Nuggets of Gold: Philippians 1:9-11


devotion

Editor’s Note: This entry is part of an occasional series Nuggets of Gold: Deeper Theological Truths.

Paul’s Hope for the Believers and the Means of Their Achieving It

Paul had already told the Philippian believers that he prayed for them, and that when he did so, he always thanked God for them and their fellowship with him in the gospel.  He also told them of his confidence in their continued growth and work in Christ, but he also knew all too well that their growth and usability was not something established by a passive relationship to the things of God.  He wanted them to know the grace and peace and incomprehensible value of walking in Christ, but he knew that these things did not come to those who passively waited on God to bestow them.

The Philippian believers needed to know that the Creator had designed His system to provide knowledge and understanding to those who would seek it.[1]  They also needed to know that the Creator’s system required an ever-increasing, incremental knowledge and understanding of Him, in order to walk with Him accurately and experience all that He had designed to comprise such a walk.[2]  They needed to see the proper correlation between the knowledge of God and the walk of a believer . . . not only that the two were linked, but that they were inseparably linked by the person of God Himself.  Thus, just as the LORD Jesus Christ Himself instructed men to involve themselves in actively “learning” of Him,[3] believers needed to recognize that they could not be or remain pleasing to God if they were passive in their relationship to His revelation.  His revelation was His perfect, totally consistent expression of His Person and His design for all He had created; to be passive to His revelation was to be passive to Him.  Paul knew this, as did the Apostle Peter,[4] and he wanted the Philippians to know it so they could be and become all that Christ would have them to be.  This was the heart behind the prayer, and this was the heart that expressed the purpose behind the prayer, and thus, its content.

Paul was continually (present tense) “praying this” for them.  The word “this,” touto, is emphatic, focusing the mind of his readers on what was to come, but he did not simply state the content of his prayer.  If he had intended to do so, he would more likely have introduced that content with a different subordinate conjunction, “because,” oti, instead of “in order that,” ina, as found here.  While either could have been used as “that” to introduce the noun clause functioning here as an appositive to “this,” the two were not interchangeable.  Each conjunction carried with it some measure of its basic meaning, and Paul used “in order that, that” to identify the content of his prayer as also indicating the purpose behind it.  His prayer had an “intended result” behind it, a condition he hoped would come into existence among the Philippians because he was making known to them his desire for them in terms that would instruct them in the means for reaching that condition.

Without question, Paul knew the tendency of man to “pray” prayers of content, vocalizing a string of religious-sounding words, but words which bore no real purpose, because they were “prayed” for the ears and understanding of men and not for accord with God and His perfect design.  The Apostle, however, prayed as God would have men pray; he prayed in accord with the revealed will of the Creator and he prayed for those things to come into existence that would demonstrate the incomprehensible value, the “glory,” of the One who made all things.  The design, the will, of the LORD God was the driving force in his heart, and this gave him a singular purpose, a purpose manifested in every aspect of his existence, not the least of which was his communication with God.  Paul could not pray without purpose, and knowing the will of God, he never had multiple purposes; only one purpose existed for him.

Paul’s design, his purpose, the same as that of the Creator, was to reveal the Creator as the Creator had revealed Himself and to help men see their true relationship, or lack thereof, in such a way that would move them into a walk with Him, a walk which was in full accord with who He was and who they were.  Stated differently, Paul purposed for every man to live in a manner that accurately reflected the person of God, and though the words of his prayers might vary as he thought of various aspects of a proper walk with God, this was the foundation upon which his every prayer rested.  Truly, such a walk necessitated reconciliation as the first step, but it necessitated as well a walk worthy of the God who designed the walk, because the criteria of the design, like the One who revealed them, had existed in Him as expressions of His person before “the foundation of the world.”


[1] Jeremiah 29:13; Proverbs 2:1-5.

[2] Jeremiah 9:23-24; Hosea 4:6.

[3] Matthew 11:29.  The verb “learn” is in the active voice, thus indicating that God has designed men to actively pursue the knowledge and understanding He has made available through His revelation of Himself.  To fail to actively involve oneself in doing this is to do as Adam did . . . to presume to have more, or more perfect, knowledge than the Creator, or to usurp the authority to decide for himself, an authority never delegated to him.

[4] 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2.  In both texts, Peter used the optative mood “be multiplied” to express his wish, his desire, for those to whom he wrote, but as he wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit, this was also the wish, the desire, of God for all believers everywhere, and that desire was for believers to have a “full knowledge” of Him and all that He has provided.

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