Our Sunday school class this week focused on the part of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians that is given to us in verses 9 to 11 of the first chapter of his letter to them. The following is the English Standard Version of this passage.
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
What seemed to be to be of interest to me was the phrase “so that you may approve what is excellent.” What does “approve” mean here. When I came to write the post, I found that the phrase differed in the two other translations I looked at. The New International Version (1978) has “so that you may be able to discern what is best” and the Revised English Bible has “enabling you to learn by experience what things really matter” and replaces “pure” with “flawless.”
I think I want to go with the ESV translation. Here’s why. The NIV says that the Philippians are to discern what is best. How is that a help to me who cannot be sure of discerning which of three translations is best. The REB tells me I can learn what really matters and become flawless. Being both a slow learner in regard to spiritual things and having no hope of ever, in this life, being flawless, I don’t see anything for me in the REB translation.
Let me give you my thoughts on the ESV version. Recently I have read in two articles that Johann S. Bach was a great Christian composer. However, I do not have the ability to judge his composing or, to tell the truth, enjoy his music. I did though receive pleasure from knowing that he was such a great composer and had glorified God and continues to inspire people with his music. I think approving what is excellent is something I can do without it requiring that I have personal qualities that I don’t. In other words, being on the right side of evaluations is something that can help bring about in us the sanctification that is the gift of God to those who believe in his Son.