I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written about the beginning of my study, and I’ve presented a preliminary outline along with the reasoning behind that outline. I also discussed the letter’s salutation which identified the author and the recipients, and included a greeting.
The next part of the letter consists of the prayer. The prayer easily divides into two parts: Part 1 (Colossians 1:3-8) and Part 2 (Colossians 1:9-14). I’ve already discussed the first part of the prayer, so this post concerns the second part:
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. May you be 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. (Colossians 1:9-14 ESV)
While the first prayer (Colossians 1:3-8) was a prayer of thanksgiving to God because of the Colossians, the second prayer is a request made to God on behalf of the Colossians. Interestingly, this request is made from Paul and Timothy because of the example of Epaphras’ consistent praying. As with the first part of the prayer, this part is also one long sentence, even though it is conveniently separated in the translation above for easier reading.
The authors begin by asking God to fill the Colossians with the knowledge of his will. “Filled with the knowledge” is probably figurative language for making his will clearly known. His desires will be made known in spiritual wisdom and understanding. However, Paul and Timothy do not want the Colossians to only know God’s will, but instead they want them to act on God’s will.
They say that they want the Colossians to clearly know God’s will so that the believers in Colossae will live accordingly (“so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”). Again, “walk” is used figuratively in the sense of living in a certain way. It can be assumed here that knowing God’s will lead to doing God’s will.
“To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” is further described by four participles: 1) producing fruit, 2) growing/increasing, 3) being strengthened/empowered, and 4) giving thanks. The first two (“producing fruit” and “growing/increasing”) have been mentioned previously, and are closely connected in the sentence. Here, we see that “producing fruit” is associated with good works, and “growing/increasing” is associated with knowing God.
Furthermore, walking in a worthy manner is described as being strengthened by the power that God provides. In this description, the authors pile on the verbs and nouns for power/might/glory to emphasize the extent of God’s power which is able to work through the Colossians.
Finally, Paul and Timothy say that the Colossians will be grateful to God when living in a manner worthy of the Lord. We see that the believers in Colossae will joyfully thank God when they realize what God has done for them through his Son: 1) he made them sufficient to be part of God’s children, 2) he moved them out from under the authority of “darkness” and into the kingdom of the Son, and 3) he has redeemed them by forgiving them of their sins.
Here are a few points concerning this prayer:
First, this is primarily a prayer for the spiritual growth of the Colossians. Paul and Timothy have already heard about their faith and love, and they have thanks God for what they heard. But, they desire even more for the believers in Colossae: they desire for even more faith and more love.
Second, knowledge of God’s will, wisdom, and spiritual understanding never remain in the mental realm. Instead, they result in action on the part of the person/group who knows God’s will and has wisdom and spiritual understanding. The purpose of knowing God’s will is so that we will live according to it.
Third, the first aspect of living according to God’s will listed by Paul and Timothy is producing fruit through good works. Similarly, knowing God is closely related to bearing fruit through good works. We would do well to remember this. Again, these concepts will continue to be brought up in this letter.
Fourth, the power to live according to God will is supplied by God alone. We work from the power that God provides. We will see this again when Paul discusses his own service in Colossians 1:29.
Fifth, the proper response to the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf is joyful thanksgiving to God. In this prayer, Paul and Timothy lists three of the benefits that are ours through Jesus. We could list many, many others. But, all of them should lead us to joy and thanksgiving.
What would you add to my study of this second part of the prayer for the Colossians?