Colossians Study – Session 3

CrossPointe Community Church – Denton, TX

January 27, 2013 - Larry Reynolds, Teacher

 

3.  Prayer of petition (9-14) - The portion of Colossians on which we are going to focus in this session is brief, only about 135 words in the NASB.   But the number of ideas crammed into those few words is remarkable.  This passage touches on a wide range of subjects including praying effectively, living a life pleasing to God, being productive as a Christian, growing in spiritual maturity, being consistent and patient in our Christian walk, being thankful and many more.  In this paragraph, which is in the form of a prayer of petition, Paul asks two things on behalf of his readers:

          “…that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” (v.9b)…that they may know God’s will…

 

          “…that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…” (10a)… that they may do God’s will…

 

The first part of verse 9 sets the stage for the prayer to follow.

 

“…for this reason…” – Either a reference to the entire previous paragraph where Paul expressed thanks to for their spiritual welfare, for the progress of the gospel, for the work of Epaphras or the last part of v.8 where Paul says Epaphras informed him of the love the Colossians had for him…

 

“…since the day we heard of it…”  - Refers to day Epaphras reported to him about the situation in Colossae…

 

          “…we have not ceased to pray for you…”  - Reminiscent of statements like Ephesians 6:18 says we are to “...pray at all times in the spirit...” or I Thessalonians 5:17says we are to “...pray without ceasing...”of course, doesn’t mean we spend every waking moment with heads bowed and eyes closed in prayer...means we are to live in such close fellowship with God that we just naturally bring before him people who cross our minds or  situations with which we come in contact...as one writer put it, “Through the day [Paul] would think of the Colossians; how they were doing and what was threatening them, and he would breathe a prayer for them.  This is what he means by ‘we have not ceased to pray for you.’  We can pray for each other in that same wonderful way.” [Ray Stedman, “Growing Up,” sermon on Colossians 1:9-14]

 

1)    That they may know God’s will (9b) – “…that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” 

 

     That request would have had special meaning to the Colossians because Paul deliberately uses a concept often used by the false teachers who had infected that church...the heresy infecting the Colossian church was an early form of a philosophical system known as gnosticism...the word gnostic comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means knowledge...the gnostics claimed to have a secret knowledge about the universe...and only those people who were let in on their secrets, who were filled with their knowledge, could live full or complete lives...

 

     And in this prayer Paul says to the Colossians that there is a knowledge with which you should be concerned...but it’s not the secret knowledge claimed by the gnostics...it is knowledge of God and His will for your lives...and to drive his point home Paul uses a word for “knowledge” in v.9 which trumps the word commonly used by the gnostics...they used “gnosis” which just means knowledge, but Paul prayed that the Colossians would have “epignosis” which carries the idea of deep or thorough knowledge... And if you’ll look carefully at the text you will see that this kind of knowledge is characterized by two things— wisdom and understanding...

·        wisdom (sophia) means to grasp truth, to understand truth...

·        understanding (sunesis) means to be able to apply truth to life...

 

     What is the word in that for us?...we live in world exploding with information but starving for knowledge...to get information all have do is turn on computer, enter a word or phrase into a search engine, and you will be overwhelmed with more information than can possibly use...we don’t really need more information, we desperately need more of the kind of knowledge about which Paul is talking in this passage — knowledge of the will of God...that is a knowledge found only in God’s Word…

 

 

2)  That they may do God’s will (10a)“…so that you my walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects…”

 

     For Christians knowledge is never an end in itself...we are not encouraged to grow in our knowledge of God’s will merely to satisfy our intellectual curiosity...we are to grow in knowledge so that we will live right...right knowledge must always lead to right conduct...The Christian life is not a life of merely gaining and sorting information about God or about the Bible...it is not a life of barren orthodoxy...it is a life of growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     In the Scripture, the word “walk” is often used to describe a person’s pattern of conduct or habit of life...Paul saying, “I pray that you will live in such a way that your life would reflect well on the Lord you serve and that your life would be pleasing to Him.”...following that statement in first part of v.10 Paul uses four participles, each followed by a prepositional phrase, to describe a life which is worthy of the Lord and pleasing to God...such a life is a life of—

·        bearing fruit in every good work...(10b)

·        increasing in the knowledge of God...(10c)

·        being strengthened with all power...(11)

·        giving thanks to the Father...(12-14)

 

 

To please God or to do God’s will be must BEAR FRUIT (10b) – “…bearing fruit in every good work…”

 

     Want begin by focus first on last part of that statement...the “every good work” part...since the inception of the church there has been much misunderstanding among Christians about the appropriate role of good works in the lives of followers of Christ...two extremes have surfaced time and time again in Christian thought...

