“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
This is a very important passage from the book of Philipians, and I encourage you to read it carefully several times and reflect deeply on what is being communicated. It is a prayer by the apostle for the followers of Jesus. His prayer is that our love would grow and flourish, and that our love would also be directed by knowledge and discernment. The admonition is to beware of misdirected love … that is, love that is not directed by discernment.
There are key words in this passage that will help unlock and clarify the message.
The word for love is agape, which means selfless and sacrificial commitment to the best interests of others.
The word for “abound” is perisseuo, which means “to be over and above; to exceed the ordinary; to go beyond the expected.” It is often translated “have in abundance.”
Put these two words together, and Paul prays that our love would be selfless and sacrificial toward others, and that it would exceed the ordinary. In other words, he prays that our love would be uncommon, and that we would have an abundance of that kind of uncommon love.
The word for “knowledge” is epignosis, which means “precise and correct knowledge; perception and recognition that produces insight.” By adding the prefix “epi” to the common Greek word for knowledge, Paul prays that our knowledge—like our love— would go beyond what is ordinary.
The word for “discernment” is aisthesei, which means “perception and understanding; wise and insightful judgment.” It conveys the ability to cut through hazy and confusing situations in order to accurately “size things up” and make wise judgments. It is the ability to see and sense what is right and what is wrong.
Let’s put those pieces together: Paul prays that our love (agape) would be directed by precise and correct knowledge (epignosis) and by discernment and wise judgment (aisthesei). The implication is that if our love lacks knowledge and discernment, then we are in danger of being deceived and led astray by our sentiment and emotions.
Without knowledge and discernment, we are susceptible to loving the wrong things or loving the right things in the wrong way. Many people (including many Christians) have fallen into this trap.
The apostle goes on to say that the purpose for love + discernment is that we learn to “approve what is excellent.” The word for “approve” is dokimazo, which means “to analyze and evaluate; to put to the test to reveal what is good.”
The phrase “things that are excellent” is the Greek ta diaphero, which literally means “distinguish what differs.” It conveys the ability to distinguish one thing in comparison of value to another thing.
Again, we must not be deceived and led astray by how we feel about something or someone. We must have discernment. We must put things to the test. This applies to spiritually, socially and politically, and personally.
Keep in mind that in his attempt to deceive, the enemy appeals to our emotions. He wants us to react without thinking. Wise Christians understand this tactic and are on guard against emotional appeals that deceive and obscure the truth. They recognize that the stronger we feel about something, the more important it is to press pause, evaluate, and exercise discernment.
The discipline of discernment has never been more important than it is today.
The Lord is calling.