Written by Paul J Bucknell on March, 14, 2023
Philippians 1:9-11 Christ’s Love in Us
“9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11, NASB)
Christ’s Love in Us is an expository sermon on Philippians 1:9-11 that shows how Christ’s life manifests itself in our lives through brotherly love and how to lovingly resolve difficult decisions.
Discover the Discipleship Connection
Christians around the world need clarity on discipleship. There is such a strong emphasis on getting people into the kingdom of God—which there should be, that we neglect what is supposed to happen afterward.
Christians need help taking the abstract instruction to love and planting it in their lives. Consider for a moment your circumstances. How does Christ’s love influence your responses, attitudes, thoughts, and ideas? How do we increase love’s influence?
John 14:6 reads, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus is the Way to find peace with God, but the Christian life is more thanking born into God’s family—this is just the beginning.
Philippians 1:6 identifies the beginning of our Christian lives and links it with what needs to follow. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). The “began a good work” refers to our salvation (justification), being reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ. But there is also the “will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (sanctification). This is the discipleship connection.
Let me present this from another angle.
Discipleship, the maturing of the Christian life, occurs because of what goes on in the background. (Discipleship also describes how one person mentors another, helping them in this growing process.) There are two immediate elements. Through faith in Christ we gain Christ’s life and love, and then, Christ lives in His people through His Spirit, the latter clearly stated by Paul.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).
Christians have difficulty trying to understand what this looks like practically.
A Brief Survey of Philippians
Rejoicing in the Lord is a common theme throughout Philippians. This joy in the Lord is built on trusting the sovereign control of the Lord. But when we look closely at the first two chapters, we also see Christ’s love in the first two chapters. He gives us six pictures of Christ’s love.
- 1:7-11 Paul reveals his love for the Christians at Philippi. Note that our passage is part of this section.
- 1:12-30 Paul persists in his love in the unpleasant circumstances of imprisonment and testing by how others use him to their advantage.
- 2:1-4 Paul likewise calls the Philippians to live out the life of Christ. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:5).
- 2:5-11 Christ’s example of selfless giving on the cross.
- 2:19-24 The example of Timothy.
- 2:25-30 The example of Epaphroditus.
More than attending worship service
Church attendance and giving tithes are essential events for our Christian lives, but we are greatly mistaken if we define our Christian lives this way. Renewal takes place when we identify and work with inner spiritual changes. Let’s look at our text, Philippians 1:9-11, depicting Christ’s life actively at work in us.
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 NASB).
I initially saw this as six elements of Christ’s love. Instead, I have condensed this into two points: “Our Goal of Life” (vs.9,11) and “Our Manner of Love” (vs.9-10).
(1) Love’s purpose (1:9a): “I pray”: God’s purpose for us (1:9)
(2) Love’s growth (1:9b): “Love may abound”: The reorientation of our lives (1:9)
(3) Love’s development (1:9c): “In real knowledge and all discernment”: The process of love’s development.
(4) Love’s trust (1:10): “Things that are excellent”: God’s supreme way leads to confidence (1:10)
(5) Love’s goal (1:10): “sincere and blameless”: God’s goal for us (1:10)
(6) Love’s highest delight (1:11): “to the glory and praise of God” (1:11)
“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)
A. Our Goal of Life (Phil 1:9a,11)
We seek to increasingly manifest Christ’s life to God’s glory.
(1) Prayer’s Goal (1:9a)
Paul tells them how he prays for them, “I pray” (1:9a). This displays his overall goal for their lives. Any pastor, father, mother, boss, politician, etc., should pray as Paul does. Salvation doesn’t end with our coming to know God but continues to be displayed by living out Christ’s life.
God does not evaluate our lives by how much we have, our position, or our accomplishments—but by how we have shown love for others. Because of this, our prayers focus on how we can deepen our sensitivity to Christ’s love and pray that others’ love might flare up. This becomes the chief goal for our lives and those around us because it leads to everyone’s greatest good.
(2) Our Goal (1:11)
The purpose of this prayer is seen in its final goal (verse 11). He tells us where he hopes his prayers will bring the Philippian believers and all believers. It’s mystical and splendid.
“Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11).
Three parts here to this compact verse.
Christ’s life => filled with fruit => glory and praise to God
Christ’s life: This truth doesn’t start with the fruit but with Christ’s life—“Which comes through Jesus Christ.” This is Christ’s life manifesting itself in us. Christ continues His work by His Spirit working in us. We more commonly understand this as the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
Filled with fruit: Some believers focus on sin-infested lives. We are sinners (Romans 3), but that is like driving by looking out our review mirror! We will never get to where God wants us to be. The goal of being “Filled with the fruit of righteousness” is our target. In Philippians 3, Paul is preoccupied with running a race. If you keep looking back, you will lose.
