Living a Life of Excellence — [Commentary on Philippians 1:8-11]



Philippians 1:8-11

8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10 so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere [pure] and void of offence [blameless] unto the day of Christ; 11 being filled with the fruits [fruit] of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (ASV – words in brackets are for clarity)


(Philippians 1:8) – 8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies [affection] Christ Jesus.


Paul, here, expresses his heart and appreciation for the Philippian Christians. He expresses it in the strongest possible terms: “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” It was Jesus loving them through him. Paul’s heart was one with the heart of Christ in what he felt for them. Because of this love, he “longed” to be with them. Imagine how that made them feel that the Apostle Paul should love them that much!


(Philippians 1:9) – 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;


While on the subject of love, Paul continues the matter of prayer for them (vss. 3-4), that they would “abound” and overflow and continue in their love: love for God, love for fellow-Christians and love for the lost. Indeed, the love in our heart for the Lord and for others, should always be growing “more and more.”

There’s always going to be people in our lives that we love with a special kind of love – like Paul had for the Philippian Christians – but everyone should see and experience the love of Christ in us. Those who love others with a sincere and genuine kind of love, reveal a close relationship with Christ, for true love comes from Him, as Paul indicated in verse 8. We should join Paul in praying for one another, and matters of love should be at the top of the list.

Paul also prayed that their love would grow in “knowledge and all discernment.” Our love for God should grow more and more, and of course to “know” God is to love God. Therefore, we should always be seeking to grow in our relationship with Him. As we grow in our “knowledge” of God, we can’t help but love Him more and more as we learn all that He has done for us, all that we have in Christ, all that He suffered for us, all that we have to look forward to in eternity. This same love carries over into the lives of those around us.

Furthermore, we must be loving the right things. Our love for God involves loving the things of God, as opposed to loving the things of the world. We’re to be very “discerning” about what we love and about what we seek. What we choose to give our heart and attention to reveals where our love really is. If we say that we love God, but we’re loving the things of the world, His love does not dwell within us (1 John 2:15-17).

The only way to be “discerning” is to be in the Word of God. It’s through God’s Word that we learn what God loves and what God hates. The better we understand God’s Word, the better we’re able to “discern” between the things of God and the things of the world. As we grow in the Word and in our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit will enable us to be sensitive to the things that please God and the things that displease Him.


(Philippians 1:10) –  10 so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere [pure] and void of offence [blameless] unto the day of Christ;


This verse continues Paul’s thought from the previous verse, that “our love is to abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment,” so that we may be able to “approve the things that are excellent.”

To “approve the things that are excellent” means to: test, to prove, to examine and judge fit and proper, to distinguish between, to approve of after putting the matter to the test—just like the process used of gold to determine its purity.

As our love for the Lord grows, and as our knowledge and understanding of the Word of God grows, we’ll be able to test and judge between those things that are good and bad, between the good and better, and between the better and best. We’re to be rightly related to the Lord so that we’ll be able to determine the things that are of highest quality—that is, the things that are “excellent.”

As we go through our day, as we go through life, we must continuously be asking, “is this helpful for me spiritually, or is it harmful? Does it promote spiritual growth, or does it hinder it? Is this decision, or is this path the best I can take?” As followers of Christ, we’re to strive for excellence in all things and at all times. We should never settle for simply good, or even better, but always that which is best.

Things that are clearly right and wrong, black and white, those things are easy to distinguish, but trying to judge between the better and best is not always such an easy thing to do. Thus Paul is instructing us to grow in a manner that will enable us to do that. Again, that only comes through study and meditation on the Word of God.

However, it’s even more than that, it’s a matter of learning with a sincere surrender to the will of God, a sincere desire to do whatever the Lord reveals to us. We must be willing to give up those things that are merely good or better, for the things that are best spiritually. It’s one thing to learn, but it’s another thing to willingly apply what we learn to our lives for the honor of Christ’s name. We must approach God’s word in true humility, with a desire to know God and to please God more and more. That will enable us to choose the “excellent” things in life.

This should be a concern for both individual Christians and for churches. The leadership of every church needs to be constantly evaluating everything they do in light of what Paul is teaching us here. They need to be constantly asking, “Is what we are doing of highest quality, or are we compromising? Does our method of teaching promote maximum spiritual growth, or are we sacrificing excellent teaching for the sake of being current with modern trends? Is our music according to the highest standards of excellence as representatives of Christ, or are we following the music standards of the world?”


“that you may be pure and blameless”


We’re to grow in our love for the Lord and the knowledge of His Word so that we may be able to discern the things that are excellent, in order that we may be “pure.” The idea is that we be living in a manner that is “pure,” uncorrupted from the world as those who are in Christ and represent Him in the world. We are to live as those who are citizens of His Kingdom (Col 1:13), which is totally uncorrupted.

As an illustration of how easily one can become un-pure (corrupted), put a single drop of ink into a glass of water, and what happens to it? The whole glass of water becomes darkened. That should give you an idea how a little impurity affects our lives and our testimony.

To be “blameless” has the idea of not leading others into sin by one’s manner of life. Thus to lead others rightly, we ourselves must be living rightly. To influence others in a positive manner, we must live a life that is patterned after the character and life of Christ.

As we’re choosing the things in life that are excellent, we will be found blamelessblameless in the sense that we are living our lives in such a godly manner that we are not offending or causing other Christians to stumble. It describes one who is not leading others into sin, or along the path of spiritual mediocrity. It describes one who is living a life of such spiritual excellence, that it promotes the same in others. This should be taken as a serious warning to churches, as they are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their people.


“until the day of Christ”


Paul used this same phrase in verse 6 (Phil 1:6). We’re to live according to who we are in Christ up until the return of Christ, or until the Lord takes us. The idea here is that we be found “pure and blameless” in the way we lived our lives as we stand before Christ. In other words, we’re to live with eternity in view.

While being “pure and blameless” is who we are in our position in Christ, we’re always to be growing in conformity to that position in our daily living for Christ.


(Philippians 1:11) –  11 being filled with the fruits [fruit] of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.


“Righteousness” is our position in Christ (Phil 3:9). Through the Lord Jesus we are made right with God. The “fruit of righteousness” is the fruit of salvation. Those who are in Christ will show evidence (fruit) in their life of having such a relationship. It’s the life of Christ being lived out in us. Such a life is characterized by the “fruit of the Spirit” (Ga 5:22-23). If there is no fruit of a righteous relationship with God, then there is no righteousness….that is, there is no salvation.


“to the glory and praise of God”


Only a life that is “filled with the fruit of righteousness,” can bring glory and praise to God. Our central purpose in life is to glorify God in the world—in everything we think and say and do. We dishonor God by professing Christ as Savior, but living a life of self-will and sin—just like those who do not profess Him. We are Christ’s representatives, and so when we’re living a life out of harmony with His will or make bad choices, we bring dishonor to His holy name. It’s a bad testimony before a lost world who needs Him.