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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 1, 2010
Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians, Part 1
Turn with me to Colossians 1:9 and follow along as I read our text for this morning. In this portion of his letter Paul is going to explain the prayers that were being made on behalf of the Colossian believers. He will give the reason for praying for them, the nature of the prayers, the particular requests being made to God on their behalf and the means by which God will fulfill it, and then the desired out come of those prayers along with four characteristics by which that desire would be fulfilled.
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard [of it], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Reason for the Prayer – vs. 9
Paul begins this section by pointing back to what had prompted these prayers saying, “For this reason also, since the day we heard.” Paul had explained to them in the verses immediately preceding that he and those with him in Rome gave thanks to God for what He had done in their lives through their reception of the gospel. We studied this last week. (See: Paul’s Thankfulness) . Epaphras, who was actually from Colossae and was the one that had brought the gospel to the people there, had come to Rome and told Paul all about them. Later in the letter Paul will correct their theology, warn them about the heretics among them and admonish them in living properly before the Lord, but he begins by giving thanks to God because of their response to the gospel. It had born fruit in them and was increasing which was evidenced by their faith in Jesus Christ, their hope in heaven and their sacrificial love for one another and all the saints.
Paul did not question the genuine nature of their conversion to being followers of Jesus Christ because their lives were bearing out the fruit of it even though there were some problems that had developed and some serious theological dangers they were facing. As I pointed out last week, we need to follow Paul’s example here and remember the larger picture even when we must confront a fellow believer about a sin issue. None of us have or will reach perfection until Jesus returns and we are glorified. As 1 John 1:7-10 points out, we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus shed as the atonement for our sin, but we are still going to struggle with sin in this life. In fact, to say we have no sin demonstrates we are self deceived, and to claim we have not sinned is to call God a liar. Paul explains his own struggles in Romans 7. The salvation He has granted to us by His grace through faith in Jesus has made us His adopted children, but our sin as Christians will hinder our walk with Him. This is the reason it is so important that we quickly confess our sins to God who by His faithful and righteous character will forgive those sins and cleanse us according to His promises in Christ Jesus. We can then properly walk with Him again. We are to humbly help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-4) by assisting and encouraging and not just admonishing. Paul understood that and does it here in Colossians.
In the companion letter to the Philippians, Paul remarks that thanksgiving should always be part of prayer in that our prayers, requests and supplications should be made with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), but here we find that thanksgiving precedes and is the motivation for them to pray and make requests of God on their behalf.
The reason that Paul and his companions in Rome were praying for the Colossians is because Epaphras had brought the news about them. That is the importance of sharing our lives with one another. While general prayers are fine and sometimes they are all we can pray, with specific information comes the ability to pray specifically. That is what Paul and those in Rome are able to do because of Epaphras’ report about the church in Colossae.
The Nature of Prayer – vs. 9
In verse 9 Paul reveals two characteristics of the prayers they were making saying, “we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask . . . “ They were unceasing and they were asking.
Unceasing. The idea of “unceasing” prayer or “always” praying is common in Paul’s writings (Philippians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:3, etc.), but this should not be construed to be the idea that the only thing Paul did was pray. Like the rest of us humans, Paul also slept and ate. He also spent considerable time teaching and debating. The concept here is more of being unhindered and always ready to pray. While a time set aside specifically to pray is a good and necessary part of the Christian life since even our Lord would do so (Mark 1:35; 6:46, etc.), there also needs to be a constant attitude and response of prayer.
This attitude of prayer is one that is both God conscious and people conscious. By that I mean that life is lived first of all with an awareness of God’s hand at work in everything. God created people to worship Him and we should be quick to recognize Him and give Him praise throughout daily life for blessings great and small. Praise Him for what you see – a grand vista, a small flower, a smiling face, a dangerous object to avoid. Praise Him for what you hear – an awesome symphony, a pleasant melody, a bird chirping, a warning of danger. Praise Him for what you smell – a fresh Summer rain, dinner cooking, a bouquet of flowers, a leaking gas valve. Praise Him for what you taste – the sweetness of ice cream, salt on an egg, the tang of pineapple and the bitterness of a poison you quickly spit out. Praise Him for what you feel – the coolness of a summer breeze, the warmth of a winter fire, the comfort of a hug and even pain which warns you against further injury and to treat what has been damaged. Praise Him for the blessings great and small that He brings into your life. God consciousness results in praise and worship that continues throughout the day.