But let me summarize how this works. Justification is a complete admission of our sin, the unworthiness of God’s grace, and admitting how we deserve God’s judgment and eternal punishment. Still, through our faith in Christ and His work on the cross, we find forgiveness, restoration, and glorification. Remaining in Christ, which is forever, becomes a foundation for our lives. Christ has greater purposes for us.
We never forget His love for us and need to get on with His grand purpose—sanctification, where Christ calls us to Himself and so intimately and actively works in the believer to live out His life in us. Christ’s love through the Spirit of Christ living in the believer shapes our new life’s purpose.
Glory and praise to God: But back to our purpose and goal. All these things are like a crescendo working toward their rightful end “to the glory and praise of God.” Our salvation begins with God’s purpose and ends with His glory. We might play a small, tiny role in this grand cosmic universe and scheme of things, yet it remains significant. We have our voice, our life, and our exhilaration—all to contribute to God’s praise.
Our purpose never ends with ourselves, even if it includes acts of love. They are lovely, but it’s an incomplete story without interjecting God’s abounding work in us. The best things occurring in our lives originate in Christ’s love. One could say that our fruit is Christ’s fruit. It makes sense, right? If Christ’s Spirit of love surges through us and His wisdom enables us to conduct His work, then it is part of the full effect of His love.
This is the entire purpose of our good deeds. We are accomplishing God’s better and greater purposes. He does not bypass us, however, but includes us. These acts are God’s acts.
The fruit of righteousness, then, is this mingling of Christ’s divine will to work with frail, limited creatures like us. Consider Paul again. Why would God work with him or another bedraggled prisoner—dirty, hungry, despoiled? Nothing is glorious there, or with many of us in our sin-laden lives, evil circumstances, etc. What is glorious is that God and our Savior Jesus Christ willingly work through us to accomplish His wondrous works in those very circumstances. This is the beautiful fruit of righteousness.
Before moving to the second part, let me expand on how to increase our intimacy with Christ to deepen our love and affection for Him.
An Invitation to a Deeper Life (Revelation 3:20)
This passage was one of my grandfather’s favorites:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev 3:20).
Here are six personal insights when considering the truth of Revelation 3:20. Though many consider this verse evangelistic, Jesus is speaking to the church. Although He speaks to the church, this promise is individualized through the use of “anyone.” In other words, we might be caught in a church under God’s rebuke, but we can still share a growing intimacy with Christ by responding to His offer.
- Be amazed that Christ knocks at our door.
- Wonder why we are not turned into dust (Rev 1:17-18).
- We have no good in ourselves, nothing to bring.
- He personally invites us to spend time with Him—not via a messenger (Gen 43:30-32).
- He desires to spend quality time with us.
- He dines and celebrates our presence.
We can redeem any lousy situation for His glory and, with His amazing grace, bear righteous fruit. This is all done through faith, bringing glory to His Name.
But let’s move on from the goal of life to how to carry this out!
2. Our Manner of Love (Phil 1:9b-10)
We desire Christ’s love to grow consistent with God’s word.
This verse makes us wonder. Isn’t all genuine love the same? How does love grow?
(1) Our growing love (Phil 1:9)
“That your love may abound.”
Love grows and abounds; it is not stagnant, dull, lifeless or isolated, but instead is a dynamic rush of activities flowing from Christ’s selflessness born within us. Christ’s love becomes an essential element of our Christian lives.
Let me clarify this, love. Love has become a popular word in the world, perhaps used more by the world than by Christians. But what the world means by love is something opposite, something we can detect through their sexually immoral standards and perversion of justice.
The world is driven by a self-orientation that taints their understanding of love. They commonly use the word ‘love’ in a self-centered, self-rewarding way. All of life rotates around meeting their self-desires. This is the self-expression showing up today that permits and legalizes sexually immoral perversions. It promotes sex without responsibility.
Without cultural boundaries, seen in accepted rules of courtesy, worldly love goes way out of bounds, displaying its evil nature.
God’s love, however, inspires an other-centered life following Christ’s example. Agape love is giving. We need to be quite clear here, as verse 11 states, that Christian love does not happen because a person resolves to be like Christ but because Christ’s love nature is allowed to flow through them. They love because Christ loved them and now flows through them through His Spirit.
Distortions of Love
Let me identify a few false or worldly concepts of love. It is a cheap imitation of Christ’s love.
