Read the Text
7Thinking about you all in this way is the right thing to do, since my affection for you is well-deserved. You cared for me when I was put in prison and now support me when I go before the magistrate to give a defense and validation for the gospel ministry. All of you in Philippi share as colleagues this opportunity.
8I could call God as my witness how much I long for all of you in such a very visceral way, just like Christ Jesus. 9This is what I hope for you: for your love to steadily increase intellectually and insightfully 10for the purpose of you being able to make moral judgments about the proper way to live so that you might be judged unpretentious and impeccable when Christ returns. 11May you be overflowing with the expressions of the moral life to be found in Jesus Christ that brings honor and praise to God.
Think about the Text
In this text Paul seems to refer to the completeness of his love for the Philippians. In Greek thought the soul consisted of three parts, the head, the chest, and the abdomen. Paul first says he “thinks about them;” next he says “I have you in my heart” (Phil 1:7). Thirdly, “I long for all of you in the bowels of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:8 KJV). Paul loves the Philippians with all of his soul.
Paul refers to his trial as a defense (apologia), an “apology.” You might recall the famous work of Plato called “The Apology (of Socrates).” Paul’s language in these verses seems reminiscent of this story. In each case the person has been accused of persuading people against the socially acceptable way of thinking. Both express the dilemma of whether to defend oneself against the charges and accept the consequences, as dire and fatal as they may be, or whether to recant and escape the penalties for the sake of others.
“share as colleagues” – Paul’s language is emphatic, “co-partners.”
Paul continues the metaphor of the trial by calling God as a witness.
“very visceral way, just like Christ Jesus” – It’s like saying, I love you so much it hurts my stomach.
Love is more than an emotion or feeling. Above all, Paul wants the Philippians to love each other in the way that Paul loves them – which is like the kind of love Jesus has. This love is enacted by the Philippians as they increasingly are able to agree on the right moral actions.
“proper way to live” (to determine what is best) – Paul wants them to be able “to distinguish the things differing (ta diapheronta) (Rom 2:18).” Stoic philosophers considered that actions were either good, bad, or indifferent (adiaphora). We should avoid vice, pursue virtue, but not concern ourselves too much with those things that are morally indifferent or neutral. This third group, as Epictetus is quoted as saying, is "outside our control." A summary can be found in Diogenes Laertius, "Those are indifferent which are neither beneficial nor injurious, such as life, health, pleasure, beauty, strength, riches, a good reputation, nobility of birth; and their contraries, death, disease, labour, disgrace, weakness, poverty, a bad reputation, baseness of birth, and the like" (DL 7.102).
“unpretentious and impeccable” (sincere and blameless) – The typical way to describe the false teacher was to charge him with being a charlatan, a sophist who only teaches for personal gain. The pretentious teacher has impure motives and fails to live consistently with his own teaching. The virtuous person is none of these.
“judged ... when Christ returns” (unto/for the day of Christ). As I said above, the day of Christ is the time of judgment. The conduct of life now has an impact on judgment then. The day of resurrection and a change of the body does not change the character the person was. We are to become what we will be.
“overflowing with the expressions of the moral life” (having been filled with the fruit of righteousness, NASB) – Fruit as the effect of right living is a commonplace in Greek philosophical texts. One philosopher wrote, “He is most happy who harvests from himself the fruit of righteousness, which is happiness (eudaimonia, “the divine flourishing life”)” (Atticus, Fragmenta 4.17.4). Epicurus wrote, “The greatest fruit of righteousness is to be undisturbed by the passions” (Stromata 6.2.24). This quotation from a letter of Seneca (a Roman Stoic writing in Latin, a close contemporary of Paul), which he has written to a pupil, contains the metaphor of fruit and includes many of the concepts we’ve already discussed.
I grow in spirit and leap for joy and shake off my years and my blood runs warm again, whenever I understand, from your actions and your letters, how far you have outdone yourself; for as to the ordinary man, you left him in the rear long ago. If the farmer is pleased when his tree develops so that it bears fruit, if the shepherd takes pleasure in the increase of his flocks, if every man regards his pupil as though he discerned in him his own early manhood, - what, then, do you think are the feelings of those who have trained a mind and moulded a young idea, when they see it suddenly grown to maturity?
I claim you for myself; you are my handiwork. When I saw your abilities, I laid my hand upon you, I exhorted you, I applied the goad and did not permit you to march lazily, but roused you continually. And now I do the same; but by this time I am cheering on one who is in the race and so in turn cheers me on.
Hence it is that the larger part of goodness is the will to become good. You know what I mean by a good man? One who is complete, finished, - whom no constraint or need can render bad. I see such a person in you, if only you go steadily on and bend to your task, and see to it that all your actions and words harmonize and correspond with each other and are stamped in the same mould.
Meditate on the Text
Think about those who support you and the things they’ve done for you.
How deep is your love for others? Does it involve your whole being? Imagine someone you love and sense that love from the top of your head, to your chest, and into your abdomen.
In what way do your friendships help you to live life in the best way possible. Do they make you a better person? Do you make others better people?
Do you waste time worrying about those things in life that really don’t make a difference to the quality of your character? Could you make a mental list of those things?
Are their ways in which you might be faking the spiritual or religious life? Are their flaws in you that you want to work on?
Close your eyes and see yourself as a branch growing in a vineyard. The effect your life has are the fruits growing on you. See the luscious grapes or the plump strawberries cover you as you do what’s right and perform acts of kindness for others.
Live the Text
As you meet people this week, make your love real and come from your entire being, not just something superficial.
Be a friend to someone this week and make a difference in that person’s life.
Remember to evaluate the things you spend time thinking about or doing. Does it really matter? Is it something that is actually out of your control? Change your thoughts to what’s important.
Repeat to yourself this week, “Am I keeping it real?”
Think about the Fruit of the Loom characters from the commercial. Which fruitful (not fruity) character are you being each day?