St. Paul's Prayer for the Philippians
Philippians 1:9-11
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

These words contain a petition for —



(C. Lawson.)The prayer tells us that love should be —








(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. THE APOSTLE'S ACTION OF PRAYING. The Philippians abounded in love, etc., yet the apostle prayed that they might abound yet more and more. Whence observe —

1. The continual necessity of prayer. Whatsoever graces the Lord hath bestowed on us yet we have still need to pray that we may abound more and more in Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:12). And the reason why we are continually so to pray is plain; for(1) Such is our weakness through sin, that unto whatsoever measure of grace we have attained, yet stand therein we cannot unless God uphold us (Matthew 14:31; Ephesians 6:20).

(2) In whatsoever grace we abound, yet therein we come so short of perfection that we have need to pray that we abound more and more.

(3) This, then, may serve to condemn our great slackness, negligence, coldness, and faintness, both in private and public prayer.

2. Christians are not to stand still, or be content with good beginnings, but to grow (Hebrews 6:1; Philippians 3:12). And how should any man think otherwise, considering what enemies hinder our perfection. These continually bid us such battle, that if either we stand or give back we must generally take the foil.

(1) Many which seemed to have begun in the spirit make an end in the flesh.

(2) Others pause, and, as if they were in danger in every step, move not a foot forward. Nay, not to go forward is to go backward, and not to increase in the graces of God's Spirit is to decrease (Revelation 3:16).

(3) Others are content to make a show of going forward for advantage and gain.


1. That their love to God and one another might abound.

(1) Touching the love of God, how can we love Him enough who so loved us.

(2) Love one of another (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

(3) Love towards poor saints and afflicted members of Christ (2 Corinthians 8; Deuteronomy 15:7-11); which serveth to condemn the cold love of Christians in our days (1 John 4:20).

2. That they may abound more and more in knowledge, viz., of God's will out of His Word (1 Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 6:1). This then may teach us —

(1) To beware of their leaven who would have shut us up in ignorance, on the ground that it is the mother of devotion, and that the Scriptures are hard to be understood, and perilous to read. But what saith the Holy Ghost? (John 5:29; 2 Peter 3:18; Colossians 3:16.)(2) To give diligence unto the reading, hearing, and meditating upon the Scriptures that we may abound in knowledge and understanding. Very lamentable is it to see so many thousands who are as ignorant of God's Word as when they sat in the darkness of Egypt.

3. That they may abound more and more in all judgment, i.e., in sound judgment, that having their wits exercised through long custom, they may discern both good and evil; and abound also in an experience of spiritual things in themselves, that they might spiritually feel in their hearts that which they knew out of the word (Psalm 34:8). This should teach us to so observe the mercies and judgments of the Lord that we may have an experimental knowledge of them (Psalm 34:6).

4. That their "love" might be grounded in sound "knowledge and judgment," that each having help of other, and being furnished by other, they might the better "discern things that differ." Though we have all knowledge and not love we are nothing. So, on the other hand, though we have all love and no knowledge, it is nothing. Which of these soever grows up without other, like Jonah's gourd, will quickly wither. Our care then must be that our love abound in knowledge, that we may know on whom our love ought principally to be set; and in all judgment, that knowing whom we ought to love we may love them as we ought (Galatians 6:10). Otherwise our love may do more harm than good; as zeal without knowledge.


1. That they might discern things that differ one from another, virtue and vice, false and true prophets, corrupt and uncorrupt doctrine, and so might follow the good and fly the bad (Romans 2:18). Very justly, then, are they to be reproved that in seeking after knowledge even out of the Scriptures propose any other end.

(1) Such are they that, seeing the Church to lean on the Scriptures, do by their corruptions of the text, their false glosses and conclusions, labour to overthrow the truth and to build their own errors.

(2) Others there are whose end is only a vain ostentation, that men may think and speak of them as great rabbins (1 Corinthians 8:1). The end of others is information, so that they may not appear ignorant, but who show no fruits of their knowledge in a godly life.

2. That they might be pure from any leaven of corruption in doctrine, life, or manners as white wool never dyed, fine flour never leavened. For it is not enough to know the difference between purity and impurity (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Matthew 16:12; 1 Timothy 5:22).

3. That they might not stumble, but hold on a constant course without falling, slipping back, or standing at a stay (Galatians 3:3; Luke 9:62).

4. That they might be fruitful in all good works.

(1)  The measure of good works — "filled;" pressed down, shaken together.

(2)  The definition of good works — "fruits of righteousness."

(3)  Their fountain "Jesus Christ."

(4)  Their end — "the glory and praise of God."


1. We are not only to do the things that are good, but to abound in them (Colossians 1:9-10; John 15:5-8; Acts 9:36). Why?

(1)  That we may please God (Colossians 1:10).

(2)  That we may glorify the Father (John 15:8).

(3)  That we may abide in Christ, and Christ in us (John 15:5).

2. Let this stir us up and forward to every good work.

(H. Airay, D. D.)


1. This love is not that specially which was cherished towards the apostle. From his point of view that was already much more than he had looked for. Nor is it brotherly love, or love to all men, or love towards God and Christ, or loving activity in Christian service. It is rather love in the absolute sense of the term — the inward state of the heart, which is also the motive power of the life.

2. It is no mere rhetorical accident which makes this grace the very essence of the renewed life. It is the life of the believer's soul, and the soul of his life. It is with conscious design, therefore, and perfect propriety, that he who penned 1 Corinthians 13 should here specify love as the distinctive mark of the life hid with Christ in God.

3. This love, although the bond of perfectness, is itself never perfect on earth. Here there must be a persistent going on to perfection. The manifold outgoings of love need direction and control.

