Tertullian (@ 200 a.d.) was one of the greatest of the early church fathers and was actually the first man to use the word “Trinity” to describe the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He lived and wrote at a time when opposition to Christianity and the Church was intensifying. Although Tertullian was an apologist, which is to say he devoted himself to defining and defending the Christian faith against its critics, he was quick to point out that it wasn’t any particular theological or philosophical argument that would ultimately persuade pagans of the truth about Jesus. Rather it was the seemingly inexplicable love that Christians had one for another that initially baffled and finally captivated non-Christians. In one memorable statement, Tertullian said this:
“It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, "[see] how they love one another, . . . How they are ready even to die for one another!’ No tragedy causes trouble in our brotherhood, [and] the family possessions, which generally destroy brotherhood among you, create fraternal bonds among us. One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us [except] our wives. (Apology 39).
This really shouldn’t come as any surprise to us, given that it was Jesus who said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Neither should it come as any surprise to us that when Paul finally gets around to defining the content of his prayers for the Philippians he puts their love one for another at the center of it. In other words, it is in Philippians 1:9-11 that Paul unpacks in considerably more detail precisely what he had in mind when he said in 1:3-6 that he prayed for the Philippians. Here is the content of his intercession: