Colossians 4:7-18

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This is the final section of the letter, where we discover more about Paul’s situation, and his friends, and that of the Colossians. We can deduce from this section that Paul is a prisoner, along with his friend Aristarchus, most likely in Rome. He is also in company with Mark (the cousin of Barnabas, cf Acts 15:37), Jesus called Justus, Dr Luke (author of Luke-Acts) and Demas. Epaphras is also with him, although Epaphras is from the region of Colossae. Epaphras gets special mention here as a prayer-warrior, whose prayers are for the maturity and fullness of the believers in his faraway hometown. These same friends (except Justus) are mentioned at the end of Philemon and it is likely Paul sent this letter at the same time.

Paul has just sent to Colossae his fellow-worker Tychicus, with Onesimus, a house-servant from Colossae (cf Philemon), as a traveling companion. The purpose of their journey is to inform the Colossians (and Laodiceans from up the valley) about Paul and his friends, and also to encourage them. Presumably it is also to safely deliver the letter we have just read, with its instructions about how to live as faithful disciples of Jesus.

The destination of the letter is not only Colossae, but also Laodicea, which has also received a letter. They are to read their own letters and then exchange them. We no longer have access to the letter that was written to Laodicea. Paul requests the Colossians to tell Archippus to complete his ministry. Archippus was probably a church leader in Colossae (cf Philemon 1:2).

Finally, Paul signs a greeting in his own hand instead of using a scribe. This was a common practice of the time (cf Gal 6:11).

What are we to take from this section? Beyond all the details, I note the corporate and interdependent nature of the ministry. Colossae and Laodicea, towns only 15 kilometers away from each other by the Lycus River, are linked together in fellowship. Paul himself is not alone in Rome, but surrounded by fellow-workers who encourage him and through whom he is encouraged. He sees and honors the ministry of prayer. Even Mark, about whom there was an earlier dispute between Paul and Barnabas, is to be welcomed, and Onesimus the runaway slave is designated as faithful and beloved. There is a great sense of grace, underlined by the last line itself. May those of us in ministry far from our homes be encouraged by these examples to work together in love and with grace, and always to wrestle in prayer for those whom we remember at home.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the picture of co-working I can envisage in this passage. Help me to work with others in grace and love. May those at home be strengthened in their faith and reach maturity in their knowledge of you.

Colossians 4:2-6

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This last section of the letter before the final greetings provides three valuable gems regarding gospel ministry.

Firstly, Paul commends the readers to pray. In fact, he urges them to persist in prayer, using a verb suggesting a difficult situation which requires endurance. It requires an alertness to the context, being vigilant, as Jesus requested the disciples in the garden the night of his arrest (cf Mark 14:34). I think those of us who pray routinely according to lists may sometimes neglect this aspect of watchful prayer. Paul also advises thankfulness in prayer, and specifically requests prayer for himself and Timothy, that God would open the door as they proclaim the word.

This is the second aspect covered in this short passage. There is a clear dependence on God to clear the way for the message to get through. That message is the mystery of Christ, which Paul explained in Chapters 1 and 2 (cf 1:26), the revelation that God in his fullness dwells in Christ, and Christ dwells in those who believe in him, regardless of ethnicity. This message is what has bound Paul, both literally and metaphorically. He is in government chains because of his evangelistic mission (more on this in tomorrow’s reading), and he is also bound by the mission of God, to declare his message clearly (cf 2 Cor 5:14).

Paul also expects the readers to speak the word to those ‘outside’ the family of faith. He exhorts them to speak graciously (i.e. with grace), which suggests kindness and charm. The other instruction is wonderfully peculiar: what does it mean to season our words with salt? I take it to mean that what we say is interesting, so that people want to hear more, just as we always want to eat one more salty chip or nut. People should not be bored with Christians always saying the same thing over and over; we should tantalize them with tasty morsels. I try to do that with my Facebook posts advertising this blog – though I am not always successful and it is certainly not easy. The second part of verse 6 confirms my thoughts about salty speech; Paul wants the reader to know how to answer each person (not ‘everyone’ as most translations have it). That is, we must listen carefully to each person in order that we can answer according to what will be tasty for them specifically.

