Commentary on Philippians, 1:8-11 (Striving for Excellence)

Philippians 1:8-11

“8 For God is my witness, how I long after you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

“affection”  (Gr. splagchnon – 4698)


“Affection (4698) (splagchnon [word study]) literally refers to the bowels but in the NT used figuratively to describe the inward parts indicating the heart as the seat of emotions and passions. That region was regarded as the seat of passions such as affection, sympathy, and compassion, even as the word heart is used figuratively today. The allusion is to the sympathy, tenderness, and love of the Redeemer. Splagchnon was the strongest and most tender expression the Greeks had to denote the ardor of one’s attachment to another.”

Paul continues to express his heart and appreciation for the Philippians Christians, but this time 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 the way that 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!

“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, that they would abound and overflow and continue in their love: love for God, love for fellow-Christians, and love for the lost.

There’s always going to be people in our lives that we love with a special kind of love, like Paul had for the Philippians, 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 very close relationship with Christ, for true love comes from Him, as Paul indicated in verse 8.

“in knowledge and all discernment”


When praying for each other, prayer that we would abound and overflow with the love of Christ should be at the top of our list. Our love for God should grow more and more, and of course to know God is to love God. Therefore, we should also be praying that we be growing 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, and all that we have to look forward to in eternity. This same love carries over into the lives of those around us.


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 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.

“10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, so that you may be pure and blameless to the day of Christ;”

“approve the things that are excellent”

“approve”  (Gr. dokimazo – 1381)

To test, to prove, to examine and judge fit and proper, to distinguish between, approving of after putting the matter to the test.

In ancient times it was used of gold to determine its purity.

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.” 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 life, as we go through our day, we must continuously be asking, “is this helpful to 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 at all times, and in all things. 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, 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 come through serious study and meditation upon the Word of God.

However, it’s even more than that, it’s a matter of learning with a sincere submission to the will of God, a sincere surrender 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 not only for us as individual believers, but also as individual 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 determined by God – 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 are living our lives in a manner that we are found to be pure in the eyes of God.

As an illustration of how easily one can become un-pure, 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 serve as a constant reminder to live our lives with the utmost care.

“blameless” (Gr. aproskopos – 677)

Without offense, not leading others into sin by one’s manner of life.

As we’re choosing the things in life that are excellent, we will be found blameless – blameless 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 for churches, as they are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their people.

“until the day of Christ”

Until, and at the time of, the return to Christ.

Paul used this same phrase in verse 6 (Phil 1:6). We’re to live lives according to who we are in Christ up until the return of Christ, or until the Lord takes us home. 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.

“11 being filled with the fruit of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

“Righteousness” is our position in Christ (Phil 3:9). Through Christ, we are made right with God. The “fruit of righteousness” is the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22), fruit that comes “through Jesus Christ.” Those who are in Christ, will show evidence (fruit) in their life of such a relationship. It’s the life of Christ being lived out in us. This fruit is to fill  and characterize our lives.  If there is no fruit of a righteous relationship with God, then there is no righteousness….that is, there is no salvation, or new birth.

“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, say, and do. We dishonor God by professing Christ as Savior, but living a life of self-will and sin….as 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.