The second part is being conscious of people and that our needs can ultimately only be met in God. This results in praying as soon as you learn the need and whenever it is recalled to mind. On the personal side, this is what is meant in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” But this applies to our praying on behalf of others. Our first thoughts when we learn of a need is not what we can do personally or get others to do. It should be to take it before the Lord and seek His intervention on their behalf and then what He may want us to do personally to help. Nehemiah was characterized by this. When he learned of the condition of Jerusalem, his first response was to pray (Nehemiah 1:4, 11). When the King asked him what he would like to have done, Nehemiah’s first response was to pray to the God of heaven, then answer the king (Nehemiah 2:4).
To be “unceasing” in prayer is to have a consciousness of God and people so that your first response to blessings is to praise God and first response to problems is to petition God. In years gone by saying things such as “praise God,” or “Lord, have mercy,” was part of common speech in society. Now, many will consider you to be a religious nut to say such things – may each of us be considered such fools for Christ.
Asking is the second characteristic of Paul’s prayer. Usually we tend to think of praying to God and asking God to be the same thing, but there are differences. Praying (proseuvcomai / proseuchomai) is a term that is only used in reference to praying to God, but it is a general term that covers all aspects of praying. Asking ( aijtevw / aiteô) is more specific for a request of the will for a particular thing. Paul and his companions made both general and specific requests of God on behalf of the church in Colossae. It is also important to emphasize that these are requests made before God and not demands made of God. We live in a time when many have twisted prayer into demanding from God based on perverted ideas that He is obligated to us somehow and especially if we use the formula of the magical incantation. We can make no demands of God. He is the one that is omniscient, omnipotent and sovereign, not us. We can only humbly request, but because of His character, we can do that with confidence. Jesus stated this truth this way in Matthew 7:11, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” We approach our Lord asking, seeking and knocking with confidence in the outcome because of His character.
The Request of the Prayer – vs. 9
The particular request that they make of God is that the Colossian believers would “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.” The idea of being filled here is to be completely filled up, abound, be liberally supplied, to have the soul permeated with it. The word for knowledge here is an intense form (ejpivgnwsi” / epignôsis) that we could translate as “full knowledge” or “thorough knowledge.” Paul and his friends were praying that the Colossians would be permeated with a full knowledge of the will of God. The other specifics of their prayers are related to this overarching request.
Why is this so important? The manner in which we live our lives is determined by our knowledge of God and His will. That is why Paul will deal with the doctrinal issues in his letters before he writes about how they should live which is based on the doctrines he had just explained. Tragically, most people tend to want to only enough knowledge to get along for the moment not realizing that their ignorance results in continuation of the same problems because their belief system has not really changed. They are still pursuing their own will instead of the Lord’s and reaping the consequences.
Most people seem adverse to learning theology, the study of God. There are a variety of reasons for this, but all of them boil down to an ignorant selfishness. They do not want to put the time into the study of the character, nature and will of God because there are other things they would rather do. Their actions reveal their knowledge of God, or rather, lack of knowledge of God for people will generally act according to what they actually believe.
Do you want to have a life of victory in the present and be a success in eternity? Then learn theology. What do I mean by that? Well, I am referring to reading a lot of theology books, though books on theology can be helpful. Knowing God is not a matter of intelligence for God has not hidden Himself so that only those with superior wisdom can ferret Him out. That was the premise of the gnostic heresies that were beginning to develop even at that time. But God is not far away. Psalm 145:18 states, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” James 4:8 calls people to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” He then explains how to draw near to God by being humble, mourning over your sin and repenting. Those who desire to know God and do what James and the Psalmist says will come to know Him. They will continue to be transformed by having their minds renewed through God’s word by reading it, studying it, memorizing it and meditating on it. Those that refuse to do these things will not know God or His will despite any claims of desire or effort.