- Love is tolerant. The world believes love is the same as allowing people to think their way and embracing all standards as equally good. This is especially seen in now commonly-accepted sexual immorality. However, according to God’s Word, living together or being sexually intimate before marriage is evil and driven by selfishness, meeting one’s deeper lusts or desires for acceptance. True love, however, is selfless, willing to trust God for His timing after marriage and the commitment that secures that love.
- Worldly love allows distance in relationships. This can happen in a marriage or with Christian co-workers. False love allows relationships to deteriorate into isolation and be insulated with bitterness. Paul speaks much on the need for the ongoing preservation of our relationships in 2:1-4, “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
- Worldly love is equal distribution. I wouldn’t mention this, but some churches are dividing over this very issue. Some suggest that the equality of goods and wealth is necessary for love. But even Acts 2, and all the remaining scriptures, do not compel sacrifice but make it voluntary. Genuine love seeks out opportunities to help those in need. Various needs in the church or community become places where we can manifest the love of God. Instead of telling the Thessalonians to take care of the idle, he instructs them to work, so they have something to share with others.
Our chief focus here is on love’s growing nature. We like to see our garden grow and bear fruit. God loves to see His love grow in us, producing many sorts of love fruit. Paul prays that their love “abounds more and more.” It’s correct to say that as we mature in Christ, Christ’s love will flow through us to produce more loving acts. Each act of love joins with Jesus to complete His work of love on earth.
(2) The process of love’s development (Phil 1:9b)
“That your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.”
Love grows and matures; it is designed to be abundant and develops by gaining knowledge and discernment.
We don’t want to counter Paul’s spirit here. He does not spend time looking at false love in these first two chapters, though he does mention the false expressions of it (Phil 1:17 “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition”). Love is the constant brotherly expression of kindness—agape love (1:9,16; 2:1-2).
My wife and I have learned an essential principle of parenting. Don’t just tell the children what they are not supposed to do but positively instruct them on what they should do (Eph 6:4). Many years ago, while on the way to worship service, still in the van, my wife would review how they should conduct themselves in church. Paul does the same here, positively instructing about how Christ perfects His good work in believers. This will help us identify and fulfill our purpose in life.
Yes, there are many things believers are commanded not to do, but this does not help define what Christ’s life in us looks like.
Let me give an example. Parents “love” their children by indulging or giving them all they want or clamor for. Our instinct to selflessly help others like our children is love, but it does not always display knowledge and discernment. The worldly notion is that if parents hold back meeting the child’s “needs”, attention or craving, we hurt them; this idea should be trashed. It looks legitimate until we put it in balance with a parent’s responsibility to bring the children up in the Lord’s instruction. Let me give you a brief example from chapter 3.
“Whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Phil 3:19).
If we, as believers, are warned not to give in to our appetites— our wants and desires—then parents dare not listen to their children who want more candy, cookies, or computer time, no matter how much they cry and shout. Don't give in if you know it’s not good for them. Awaken church! We don’t want false gods worshiped in our homes or by our children. Some have grown up in such homes and live for their appetites rather than for working hard to love others. Tell your children why you don’t give into their appetites and the danger of such behavior. Also, tell them God’s ways are supremely better, as Paul does in these verses.
Love grows in knowledge and discernment. A parent might love a child with imperfect knowledge but then get better knowledge. The same is true with a pastor, a coworker, and neighbors.
If love is to abound and does so through increased knowledge and discernment, should we not more sincerely examine what we believe—even if we possess good ambitions—in light of the Scriptures? Christians must put their learning hats on and seek God for instruction.
(3) Our discerning love (Phil 1:10)
“So that you may approve the things that are excellent”
Many of us are task-oriented, and businessman-like. That’s fine, but implementing love at each stage becomes an extra challenge. What do you do if you disagree, are left out of a decision, or the boss overlooks you? Love calls us to forgive and not be embittered.
How does this work? Let’s take a typical business meeting or situation between a husband and wife. These things require additional insights.
- Do not allow a policy or task to overrule the obligation to love.
- Maintain love in the decision-making process.
- How? Prayerfully wait, trust the Lord, and follow His cues.
Paul shows us that Christian life is not measured by how many times you show up at worship service but by discovering God’s glorious ways and, in belief, humbled at His glory. There are numerous aspects to this, including our wonder of our Savior and His works, His salvation plan, and the wonders of His works seen in this world. God rebukes Job by stating his incompetence in understanding the perfection of the animals around him or the wonders of the skies. Lately, I’ve admired the multitude of ways God replicates trees and plants, using many diverse and beautiful ways, including seeds, pods, flowers, fertilizing methods, fruits, and distribution methods. We must recapture the wonder of today and reject the dull and non-explanative—unscientific evolutionary theory for macro changes.