(1) It cannot live forever in a cell, apart from thought (Proverbs 1:4). We are therefore taught that the love of the renewed heart must live in the sphere of increasing spiritual knowledge.

(a)  Of Christ — a clear perception of the Saviour's person, character, and work, accompanied by a heart interest therein.

(b)  Of the deep things of God.

(2) This abounding of love in knowledge is, consequently, also an abounding in all discernment, in every moral sense or feeling which almost intuitively perceives what is right, and almost unconsciously shrinks from what is wrong. It is spiritual discrimination, moral tact.

4. The function of love thus regulated is to approve the things that are excellent. Love has to prove and so approve things that differ (marg.) in being better. What are those excellent things? See Philippians 4:8-9.

5. A practical and much needed lesson lies in this. Love may set on foot many schemes of usefulness, and yet the issue may be failure, because the abounding love has not been in knowledge and discernment. It can never be right to cultivate one central grace to the neglect of the others.


1. "Sincere," i.e., spotless, pure, clear. Some see here a military figure, the result of dividing an army into several sections, so as to separate the more hardy and valiant, as Gideon set apart his three hundred. According to this the word means selected and so excellent. Others see an agricultural figure. Select, pure as corn that is purged by the winnowing fan or threshing roller. But the view that it means tested or judged by the sunbeam is the most probable. Christ's people as here depicted, therefore, are like the gem held up to the sunlight, and found to be without a flaw; walking in the light of truth, and the white radiance of eternity.

2. It follows that they become in relation to others "void of offence," giving no occasion for stumbling. A Christian who is consistent in his own character is also inoffensive in his conduct. His unconscious example, as well as words and deeds, is a power only for good.

3. This he does unto the day of Christ.

(J. Hutchinson, D. D.)In one word the apostle prayed that the Philippians might grow. Moral dwarfs never pray that others may become moral giants. A man cannot transcend himself. Only the firmament can embrace the stars. The apostle prays —

I. THAT LOVE MAY ABOUND IN MORAL TACT. True love is intelligent. We are to love God with "all our mind." As knowledge is the basis of faith, so is it the first condition of love.

II. FOR AN ENLARGEMENT AND QUICKENING OF THE DISCRIMINATING FACULTY, that they might distinguish between things that differ, that so they might elect the right. A man is known by his verdicts. The artist sees where the clown but looks. The more we love Christ the more shall we be qualified to perceive every charm in moral life. He who approves the excellent will defend it.

III. FOR THEIR SINCERITY. The word has a double meaning.

1. In the Greek it signifies that which is proved in the sunlight. Christians are to be so true that the solar light of infinite rectitude cannot find any stain or derangement in their character.

2. In the Latin it means "without wax;" clarified honey, free from all admixture. The Christian life is to be so refined as to be thoroughly free from foreign elements.

IV. "BEING FILLED," etc. (ver. 11). Paul, beginning at the centre, finds his way to the circumference; beginning with the spiritual, he culminates in the practical (John 15:1-5). See the connection between Christ and fruit. This call to practical life shows that Christianity is not a mocking pretence, a theological dream, or a speculative science, but a sublime, vital, and vitalizing reality. The doctrines acknowledged in this prayer are —

1. That Christian life is progressive.

2. That God is ready to cooperate with His people for their moral enrichment.

3. That the entire manhood is to bear fruit.

(J. Parker, D. D.)Let it be your earnest concern and prayer —


1. The love you should aspire after is Christian love.

(1) Such as proceeds from faith (Galatians 5:6).

(2) Which has for its objects God and Christ, His cause, truths, ordinances, servants, and your fellow creatures.

(3) This is the fulfilling of the law, and inspires the soul with a cheerful disposition for and activity in keeping God's commandments (Romans 13:10; 1 John 5:3).

2. Your being Church members supposes that you are already partakers of this love in some prevailing degree, as Paul inferred in this case. Persons lacking this ought not to be Church members; for love is the great band of union and communion.

3. The prayer intimates that it is not perfect, but that you ought to seek further progress in it.

(1) There may be something lacking with respect to its disinterestedness, impartiality, and spirituality; or in respect to some instances and exercises of it; or in respect of its constancy, and the degrees of its fervour and activity.

(2) Keep before you a humbling sense of defect, and be earnest with God to invigorate and develope it.

4. The text suggests that it should be a judicious love. Light should kindle all your warmth. Without knowledge and judgment your love will be like a land flood, that overfloweth with a rapid stream, but hath no springs to maintain it, or banks to conduct it to a regular course. Take heed of an ignorant, ungovernable, and misjudged love of you know not what, or why.

II. THAT YE MAY APPROVE, etc. (ver. 10). We are to prove all things by the unerring touchstone of God's Word, and by a spiritual taste according to it. The more acquaintance we have with the things of God the better they recommend themselves to us (Psalm 34:8; 1 Peter 2:2-3).

III. THAT YE MAY BE SINCERE, etc. (ver. 10). Some understand "sincere" as referring to God, and "without offence" as referring to man. But why should not each refer to both?

1. Sincerity is not so much a distinct grace as an essential quality running through all our graces and duties, distinguishing them from false appearances in their exercise towards God and man.

2. "Without offence" (Acts 24:16).

IV. "THAT YE MAY BE FILLED," etc. (ver. 11).

1. The nature of a man must be changed in its moral frame by regenerating grace before he can bear fruits of righteousness.

2. They are by Jesus Christ —

(1)  As all virtue for producing them is derived from Him (John 15:5).

(2)  As all their acceptance with God is through Him (1 Peter 2:5).

(3)  As the revenue of glory which arises from them passes to God through Him (1 Peter 4:11).

(J. Guyse, D. D.)

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;

Regulated Love
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