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Stepping Into God’s Love: Four ways love abounds!

Philippians 1:9-11

Discerning Love
Philippians 1:9b

Paul J. Bucknell

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Philippians 1:9-11 Intro | Philippians 1:9a Practical love |
Philippians1:9b Discerning Love | Philippians 1:10 Righteous Love |
Philippians 1:11 Glorious Love | 1:9-11 Video |
Philippians Introduction


Stepping Into God’s Love is an expository sermon on Philippians 1:9-11 relating four stages of love that Paul was praying for those in Philippi and that God wants activated in our lives. Discerning Love from Philippians 1:9 provides key insight into how Paul wanted our love to abound through knowledge and discernment.

2) Discerning Love (Philippians 1:9)

“That your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (1:9).

Love can grow!

Love can grow. Our first thoughts of love can have us think that love is the ultimate. Here, however, we see Paul showing how love can develop.

BFF New Testament Digital LibraryIt appears Paul is not only saying that there is room for more love and to have it abound in this way. This is also true. But through the means he immediately introduces, it seem that there is room to love in another way. Love can be more knowledgable.

There are things that people do out of love but in the end do not really help the people they give their love to. We are sincere. We want to help but sometimes fumble in our attempts. Let me first clarify the two ways that our love needs to abound and provide an illustration that I wrestle with.

Paul states that love may abound in two ways, “in real knowledge and all discernment.” If we want our love to grow, then we need to develop two areas of our lives. Let’s examine the meaning of each one.

Love abounds!

a) In real knowledge

Sometimes love suffers from a lack of real understanding. Further knowledge produces a more fully developed love.

Love can be defined by actions engendered by one’s care for others over his or her own needs and preferences. Sometimes these actions might be stirred by emotion or sense of need, but they need to take into consideration the full circumstances if the help hoped for would come.

Think how this man is in love with this woman. She likes him and wants to please him and so hides this budding relationship from her parents out of fear. After all, what if her parents don’t like him? How could she ever tell him?

A fuller look at this situation would help her to remember God’s command to keep her parents knowledgeable about this relationship. More knowledge about the whole situation would have led to a greater love, even if it meant she had to say ‘no’ to the young man. It is better to face these things earlier on than later.

b) In all discernment

The word ‘discernment’ in NASB means insight or perception (Greek: eisthesis), this word originally was used only in the context of one’s physical senses. One gains insight from what he sees. Perhaps the phrase, ‘Seeing is believing’ alludes to this special perception.

Later, as the word’s meaning developed, it became more general and meant to gain illumination or insight not necessarily from being able to see or hear. From some circumstance, they could see what was really happening.

I can think of a number of new believers who repeatedly share the Gospel with their parents. They share to such a degree that the parents are turned off. They shared the Gospel from love but were a bit insensitive to how the Lord would have them do it.

The two words, knowledge and discernment, work together. This later one stresses the special means of gaining that wisdom while the knowledge is the actual perception or insight gained.

An Illustration

The moment I step out of the airport into a largely undeveloped nation, so many needs become so apparent. Many foreigners instantly think about solving as many problems as possible.

Being driven around on muddy roads, often getting stuck, one could think there is a need for a new vehicle for the local pastor. So the people around the world give and the pastor now drives around a nice new four-wheel vehicle.The pastor shares how God heard his prayer for a nice vehicle and so everyone flocks about him because this pastor gets rich when he prays. They hope God will hear their prayers too.

I am not saying this gift was not born in love, but there are problems with it, and it does not bear forth righteousness. I struggle often with this very same problem. When do I interrupt the service opportunities of those I work with and God’s training by supplying a gift?

Our church once gave a gift to help finish a church building in India. Truly, they had no money. But we only gave enough for a roof – only a roof. It looked pretty sad for several years. No windows, etc. But you know what? Now, after a number of years, the people of God can say that God used their resources to finish the church building. But at the same time, they can remember how God expressed His love by some people far away that never met them.


Love can continue to mature and develop as we gain experience and understanding. We need to grow in our understanding of the opposite sex, people in general, different cultures, those from different backgrounds so that our love can more properly serve the needs of others. In order for our love to abound, we need to better understand the people we are caring for as well as God’s larger purposes.

overview Philippians 1:9-11

Click to continue to the next article on Philippians from Stepping Into His Love:

Righteous Love (Philippians 1:10-11a)

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Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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