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Read Introduction to Philippians

“that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,”


In this passage, we have two more items for which Paul prayed. Today we will study the second petition—”that you may approve the things that are excellent.”

“that you may approve”

The word “approve” means to test for approval. This is spiritual discernment. Discernment is the ability to distinguish between the chaff and wheat, the dross and the gold, the genuine, and the superficial.

Automobiles need to be tested on a torture track before they sell them to the public. If a car’s brakes do not meet the test, it is sent back for redesign. You do not put a car with faulty brakes on the market. Lives are at stake. To test the brakes, we need a standard for testing needs to be applied. A standard or measure for good brakes is required. God wants us to test for approval, to have a criterion for whatever comes into our lives. That criterion is excellence.

If we have this criterion, we can resolve the priorities of our life. This standard should measure any problem or alternatives set before us. If we operate by this standard, we should be able to resolve any priority.

“the things that are excellent”

Excellence carries with it the sense of what is vital. In Greek, excellence means to bear apart or to differ between; as with metals, you learn to tell one from another, the greater from the lesser. So things of excellence are things of greater value.

We should be able to test for approval the things that are the most valuable in life. None of us operates without some scale of values. The question is not whether we have a hierarchy of values; the problem is more about which scale of values we choose. Do we choose God’s highest values or some set of values we may prefer?

Where there is no scale of values, utter confusion follows. If you want to live a flustered life, then live life without an adequate set of ultimate values. In this situation, nothing is of value, nothing of importance. To live life with everything of equal importance is to live life at a trivial level. Lesser things are as important as greater things.

If we choose as our ultimate value to make and save as much money as possible, then we have chosen a lesser value in God’s economy. If we decide to put God’s glory first, no matter how much money we make, then we live by God’s scale of values. It is a matter of what comes first. If our main objective is to make money, then we are number one in our values, and God is number two. We need to decide what is essential.


Christians need to test for approval the things of greatest value in God’s economy.


Do we have God’s scale of values? What is the highest item on our scale of values? What is first or most important to us? A good way to measure these questions is to ask ourselves how we use our time. Our answers will reveal what is essential in our lives. Then we will have a sense of what is vital.