The Means of Fulfillment – vs. 9
The other reason that reading lots of theology books may not be helpful is that so many of them are just the musing of men placed upon God instead of honest quests to understand what God has revealed about Himself and explain that to others. At the end of verse 9 Paul makes it clear that being filled with a through knowledge of God’s will must be through the means of spiritual wisdom and understanding. Wisdom ( sofiva / sophia) is the ability to apply knowledge correctly.
There are plenty of people with lots of knowledge and little ability to apply that knowledge in practical ways. Our society has aggravated this problem by holding in high esteem those who manage to gain high degrees of academic education who can wax eloquent about all their knowledge – though they may not have the ability to apply much of it to real life. There are many like my mom who learned by many years of work experience that have had to continually train and answer the questions of those with academic credentials much farther advanced than their own. They have degrees, but their knowledge is without wisdom. My dad, a very practical man, just referred to such people as educated fools.
This can easily happen in the religious realm as well. There are people who seem to be walking encyclopedias of Biblical and theological knowledge, but they can’t seem to apply their knowledge to life. They lack the spiritual wisdom that Paul says here is the means of gaining full knowledge of God’s will. They also lack the spiritual understanding that is necessary. Understanding (suvnesi”/ sunesis) is related to wisdom, the more general term, but it is more specific in being critical, discerning, and in this context, able to discriminate between true and false, right and wrong. Understanding is what enables the believer to identify a theology as being false such as a denial of the deity or humanity of Jesus or the advocation of legalistic rules to enhance spirituality. Paul will deal with these particular issues later in this letter.
The world values knowledge and fleshy wisdom, but neither reveals God’s will or can prepare you for eternity. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that no man should boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Paul prayed that the Colossians would have spiritual wisdom and understanding for those are the means to gaining a full knowledge of the will of God.
The Desire of the Prayer – vs. 10
The desire of their prayer is expressed in verse 10. “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects.” Godly Christian behavior is the desired result of them being filled with a full knowledge of God’s will and having spiritual wisdom and understanding.
The analogy of walking was used by Paul in all his letters to churches (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians) to describe the conduct of the Christian life. Walking implies both agreement and direction. It is as Amos 3:3 puts in a rhetorical question, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (NKJV). Of course not. If they do not agree on a time and place to meet and the direction they will go, they cannot walk together.
The Lord wants us to enter at the narrow gate and walk the narrow path that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14). It is a difficult path for in this world those who follow Jesus will have tribulation and be persecuted by the unbelieving (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, it is the path of blessing for Jesus has overcome the world and He is with us always and will never forsake us or leave us on our own (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). We are to walk in agreement with and submission to the will of God while on our way heaven.
Paul describes this here not as just walking with the Lord, but to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord because that is the means by which we please Him. This is not walking in a manner by which you may become worthy of the Lord, for that is impossible for every human since even our works of righteousness are as filthy rags before our holy God (Isaiah 64:6). This is walking in a manner worthy of what the Lord has done for you. Paul stated it that way in Ephesians 4:1 calling for believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” He then goes on to describe the godly manner of conduct that should characterize the follower of Jesus which includes humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, loving one another and being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. All these things are reflective of the Lord living in us and are therefore pleasing to Him. It should go without saying that the Christian desires to please the Lord out of gratitude for saving us from our sins.
The Characteristics of a Worthy Walk
From the end of verse 10 through verse 12 Paul describes the characteristics of a walk that is worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him – “being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (NKJV)
Bearing Fruit. The first characteristic is bearing fruit in every good work. We saw this idea of bearing fruit last week in verse 6. God’s design for a tree is that it bears fruit and the fruit will in turn make evident the type of tree. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. It is by this principle that Jesus said we could tell true teachers from the false ones (Matthew 7:17-18). A characteristic of someone who knows God’s will, has spiritual wisdom and understanding and is walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, is a life of good works. Paul told the Ephesians that though we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not works lest any man should boast, nevertheless, we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). What good works are these? They would include the character qualities I already mentioned that are listed in Ephesians 4:2-3. It would include the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” It would include giving the sacrifice of praise to God which is to be the fruit of our lips (Hebrews 13:15). It would include the practical meeting of the needs of others, especially of fellow believers, which is the outward demonstration of the love of Christ dwelling in us (Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:16-18). These fruits of good works can only be produced when we abide in the vine of Jesus Christ (John 15) and are diligent to follow Him.
