And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
The "day" governs the whole petition. Let us mark the ascending order and cumulative force of the supplications —
1. For the steady increase of their love in the knowledge of truth and in the moral tact of its appreciation;
2. For their perfection internal and external of moral character; and —
3. For their final acceptance thus perfected in the testing day of Christ.
I. THE REGULATING PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. The Philippians had been already taught of God to love Himself and one another. The apostle now prays for its abundant increase, not by arbitrary and absolute effusion into their hearts, but as the result of being fed by Divine truth and diligently practised.
2. "Knowledge" is the apprehension or arrangement of truth in the mind, but spiritual knowledge, partly as being bound up with our spiritual nature and needs, and chiefly as being imparted by the Holy Ghost.
(1) As love enlarges and strengthens the power of attaining religious knowledge, so increasing knowledge feeds love in return.
(2) All knowledge is summed up in knowing Christ. All truth is now "as the truth is in Jesus."
3. Judgment is the faculty of spiritual discernment: that moral sensitiveness of the renewed mind which is quick to perceive the good and evil in every doctrine, practice, and contingency of daily life (Hebrews 5:14). As knowledge is truth stored up in the mind, so judgment is the mind itself applying that knowledge to the endless occasions which arise for distinguishing between what should be sought and what shunned.
4. The approval of things that are excellent is the operation of this knowledge and discrimination in the mind itself — the precious insight of love which, using its knowledge and its tact, distinguishes in every case what is more excellent and at once approves of it. It is the inward legislator that often tells us what is the commandment where outward legislation fails. The praise of charity in 1 Corinthians 13 is little more than the praise of its marvellous discrimination. Almost all that can look like, without being, religion is there condemned by the judge among the graces.
II. From the regulating principle the prayer now passes to THE PERFECT CHARACTER, as established in the world, under the guidance and control of enlightened love. Paul exhibits the whole compass of godliness under two aspects, inward and outward — first in their separation and then in their union.
1. Sincere signifies that flawless simplicity of heart which is able to endure every test. The last and most perfect test is the eye of God. What the sun is in nature the Great Detector is in religious life. Those whom God sees thus pure in heart have it as the reward of their purity that they see God. This sacred simplicity is a pearl of great price. Hence it is made a matter of prayer; such cleanness is the express creation of God; but not so as to exclude the consecration of our own effort and habitual watchfulness.
2. "Without offence." The prayer asks for preservation through the blessing of God on the wise solicitude of charity, from doing anything that should hinder the salvation of any one. The Christian's thoughtful charity must show its tact in this that his conduct shall at once rebuke the sin of others, and direct them to the beauty of holiness.
3. When the prayer proceeds to the "fruit of righteousness" it completes the picture of this perfection, at the same time that it explains more fully the meaning of "sincere and without offence."(1) Righteousness is neither that imputed nor that implanted alone, but that which comes through our union with Christ and unites in fruit.
(2) The fruit or produce of the new method of making us right in Christ is the entire compass of godliness in all its tempers and acts.
(3) "Pilled," sounds out clearly the note of Christian perfection attainable because prayed for, prayed for because attainable. It leaves no room for the notion of any necessary defect in the religious life.
III. We must go back to that central word, "THE DAY OF CHRIST," which COMPLETES THE MEANING OF THE PRAYER. Jesus the Judge will in that day acknowledge the purity which He now approves, and confirm and reward the righteousness He now creates. Christian integrity, sealed in one sense by death, is to be reexamined, and finally, with the whole universe as witness, ratified in the great day. Conclusion: Those who are tempted by their creed or indolence to rely on the supposed necessity that a salvation once begun must be finally accomplished are reminded by the tone and words of the prayer that without their inward and outward holiness that blessed issue shall not be attained.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;