Besides thanking the Lord for the Philippian church each time he prayed (Phil. 1:3–5), Paul also made specific intercession for the Philippian Christians, asking our triune Creator to grant specific blessings to those believers. Today’s passage tells us these requests included a plea for God to grant the Philippians an abounding, knowledgeable, and discerning love (v. 9).
When Scripture talks about knowing persons, especially knowing the Lord, it refers to more than just a head knowledge of propositions, that is, a knowledge about someone. Certainly, this kind of understanding is included; however, it always serves to deepen a personal, relational knowledge of someone. For example, Deuteronomy 4:32–40 talks about God’s rescue of a people in order that Israel “might know that the Lord is God” (v. 35). The knowledge in this passage is propositional — an interpretation of the Lord’s acts during the exodus — and relational — God moving in history to unite a people to Himself for His own glory.
Thus, when Paul prays for the love of the Philippians to abound “with knowledge and all discernment,” he asks not only for the Philippians’ knowledge about the Lord to increase but also for their relationship with God to be deeper (Phil. 1:9). In fact, he prays for this love and knowledge to grow and penetrate all their relationships so that their affection and intimacy with their brothers and sisters will also increase. Obviously, we should pray this for ourselves as well (John 13:34).
As this love for God develops, the Philippians will “approve what is excellent” and be found blameless at the last day (Phil. 1:10). The apostle does not mean that our works merit a righteous status that gets us into the kingdom, for our entry into the Lord’s presence is by grace alone through faith alone (Gal. 2:15–16). Instead, Paul speaks of the heavenly assessment that will be granted as the result of our sanctification. Good works do not get us into heaven, but they flow from us as evidence of our justification (James 2:14–26). To be filled with the fruit of righteousness so that we are found blameless on the last day, then, is to serve the Lord in love so faithfully that He can say to us: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matt. 25:23).