The third point I note here is that gospel ministry is not only about our words, made accessible and clear through prayer, but there is also action. Paul tells us to act (literally ‘walk’) in wisdom towards those ‘outside’. In the Bible, wisdom involves knowing how to act according to the given situation for maximum long-term benefit, which is why there are some contradictory proverbs. Verse 5 also includes Paul’s unique phrase ‘redeem the time’ (cf Eph 5:16), which suggests making the most of the opportunities with which we are presented. The net effect of this verse, then, is that we should take the opportunities that come our way with people from outside the family of faith, to walk with them in the hope that we can express the mystery of Christ, whether in word or in deed.

Prayer: Lord God, open my eyes to the opportunities to walk with people who do not yet know you. Give me wisdom to know what to say, and open their hearts to hear your message. Help me to be watchful and persistent in prayer.

Colossians 3:18 – 4:1

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This section of the letter gives specific instructions for different people within a household: wives, husbands, children, and servants (usually translated as ‘slaves’). I believe Paul was envisaging the kind of household with which we are familiar in Asia; it is easier for us to appreciate the concept of household servant than for those who live in the West. Many households have servants – we would never call them slaves! – who do menial chores, cooking and cleaning, and look after the children; they are not quite members of the family and yet live as part of it.

Wives are charged to submit to, or place themselves under, their husbands. How politically incorrect these days! This order of husbands and wives – not the order of men and women in general – is as a result of the fall (Gen 3:16). Notice that it is the wife’s duty to submit herself, not the husband’s to make her subservient. I would like to suggest a potentially subversive understanding of the phrase ‘as is fitting/proper in the Lord’. Could it mean that she submits only as is fitting (rather than that submission itself is fitting)? That is, if it was the kind of submission that was inappropriate, for example, submitting herself to violence or any other form of mistreatment, that would not be fitting, and therefore she would not be expected to submit.

That husbands were charged to love their wives was, as you may already know, revolutionary in the first century. It is revolutionary in Buddhist cultures even today, where husbands are charged to honor and respect their wives, and to provide for them (Sigalovada Sutta), but there is no command to love. The negative command in this verse is not merely ‘Do not be harsh with them’ (as in NIV, ESV), but ‘Do not make them bitter’ (or perhaps ‘Do not be embittered by/with them’). Married life is supposed to be sweet, not bitter, and love that lays itself down for the other will make it so.

The next two verses are about parents and children. As expected, children are urged to obey their parents, as was commanded in the Old Testament. There is no qualification in this verse, as obedience is pleasing ‘in’ (not ‘to’) the Lord. How often we see in Asia that a young person’s faith is tested when it goes against their parents’ wishes; missiologists generally recommend that Christian children find a way to obey their unbelieving parents inasmuch as they are able while still following Jesus. I had to do the same thing myself as a new Christian at the age of sixteen. It is interesting that dads haven’t changed in at least 2000 years; as then, my observation is that they still need to be told not to provoke their children, because it leads to disheartening and discouragement.

The next five verses are about household servants (in my opinion) and their masters (in Greek, ‘lords’, as in ye olde England). Servants are to obey their ‘according to the flesh’ lords in the same way that they would the heavenly Lord of the Spirit. They should work sincerely, from their very soul, knowing that they will receive inheritance as a reward from the Lord, even if they don’t receive good wages from their masters, by implication. Conversely, wrongdoing will earn punishment. On the other hand, the earthly lords need to recognise that they too have a heavenly Lord whom they have a duty to obey; therefore they must provide for their servants what is right and fair. My guess is that no one reading this blog would find themselves in the position of a household servant (though there are certainly plenty of Christians in the world in this role!), but we may find ourselves in the role of master. Let us remember to take care of those who work for us.

