Long before Al Mohler, Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan and C.J. Mahaney joined together for the Gospel, Paul wrote to his partners in the Gospel, the Philippian saints (1:1). Every time he remembered them he thanked God for them (1:3). Every prayer he had for them made him rejoice (1:4). Why would Paul talk so highly of these people? It was “on the basis of their fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). The Gospel and the work of spreading the Gospel was the bond that linked Paul with the Philippians. Paul was confident that God would continue that partnership unto its completion at the day of Christ (1:6). He could feel that way about them because in both his chains and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel they all shared fellowship in grace (1:7). He longed for them with such a Christ-like affection (1:8).
So with such a fellowship and such a love for his fellow Philippian saints, Paul prayed for them. I’m sure that we have fellow brother and sisters in Christ with whom we share such a fellowship. We have friends who have been saved by the Gospel. We have friends who are devoted to spreading that Gospel. We have friends who join together with us in the grace of God as they struggle for, defend and confirm the Gospel. When we remember them, do we thank God for them? Do we smile in joy for their friendship and fellowship? If we do not, why not? If we do, what do we pray for them?
Paul prayed this way:
that your love would overflow still more and more through knowledge and all discernment, in order to examine what is excellent, that you might be pure and without stumbling in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (1:9-11).
Paul gives two hina clauses (“that…”) that constitute his requests. He prays first that their love would overflow more and more through knowlege and all discernment. How does an obvious love increase any more? It increases “through knowledge and all discernment”. Love does not grow ignorantly. The more we know and the more we discern, the more we will love. With such knowledge and discernment, they would be able to test, or examine, what is excellent. So as God grants the Philippians more knowledge and discernment, they will be able to examine the excellencies of the Gospel, and the Gospel’s work in the saints, and they will abound in love. That is Paul’s first prayer request.
Second, Paul prays for their standing in the day of Christ. He prays that they will be “pure and without stumbling”. If the first request dealt with their mind, this one deals with their conduct. Paul did not want to see these saints standing before the Lord on Judgment Day in shame. He thus prayed that they would be pure and that they would be able to stand in that day.
How could they stand pure and blameless on that day? By being “filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ”. In other words, Paul prays that the Philippians would benefit from the Gospel that they preach. As the righteousness of Christ has taken root in their lives, Paul prays that it would produce the fruit of holiness in their lives.
Paul, then, prays that his Gospel teammates would be both lovers and livers. He prays that their affections, minds and lives would be transformed by the Gospel. When this happens, no one can criticize Christians for hypocrisy. Instead, all that is due is the praise and glory of God. Do you pray this way for your fellow Gospel partners? Do you pray for the increase of their love and knowledge of the Gospel? Do you pray that the righteousness of Christ will produce fruit in their lives to the end that they will be blameless in the day of Christ?
I was watching sports one evening when I saw a soccer player punching one guy out in his face, leaving him unconscious on the ground. One commentator, a former professional athlete himself, asked, “Where were the guys teammates?! If that happened to one of my teammates, you could guarantee that I would have come out after him!” We see it in basketball when the benches clear. We see it in baseball when the pitcher responds with hitting the next batter. Players look after their teammates.
Do we see the same loyalty in the church? Do we look after our teammates? Knowing how sin threatens our teammates, do we pray for them? Knowing that they will one day stand before the Lord and give an account for their lives, do you intercede for them? How good of a teammate are you?