The word ‘sincere’ in the verse above has a very interesting history, and was only used twice in the New Testament (the other is in 2 Peter 1:3). The original Greek word used was eilikrines, which could be a combination of the two words heile which means sun ray, and krino which means judged; in other words ‘judged by sunlight.’
Why would the word sincere mean ‘judged by sunlight’? Well, when devious ancient potters used to find a crack, they would fill it with wax and paint over it so that the customers would not be able to tell the difference between a good pot and a bad one. However, if someone held a pot up to the sun, if there was a crack, the wax would be revealed and the inferior pot would be discovered. Good pottery would be marked with the words sine cera, which meant ‘without wax.’ In other words, sincere meant that the flawless pots could be judged by the sun and passed the test. Another possible use of the word eilikrines involved honey, because it could be held up to the sun for examination, and could be judged clear and pure (without wax). About half of modern English Bibles (NKJV, NASB) translated the word eilikrines to sincere and the other half (NIV, ESV) chose the word pure. Both words effectively give us the definition of being tested for faults and found clear, or judged and approved.
A person who is sincere is someone you know you can trust. The person isn’t hiding anything or trying to be deceitful, so you know that he or she is presenting you with real authenticity. If we break down Phil. 1:9-10, we can see that according to Paul, the way to be sincere and pure is to focus on gaining knowledge and discernment. None of us is capable of being pure (without wax) on our own strength because we are all sinners, but the more we put our effort into striving to be more like God, through studying His Word, discerning what is right and wrong, and loving others, then the more we will be sanctified by the Holy Spirit as we live our lives. In turn, these things will help us serve effectively until Jesus returns. And let us all remember that Jesus already paid for our sins, so if we are saved, then when we are judged by the Son, we are already found to be clear.
Your sister in Christ,
Photo Credit: My own photo