Prayer: Lord God, Master and Teacher, thank you so much that your word is full of practical advice on how to live as a Christian in this real world. Help me to be the person that you have created me to be.

Colossians 3:12-17

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The previous paragraph gave a list of behaviors which Christians are to avoid, including greed, anger and lying. Paul pictures these as a garment which we are to take off once we move into the new neighborhood of the Kingdom of God. In today’s paragraph, we read about the new garment we are to put on.

First of all, Paul mentions who we are, and when I read it again today it floored me. Chosen of God, holy and loved. Of course, I know these facts! But stop and meditate on it for a moment. God has chosen you, not because you were better or brighter than others, but simply because he set his affection on you (cf Deut 7:6-8). You might imagine God as a young lover whose eye is lit up by you, specifically you. He has chosen you. You are beloved. God loves you. He has made you holy, setting you apart for himself. This is who you are: chosen, holy, loved.

Therefore, he says, look like it. The behavior that befits God’s beloved is compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, long-suffering patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love. I once participated in an eight-week exercise to strengthen my marriage where I focused on each of these qualities for one week, noting how I was lacking and trying to grow in that specific area. It was transformational, and as I mentioned yesterday, I return to this passage regularly to remind myself of what I am supposed to look like and how I am meant to act. I highly recommend this for anyone struggling in a relationship, whether in the home, in church, or at work. Think of that person and ask how you can demonstrate these eight qualities with her or him. Forgive as the Lord forgave you, and put on love as the bond of perfection.

The first verb in verse 15 is fascinating – at least for me as an athlete. Brabeuo is to be an umpire, an arbiter to make the right call. The peace of Christ is to be that umpire in our hearts, who helps us make correct decisions when there is some debate about who or what is right. Peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict, but concord or harmony, or if we infer from the Hebrew shalom, then it includes security, safety, prosperity, wholeness. This is the arbiter in our decision-making within the body.

Paul anticipates the body teaching and instructing one another with wisdom, just as he did for the purposes of a mature church (cf 1:28 which uses the exact same words), and specifically references singing as a teaching tool whereby the word of Christ dwells in our hearts. And doesn’t it? How the words of songs dwell in our minds as we go about singing them all day! Everything we do, whether word or deed, is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, and giving thanks to God the Father. That would include not only teaching Sunday School and running Bible study groups, but also washing up, doing the laundry, chatting with friends, playing with kids, looking after a sick partner or parent … all for Jesus’ sake and giving thanks to God. That’s what being chosen, holy, and loved looks like.

Prayer: Father, thank you for choosing me, loving me, and setting me apart to serve you. Help me to live like I belong in your kingdom. Empower me, Holy Spirit, to be loving, patient, and forgiving, just as you have been with me. Give me your words to share with others through song and teaching, and let my heart be governed by peace.

Colossians 3:1-11

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This is one of my all time favorite chapters of the Bible, a section I return to again and again for sustenance and for advice on how to live. It follows on from the rich theology of Chapter 2, with Paul’s teaching on dying with Christ and being raised to new life in him. Such an understanding should have an effect on who we are and how we relate to the world around us.

Having died, and given that our life is now hidden with Christ in the place to which he has risen, that is, seated at the right hand of God, that is the realm in which our minds should be. In the language of other parts of the New Testament, we are now citizens of the heavenly kingdom and should be living there. We no longer seek the things of this world, or focus on them. This is not only about material things like money and possessions, but is about a heavenly-minded attitude, a stance in which our gaze is directed upwards towards God instead of downwards towards ourselves and our own sinfulness. The revelation of the Christ need not be a future event – though it is that too – but happens even in the present; when Christ is revealed to people, they will understand us also, alongside him.

