[From the archives.]
I ran across an interesting line in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight … (Philippians 1:9.)
What? Smart people are better at loving others? That seems like an odd thing for Paul to write when you consider his earlier letter to Christians in Corinth where he said:
We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1.)
So which is it: does love abound in knowledge like he told the Philippians, or is knowledge empty while love is substantial as he told the Corinthians?
It depends on what you do with your knowledge.
Here’s that line from Philippians in context, giving a better picture of the reason Paul prays for their knowledge and insight.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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. (Philippians 1:9-11.)
According to these verse, then, there are three ways for love to abound in your knowledge and insight.
First – knowledge and insight lead to discernment
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ …
Depth of insight means we know things more than just on a surface level; we have the ability to act wisely because we understand deeply the difference between right and wrong.
The handy thing about discernment, then, is that we can use it to see the difference between what is pure and what is not. Love abounds in this discernment when we act in ways consistent with our relationship with Jesus.
Second – knowledge and insight lead to bearing fruit
… that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be … filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ …
The fruit of righteousness is the fruit the Spirit of Christ produces in us: love, joy, peace, patience , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.) It is by keeping in step with the Spirit that we avoid some very unloving acts: conceit coupled with provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26.)
Jesus said he produces much fruit in his people, in fact, and all they need to do to bear that fruit is rest in him.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5.)
And since God is love (1 John 4:8), the “fruit of righteousness” he produces in us is nothing less than his love.
Third – knowledge and insight lead to glorifying God
… that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight … to the glory and praise of God.
The love that abounds in our growing knowledge and deep insight of God has an ultimate purpose, the glory of God. In fact, everything we do should lead to that:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)
That is where love leads us, to God’s glory. Love is not an end in itself in our lives, just as knowledge and deep insight are not ends in themselves. Love and knowledge and wisdom have a single shared purpose: glorifying God.
Love abounding forever for the glory of God. That’s something worth growing in knowledge and deepening our insight about.