“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
Think of someone you love deeply. How much could you say about this person? Seriously, how much? I expect that you could write pages or talk for hours about your knowledge of and experiences with the object of your love. The framed photos on the walls of your home tell of your loves. When we look at photos we remember times, places, and special moments with the ones we love. Love precedes knowledge. If we love something, we want to learn more about it. If we love someone we want to know more about him or her. Love is the pathway to knowledge.
For example, a mother can recall the details of the birth of each of her children. She can recall surgeries and sicknesses that each child had. She can tell you their achievements and failures, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and fears, and so on. She remembers all of that knowledge because love is the pathway to knowledge. When you love deeply you seek to know everything you can about the object of your love, as a mother knows the details of her children.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi he begins by expressing how much he loves them and reminding them that he prays for them (1:3-4). He also reminds them of who they are in Jesus, and tells them that he loves and misses them (1:5-8). He says this in Christian love as a mother would write to her own child. Then in verse 9 Paul bursts forth into prayer for his people.
In his prayer he asks God to cause their love to grow greater every day (v 9). He wasn’t speaking of love as a mere sentimental feeling but as a growth in knowledge and in keen perception so that the Christian would be able to tell between right and wrong. Love precedes knowledge. Just as when we love someone, we want to know more about him or her, the same is true of our love for Jesus. When we truly love Jesus, we will want to learn more about Him (William Barclay 18).
Now, there is a result of this chain of love, knowledge, and discernment. It leads to righteousness. If we really love Jesus we will live to please Him; the more we love Him, the more we will stay away from what is evil but cling to what is right. Real love is not blind, it actually gives us spectacles to see and know the things that are excellent. And by choosing the excellent things, or that which pleases Christ, we become blameless and prepared for the day when He will return (vv 10-11).
Speaking of His return, are you prepared? In a wondrous way, love, knowledge, and righteousness work together to prepare you. Your love for Christ will grow as you know Him more. But if you don’t love Him you’ll have no desire to learn more about God, and no desire to please Him with your choices, this grieves Him. I liken it to my marriage; I want to know more about my wife because I love her. Now, I know much of what she likes and what she does not like. And the more I get to know her the more I love her and make choices according to what she likes. The result is that I bring flowers to her rather than wild mushrooms. I take her to concerts with the Bend Symphony rather than hip-hop concerts. And I do my best to not ignore her when she is talking to me because I know her, love her, and do not want to grieve her. Life with God is much the same. As you learn more about Him, and as you choose to please Him, you start abounding in love, and love leads to obedience. Jesus said it this way, “If you love Me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).