Therefore, Paul says, with this mindset, many earthly things are dead to us and we should ensure they do not live in this new heavenly kingdom: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, anger, rage, evil, blasphemy, disgraceful language, lying. I don’t usually simply type out again what you can read for yourself in the text, but here I feel it may be helpful to see it as a list. I don’t think any of us can look at this list and honestly say we have conquered them all. Paul says the wrath of God is coming because of these things, and we must no longer live habitually in them. He gives special attention to lying, which gets a whole verse to itself instead of just being one more item in the list.

Someone who lives in the heavenly kingdom has taken off the garb of earth and put on new clothes befitting her new citizenship, just as I wore different clothes when I lived in India to adapt culturally; we will learn more about the new clothes in the next reading. For today, suffice to say that the new self is being remade in the image of its creator, God. Whatever good quality you can think of in God – loving, kind, faithful, compassionate, merciful, truthful – that is what you are meant to be too. Learn who God is, and you will learn who you are supposed to be as a citizen of heaven. Walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and you will find yourself becoming like him. And marvelously, this offer is for everyone who believes. The kingdom of heaven is not restricted to people of a certain race or socio-economic standard. Christ comes to all.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you come even to me. Remind me continually that I have died to myself and that I now live for you. Help me, Holy Spirit, to be renewed daily so that I no longer walk in greed, anger, or deceit. Turn my face toward you, O God, and reflect your glory to all who see Jesus.

Colossians 2:16-23

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In the previous paragraph, Paul began to warn his readers about being taken captive by human traditions and worldly spirits. Instead, he argued, remember who we are in Christ: forgiven of our sins which lead to death, brought back to life, and fulfilled in Christ who is the fullness of God. Our reading today supplies more specific content of the deceitful and vain philosophies which we are to avoid.

We can construct an outline of what the Colossians were hearing. There were people in connection with the church – whether they were part of the church or outsiders is not clear – who appeared to be religious, wise and humble. They designed their own system of worship which included ‘harsh treatment’ of the body, most likely in the form of fasting and avoiding physical pleasures. Their religion also included worship of angels, and apparently ecstatic visions, which led to being ‘puffed up’ by the ‘fleshly mind’, according to Paul’s evaluation. I don’t know a lot about Tibetan or Tantric Buddhism, but this sounds similar in terms of its asceticism and religious ecstasy.

Paul urges his readers not to get sucked in by those who were pushing this different lifestyle with its special religious rules. Those who follow after the ways of asceticism and spiritual ecstasy, these shadows of the reality of faith in Jesus, may end up focused on themselves instead of holding onto Christ, the head who enables the body to grow according to God’s plan of growth. Paul asserts that believers have already died with Christ to the things of this world, including its spirits, and that we therefore should not live as though we are still submitting to this world’s human teaching and decrees, which perish with use like food. Of course, he does not mean we should become anarchists who don’t follow any rules! He is talking about human ideas for deepening spirituality; they are of no value for truly growing in godliness.

Often we feel like there is something missing and we want more than it seems life is offering. In our thirst for a more vibrant faith, a more ‘centered’ soul, or a more overt spirituality, we may be tempted to follow the world’s directions. Transcendental Meditation is the one that keeps popping up in my Facebook feed. Holy yoga, intermittent fasting, journalling and collage, all are current trends that may or may not be helpful for our spiritual, emotional, and physical health. Clearly there is nothing wrong with fasting or with keeping sabbaths, or celebrating Christmas and Easter. The important thing is that we hold fast to Jesus, and don’t fool ourselves that anything else will bring growth in God. Let us not be tricked by the mere appearance of spirituality, humility, and wisdom if its vessel is telling us there is something more we need to do to be filled with Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, sometimes it feels like I am missing out, that there is more to being a disciple than simply knowing that I am filled with Christ. Help me to trust and follow you, help me to hold fast to Jesus.

Colossians 2:6-15

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In this section of the letter, Paul is warning the readers to stick with their faith as they have been taught. There is a continued undercurrent of 1st century false teaching to avoid that we in the 21st century don’t fully understand without some background. We will think about this both today and tomorrow.

