Colossians 1:3-14 (Week 2)
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this, you have heard before in the word of the truth, the Gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has 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.”
Here we get to see into the prayer life of the apostle Paul, specifically in his prayer for the believers in Colossae. Now, remember, he has not met these brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t stop him from praying for them and praying for them often. Two times in this little prayer, we see where he mentions that he is constantly praying for them (always, not ceased). Not only this, but we get to see why he is praying for them and the content of his prayer for them.
The most challenging aspect of this prayer comes when we look at the spiritual realities that Paul articulates regarding the Colossian believers, simply because they are in Christ. It is important that we see ourselves in this same light and learn from his prayer for the Colossian Church and apply these truths to our lives.
WHAT IS THE TEXT SAYING?
WHEN DO THEY PRAY?
Paul (and Timothy) are always praying for their brothers and sisters at Colossae. Because of Paul’s role in the church, he knows that the church in Colossae will listen to what he has to say to them. However, he isn’t just writing them a letter telling them to “get with the program.” He genuinely loves them and constantly takes his concern for them before our Father in Heaven. Here he even takes the time to say that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is identifying himself as a brother to them and a servant of Jesus. Ever since they heard that there was a church in Colossae, they have been praying for them.
Why do they pray?
News of their devotion to God made its way to a Roman prison. Let’s look at the specificity of what Paul has heard about them.
FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS
This is another way of saying that they have become Christians. They have confessed, repented, and put their faith in Jesus as their savior. This has to do with the vertical dimension of their relationship with God.
LOVE FOR THE SAINTS
They have a genuine love for other Christians. Because their lives have been changed by the Gospel, they have a love for others in the household of faith. This has to do with the horizontal dimension of their relationships with others.
BECAUSE OF THEIR HOPE
Notice that faith and love are grounded in their hope. They have faith in God and love for others because of the hope they have in Christ. You have probably heard this before, but Paul is not using the word “hope” like we commonly use it. We say
“hope” when we don’t really think something is going to happen. “Man, I hope this is over soon.” But when the Bible uses the word “hope,” it involves a confident belief in what is going to happen in the future, based on our unshakeable confidence in God. This is awesome. We have an eternal, secured hope in heaven. It’s there for us, already (1 Peter 1:3-5).
They have this hope because they have responded appropriately to the Gospel, which he refers to as “the word of truth.” It is striking the way that Paul refers to their conversion. He uses the words “heard, understood, and learned.” This is integral to his letter since he is trying to clarify the Gospel message in light of this immanent heresy.
This Gospel has gone over the entire world and is “bearing fruit and increasing.” This phrase is fascinating for two reasons. First, because he comes right back to it in verse 10, regarding how the Colossians are progressing in their faith. Second, because it appears to be a reference to Genesis 1:28, where God commands our first parents to “be fruitful and multiply” (in the Septuagint – the Greek version of the Old Testament – these are the same two verbs). This is a cool thought because the Gospel is doing spiritually, what Adam and Eve were commanded to do physically.
In their context, it was Epaphras that was doing the work of the Gospel as he is the one who shared it with them. Because of this, Paul commends him for his faithful work to Jesus on their behalf. And, it is because of Epaphras that Paul and Timothy even heard about the faith of the Colossians. Paul calls him a “fellow slave” and “faithful servant.”
WHAT DO THEY PRAY?
This is the most exciting part of this passage because it helps us understand Paul’s (and the Lord’s) desire for the Colossian believers, and by extension, to us as God’s children. We get insight into what the work of sanctification should look like in our lives as we submit to the work of the Lord in us. It should also lead us to how we pray for our growth in Christ and the continued discipleship of our brothers and sisters.
FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL
This is the main point of their prayer; everything else comes off of this. And this is no simple request. By extension, we need to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, which is characterized by “all wisdom” and “spiritual understanding.” Let’s look deeper into this.
Since Paul is praying for this to happen, and since the verb “to be filled” is in the passive voice, we realize that it is God who fills us with this knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean that we are inactive in our sanctification, right? Where are we to find this knowledge? In God’s revealed Word! God has given us the key to understanding His will in the Bible (John 17:17).