Growing or increasing in the knowledge of God is the next characteristics. A tree that is producing good fruit already will continue to grow itself so that it produces even more good fruit. So it is with the believer walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. They will continue to grow spiritually themselves so that they produce even more good works to the praise of God in the future. As the Christian gains knowledge of God’s will they in turn also continue to increase in their capacity to know even more of God’s will and therefore continually grow. Jesus spoke of this same principle in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The servants that did well not only gained a return on the talents they had invested, but they were also given additional talents to oversee because of their faithfulness and wisdom. So it is with spiritual growth and good works. Spiritual growth results in a multi-fold increase in good works that bring praise to God.
Being Empowered is the third characteristic of a Christian who is walking worthy of the Lord. Their growth and good works are due to being empowered according to the glorious might of the Lord. The Lord’s ability to enable and work through His followers is unlimited. Not only is the Lord all powerful, all knowing and sovereign, but He has set His love upon His followers to enable them to follow Him. In Romans 8:32 Paul asked the rhetorical question, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? If God already gave the greatest gift, His Son, so that we could be redeemed, would He then withhold anything needed to hold us within His love and walking with Him? Of course not. He is all powerful and loving so He will supply what is needed to enable His followers to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
Paul then states in this context that this empowerment is for the express purpose of “attaining all steadfastness and patience with joy.” That is not a pleasant thought to us at first glance because both words are associated with suffering. Steadfastness ( uJpomonhv / hupomonê) is resolute endurance in difficult circumstances while patience (makroqumiva / makrothumia) is patient endurance of difficult people. Both are qualities of God (Romans 15:5; 2 Peter 3:9) and are qualities that are developed in us as we go through tribulation and trials and see God’s hand at work (Romans 5:3; James 5:10). That endurance gives evidence of the Holy Spirit working in us (Galatians 5:22). The empowerment of God to do this also allows us to count such tribulations and trials to be a source of joy because of the spiritual maturity they develop in us. Paul speaks of this in Romans 5:3-8 so that we can exult in our tribulations, and James makes the same point in James 1:2-4 so that we can count it all joy when we encounter various trials.
Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord is done by the power of the Lord which in turn enables us to be joyous even when enduring the trials caused by circumstances and people.
Giving Thanks to the Father is the final characteristic Paul mentions here of someone who is walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. As I mentioned last week, being thankful is a hallmark of someone who is being controlled by the Spirit of God. Paul then points out two foundational reasons for this thanksgiving. First, God “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Second, God 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 sin.” We will examine both of these reasons in depth next week. As we conclude this morning I only wanted to point them out as the reasons for the gratitude of the person who is filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding and walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. Without that rescue and transfer to the Lord’s kingdom we would not share in the inheritance of the saints and we would have no hope of heaven in the future or of purpose in the present. We would be lost in pursuing our own selfish will and suffering the consequences of that in the present and condemned for eternity.
This is a model for how to pray for other believers. As we hear about them, our request is that God would completely fill them with the full knowledge of His will through the means of spiritual wisdom and understanding. The desire of our prayer is that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to please Him, and that they would exhibit that in their lives by bearing fruit in every good work; continue to increase in their knowledge of God; be strengthened in His glorious power so that they can joyously endure and be patient in the tribulations of this life; and give thanks to God for rescuing them from Satan and sin and adopting them into His family.
Sermon Notes – 8/1/2010
Paul’s Prayer- Colossians 1:9-12
The Reason for the Prayer
Epaphras had told them about the church in Colossae, for which Paul gave ______- and wrote to correct
Paul regarded their conversion as _____________ due to the evidence of their faith, hope and love
Christians confess their sins so that they can properly walk with the Lord without ______________.
