Friday, March 9, 2007

Grounded Love--Philippians 1:9

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…”

In the 1730’s-40’s America encountered what is known by historians as the First Great Awakening. It was a time of great spiritual revival. Many souls were converted and many who had been stagnant Christians were embolden in the gospel. As J.I. Packer defines revival it is “God’s quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives.”[1] However, often with these mighty movements of God comes much heretical teachings and spurious (false, quick to turn away) conversions. During the First Great Awakening many people were questioning the movement of God. Some (and rightfully so) were cautious due to the excess of emotionalism.

Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest instruments of the Awakening, had this to say regarding emotions and truth:

I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affection of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided they are affected with nothing but tuth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.

That is Edwards’ way of saying, the truth had better cause us to rejoice in who God is in such a degree that our affections are aroused. Yet, Edwards also in that same statement safeguards against emotionalism when he says, “with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with”. In other words, if I am preaching upon hell and judgment it would be inappropriate for us to break out in laughter. The affection (emotion) must match the truth that is being presented; otherwise it is probably not of God.

In some measure this is precisely what Paul is praying for in the lives of the Philippians. He is not only praying that their love might abound but he is also praying that it might be a love that is grounded. In his commentary on Philippians Vincent Cheung points out that the word here for knowledge, “always refers to intellectual knowledge about the kings of God, a ‘mental grasp of spiritual truth’, ‘doctrinal knowledge’, and ‘theological knowledge’. Therefore studying Scripture, hearing sermons, reading books and engaging in theological discussions all have a direct relationship to your growth in love and obedience.”[2] Or as Cheung later puts it, “Theology makes love possible”[3]. You cannot say that you love God if you do not know Him. You’re love will not abound more and more and lead to Christian fruit if it is not grounded. Paul is not talking about mere emotionalism when he prays for their love to abound more and more. Paul is talking about a deep love—or deep affections (much the same way Edwards said). Therefore, we must strive all the more to love God (and others) deeply and with knowledge and discernment (which we will discuss tomorrow).
  • Do you love God with your entire mind?
  • Do you seek to study Scripture, hear biblically deep sermons, and read books that engage in deep thinking and theology? Are you content with mere shallow emotionalism?
  • If Edwards is right then the deeper and more profound we understand the truth of God then the deeper and more profound will our affections be engaged. Dig DEEP!!!!

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