippians’ entire lives be shaped and driven by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He desires that when they face the issues of daily life—whether that be how to interact with one another in their relationships, how to carry out the ministry of the Gospel in their city, how to minister to one another and alongside one another, how to deal with persecution, false teaching, temptation, suffering, or trials—in all of those issues, Paul’s concern is that they be able to take the truths that they have come to understand as a result of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—as a result of being saved and renewed by His sovereign grace—and to apply those realities to their lives. He means for the reality of being redeemed by the blood of Christ, being reconciled to the Father, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit—to have an effect on how they make decisions and navigate life together.


And there were particular issues that Paul wanted to address with the Philippians. Paul has received word from Epaphroditus of the goings-on in the church of Philippi, and he desires to instruct them regarding how to properly apply the Gospel to those more disconcerting situations. Epaphroditus has brought news both of persecution and of false teaching, and so one of Paul’s main exhortations, chapter 1 verse 27, is that the Philippians would stand firm together in the face of both. There was also a report that the seeds of disunity had been sown in the church, even to the extent that two of the leading women in the congregation needed to be called out by name in chapter 4 verse 2, and be urged to be of the same mind in the Lord. And so, a major emphasis in Philippians is the unity that believers must experience between one another as a result of the Gospel. And because unity cannot be achieved when parties are pridefully insisting on their own rights, Paul also exhorts the Philippians to a Christlike humility. And through all of the issues that they face, Paul reminds them, again and again, of the importance and necessity of holy joy throughout it all.


And so Paul has much about which to instruct and exhort the Philippians. There are multiple areas of their lives which Paul desires for them to more faithfully submit to the Lordship of Christ. But as I mentioned last week, it’s instructive that Paul doesn’t lead with those corrections. He sets all of his concerns in the light of his great love and affection for the Philippian church.


He begins his letter by reminding the Philippians first of the Christian’s identity as slaves and as saints, and then by greeting them in grace and peace, which brings to mind the glorious Good News of peace with God that comes by means of His great grace, which the Philippians enjoy as fellow-believers. And on that note of sharing a common identity as fellow-slaves and fellow-saints of Christ—fellow-beneficiaries of this great Gospel—Paul launches into an exuberant expression of thankfulness for the bond of their relationship.


And it was that affectionate love and deep thanksgiving that we witness in verses 3 through 8 that was the subject of our message last week. Last week, we observed Paul’s telling the Philippians that he prays for them and gives thanks to God for them with joy, with confidence, and with affection—and that this joyful, confident, affectionate thanksgiving is aroused within Paul in view of their partnership in the Gospel and their partaking in the grace of Christ along with him. They share a Gospel-driven fellowship.


Well as we turn to verse 9, Paul goes on to talk about the content of his prayer for the Philippians. We learned last week, in verses 3 to 8, that he prays for them. But this week, we come to verses 9 to 11, and we learn what he prays for them. Let’s read the text together:


“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”


Now, just as we have noted that Philippians is about living a “Gospel-driven” life—about living in a manner worthy of the Gospel (1:27)—and as we considered last week the components of Gospel-driven fellowship, in our text this morning, the four elements of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians make up four elements of Gospel-driven prayer. Here are four prayer requests—four things a Christian prays for his fellow-believers when his thoughts of them have been shaped by the Gospel. You could even call them four spiritual goals that Paul has for the Philippians, and for us as we seek to faithfully walk with Christ and minister to our brothers and sisters in intercessory prayer.




But just like last week, before we consider the content of Paul’s prayer, we need to say a few words about prayer itself. This single, complex sentence that spans verses 9 to 11, begins with the main point right up front. Paul says, “This I pray.”


Prayer was central in Paul’s life. It was an absolutely vital component of his spirituality and his relationship with Christ. And that shows in his letters. After his customary thanksgiving to God for those he’s writing to, he almost always confesses to them how unceasingly he prays for them. To the Romans, chapter 1 verses 9 and 10, he says, “For God…is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers…”  To the Ephesians, chapter 1 verses 15 and 16: “For this reason I…do not cease giving thanks for you while making mention of you in my prayers.” To the Colossians, chapter 1 verse 9: “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you…” And to the Thessalonians in 1 Thess 1:2: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.”