The news Epaphras brought news enabled Paul and his companions to pray for them _______________
The Nature of Prayer
Unceasing – is not speaking about prayers that _____________- Paul did many other activities
This attitude of prayer is one that is both __________ conscious and people conscious
We should be quick to recognize God and give Him __________ for daily blessings great and small
Our needs can ultimately only be met in God so we __________ when we learn a need and recalled
We petition the Lord and seek His intervention _______, then we consider what He would have us do
Praying (proseuvcomai / proseuchomai) is a general term used only in reference to praying to ________
Asking ( aijtevw / aiteô) is more specific for a request of the will for a _____________ thing
We make no ___________ of God, only humble requests based in our confidence of God’s character
The Request of the Prayer – “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.”
______or thorough knowledge (ejpivgnwsi” / epignôsis) – permeated with the knowledge of the will of God
The manner in which we live our lives is determined by our ________________ of God and His will
People tend to be adverse from learning ___________because there are other things they would rather do
Those who desire to know God will be _______, mourn over their sin, repent and read / study / His word
The Means to Fulfill the Prayer – “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”
Theology books may not be helpful in knowing God since many are just the religious musings of ______
Wisdom (sofiva / sophia) is the ability to __________ knowledge correctly.
People with lots of academic knowledge without ____________ are educated fools
Understanding (suvnesi”/ sunesis) is more __________in being critical /discerning between true and false
The world values knowledge and fleshy wisdom – God ___________- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
The Desire of the Prayer ” walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects.”
Walking implies both _______________ and direction – Amos 3:3
Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord is the means by which we ____________Him
It is to have _____________ in keeping with our calling – Ephesians 4:1-3
The Characteristics of a Worthy Walk
Bearing Fruit – being fruitful in every good work
We will know the true and the false by their ____________- Matthew 7:17-18
We were saved by Gods’ grace through faith – but are to _____in good works as a result – Eph. 2:8-10
Good fruit can only be produced if we ___________ in the vine – John 15
Growing – increasing in the knowledge of God
Continued spiritual growth allows for production of even more ____________(See Matthew 25:14-30)
Being Empowered – strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power. . .
The Lord’s ability to enable and work through His followers is _______________- Romans 8:32
This is for the express purpose of “attaining all steadfastness and patience with _______.”
Patient endurance of circumstances and people is a ______________of God to be developed in us.
Giving Thanks to the Father – for inheritance of the saints / rescue & transfer to His kingdom
Without rescue and transfer to ___________ kingdom, we would not have an inheritance of the saints.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Write down all the verses mentioned. 2) Count how many times “prayer” is mentioned. 3) Talk with your parents about using Paul’s example to pray for others
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What caused Paul and his companions to pray for the church in Colossae? What did they know about the church? Who told them? How did they respond? How should we respond to a fellow believer who is struggling with sin? What does it mean to pray without ceasing or pray always? What is the result of living with a consciousness of God’s hand at work? What should be praise God for and when should it be done? What is the effect of being conscious of other people on praying? What is the difference between praying and asking (vs. 9)? What must be our attitude when we approach God in prayer? What is the request of this prayer(vs. 9)? Why is this request so important? What is its relationship to the other parts of this prayer? Why do most people neglect learning theology? How do we learn theology? What is the difference between wisdom and understanding (vs. 9)? Is it possible to have a lot of knowledge and not have wisdom? Explain. What does God think of human wisdom? What is the desire of this prayer for the Colossian believers? What does the concept of “walking” imply? How can we “walk” with God? Why is fruit so important – horticulturally? Spiritually? What is the relationship between spiritual fruit and good works? What are the evidences of spiritual fruit? Explain, give examples. What should be expected of someone who continues to grow spiritually? How does God empower believers and what does He empower them to do? What is the difference between steadfastness and patience (vs. 11). How can a believer be joyful when experiencing tribulation? What did God do that is the cause of the thanksgiving in the prayer? How can you increase your knowledge of God? How well are you doing at walking in a manner worthy of the Lord? What can be done to improve it?
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