The Things that Excel
Philippians 1:9, 10
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

St. Paul prays that his readers may have that finer spiritual perception (aisthesis) which is produced by an increase of love in order that they may discern the greater worth of those good things which differ from other good things in being more excellent. The high endowment would not be necessary for the discrimination of the coarser contrasts of good and evil, light and darkness, etc. It is plain, therefore, that different shades of goodness, gradations of worthiness, successive ranks of spiritual merit, are what the apostle desires us to be able to appreciate.

I. GOOD THINGS STAND IN DIFFERENT RANKS OF EXCELLENCY, In nature some things are better than others, being more beautiful, or more delicately organized, or capable of serving higher ends. When God created the world he saw that everything was good; yet the dog is superior to the worm, and man to the dog. In spiritual things differences exist even among things wholly good in themselves.

1. In the being of God. If we may dare to compare mysteries so high and sacred as the attributes of God, we may see how they range themselves in rank and order - all glorious, yet mounting one above another to the supernal height of glory. To the Mohammedan, God is chiefly known as Almighty; the Alexandrian Jew thought most of his wisdom; the prophets of the Old Testament upheld his awful righteousness; Christians see him chiefly as One whose name is Love. Now, omnipotence is good, and supreme wisdom is better, and the moral excellence of righteousness is better still; but love is best of all.

2. In the blessings of the gospel. Christ healed sick bodies, and some poor folk were content with that blessing; but he also healed sick souls, and this was a higher blessing. The gospel delivers us from the doom of guilt; but it also saves the soul from its own internal corruption, which is a greater good. It offers peace and comfort; but it also inspires patience in suffering and faithfulness in toil, and these are better things.

3. In our own religious aims. To be saved is good; to glorify God is better. It is well to seek the purest blessings for ourselves; it is better to deny ourselves in love to God and man, etc.

4. In prayer. Good earthly gifts may be sought; spiritual graces are more desirable. But the highest prayer will be for reconciliation with the will of God.

5. In the Bible. It is foolish to read the Bible straight through indis-criminatingly. All of it is not of equal value. We should discover and use most the best parts.

6. In literature, society, and innocent human affairs.

7. In the use of our time, money, etc. We may be doing no harm; but are we making the best possible use of these things?

II. THE SUPERIOR EXCELLENCE OF THE BETTER THINGS CAN ONLY BE DISCERNED BY THAT FINER SPIRITUAL SENSE WHICH COMES WITH AN INCREASE OF LOVE. It is not that they are artificially hidden. Christianity knows of no esoteric doctrines jealously guarded from the uninitiated. It is that we have not the faculty to discern them.

1. Though we may see at once the general characteristic differences, we need spiritual insight for the application of them to particular cases.

2. Though we may know the difference of value intellectually, we cannot at first realize it in feeling and life. If while a man knows that Beethoven's sonatas are infinitely superior to street songs, he still prefers the latter, to him, practically, these are the better. He must have higher musical gifts or training to appreciate the good music. In like manner we need spiritual training for the discerning of the best spiritual things. This training is not intellectual. It is the growth of love. For love is the eye of the soul. Love of God will help us to understand him. Love of Christ will explain to us the true worth of the gospel. Love of men will help us to appreciate the best pursuits in life. Love of heavenly things will enable us to seek the best of them. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

WEB: This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;

The Recorded Prayers of St. Paul
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