Prayer was an absolute priority for Paul—especially for these churches that he would write to instruct. And you’ll notice if you look at the content of these prayers and then compare them with the exhortation and instruction of the letters that much of what Paul commands them is represented in his prayers. You see, Paul is a good pastor, and he’s a good theologian. He has a great practical theology of the sovereignty of God and Christian sanctification. He knows that he is insufficient to effect the sanctification of his own flock. He knows that before he should ever expect even his dear friends like the Philippians to receive his exhortations and put them into practice, that he must come to God with those requests on their behalf. After all, as he’ll write in Philippians chapter 2, it is God who works in them, to will and to work to His good pleasure.


And we can learn from that. As we engage in the joyful, and yet nevertheless difficult, work of true, Gospel-driven fellowship that last week’s text has called us to—as we labor alongside one another and aid each other in putting to death the deeds of the body and putting on holiness and righteousness—we can be tempted to be frustrated at our brothers’ and sisters’ pace of sanctification. You know, we might have said all the right things at all the right times, even in clever ways that they haven’t thought of before, and yet there they go back into that same bad habit. But before we complain about their lack of progress, we need to ask ourselves: “Have I prayed for them? And have I prayed for their sanctification in this particular area, specifically?” The Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote, “Prayer must carry on our work as well as preaching: he preacheth not heartily to his people, that prayeth not earnestly for them.” Paul understood that.


Paul understood that devotion to prayer is a duty for all Christians. Every follower of Christ is commanded by God to be earnest and regular in prayer. But Paul also understood that prayer was more than just a duty enjoined upon us from without; for him it was a delightful compulsion from within. His love for the Philippians and sincere desire for their growth in godliness—coupled with his knowledge that he himself could not accomplish that growth by his own resources—compelled him to pray to the One who could accomplish that growth. And this is why prayer glorifies God: because prayer is the “open admission that without Christ we can do nothing,” and the subsequent “turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide [what] we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy” (Piper, Desiring God, 161). And so prayer, is an absolutely essential component to the faithful, Gospel-driven life.


So, we have understood that Paul prays for the Philippians. But now we come to the content of his prayer. And here we gain a little insight into Paul’s heart as a pastor, and as a man. Robert Murray M’Cheyne has famously quipped, “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.” Who was Paul on his knees before God? What does the content of Paul’s prayer say about the content of his character?


As we observe four elements of Paul’s Gospel-driven prayer here in verses 9 to 11, we’re going to find that Paul prayed for what really mattered in a Christian’s life. Four elements of Gospel-driven prayer: He prays for (1) love, (2) discernment, (3) integrity, and (4) fruitfulness.


I. Love


Number one: Paul prays that the Philippians would abound in love. Read the first part of verse 9 with me: “And this I pray, that your love would abound still more and more…” The love that Paul shared with the Philippians caused him to give thanks to God for them with joy, with confidence, and with affection. Now, he prays to the Father, the Giver of all good things, that the very love which he knows to be in them from personal experience would abound still more and more as it relates to ongoing ministry with each other.


Love, of course, is the supreme characteristic of the Christian life. It was the first characteristic of Christian character that Paul gave when he discussed the fruit of the Spirit in the believer’s life: “The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Gal 5:22). When Jesus was asked what the Greatest Commandment in all of the Mosaic Law was, His response was: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37–39). Paul would say in Romans 13:10 that the whole of the Law is summed up in the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And in Colossians 3:14, Paul says that love is the perfect bond of unity that holds together all of the other Christian virtues. There isn’t any wonder that the request for abounding love is atop Paul’s prayer list for his friends.


But there is so much confusion about the nature of this love that Paul speaks about, that it warrants our time to present a biblical understanding of this cardinal Christian virtue. First of all, many people—both in the world and the church—confuse love with sentimental infatuation. These people understand Paul to be calling the Philippians to nothing more than good and positive feelings for one another. They relegate “love” to a merely emotional impulse that is acted upon when it’s there, and not acted upon when it’s not. Others, reacting to this misunderstanding, swing the pendulum to the other side and insist that true, biblical Christlike love is nothing more than an act of the will. “Love is not an emotion!” they exclaim, “it’s a choice! It doesn’t matter how you feel about somebody, you love them anyway!”


