‘And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.’ — Philippians 1:9-10
Do we always ‘approve what is excellent’? Obviously not, but do we realize that our approval of the good is an enemy of the excellent, that approval of the mediocre and the bad maligns Christ and his gospel?
Here Paul writes from a Roman prison to the church at Philippi, which he had not visited in ten years. But he had learned of their situation: internal strife, legalism, careless living. And 1:3-11 he tells them three things: 1) the fact of his prayer; 2) the reason for his prayer; 3) the content of his prayer.
He describes their ‘partnership in the gospel’ and that they were ‘partakers of grace’ both in his imprisonment and the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Simply because they had been saved in Christ, they demonstrated the gospel, and their lives served to confirm (or deny) it. So he prays that their love would abound, with knowledge and discernment. But this was not the result he sought. Discerning love was to produce the ability to ‘approve what is excellent.’ In the midst of their trials, sufferings and difficulties they were nevertheless to approve the things that are excellent. Why? Simply to be good choosers? No, but so that they would be pure and blameless before Christ.
When we claim salvation in Christ, we become partners with every other believer in the gospel and in grace. Your friends are now mine; your enemies are now mine; your cause is now mine. Your success and your failure: now all mine. And, mine is yours. How we live — approving the excellent or the not-so-excellent — reflects on each other, on the gospel, and on Christ.
Paul’s example is to pray, with rejoicing, that our fellow believers would ‘approve what is excellent,’ whether in our personal lives, work, family, or especially church.