The Colossian Christians were in danger of being ‘taken captive’ by an empty and deceptive philosophy which was based on human tradition and according to the stoicheia of the world. Scholars debate the meaning of the word I have just transliterated in italics. It usually means something like the A-B-C’s of the universe, its fundamental mathematical or physical principles (cf Heb 5:12). But that doesn’t quite make sense here, and some have argued the context here and in Galatians suggests Paul sees the stoicheia as spiritual elements, like the pii (spirits) of Thailand and other parts of Asia who are thought to rule certain areas of land. Let’s try reading it like that and see if it makes sense of the passage.

Paul asserts once more that all the fullness of deity dwells in Christ (cf 1:19), bodily, and that he is therefore head over all rulers and authorities. That is, Christ, as the physical representation of God in the world, rules over all other spirits. When Jesus died on the cross he disarmed and defeated those ruling spirits by wiping out the written decrees that stood against us. These decrees should be understood as the pronouncement that we are guilty of trespass, and the punishment is death. In some cultures, a chicken or some other animal may be killed to appease the spirit who demanded death as a punishment for trespass. But Jesus, having died on our behalf, has borne the penalty that we, or our representative, deserve. The spirits (or principle of punishment for sin) therefore have no more power over us because the offering has been made, once and for all. Those who believe in Christ have been buried and raised with him. This imagery symbolizes our death because of sins, and being brought back to life through forgiveness. It is also pictured in both baptism and a symbolic form of circumcision, whereby it is the body of flesh – that is, the sinful nature – which is cut off. In addition, we have been filled by him who is the fullness of God.

This is the faith, Paul reminds his readers, that we have been taught, and in which we are established. The reader is urged to walk in Christ, rooted and built up in him. In other words, what we believe should affect our behavior, our lived-out life. There is no need to add on extra philosophies and traditions beyond Christ (some of which we will learn more about in the next reading). Truly abiding in the Christ we have already received, being rooted in him, will yield fruit in keeping with his character, loving self-sacrifice (to draw on imagery from John 15). It also leads to an abundance of thankfulness.

Prayer: Thank you for Jesus, especially his death on the cross, that sets me free from the law of sin and death. Thank you that you have brought me back from the dead and given me new life. Help me to walk in that faith, to behave in accordance with what I believe, knowing that Jesus has defeated all earthly powers and authorities.

Colossians 1:24 – 2:5

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In this passage, Paul talks about his ministry. We will look at Paul’s ministry under three points: its nature, its purpose, and its content. (I am not going to deal with the tricky exegesis of ‘filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’. Here’s John Piper on it if you want to pursue it further.)

Paul stresses to the Colossians how hard he is working. He is suffering (1:24), he is toiling and striving (1:29), and he has a great toil (2:1). All this is being done for the church (1:24), including people he has not even met (2:1), and it is being done because of a commissioning by God (1:25) and in God’s power, according to God’s energy (1:29). Paul describes himself as a servant (1:25) and his service as preaching, instruction, and teaching (1:28). Although he is absent physically, he is with them in spirit (2:5). Paul also notes that despite all his hard work, he rejoices in this ministry (1:24; 2:5).

The purpose of Paul’s service, according to God’s economy, was to ‘fulfill’ (literally) the word of God (1:25, we will expand on the meaning of this in the next paragraph), so that everyone may be presented mature in Christ (1:28), encouraged, with hearts knit together, and in a full understanding of God in Christ (2:1) so that their faith is firm and in order (2:5). There are hints in this paragraph that the Colossians are in danger of being deceived in their understanding of what they believe (eg 2:4), to which we now turn.

Paul describes the ‘word of God’ which he fulfills (or fills out?) as the mystery, which was hidden but is now revealed, that is, Christ. God has made this gloriously rich mystery, Christ, known to the Gentiles also (as we learned recently in Acts 10-11). Christ in the believer is the hope of glory, and in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We begin to get further clues here about the besetting problem in the Colossian context. It seems there were some in the church who talked about a treasure beyond Jesus, a mystery which involved secret knowledge and wisdom. But Paul is starting to assert here that everything we need to know is found in Christ. All the riches of full wisdom and understanding are found right here in God’s mystery, Christ.