Now, I have sympathy for those who think this way, because I understand that they’re trying to say that we shouldn’t be slaves to our emotions—to love when we feel like it and to not love until we feel like it. I agree with them that that’s bad. But I think they miss the mark as well, because you don’t need the Holy Spirit to “love” like that. You just need a strong will. Anybody who has a sensitive conscience and a strong will can do good things to people that they really can’t stand just because they know it’s the right thing to do. Even a hypocritical Pharisee could do that. But Paul thanks God, in Romans 6:17, that Christians became “obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which” they were committed. The Apostle Peter calls us, 1 Peter 1:22, to “fervently love one another from the heart.”


The biblical understanding of love, then, emphasizes the best of both of these aspects. Biblical love is both affection and action. It is an affection—a delight, a finding satisfaction in that which is lovely—and acting as an overflow of that delight to benefit the beloved. In particular, the love that Paul is calling the Philippians to is a greater affection for and deeper delight in Christ—the One who is supremely lovely, supremely delightful. And then that affection and delight overflows and works itself out in action, such that the Philippians’ humble service and love to one another is fueled supremely by their love for Christ. This is a root and fruit thing. Paul is praying for the fruit of the Philippians’ benefiting one another in love, but the root of that is an earnest devotion and affection for God Himself. After all, the Apostle John says in 1 John 5:1, “Whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”


And the greatest illustration of this is the Philippians’ own giving, recorded in 2 Corinthians 8:1–5. “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” Where does that begging and urging to give of their already-tapped financial resources come from? From their “abundance of joy” in Christ!


Now, as that illustration makes plain, this affection for Christ that works itself out in the practical benefit and service of one another is not something that the Philippians were lacking. Paul’s prayer is not that they would begin to love, but that the love that they had already manifested would abound still more and more. The Philippians were very similar in this respect to the Thessalonians, about whom Paul wrote, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.” And so this is not Paul getting on their case, but rather seeing their love for one another—indeed, having benefited from it himself—and encouraging them to excel still more.


You see, this true, biblical, Christian love is not a static thing. It’s dynamic. The verb, “may abound” is in the present tense, which speaks of continual action. Paul is praying that their love would go on continually abounding still more and more. This is progressive sanctification. We aren’t zapped all of a sudden and made holy in an instant. The fight for holiness is not a sprint. It’s not even a series of sprints. It’s a marathon, made up of millions of little moments and decisions that add up over time to the outcome of an entire life lived.


But even though Paul understands the progressive nature of sanctification—that it’s not all going to happen in an instant—neither is he content with the status quo. There is always a potential to attain to a greater standard than what we’ve already achieved. You say, “Even the Philippians? Even after all of their financial sacrifice? Even after all their ministry to Paul?” Well, you know what I think was happening—evidenced by the growing tension in the congregation? We all understand how sometimes it’s most difficult to show love to those you’re the closest with, right? As unfortunate as it is, for many people it can be the hardest to express affection to others in their own immediate family. And with the disunity that was beginning to fester in that congregation, I think Paul is telling them, “Listen, you’ve shown me such wonderful, Christlike, sacrificial love in your partnership with me for the sake of the Gospel. But don’t forget about each other! Continue to love each other in that same way for the sake of the Gospel!”


What about us? Can we excel still more? You say, “Even Grace Community Church?! Even GraceLife?!” Yes. You’ve done well. You have loved one another fervently, and from the heart. You have ministered to me and to my wife, even in the short time that we’ve been here, with much encouragement and prayer and affection. But I don’t think I would be a benefit to you if I were content with the status quo. And so I pray along with Paul, that your love would abound still more and more.


II. Discernment


And so the first element of Gospel-driven prayer is a prayer for increased love. The second element of Gospel-driven prayer that we can glean from the Apostle Paul is discernment. Let’s look again at verse 9: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.”


It’s interesting here that Paul doesn’t leave the notion of “love” unqualified. He doesn’t subject his words to potentially being taken out of context by an overly-sentimental, watered-down, squishy view of a love. As one commentator put it, “Love never travels alone.” Paul prays that the Philippians’ love would abound in real knowledge and all discernment. Love is like a mighty, flowing river that is directed and contained by these two riverbanks: real knowledge, and all discernment.


