Pure and Blameless When Christ Appears
Those Whom Jesus Knows
Father, I pray that the love of this church would abound more and more, in knowledge and all discernment, for us to confirm the things which matter most, so that we may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to your glory and to your praise. Amen!
When Christ returns to bring his saints to himself, what will he look for? In what way will he identify a disciple versus an imposter? “Well,” one might say, “disciples gather with other disciples in regular assemblies (three times a week, maybe?)! Disciples know the Bible. Disciples staunchly oppose flagrant evils. Disciples are adamant that we be doctrinally sound. Disciples wear the name “Christian” publicly. Disciples have been baptized into Christ.”
Each of those elements, however, may be equally shared between disciples and imposters; which is to say, one may do all of those things and yet be utterly unknown by Christ. What distinct element must be had, without which Christ will say, “I never knew you?”
Three years of study in Matthew, and one word rises to the surface of every spiritual discussion, every demand, every act of Christ in his ministry. “What’s the greatest command, Jesus?” Love God! Love neighbors! Every other demand or contingency is subordinate to the command to love. Don’t miss this, Christian. Don’t miss this! Again, pause on this, and be sure you do not miss this. For a long time I missed this, and had Christ not revealed it to me, I’m certain I would have been eternally lost—though I zealously stood on Scripture and would defend it to my death. Many will say to Christ when he returns, “Lord, Lord, did we not speak in your name and do many works in your name?” and he will say, “I never knew you” (see Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus preached his first sermon to a hillside spotted with hopeful Jews, finishing with the warning that many professed disciples will be surprised to hear Jesus say, “I never knew you. Depart from me.”
That warning looms over me every day as I ask Jesus, “What would make me known by you on that day? I want to be known by you, on your return, Jesus.” The answer was shown in every work of Christ—every healing, every rebuke, every act of service, every breath of his life.
And as he prepared to leave the world, in a final sermon, he said of the final day, when all things come to close, “The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:34ff).
Why Paul Prayed
Let’s go back (from last week) to Paul’s prayer for the Philippian Christians: “And I am praying that your love may abound more and more, in knowledge and all discernment, for you to confirm the things which matter most, so that you may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (My translation, 1:9-11).
What did Paul want more than anything in the world? He wanted salvation for the greatest number of people possible. So, for what reason did Paul pray? This is a packed prayer, but the reason is made totally clear by his “so that” statement—halfway through verse 10.
It doesn’t come through in English—our translators have put the “so that” at the beginning of the verse. In Greek, verse 10 reads more like this, “for you to confirm the things which matter more (most), so that (Greek ἵνα) you may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ.”
The big “so that” at the center of his prayer is—“I want you to be pure and blameless when Christ returns!” In other words, “I want Jesus to know you. I want him to look on you and say, ‘Well done! Well done, my beloved. Come see the reward I’ve been making for you since the beginning.’” This is a powerful prayer. This is the kind of prayer to be had for every man, woman, and child in here—for every shepherd, deacon, and evangelist. “Father, make it so that on your Son’s return we will be known by him because we are pure and blameless before him.”
Pray that for one another. I’ll pray that for you. Please pray that for me.
How Sinners are Made Pure and Blameless
On either side of this central purpose in Paul’s prayer, there’s personal responsibility (the first part of the prayer), and there’s Christ’s responsibility (the second part of the prayer)—the only way it’s possible.
Paul’s prayer may be diagrammed like this—(1) Personal responsibility: I am praying that your love may abound more and more, in knowledge and all discernment, for you to confirm the things which matter most; (2) To what end (?): SO THAT you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ; (3) Christ’s responsibility: having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God!
As you encounter personal failures and shortcomings, you may conclude, “There’s no way on this earth that I could ever be pure before Christ.” And yet, Paul is praying that you will be. Indeed, there’s work for you to do, but Paul makes painstakingly clear—your work does not make you pure and blameless. On your own, you could try for a million years to be pure and blameless and you’d not even come close.
