We are continuing a series which will take some time, so please be patient as we work our way through this letter that Paul wrote to this church which was really the only one to support him in every possible way from its birth.
One thing we need to remember about these Philippian believers was they were coming from a whole different belief system. They might have heard something about the “God of the Jews.” They were OK with that. They tolerated people who had some kind of religion just so long as you understood that you can have your gods—or Gods—you can have your god, but Caesar est dominus—Caesar is lord. The difference between a god and a lord is this: men sought the help of “the gods.” But they worshipped their lord. Much like what is going on in China these days. In China, you can go to church—just so long as it is a “church” that is approved by the Chinese government—just so long as you remember that the government is in control. Bet ya didn’t hear about during the Olympics did you? Panem et circenses—“Bread and games!!” It is amazing—and scary—how much the society we live in now is almost exactly like what they had in Rome.
So the task that Paul had in building up and leading this church was much harder than what it was in any of the other churches he planted. In most cities there were usually at least some Jews—at least enough to constitute a synagogue—so there was at least a small base Paul could build on, and he could train one or two men to lead a church there and guide it according to the Scriptures. But these Philippians were having to learn a whole new system of believing. It would be much like leading a Mormon out of the LDS system today. They grow up thinking that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is “Another testament of Jesus Christ,” that they will be a “God” one day. They grow up believing these things all their lives and then one day they learn the truth, they realize they have been not so much lied to, but rather deceived by men who are likewise deceived.
It takes a while to weed out those old beliefs. It must have taken some time to weed out the false beliefs of the Philippians. Now, it says at the end of Acts 16 that the very next day after the jailer took Paul and Timothy to his house, the magistrates told them to get out of the city. Not a lot of time to build relationships, and disciple any of these new believers.
There is an implication that Luke stayed behind after Paul and Timothy left. We can assume this since we are not using it to build a doctrine. Luke would have been a very good candidate to do this, since he was a Gentile, like the people of Philippi. Who better to teach Gentiles about Christ than another Gentile? He was a physician, so he was pretty bright, a quality that was highly regarded in Roman culture. So there’s a little more background on this book, and we will now pick up where we left off last time.
Philippians 1:9-11—9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Last time we talked about how our love is to abound still more and more. I was digging around in a couple books and I found something. That word “abound” means “to have in excess.” But it actually means more than that. The word literally means “to superabound.” Whenever you see the word “abound” or “abundantly,” it’s all from the same word. And it means the same thing—to “superabound.” What kind of life did Jesus come to bring? “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Ephesians 3:20-21—Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. When Jesus fed the 5000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread, was there any left over? Matthew 14:20—So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. That word “remained” means the same thing as “abounded.” They took up twelve baskets from the fragments that were superabundant. The love we are to have for one another—our tank should never be running on fumes. It should be sloshing over sides. Is it hard? Yeah. Can we do it on our own? It is a love that can only come from Christ.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment. Is it easy for a new Christian to be fooled? (Raises arms, points to self). When I first came to Christ, I thought these guys on TV that have the big crowds, I thought, “Man, these guys must know what they're talking about!” I thought TD Jakes was “The Man.” Until I learned a little bit more about the man. How he denies that Jesus is God. I came to realize that the reason these men—and women, and that’s another issue—the reason they had these big crowds was because they were saying what people wanted to hear. People don’t always like to hear the truth. Isaiah 30:8-11—8 “Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD; 10 who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. 11 Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.’”
That’s the mindset of those who follow the prosperity preachers. I'll tell you what, you want to see someone get angry, try telling them that Jesse Duplantis and Creflo Dollar and Jan and Paul Crouch are teaching things that aren't biblical. “You're being a Pharisee! You're putting God in a box!” And it’s not just the prosperity preachers, either. You can go into a lot of gatherings—places that call themselves a church—and if you try and say that the fellow doing the speaking—or the woman, whole 'nother issue—that what they're saying isn't biblical—“You're a fundamentalist! You're this and you're that!” People today do not want to know what the word of God really says. Just like the people Isaiah wrote to. “Don’t tell us the truth! Just tell us what we want to hear! Let us worship a ‘God’ that makes us comfortable! Let’s just all get along in the name of unity!”
Know what God says to people like that? Isaiah 30:12-14—12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: “Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perversity, and rely on them, 13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach ready to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. 14 And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel, which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water from the cistern.” Know what that means? Go buy a little clay flower pot at WalMart. Set it on a table. Then grab a baseball bat and go all Ryan Howard on it. Swing for the bleachers. That’s what God does to those who pervert His word. The apostle Paul did not want to see that happen to this church he so dearly loved. So he tells them, “Love one another. But not with some mushy-squishy kind of love that turns a blind eye to the truth." The love that we are to have for one another should make us want to warn our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are going down the wrong path. To not just say, “Well, I know that Bobby Joe isn't living right. But it’s not up to me to judge him.”
