And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Such passages as these have a peculiar value for serious Christians; for one of the great questions of Christian life is, What is it best to pray for? Here Paul gives us a regulating principle for many of our own most earnest prayers.
I. We see what St. Paul takes for granted as THE UNDERLYING SUBSTANCE, THE RAW MATERIAL OF THE DIVINE LIFE OF THE SOUL OF MAN — "Love."
1. He does not pray that their knowledge may abound more and more in love. Whenever knowledge and love are put in competition, the precedence is always given to love. As compared with knowledge love is intrinsically stronger, and worth more practically. To be knit to God by love is better than to speculate about Him. To enwrap other men in the flame of a passionate enthusiasm is better than to analyze rival systems of ethical, social, or political truth.
2. A personal affection for Jesus our Lord is the first step, the fundamental thing in real Christianity. What is it that provokes love?
(1) Beauty, and our Lord's moral beauty acts upon the affections of a true soul just as the sun acts upon the petals of an unopened bud.
(2) One specific kind of moral beauty — generosity. The generosity of Jesus in giving Himself to die for us appeals even more powerfully than the faultless beauty of His character. "The love of Christ constraineth us."(3) It is a distinct endowment, an infused grace, shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.
3. To love Christ is to love(1) God; for God in Him is made apprehendible and approachable.
(2) Man, in Him the representative.
(3) Thus love to the Saviour is the common source of all that is not spiritual in religion, and most fruitful and creative in philanthropy.
II. St. Paul would have this love ABOUND MORE AND MORE IN KNOWLEDGE — ἐπιγνωσις — the higher knowledge.
1. There is a period in the growth of love when such knowledge is imperatively required. In its earliest stages the loving soul lives only in the warmth and light of its object. It asks no questions; it only loves. But from the nature of the case this period comes to an end, not because love grows cold but because it becomes more exacting. It cannot live apart from thought, and sooner or later must come to an understanding with it. It must know something accurately about its object, and begins to ask questions which must be wisely and truly answered, or in its deep disappointment it will sicken and die.
2. How repeatedly this truth is realized in the case of the sons of deeply religious people, and in people who have been deeply religious themselves, but have passed from fervent love to deep despair, because its training in knowledge has been neglected.
3. This law will explain what happened in the Early Church. At first love reigned alone, unenquiring, ecstatic. But when the Gentiles pressed into the fold questions could not be but asked. And so in God's providence love had to, and did, grow more and more in knowledge. Each of the four groups of St. Paul's Epistles marks a distinct stage in the doctrinal insight of the Church. Each of the great Alexandrian teachers, Clement, , Dionysius, , and Cyril poured a flood of light upon the Christian conscience. The Church passed from the agonies of the Coliseum and the catacombs to define, and to recognize before she defined, the unchanging faith at Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.
4. What has been said applies to education. This must begin with the heart. Until a pupil's affections are won, the true groundwork of the process is not mastered. The repression of love will assuredly, sooner or later, avenge itself. Witness the case of J.S. Mill.
Parallel VersesKJV: And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;