“Real knowledge” is the NASB’s attempt at translating the Greek term epignosis, which refers to “a transcendent and moral knowledge” (BDAG). There are multiple words in Greek for “knowledge.” Epignosis speaks not so much of a knowledge about something, but an intimate knowledge of something that comes from personal experience or relationship. Paul uses this word often in his prayers for the churches—and especially in the prison epistles it’s used with reference to a knowledge of God and His will. Ephesians 1:17 – “…a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge (epignosis) of Him.” Colossians 1:9 – “I pray that you be filled with the knowledge (epignosis) of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and that you would be increasing in the knowledge of God.” Paul also says, in Colossians 2:2, that a full assurance of understanding results in the knowledge (epignosis) of Christ Himself.


And so we can understand this prayer for the Philippians’ love to abound in real knowledge to speak of the believer’s ever-increasing experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ through the Word of God as revealed in the Scripture. The addition of this phrase dispels any notion that love is to be understood in an anti-intellectual fashion. Yes, it’s true that you can have all knowledge and yet be worth nothing if you don’t have love, 1 Corinthians 13:2. And yes, it’s true that knowledge on its own “puffs up,” while love builds up, 1 Corinthians 8:1. But according to our text, true love abounds in real, intimate, personal knowledge of Christ Himself through His Word. As Pastor John says, “Any love that is not grounded and growing in the truth and standards of Scripture falls short of genuine biblical love” (45).


So love abounds in real knowledge. But it also abounds in discernment. The term translated “discernment” here isn’t the normal word for discernment. It’s actually a word that’s used only here in the New Testament, but it’s used often in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures. It appears most often in the Proverbs. And that makes sense, because like the wisdom of Proverbs, this kind of “discernment” or “insight” is speaking of the practical wisdom and understanding that comes from a “real knowledge” of God and His truth. It is the “high level of biblical, theological, moral, and spiritual perception” (MacArthur, 46) that “guides the actions and words of those who are wise” (Hansen, 59).


James Montgomery Boice says it well. He says, “Without love we are only clanging symbols. But this was never intended to be a wishy-washy, undefined, sentimental love. It is the love of Christ. Hence, it must be a love governed by biblical principles and exercised with judgment” (47).


And what’s the purpose for this? Why does Paul pray that love would abound in real knowledge and all discernment? Look with me in verse 10: “so that you may approve the things that are excellent.” I mentioned earlier that the word for “discernment” in verse 9 wasn’t the normal word for discernment. Well that word shows up here in verse 10. The word “approve” there is the usual New Testament word for “discern,” “test,” or “examine,” and was used in the ancient world of assaying metals and testing coins to prove their purity and genuineness. Paul uses this word in relation to being able to approve or discern “the things that are excellent.” In other words, love must abound in real knowledge and all discernment so that the follower of Christ can accurately discern—not just between good and evil, but between what is good and what is best.


You see, without this sound, experiential knowledge of Christ through His Word, and without this practical, discerning insight, love wouldn’t know how to express itself with actions and words that are appropriate in each situation. If love is an affection that issues in labor for the beloved’s benefit, knowledge is required to know what that benefit is in a given situation, and discernment is required to know how to go about accomplishing that goal in the most excellent way. For example, you could have all the well-wishes in the world for someone who is in pain because of a broken bone. Your compassion could be legitimately off the charts. But in order to actually love them—in order to be a real, practical benefit to them—you need the knowledge of the human body to make a correct diagnosis, and you need the practical wisdom and insight in order to know how to perform corrective surgery in the most excellent and beneficial fashion.


And so Paul prays that love would abound in real, personal, experiential knowledge of God in the Person of Christ as revealed through the Scriptures, and in practical wisdom and insight for any situation, so that they would be able to serve one another in the best possible ways.


III. Integrity


But Paul gives a further purpose even for that. We’ve seen that Paul prays for love, and that that love will be accompanied by discernment, so that they would serve one another with excellence. But the purpose for serving one another in excellence brings us to the third element of Gospel-driven prayer. And that is: integrity. Love accompanied by discernment leads to excellence which results in integrity. Look with me again at verses 9 and 10: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”


This word “sincere” is a fascinating word in the Greek language. It’s a compound word, eilikrineis: from helios, which means “sun,” and krino, which means “to judge.” Literally: “judged by the sun.” Now what sense does that make? Well, in the Roman world one of the largest industries—if not the largest—was the pottery industry. And, just like anything else, the various kinds of pottery differed in quality. The lowest quality pottery was thick, solid, and easy to make. But the finest pottery was thinner and therefore more fragile. Often, when thin pottery was being fired, it would crack in the oven. Now, rather than discard those vessels that were cracked, dishonest merchants would fill the cracks with a hard, pearly wax that would blend in with the color of the pottery when it was painted. In ordinary light, no one could tell the difference. But when you held a piece of pottery up to the sunlight to test it, you would be able to see the imperfection, because the wax appeared darker than the rest of the vessel. Honest merchants would often stamp their products with the Latin term “sine cera,” which means “without wax.” And “sine cera,” is where we get our English word for “sincere.”