If there is one verse—other than John 3:16—that an unsaved person, a person who wants nothing to do with God—and you know, I'll tell you what, there are people who out-and-out hate God, who will flat-out admit they hate God—who can quote more Scripture than a lot of people in church. And if there is one verse they know, it’s Matthew 7:1 (KJV)—“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” We’re going to look at that verse some week, but not today. That does not mean what they want it to mean. They think it means “It’s not up to you to decide what’s right and wrong!” No, it’s not up to us to decide what’s right and wrong. That’s for God to say, to tell us so we can tell others. And that is what Paul is saying here. We are to judge things. We are to judge actions. We can't judge the person—but we can judge their actions, their lifestyles.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment. Knowledge and discernment. Knowledge—“Precise and correct knowledge; the knowledge of things ethical and divine.” We are to love one another, keeping in mind the knowledge of those things that are pleasing to God, and doing them. While at the same time remembering those things that God calls “sin” and avoiding them. Because who is the first person we are supposed to love? Contrary to the words of that old song, “The greatest love of all” is NOT loving yourself. THE GREATEST love of all is loving the LORD our God. Romans 10:1-3—1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. The people of Israel wanted to know God—but in a way that pleased them. Much like what we see today. People create a “God” they are comfortable with, and they worship that. They want to know God, but not according to the truth of God. Knowledge.
Discernment—“The understanding of ethical matters.” You know what God’s word says, but do you know what it means? Discernment can also mean this: There are things that the Bible is not explicit about. There were things that Jesus did not talk about. There are billboards that say, “What Jesus had to say about homosexuality:” And there is a big blank line. Did Jesus say anything about homosexuality? Not specifically. But He did have a few things to say about sin, and homosexuality is a sin. But the person who does not have the ability—or, let’s face it, desire—to understand the things of God, they see that billboard and say, “Oh yeah! Jesus never did say anything about homosexuality! Or abortion! Or…” Or bestiality for that matter. But I can find several verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality as a sin. But the homosexual doesn’t want to hear them. Or if they do hear it, they make an excuse.
Romans 1 says 21 although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…they became foolish in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…27 Likewise also the men…burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…28 they did not like to retain God in their knowledge…29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, etc etc. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about homosexuality. Knowledge and discernment. Seek them.
…that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ… That word “approve”—literally, it means “discern.” Hold that thought because that word is going to come up in a minute. Literally, distinguish (discern) between things that differ. This phrase refers to distinguishing between real versus counterfeit coins. If I handed you something that looked like a real $20 bill, you might accept it. Then you take it to Kroger’s, try to spend it at the cash register, the cashier takes out her little marker—and determines that you have a fake $20 bill. But, if I hand you that same piece of paper, then I hand you a real $20 bill, and you examine both of them closely enough, you will realize the first one is a fake. If you examine enough real $20 bills, it becomes easy after a while to spot the phoneys. That’s what Paul is telling us to do here.
Abound in love with knowledge and discernment so that by studying the truth over and over again, you can spot the lie from a mile away. So that by committing to your heart the passages that say Jesus is God, then when that Jehovah's Witness knocks on your door, and reads you the phony New World Translation, and tries to tell you Jesus was nothing more than a glorified angel, you can show him why he’s wrong. You don’t have to spend years studying Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs—if you study the TRUE word of God, you can show them why they’re wrong, and lead them to the truth. Jesus said in Luke 12:56-57, “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret”— same word Paul uses that is translated “approve”—“You know how to interpret [discern, distinguish] the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret [discern, distinguish] the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right”—“righteous, observing divine laws; upright, virtuous, keeping the commands of God.” Jesus is telling the Pharisees to know and understand what God considers to be righteous. And He is telling us the same thing. Discern between the truth and that which is not true.
…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ… Know what that word sincere means? It comes from two Latin words. “Sine [SIN-eh]” which means “without” and “cera [sayr-ah]” which meant “wax.” It literally means “without wax.” There’s a story as to how it came about. In the days when the New Testament was being written, people who sold clay pots would cover any cracks in the clay with wax. You couldn’t see the cracks just by looking at the pot. You would have to hold it up to the light. The Greek word Paul uses means almost the same thing—“found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light.” That’s what our lives should be like. We may look good when compared to someone else—but od does not judge us according to other people. The real question is, how do we look when we are compared to Christ? Do we have cracks that we have been covering up? Or have we received the righteousness of Christ? So that on that day, we will be found to be without wax, and without offense.
…being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. There are people who will stand before God, and have baskets overflowing with the fruits of their own labor. And they think that by doing all these good deeds that God will smile and nod and look past their sins—because, you know, they have done so much for Him. And there will be people who will stand before God with one little apple—one little good work they did in the name of Jesus. They will stand there, knowing they're not worthy to be in His presence. Knowing that they wouldn’t even have that little apple if it weren’t for Christ. Which one do you think will see His kingdom? The fruits of righteousness are by Christ. Period.
Anything anybody does to pay off any part of their debt on their own, thinking they can add to the work that Jesus did. Or thinking that what they do is better than what Jesus did. That passage from Romans 10 that I read a moment ago—those who are ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. It is God who begins the good work. It is God who sees it through to completion. He gives us the righteousness of Christ. We have no righteousness of our own. The fruits of righteousness by Christ Jesus are produced when we judge things righteously, when we discern what is good and approve those things. Don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so long as you believe something. Muslims believe something. Even the atheist believes something. May our love abound in true knowledge and discernment.