Paul loves the church in Philippi. So much so he says to them in his letter, “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:3).
When Paul says he is praying for this community he means it. How often do we in passing say we are praying for someone yet never to give it a thought from that moment on?
Don’t feel guilty. We all do it. The point is that Paul, who was a shepherd to this community, truly prayed for his brothers and sisters in Philippi.
A few verses later we learn what is Paul is praying for. In Philippians 1:9-11 we see that Paul is praying and believing for three things in this church.
First, he prays that they would abound in love. To Paul love is the only thing that counts. Yes, we have the Old Testament with some 613 laws, but the New Covenant is one of love. Paul firmly believes that to abound in love helps us grow in our knowledge and insight of both God and others.
Second, Paul prays that the church would be holy. He is encouraging them just as Peter commands the exiles in 1 Peter to be holy as God is holy. The
church is exhorted to be imitators of God. This has always been true for God’s people (Leviticus 19:1). But Paul also says that we are to be holy for something and that something is The Day of The Lord. The day when Jesus will return as king of the universe, judge the living and the dead and usher in the age to come, which will be filled shalom and new creation. The church is to be holy for the very day in which God will truly make us all exactly that. It’s almost like Paul is encouraging us to become now who we will be in the future.
Third, he prays that the church would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Ultimately he is praying that they would live right. You see love and purity leads to right living and Paul’s hope is that they would lean into God’s faithfulness and live as though they are the family of God.
Now don’t miss this! Without a doubt Paul is calling this community to be the people of the future in the present. Paul wants them to be a colony of heaven on earth.
In the end when God ushers in the age to come (when heaven and earth are brought back together) it will be a world filled with complete love. So Paul calls the church to love now! It will also be a place of complete holiness. So Paul calls the church to be holy now! And ultimately the new heavens and new earth will be a place filled with right living for the glory of God. So Paul calls the church to live right for the glory of God now.
Do you see it? Paul’s prayer is that the church would be the people of the future in the present!