·        On the one hand, there have always been those who have insisted good works are necessary for salvation...they believe that for us to be accepted by God and to be welcomed into heaven, we must somehow earn that by doing enough good works to outweigh our sins...people who believe good works are necessary for salvation ignore such biblical statements as  Ephesians 2:8-9 - “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

·        On the other hand (and the other extreme) there have always been those who have insisted that good works have no role/ place in the life of a Christian...they say that since we are saved by grace and since salvation is God’s doing, not ours, there is no need for us to be concerned with good works...those who take that position ignore the rest of that statement in Ephesians 2...for after saying we are saved by grace not by works, the very next verse says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

 

     Point of all that is that while we are not saved by good works, we are saved for good works...as NT teacher in seminary, Dr. Curtis Vaughan, was fond of saying, “Works are not the root of salvation; they are the fruit of salvation.”

 

     Now focus on the phrase “bearing fruit” part...the word “fruit” is used at least four ways in the NT...

·        Sense of fruit of personal righteousness or goodness...the list of personal virtues in Galatians 5 described as “the fruit of the spirit” is a good example of that...

·        Describe new converts to Christianity...Paul described the conversion of the household of Stephanas as the “first fruits of Achaia” [I Cor.16:15]

·        Sense of service and ministry to others such as when Paul spoke of doing “fruitful labor” in Philippians 1:22...

·        Sense of praise and worship...Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

 

     That kind of activity should be  the norm, the pattern, the continual habit of a Christian...the verb form of the phrase “bearing fruit” is in the present tense...that denotes not a one time action or occasional action...it denotes continuous, habitual action...

 

To please God or to do God’s will be must INCREASE IN KNOWLEDGE  (10C) – “…increasing in the knowledge of God…”

 

“knowledge of God” – Significant how that is worded…not about but of… growing spiritually is not merely gaining more information about God...growing spiritually is becoming more intimate with God...and this simple phrase in Colossians 1:11 tells us two very significant things about spiritual growth in the life of a Christian...

·        The verb tense of “increasing” is also the present tense, describing a continuous, on-going activity... something you start at a particular point in time and never stop...in our spiritual pilgrimage there never comes a time when we should feel that we have arrived...that we can stop “increasing in the knowledge of God”...

·        The verb “increasing” in the active voice...that means the subject, which in this case is us, is doing the acting, not being acted upon...in other words we are responsible for the “increasing in the knowledge of God” in our lives...it is not something someone else can do for us...we must do it ourselves... far too many Christians find it easy to blame their lack of spiritual progress on someone else

 

 

To please God or to do God’s will be must BE STRENGTHENED WITH ALL POWER (11) – “strengthened with power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…”

 

     Like the other verb forms in this list of things characterizing a life pleasing to God --”bearing fruit...increasing in knowledge of God...giving thanks to God...” strengthened is in the present tense...that is, it denotes a continuing activity...God is continually giving us strength...however, unlike the other verb forms in this list, “strengthened” is not in the active voice...it is passive...means that it is not something we do, it is something which is being done to us...we don’t make ourselves strong...God gives us strength...

 

     The word translated “strengthen” is same word Paul used in Philippians 4:13 when he said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”...this is a principle which appears time and time again in Scripture...

·        Moses said in Exodus 15:2, “The Lord is my strength and song...”

·        David said in Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield...” and in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength...”

·        Isaiah said in Isaiah 40:29, “[God] gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power...”

 

     The strength God gives us, He gives for a purpose...and that purpose is to help us stand and even excel in times of adversity...in last part of v.11 Paul uses two very special words...one word the NASB translates “steadfastness” and the other word is translated “patience”...both of those words have to do with handling adversity...