TO WALK WORTHY OF THE LORD
Wow. What does that even mean? This word “worthy” is only used six times in the New Testament, five of those are by Paul.
Romans 16:2 – “Worthy of the saints.”
Ephesians 4:1 – “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”
Philippians 1:27 – “Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel.”
1 Thessalonians 2:12 – “Walk worthy of God.”
Our understanding of God’s will should lead us to live lives like Jesus. What a heavy thought. This is a byproduct of the Spirit’s work inside us. It is insight that the Spirit of God gives us that enables us to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God.
This is another way of saying that as we grow in our relationship with God, we will bear fruit that accompanies our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture uses the term “fruit” both for actions and attitudes, and a disciple of Jesus should be bearing both. Our actions should represent that we are following the Lord. These should be coming from attitudes that represent the Holy Spirit of God at work in our lives (Galatians 5:22-24).
INCREASING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
A logical corollary to this would be the increase of our knowledge of God. Again, he is highlighting the “intellectual” aspect of the Christian life. And, of course, it makes perfect sense that if our knowledge of God through His Word is what sets us on the course of Christlikeness, then we will continue to know both more of Him and to know Him more.
(God’s Strength = Endurance and Patience)
But is the Christian life difficult? Assuredly so. And let’s not forget that we are getting this letter from a man in prison for the Gospel. We need to have strength of will to continue, but thanks be to God that He will fill us with His strength. Our God has an unending storehouse of strength with which to fill us. Paul prays that the Colossians will be strengthened with all strength, according to God’s glorious might (or the might of His glory). What an encouragement!
This will lead us to have increased endurance and patience. Our process of sanctification requires us to set a course and continue. We need strength and fortitude, and God has it to give to us.
GIVING THANKS WITH JOY
There is a slight debate on where the “with joy” should go in this passage. I have decided to put it in a different place than the ESV (choosing to agree with the NASB and CSV). The giving of thanks provides a bridge for us in this section because it is coming off of what it means to walk worthy of God, and it explains the following section as reasons for which we should be giving God thanks.
First, as we continue to grow in our Christian discipleship, our lives should be characterized by joyfully giving thanks to God. This flows naturally from the fact that we recognize that our maturity as believers comes directly from His hands. He is the one who is sanctifying us.
Second, we should constantly be giving thanks for our salvation. Paul uses some awesome word pictures to talk about our new status as believers. In extending salvation to us, God has made us qualified to have a portion of His eternal inheritance, along with all the other saints of God.
We, who were once, blind and ignorant, have become receptors of His light. We, who were once lost, have been rescued from the authority and domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the beloved Son of God. We, who were once slaves to sin, have been purchased by the blood of Jesus. We have redemption, that is to say, the forgiveness from all our sins.
What Does This Mean for Me?
- Christians are thankful people. Paul is giving thanks for the Colossians and praying that they will grow in the faith, and one aspect of this is being joyfully thankful. How do I characterize myself? Am I a thankful person? Am I growing in gratitude? How grateful am I to God for my salvation?
- Prayer: What can I learn about the way Paul is praying for these Christians?
- Do I pray for others like this? If I was seriously praying for the spiritual growth of others like this, I would love them more and treat them better. So why don’t I?
- Am I praying well for myself? Am I focused on prayer in my personal growth in Christ?
- Am I praying for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and understanding? How can I pray more intentionally for my sanctification?
- Do I have this kind of hope? Have I internalized the fact that I have an eternal hope reserved in Heaven for me? Is this leading me to deepen my faith in Jesus and increase my love of others?
- Am I studying God’s Word as I should? I should be praying that God will give me a knowledge of His will, but if I’m not disciplining myself to seek Him through His Word, this is just a hollow prayer.
- Am I walking/living in a way that is worthy of God and pleasing to Him? That is such a heavy thought. Take a minute and seriously think through this. Ask God to reveal areas of sin and hypocrisy to you.
- Where’s my identity? Do I see myself as rescued? Do I see myself as an heir of God’s inheritance? Do I see myself as purchased by God? Do I see myself as forgiven?
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