And so just as this kind of pottery was “sun-tested”—held up to the sun to reveal cracks or imperfections, Paul prays that the Philippians’ love would abound in real knowledge and discernment, so that they would approve the things that are excellent, so that they would maintain their integrity. He would have them hold their lives up to the sunlight of God’s Word, and examine themselves to see whether they were who they said they were.


What about you? The call to integrity is not a call to perfection. But it is a call to be above legitimate reproach—a call to be open and honest about the sins you do do battle with, and to not hold yourself out to be something you’re not. Are there cracks in your character that you’re making room for? And what sort of wax do you use to fill them in? Church attendance? Going to Bible study? Regular prayer time and Bible reading? Maybe even Bible teaching? Evangelism and other outreach ministries? Maybe just an “Everything’s just fine” Sunday morning façade when there’s really a lot of trouble at home. No amount of religious activity will make up for the lack of integrity. When held up to the light of God’s Word, that wax will be revealed, and will be burned up on that last day with the wood, hay, and stubble.


Along with a sun-tested sincerity, Paul also prays that the Philippians would be “blameless.” This is also an interesting word—not the normal one for “blameless” that you see in chapter 2 verse 15, for example. This word means, “to not cause others to stumble.” It’s used this way in 1 Corinthians 10:32, where Paul says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” And so along with having personal integrity, not lying about their own character, Paul also prays that none of them would be occasion for another’s stumbling.


And he prays this way so that they would be fully prepared for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. Verse 10 says, “…in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.” The preposition that the NAS translates as “until,” can also be translated as “in preparation for,” and is likely the sense here. The purpose of the Philippians’ love abounding in knowledge and discernment, so that they can approve what is excellent, and in approving what is excellent therefore be sincere and blameless—the purpose for all of that, is so that they would be adequately prepared for the day of Christ—the return of the Lord Jesus to receive His saints in the air, to take them to the place He’s prepared for them, and to reward each according to their deeds.


Even to mention the “Day of Christ,” is to graciously evoke thoughts in the Philippians’ minds about their reunion with their Savior. It is this kind of eternal perspective—this faith in the future grace of God—that gives us strength to fight sin today. Doesn’t it? I mean, I don’t know about you, but knowing I’m finally going to win this battle with my flesh, by the grace of God, doesn’t make me want to sit back and relax! As if to say: “Oh I’m going to win anyway, so I’m not going to fight all hard.” No! It makes you fight all the more! Think about any contest you participate in. If you think you might lose the race, then you might lose hope, lay down, and give up. But if you know you’re gaining ground on the other runners as you sprint along the inside on that final stretch, that excites you and empowers you to run all the more earnestly! That’s precisely what the Apostle John says in 1 John, chapter 3 verses 2 and 3: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”


And so Paul prayed for integrity, because he wanted the Philippians to be prepared for that final day to meet the Lord. And in order to be fit for that day, they needed to work out that righteousness in the present day.


IV. Fruitfulness


And that brings us to Paul’s final prayer request. He has prayed for love, he has prayed for discernment, and he has prayed for integrity. The fourth element of Gospel-driven prayer is fruitfulness. Verse 11: “Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”


Commentator Walter Hansen captures the thought well, “Paul prays that on that day, when Christ examines the fruit produced in his vineyard, the church, he will find fruit of pure motives to love and blameless service of love. That kind of fruit is the fruit of righteousness” (64, emphases original).


And this fruitfulness characterizes all true believers in Christ. This is why Paul calls such character the fruit of the Spirit—because the indwelling Spirit of Christ in every believer produces this kind of practical, worked righteousness in disciples of Christ. Of course, we know that such practical righteousness is powerless to earn acceptance with God—that positional righteousness comes through faith Christ alone. But as the theologians have said, though we are saved by faith alone, such faith never is alone. We are not saved by good works, but we were indeed saved unto good works.


