Which Came First?

by Impact Church

1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 

Philippians 1:9-11

The Chicken or the Egg? Although the question attempts to demonstrate the apparent inability of determining the relationship of cause and effect, when the interdependency of each is inextricably linked, it isn’t that difficult for anyone who has read the creation account in Genesis to know the answer. The third day account (Genesis 1:11-12) is clear that the plants were created bearing seeds and trees were bearing fruits. And they were doing so in “their kind”. Created mature, the plants were prepared to produce life and fruit. Adam and Eve were created as adults and were able to “be fruitful and multiply”. SPOILER WARNING!!! It was the chicken.

It is common to read the Bible and see a sequence of events and assume that the last thing is the result of the previous things. In the Philippians passage above, Paul prayed for the Philippian church and the order of events appears to be:

  1. An abounding love in real knowledge and discernment
    1. Leading to
  2. Approving the things that are excellent
    1. So that you can
  3. Be sincere and blameless until Christ returns
  4. Being filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God

It appears that Paul’s prayer for love will ultimately result in “being filled with the fruit of righteousness”. However, at times, things in the English Bible translations do not convey the actual meaning of the words Paul actually wrote.

A careful look at the verb tense of “being filled” in verse 11 reveals that it was actually the first event in the sequence above. The Philippian Christians, and all other believers in Jesus Christ – including us! – were declared righteous by only their faith in Jesus Christ. That past event bore fruit in their life. And it is that fruit that Paul prays in faith they would manifest in their experience.

Seeing it from the actual sequence of events, then we can read Paul’s prayer as he intended it:

“Having been filled with righteousness by your faith in Jesus Christ, I pray that that you bear the fruit of your new life, producing an abounding love in real knowledge and discernment, which leads to approving things that are complete in excellence, so that you will be sincere and act blamelessly until Jesus returns. That is done to the glory and praise of God!”

When Christians believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation they are born again and from within them will come the life of Jesus Christ. Christians don’t love to be filled with the fruit of righteousness; rather, they can love as a fruit of the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Paul’s prayer was for the church to do what new life produces. Love is the fruit of new life in Jesus Christ.

It was your faith in Jesus Christ that led to new life in Him and that new life bears fruit. When you believed, you were recreated and that new life was created with fruit in it. As Paul prayed for the Philippians to do what they could for the first time, we are in the same place: We can now experience the life that He created in His church. It begins with an abounding, immeasurable love. The Love we see in Jesus.