When Paul prayed for the believers at Philippi, he told them, “…it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more…” (Philippians 1:9). As Christians we need to grow not only in faith and hope but also in our love. Paul not only prayed for this for the Philippians but also for the Ephesians. He wrote to them (Ephesians 4:15-16), “…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” God’s love, (LOVE), is the soil into which we must sink our roots to draw up the nourishment we need to grow. It was so important that the Holy Spirit insisted on Paul repeating the idea a third time in his prayer for the Thessalonians. He write to them (1 Thessalonians 3:12), “May the Lord make your love grow. May it be like a rising flood. May your love for one another increase. May it also increase for everyone else.” John, the Apostle of Love, teaches us that we learn to love, only when we receive God’s love. That love was expressed for us on the cross of Calvary.

There are actually four words for love in the Greek language of Paul’s day. Paul chose the word “agape” to emphasize the self-sacrificial love of Christ. It is a selfless action to benefit someone else. The model for this love is Christ, who gave himself for the sins of the world. We are to love our spouses that way. We are to love our children that way. We are also to love each other that way. Each of those relationships require a different kind of sacrifice, each with a depth appropriate for itself. When the lawyer answered Jesus’ question about the greatest commandment, he said love God and love your neighbor. This brought a discussion about what constituted a neighbor. Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan who sacrificed of himself to help the injured man.

There are two phrases in Philippians 1:9 worth looking at. First, Paul wants our love to “abound.” The Greek word means to “be present in abundance.” It’s like having a million dollars in your checking account. There’s more than enough to meet your day to day expenses and you can live liberally with others. The word is present progressive and should be translated “keep on abounding.” We must continue to make deposits in our “love” account so that we can continue to dispense it as needed in every situation. Notice also the phrase “more and more.” Growing up involves learning to love each other liberally more and more with each passing year. Paul had already commended the Philippians for their love for each other. Even though they had it there was always room for more! And more!

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35