People quote Ephesians 2:8–9 all the time. You’ve probably had those two verses memorized since you were in elementary school. But do you remember verse 10? By grace you’re saved through faith; it’s a gift from God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” This is what we were created for! We were given new life to walk in righteousness, to battle the flesh, lay aside the deeds of darkness, and to put on the armor of light (Rom 13:12). This righteousness is not the root of our justification, but it is most certainly, as the text says, the fruit of such righteousness.


And even if we were tempted to take any credit whatsoever for any part of our practical righteousness, Paul is sure to remind us that just like our positional righteousness, our practical righteousness comes through Jesus Christ. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Apart from Him, we can do nothing! It was Christ who died to forgive us our sins. It is His righteousness by which we stand before God. And it is God who works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).


Conclusion: The Glory of God


The conclusion to all of this—the love, which abounds in knowledge and discernment, which results in the kind of integrity that produces fruitfulness—the ultimate purpose of justification and redemption, the supreme objective of sanctification, is that above all things God would be glorified. Verse 11: “Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”


This is where Paul’s ultimate allegiance lies. This is why he got up in the morning. This is why he labored in ministry. This is why he endured an unimaginable amount of suffering. This is why he strove for the holiness of all the churches he had planted. This is why he prayed unceasingly for the Philippian believers. All of those complex relationships in his prayer—that love would abound in real and knowledge and discernment, with the result that they’d approve what was excellent, for the purpose of integrity, which produces the fruit of righteousness—all of those things are motivated and driven by the desire to see God’s glory put on display, and for Him to receive the praise and worship that He is worthy of from His creation.


You say, “How does this all glorify God?” A lot of times we sort of “tack on” that phrase, “all to the glory of God,” because we know it’s the right answer. But there is an amazing amount of comfort and joy to be had in meditating on why and how something glorifies God.


In this case, on that last day when the race is finished and the work is done, when believers are finally made perfect, God will be able to look at this Pure Bride, sanctified and made beautiful as a worthy companion for His beloved Son, and He will be able to bask in the enormity of the work that He’s accomplished! The work of purifying sinners! To become righteous!


And not by sweeping their sin under the rug! Not by turning the other way and merely winking at or overlooking sin! That wouldn’t be making sinners righteous, it would be making God unrighteous! No, God justified and sanctified sinful people by delivering over His perfectly righteous, innocent Son to die as a Substitute—absorbing in Himself all the wrath of God, all the bitterness of hell itself—so that by sovereign grace through merely turning away from yourself and trusting that perfect sacrifice, your sin is counted to be His and His righteousness is counted to be yours! What wisdom! Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom 11:33)! To be able to justify the ungodly, and yet also to remain just (Rom 3:26)!


To take filthy, God-hating, self-loving, slaves to sin, and through no merit of their own conform them to the very image of all the loveliness of Christ Himself! On that great day, God is going to look great! His love, His mercy, His grace, His wisdom, His patience, His forgiveness, and His justice—all of His glory will be displayed for all to see! That is the point of salvation. That is why God has acted salvifically in history: to show Himself off! Ephesians 2:7 – He made us alive “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Titus 2:14 – Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”


Why zealous for good deeds? Because in the day when he transforms the body of our humble state into conformity with His glory, as it says in Philippians 3:21, the purified Bride of Christ will clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, which linen, says Revelation 19:8, is the righteous acts of the saints. We’re zealous for good deeds because we’re going to wear them for all eternity! And ultimately, we’re zealous for good deeds because they’re going to make Christ look great!


Revelation 5:11–14: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever!”


Heaven will never get over the manifold wisdom of purifying sinners to be righteous!


Oh sinner! Why will you still cling to your sin this morning? Why will you cling to death in the hearing of such a glorious Gospel—devised in infinite wisdom from the very throne room of Heaven itself! Life is offered to you, freely, this morning. Turn from the sin you have cherished so deeply all your life. Confess to God that you are powerless to save yourself. Stake all your hope and confidence for righteousness and acceptance with God on this Perfect Substitute. And it will one day be given to you to join with His saints in being dressed in fine linen, bright and clean, and to be reunited with that Savior—with your Creator—for a fellowship that you were created to have and enjoy. Forsake your sin. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!


And dear friends, my fellow saints, let the glory and the joy of that blessed day propel you to abound in love, in discernment, in integrity, and in fruitfulness. May the glory of God Himself cause you to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.