There are three kinds of application for any biblical, or indeed any, text: thinking, feeling, or acting. In psychological terms: cognition, emotion (also called ‘affect’), or behavior. Sometimes an application involves all three aspects. The message Paul wants the Colossians to apply here is in the area of thinking, cognition. His teaching is to shape the mind, so that they are not deceived. Are there areas in which we are in danger of being deceived? Could we also fall into the trap of thinking that there is something more that we are missing, beyond Christ? Even secular psychologists talk about the god-shaped hole to which Augustine and Pascal alluded; it is the human condition to try to fill that hole, and becoming a Christian doesn’t always solve the problem. One more click, one more story, one more post, but we are still left wanting another dose. Paul tells us here that the fullness of knowledge, and glorious wealth, is found in Christ.

We can also learn from the passage about the nature and purpose of ministry. It is true we are not all called to the same ministry as Paul, but he does ask his readers to imitate him (1 Cor 11:1). God gives the power and the energy for our struggle to serve others. It may not be through a ministry of teaching and preaching, but a service of others that leads to their maturity in Christ should be a goal for each one of us. Such service brings rejoicing for the servant and encouragement for the served.

Prayer: Lord God, fill me with your power to serve your people effectively, so that they might be brought to maturity in Christ. If I am seeking fulfillment or treasure anywhere else but in Jesus, please reveal that to me and help me to repent. Thank you for your servants who enable me to have firm faith in Christ.

Colossians 1:15-23

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This is one of those passages in Paul’s epistles which is densely packed with theological truths, over which we could spend hours closely examining every word and phrase. Let’s try to pull out a few of the significant points, firstly about Jesus, and secondly about us (or the Colossian believers to whom Paul was originally writing).

About Jesus we learn three important sets of facts:

  • The Son is the image of the invisible God, and all the fullness of God dwells in him. That is, he exists in a bodily and visible form, just as the first humans were in the image of God (cf Gen 1:27 which uses the same word for ‘image’ in the Greek version of the Old Testament).
  • However, he is not a part of the creation in the same way as the first humans. His relationship to the creation is complex: everything was created in him, through him, and for him, and stands together in him. He is before every created thing and therefore has preeminence and priority, even over other rulers and dominions. He was not only the beginning of all living things, including the church, but also was the first to be born from the dead.
  • Everything is also reconciled through him, particularly by his blood which was shed on the cross. That is, the Son’s death brings peace between God and the rest of creation.

Paul explains about believers that:

  • Though we were alienated or estranged because of our enemy-minds and evil deeds, we have now been reconciled through the Son’s death, with the result that we are presented as holy, unblemished and blameless.
  • This holiness is conditional on remaining in the faith and not moving away from the hope expressed in the gospel.

None of these things would or should be new to us. What does the Holy Spirit want to remind us about today? One thing that strikes me in our current context is the topic of reconciliation. The purpose of the Godhead in the coming of the Son was to bind his creation back to himself and restore peace. If all the creation would take its place in submission to him, there would be peace among human beings also. Let us pray for genuine reconciliation between people of different ethnicities.

Continuing in the faith is something I need to hear regularly, attacked as we are by this world’s philosophies and authorities. Christianity is not merely a set of philosophical beliefs, which might appear better or worse from time to time than another set of beliefs, such as Buddhism or Atheism. Sometimes it feels that my set of beliefs makes sense of my experience; but at other times my experiences of this world suggest that Christianity isn’t right or doesn’t work. Let us not forget that the gospel is the foundation on which our hope is built, a gospel that includes the historical truth that the Son of God was revealed in the flesh as a human being, suffered death on the cross, and was raised again to new life. Whenever I am tempted to leave my faith – and it happens frequently – I have to be reminded of these solid facts.