·        ”steadfastness” (hupomone) is translated patience in some Bibles...however, “steadfastness” or “endurance” is a much better translation...compound word…hupo – in or under… meno – abide, remain, or stay…so literally the word means “to say under” …it carries the idea of having the ability to hang in there in difficult times...it is just the opposite of cutting and running at the first sign of trouble...Winston Churchill once made this positive statement about one of his generals...”The impression I [have of him is] an iron peg hammered into the frozen ground--immovable.” [Harbour, Colossians notes] ...and if we don’t allow God to develop in us this quality of endurance, perseverance, it is not likely we will accomplish much of anything else...

·        ”patience” (makrothumia) is one of the great words of the Bible...it is sometimes translated “long-suffering” and that is excellent rendering of the word...compound word...first part means “long” and second part means “passion” or “temper” ...means have long fuse as opposed to short fuse...while “hupomone” carries idea of being patient in difficult situations ...”makrothumia” carries idea of being patient with difficult people...it is the kind of spirit which refuses to retaliate, to strike back, to take revenge on those who do us wrong...

 

     All this is to be done “joyously” or literally “with joy” (meta charis)… the life of “steadfastness” and “patience” is not a grim endurance contest or struggle with situations and people…it is a joyful experience… the word carries the idea of having joy in any circumstances of life…it is more of an attitude than a feeling…

 

To please God or to do God’s will be must GIVE THANKS TO THE FATHER (12-14) – “…giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

     These verses remind us that every Christian is the recipient of some amazing, priceless blessings from God...if you will look carefully at these verses, you will see Paul states four specific things for which we should be thankful...we should be thankful because God has “qualified us”...”delivered us”...”transferred us”...”redeemed us”

·        “..qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints…” - …the verb translated “qualified us” in v.12 is a rare word... it means “to make sufficient, to empower, to authorize, to make fit...”…the only other time it is used in the NT is 2 Cor. 3:6 where it is translated in the NASB as “made us adequate”…God has made us adequate to participate in “the inheritance of the saints”…there is some debate concerning precisely what is meant by the word “inheritance”…some say it refers to the life that we have waiting us in heaven…others says it refers to the spiritual blessings we experience in Christ that begin in this life and extend into the next life…either way, we gain “the inheritance” not based on our merit but on God making us adequate for it…

·        “…delivered us from the domain of darkness…” – The word delivered” carries the idea of being rescued or liberated...the picture is that of people in dire danger...they are about to be overcome, and just at the last moment another person steps in to save them...”domain of darkness” refers to that realm of life which is controlled by ignorance, falsehood, evil, and sin...Jesus used this exact phrase to describe the forces of Satan which constantly opposed and attacked Him...the phrase refers to that realm of life controlled by Satan rather than by God...There is a sense in which all of us were at one time trapped in the realm of spiritual darkness...we were separated from God and we were helpless to do anything to save ourselves...we were in danger of spending eternity separated from God... Jesus came to our world for the express purpose of rescuing us, of leading us out of a life like that...

·        “…transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” - That statement refers to a common practice in the ancient world... in those times, when a nation defeated an enemy, often the key leaders of the defeated nation were deported to another nation...in effect Paul is saying, “We were held captive in the kingdom of sin and darkness. Jesus defeated those powers over us and transported us to a new and better kingdom.”

·         “…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…” – The root meaning of the word “redemption” is “to buy back”… through His sacrificial death Jesus bought us back, paid the price for our sinfulness, and gave us forgiveness.  One of the great blessings we have in Christ is the blessing of continual forgiveness of sin...we no longer have to live weighed down by the burden of guilt...one writer put it this way:  “The forgiveness of sins means we can start every day with a fresh, clean slate.  All of yesterday’s mistakes have been washed away, not in order that we might go back and repeat them, but that we might have nothing against us as we begin again.  Every day we start in afresh until we learn to do it right.  God is with us.  He cleanses the past continually.  The forgiveness of sins is something we ought to rejoice in every day, because the burden and guilt of yesterday is no longer dragging us down.  We are free to walk in liberty and peace.  How grateful we should be for these incredible blessings! [Stedman, sermon on Colossians 1:9-14, December 7, 1986]

 

Based on Colossians 1:9-14, how can we tell if we are making progress in our walk with the Lord?

 

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