Our love can and must abound, and only when we gain such discernment can we reach the desired excellence. God’s ways are never inferior, even the little ways. We might not understand them, but they are splendid. God uses excellent examples to manifest His glory and splendor, further aligning our hearts and minds to be enamored with His magnificent ways.
How deadly when we stop growing in love or assume we have an adequate spiritual state! Our love must abound. This includes times of trial that point out and provide opportunities to manifest God’s excellent ways—like in the following passage where Paul was imprisoned.
Paul was tested, and so will we be. Do you like it when people talk behind your back from jealousy? Or, on a different level, do you like it when you go through periods of sickness or are aging and losing your former agility? Of course not, but they all allow us to prove God’s more excellent ways.
On the one hand, they take our eyes off what immediately pleases us—pleasure, enjoyment, and fellowship. Paul, in a filthy, disease-ridden prison, had little of this. A while ago, I faced more than a month of physical difficulties from four largely sequential, identifiable physical issues. Some took away my ability to function normally and work. They all took away my pleasure and joy. I managed to stay alive, but I was being proven. Can I, like Job, trust my Lord with all these things? Or am I going to complain? We are being tested.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil 2:14-15).
As one gets older, one has to live by faith more. Seniors don’t do things because it's easy and natural; it requires more focus. We have the terminology to explain many things, chemical imbalances, hormonal fluxes, etc., but it doesn’t matter. Whether Paul is facing bitterness, dungeon despair, or a question of God’s calling, he must still exemplify the greater glory of love by trusting God’s greater purposes and await His time.
The calling to abound in love calls us always to love, no matter what we face, knowing (this is part of the knowledge) that He gives us the power to love even when facing enemies, threats, and our mean husband.
(4) Our ongoing love (1:10)
“In order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
We live with higher goals because we will be judged on the Day of Christ, but don’t think of this only in a negative way. We will see how we disappointed our good Lord, who died for us. We will observe how we selfishly used our extra time. Previous generations never had so much free time, but we waste it and indulge our eyes and imaginations. But what about our call to love?
I wrestle with this whole thing—virtual fun, videos, etc. What if, as they predict, robots will give us more time and wealth, do we lose our ability to function as Christians? No, but unless we get our act together, we will lose this opportunity to further our love and be ashamed at His coming.
The Day of Christ, also used in verse 6, reminds us of His coming for His church (and judgment day). The book of our lives will be opened. He will look for your good deeds, not just count your attendance and dollars in the offering.
“And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them” (Rev 14:3).
He won’t only look at the few acts of love but also at how you loved more as you grew from a growing relationship with Him. This is a pattern set for us.
abounding love > Approved excellence > be found sincere and blameless
Christ desires to fulfill His purpose in our lives. Maybe your parents don’t hold you accountable for your words and let you use bad language. But God hears you. He hears your complaints. So what are you going to do about that?
The fact that you complain reveals that you do not abound in love and that you count your comfort or pride more important. Complaining reveals that you have not discovered God’s more excellent ways. I point this out to lay before us the better way of love (1 Cor 13:4-6).
We start with repentance, confessing our wrongs and those things we should have done. Again, we do not stay in our wrongs but redirect our paths to what is excellent before us.
We can boast of nothing except what Christ determines to do within us. We see the limitations that Christ works within to do beautiful things for His glory.
Do you see it’s not just Paul’s attitude in prison for preaching the Gospel but is also an opportunity for Paul to seize this chance to wade through all of the evil one’s temptations? Be confident that God will accomplish His greater purposes for His glory despite all the things happening to us. Meanwhile, Paul lies in his jail cell suffering, but the occasion becomes a great divine and glorious event celebrating Christ’s way of working His greater purposes in his life.
This is the reason Paul says don’t complain. These very circumstances of injustice, acts of jealousy, bitterness, weakness, frailty, and mistakes can be captured and brought to bear the fruit of righteousness that brings “glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:11). Look at this as a secret if you will, but they become unique opportunities to display Christ’s presence in us.
Do we deserve any goodness from the Lord? No. Paul prays for the Philippians-that they catch a glimpse of God’s hoped-for purpose for them in which they can magnify God by seeing how Christ will live through their lives. They are not a particular group of Christians; this is true for all Christians.
Could anything further astound us than what Christ has done for us on the cross? He wants to work through each of us daily to abound in love through His strength. He desires to intermingle with our lives to fill up the complete righteousness to the glory of God the Father.
Reflective Questions on Philippians 1:9-11
- Are you seeking to increasingly reflect Christ’s love in your life?
- Has your love grown in this last year?
- How can you be a better learner to mature your love?
- Do you need to show your love by seeking reconciliation with another?