Anyone or anything that sets itself up against Jesus – whether a government or intellectual or spiritual authority – is in the end subject to him and will be reconciled to him. I can’t comprehend how these things could be created in him, through him, for him, nor how they could be at peace with God through him. But strangely enough, that is what happened to the Roman world almost three centuries after this letter was written, and I’m sure Paul with his life experiences wouldn’t have been able to digest that either. Instead of getting intellectually mired in the strange and unpleasant mystery of the creation and existence of evil, I would like to conclude these meditations with the thought that all things, including you and I, were created for him. We were created for his glory. Let us live intentionally in that noble truth.

Prayer: I thank you Jesus for your sacrifice on the cross, shedding your blood so that I can be presented as holy and blameless. Without you, Lord, I would die an enemy of God. Holy Spirit, please help me to keep believing in the truth about Jesus, and empower me to live knowing that he is Lord of all, to the praise of his glory.

Colossians 1:9-14

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In the previous section Paul explained why he gives thanks for the Colossian believers. Now in these verses he outlines how and what he prays for them. This is instructive for us in how we pray for others – it is far from our normal shopping lists of blessing and healing.

First of all, Paul says he has not ceased praying for them. This does not mean that he prayed continuously for the Colossians, but that he has not left them off his ‘list’. I stand convicted: how many times have I promised to pray for people and yet have forgotten? Of course, I cannot pray for everyone I know every day, but I can at least put a system in place so that people or communities do not fall into the oblivion at the back of my mind. In fact, I have put these systems into place but have not followed through on my plans.

Much more important than the regularity of Paul’s prayer is its content. The form of the verbs, not apparent in the English translation, gives us a clue about the structure of the prayer. The primary request is that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will; such knowledge is qualified as spiritual wisdom and understanding rather than mere intellectual cognition. This would thus enable them to walk worthy of the Lord for the sake of his pleasure. Then Paul spells out what this looks like with four sub-phrases: (1) bearing fruit in every good work; (2) growing in the knowledge of God; (3) being empowered with all power according to his glorious might for all steadfastness and patience with joy; and (4) giving thanks to the Father who makes us fit for a share of the inheritance of the saints in light. We could represent it in this structure:

The crucial element is knowing God’s will so that we can please him in every way. If we know his will then we will do those good works which are characterized as ‘fruit’, and we will give thanks to the one who enables us with his power and qualifies us with his righteousness. It is God’s glorious power that helps us joyfully endure and be patient, implying that there are trials to be overcome. Knowledge gets a double look-in (or multiple times if you count knowledge twice, plus wisdom and understanding once each). We will see how this theme unfolds in the rest of the letter; for now let it suffice to say that right knowledge begets right behavior. Bearing fruit and growing are exactly what Paul said the gospel is doing in verse 6, but here he is praying the same thing for the Colossians themselves, as they are transformed by that very gospel.

Before moving onto the next section, about the Son, the Father is further described as the One who has rescued us from the dominion of darkness (cf Luke 22:53) and transferred us into his beloved Son’s kingdom, which is in the light. This is an event that has already happened; we are not waiting until death or the second coming, but are already subjects of King Jesus, forgiven for our sins and redeemed from the devil. We may have been in the clutches of evil for a time, but we have been bought back for a life of righteousness, by the purchase price of Jesus’ blood. We will hear more about this tomorrow.

Paul’s prayer teaches us how to pray for others, and also how to pray for ourselves. What we need above all, beyond healing and food and financial security and all those things we usually pray for, is knowledge of God’s will, spiritual wisdom and understanding. This will give us power to endure the trials we inevitably face patiently and with joy. It will also enable us to do good works which please the Lord and the communities in which we live. Our lives do not belong to ourselves, but to the Father who has bought (i.e. redeemed) us and brought us out of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus.

Prayer: Thank you Father, for rescuing me into this kingdom. Please give me a knowledge of your will so that I can please you in all I do, and empower me to do those good works you have planned for me, with joy and perseverance. Help me above all to grow in my knowledge of you.