Pure and Blameless in the Day of Christ (Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity)
[Philippians 1:9-11] 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.
Pure and Blameless for the Day of Christ
“…that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness…” Pure and blameless for the day of Christ – the Last Day. Filled with the fruit of righteousness.
This is the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the congregation in Philippi. That their love would increase more and more in knowledge and in discernment, so that they would approve what is excellent – the right teaching of the true Gospel – and so would be pure and blameless on the day of Christ’s return, full of the fruits of righteousness.
How is a person righteous? How is a person pure and blameless before God?
We know this - we know the Gospel: All sin is forgiven. Jesus was dressed in all man’s sin and stood before God. You are now dressed in the righteousness of Jesus and stand before God. Jesus, not your deeds, is your righteousness that gives you right standing with God.
You are dressed in Jesus. All your sin was condemned in the flesh of Jesus on the cross, so that you no longer will be condemned. Though your sin was like scarlet, it has been made white as snow - Your robe is washed white in the blood of the lamb. You are justified, made right with God, by the blood of Jesus shed.
Your righteousness is a righteousness of faith. Just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness [Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6], so also, as you believe that God is a gracious God who forgives sins through Christ, your faith in Christ is counted as righteousness.
This righteousness is counted apart from works. Scripture says it: “… to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” [Romans 4:5] - “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law …. the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” [Romans 3:21-22] And, “we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” [Romans 3:28]
And Scripture speaks “of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” with these words, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”[Romans 4:6-8]
The guilty man or woman is covered by the all-atoning death of Jesus. Reckoned righteous by faith in Christ. Pure and blameless before God by this righteousness of faith.
This is true of those Christians in Philippi. But the Apostle Paul’s prayer for them is about something one step more: “That your love may abound more and more.” “That you may approve what is excellent.” That they may be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.”
Scripture speaks of that robe washed in the blood of Christ. Scripture also speaks of that (same) white robe as being the deeds of the saints – “it was granted her [the Church] to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. [Revelation 19:8]
Scripture speaks of that righteousness of faith – the faith in Christ by which the sinner is counted as righteous. A right standing with God through faith in Christ. Nevertheless, when Scripture speaks of the Last Day, the Day of Christ, that Final Judgment, Scripture very often speaks in words not directly referencing faith, but in words which reference the fruits of that righteousness of faith.
Brothers and sisters, your sins are all forgiven. You are clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear in Scripture that on the Last Day you will stand in front of God dressed also in what you have built on that righteousness – whether straw, stubble, silver, or gold [1 Corinthians 3:12-15].
Righteousness is given from God – Jesus is your righteousness – yet you will stand in front of God dressed in the fruits of that righteousness. Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Philippi is that they would not be scantily dressed – but instead would be fully dressed and therefore not ashamed as children standing before their Father.
Children of God, do not live in such a way that you stand before God dressed in so embarrassingly little. Instead, stand fully dressed in the fruits of righteousness – in thought, word, deed, and desire.
You are, brothers and sisters, a vine planted in God’s vineyard – sin covered, counted righteous. Yet don’t approach that Last Day as a vine that has to be ashamed that it produced so little. God is abundantly watering and feeding you. So do not lack.
You’re a tree in His garden. Don’t be a tree full of leaves and few apples. Be full of what that root and trunk of faith is indeed able to grow.
What is to grow on your branches? What is the fruit of that faith and righteousness which are gift from God? It’s these: Forgive as you have been forgiven. Love as you have been loved by God. Give as you have been given.
Have pure motives. Don’t speak with a hidden agenda. Don’t be guilty of causing offense. Have in yourself “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” [Galatians 5:22-23]. Be meek, not prideful. Be merciful. Be peacemakers. Be children of God.
How do I put on these fruits of righteousness? Increase in knowledge – knowledge of your Christian faith. Exercise discernment between things in life – discern what is better in God’s eyes, and what is worse, based on your growing knowledge of all God’s doctrine and commands. Learn the contents of your Small Catechism. There you will learn to “approve what is excellent”.
And pray. Pray for a repentant heart. Pray to be delivered from sins. Pray that God would improve you and conform you to the image of Christ. Pray and therefore receive. Seek God’s help and aid by the receiving of His Word and His Supper. God grows the fruit by what you receive. So seek that He would grow it. And believe in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to produce in you what God has commanded.
Sins are forgiven. Only the goodness and righteousness of Jesus Christ, a beautiful clothing, which is laid on you like a robe, makes you right in God’s eyes. Now that God has made you His own and clothed you in His Son, endeavor all the more to stand fully dressed in deeds – pure and blameless - in all the fruits of that righteousness of Jesus which is a gift freely given. Amen.