And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. —Philippians 1:9–11
The word discernment here can also be translated “judgment,” which will help us understand the context. Paul was praying for the beloved saints to have discernment between the things that are excellent and the things that are offenses so that their sincerity would be fruitful to the glory and praise of God. Paul also prayed for consistency and constancy as believers await the day of Jesus Christ. This clearly indicates that this instruction applies to us as well as to the Philippians, since the recipients of the letter are long dead. Discernment will cause us to approve the things that are excellent and without offense. Approve means “to allow” or “to try,” and without offense is from a single Greek word that means “not leading to sin.” So when we put this all together, we see that Paul was praying that the church’s abounding knowledge of the will of God would cause them to discern between the things that are excellent and the things that lead to sin so that they could be fruitful in righteousness to the glory of Jesus Christ.
I find it quite interesting that Paul prayed about not approving things that may lead to sin. That means he prayed for the believers to have discernment to avoid things that may not be sin in and of themselves. Such things in life are not sinful per se, but they can lead to undesirable consequences. For example, are you going to places that could entice you to sin, or are you engaging in conversations with a person of the opposite sex that could lead to temptation and a fall? Again, these kinds of things are not necessarily sinful but present great opportunities for sinful possibilities.
I think we could well understand discernment as recognizing our own weaknesses and potential areas where sin has an opportunity to creep in. As you face this day, consider areas that have stumbling potential for you. Remember, though they may not be sins in and of themselves, they can lead to sin in you. This was Paul’s prayer for the Philippians and mine for you!
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