There’s a participle just after Paul reveals his desire for our purity and blamelessness on Christ’s return. It may not come through in English, but he’s saying, “You’ll be pure and blameless, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Christ!” Christ makes you righteous. Christ makes you pure. Christ makes you blameless. Christ imparts his righteousness to those who belong to him.
What Paul Prayed
So what? Need anyone do anything when Christ imparts his righteousness? Paul unmistakably believes righteousness comes from Christ. He closed his prayer in a praise to God for this reality. “To the glory and praise of God!”
How is righteousness the condition afforded by Christ alone because of God alone, and yet, there are people who call Christ “Lord,” to whom he will say, “I never knew you! I don’t know you!” For those people, there’s no fruit of righteousness from Christ by which they are made pure or blameless. Why not?
Simply, one may call Jesus “Lord” without him calling that person “disciple.” His righteousness is only granted to those who recognizes. Who does he recognize? Those who are spending time with him. You can’t be a disciple if you’re not where Jesus is! Where’s Jesus? He told us in Matthew 25. He’s the homeless man under the bridge. He’s the struggling single mother. He’s the downcast prisoner. He’s the hungry child. He’s the widow in a care home. He’s the orphan needing love. He’s the brother next to you or the sister behind you. If you call Jesus “Lord,” he can only call you “disciple” if he knows you because you’ve spent time with him.
Imagine me saying, “I’m a Denver Bronco!” And you say, “Dude, you’re 170 lbs and run a 6 second 40. And you live in Oklahoma!” And then I say, “So what? I wear a Bronco’s jersey. I watch every game and know all the stats. You should see me when a game is on! I’ve got real passion.” Can you imagine how ridiculous that would be?
It’s even more ridiculous to say, “I’m a disciple of Jesus” when I never go to where he is—when I spend no time doing the things he did every day of his life. It doesn’t matter if I’ve got a warm seat with my butt groove on a pew in this place. It doesn’t matter (not entirely, at least) if I defend doctrine or if 15 years ago I was baptized. If I’m not spending time loving like Jesus, then he doesn’t know me. And I’m not pure—nor am I blameless.
So Paul’s prayer for these Christians to be pure and blameless, so that they have the righteousness of Christ imparted to them is this: “Father, let their love abound! More and more!”
If love grows stale, then we will no longer care for one another—and by extension, we will no longer care for Christ; we will no longer go to where he is. We will no longer do his work. And he will no longer know us. And we will no longer have his righteousness.
It’s very interesting how Paul qualifies our abounding love for one another: “I am praying that your love may abound more and more, in knowledge and all discernment, for you to confirm the things which matter most.”
There are two qualifiers here: (1) This abounding love comes from a place of knowledge and discernment—literally “in knowledge and all discernment.” In other words, this love is defined by truth—not by the cultural garbage we call “love” today. This love is defined by the one who invented love—God. It’s defined by the one who is the perfect representation of love—Jesus. It doesn’t mean that I feel whimsical around you or get butterflies. It means, I do what Christ would do for you if he were here on earth.
(2) This abounding love means that we confirm what matters most, and thereby do away with the things that don’t matter—like, my opinion or preference or pride. Paul never gave up on a soul when they offended him. He didn’t storm out and say he’s done with them. He labored for Christ, because he knew his pride was worth far less than someone’s eternity.
Let’s close by tying these ideas into the overall letter. What was the problem in Philippi for which Paul wrote? They lacked unity. So we infer from this prayer that a lack of unity may make someone impure and guilty in the day of Christ—because love can’t abound when unity is lacking!
For this week, the challenge is twofold: (1) Pray this prayer for the Kingfisher church of Christ. Pray that our love may abound more and more, in knowledge and all discernment, for us to confirm what matters most, so that we will be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
And (2) go to 1 Corinthians 13 to read about true, Biblical, God-defined love. Then strive to be those things to everyone.
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