The Prayer for the Colossians
Tim Temple

Introduction

Our text is Colossians, chapter 1, verses 9-14:

Colossians 1

9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

We have seen that this is a very personal letter from the heart of the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians who had a specific problem. Their problem was that they were confused about the nature and personality of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul answers their questions in that regard, he establishes for us a great body of truths about the subject of Jesus Christ. Evidently someone from their midst had written a letter to Paul; probably it was Epaphras their leader, their pastor. In fact, from looking at the end of the book, Paul mentions that Epaphras is there with him personally. Most Bible scholars believe that Epaphras himself took the letter to Paul, stayed there while Paul wrote the answer, then took it back to the Colossians. So as Paul looks over their questions, as he reviews the false teaching that they had been getting, and as he gives the answers to them, and as Epaphras takes the answer back to the Colossians, we have established for us a great body of truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.

Theologically it is called Christology , the study of Christ; and one of the basic books dealing with the subject of Jesus Christ, dealing with the subject of Christology, is this letter to the Colossians.

The practicality of this doctrine is something that we are struck with as we look at the letter to the Colossians. This is not just some dusty, dry treatise. This is not just a listing of facts and figures and details, but rather it has a very personal note. We are thankful that it is in a format of a letter we can read and that we can identify with the person who wrote the letter, and we can feel that we are even one of those to whom it was addressed. Even though we don't live in the city of Colosse, the letter is addressed to us. God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul as he wrote. God knew that you and I, living in twentieth-century Texas, would have some of the same problems somewhere along the line, and so He provided this information for us.

The practicality of this doctrine and Paul's handling of it is demonstrated in what we might call the theme verse of this book. If you will glance down verse 27 in chapter 1, and notice there:

Colossians 1

27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; [now notice these words] which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Christ in you, the hope of glory . This is the basic idea the Apostle Paul wants to get across to the Colossians. This is the basic idea that God the Holy Spirit wants to get across to you and to me, that we don't need a lot of framework. We don't need a lot of intermediaries. We don't need a lot of ritual and form. If we are to know God properly, and if we are to be what God wants us to be, the primary thing that we need is to recognize that Christ is in us, and therein lies the hope of glory. Christ in you, the hope of glory .

You see, with this understanding, as we rely upon the strength of Jesus Christ indwelling us, as we rely upon the instruction of the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ and concerning His principles, you and I can be all that God wants us to be. You and I can do all that God wants us to do. Christ in you is the hope of glory, and that is the basic point that Paul wants to get across to the Colossians and to us as he establishes this letter.

As Paul goes about to develop this theme, he gives us four basic ideas in chapter 1. We have divided this chapter into these four parts. First, in verses 1-14, Paul is talking about Christ and the Colossians , the personal relationship of Christ and the Colossians. We have been looking at those verses and we want to continue thinking about those; then in verses 15-19, we are going to read about Christ as the Creator ; then in verses 20-23, Christ as Conciliator , the one who reconciles between God and man; then in verses 24-29, Christ as Confidence-Giver .

What we have in that first section is a general but personal introduction. And then in those three remaining sections, we have specific ways in which Jesus Christ is personally powerful. He is our Creator. He is the One who reconciles us to God, and He is the One who can give us confidence to face any situation or any need that we have.

Continued In Prayer

We have begun looking at the first of these sections of the chapter, Christ and the Colossians , as it is found in verses 1-14; and now we want to look particularly at Paul's prayer for them as it is described for us in these verses. We have looked at the other aspects of Christ's relationship to the Colossians, and now we want to think about the prayer that the Apostle Paul prays for the Colossians.

In these verses, we have the prayer described for us; and we want to notice, going back to verse 9, the first verse that we read together, the beginning of this prayer. Notice in verse 9, Paul says:

Colossians 1

9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Paul says, “Colossians, I have been praying for you, and I continue to pray for you. Since the very day that I heard that you had come to Christ, I have continued in prayer for you. Here are the things that I am praying for.”

Notice in verse 9, the word desire . That word is a translation of the Greek word aiteo , which means specifically to ask . So as Paul says, “I have been praying for you, and I am desiring these certain things for you,” it is not just a matter of saying, “I wish these things would come true in your lives. I wish that you would do this or that God would do that,” but rather he is saying “I am specifically asking God for two things for you Colossians. I am specifically asking for these things. The first of these is that you would have understanding of the will of God.” In verse 9, “I am praying that you will have understanding of the will of God.” And then we are going to notice a little further down that he is praying that they would undertake a walk worthy of God, as described in verses 10-12. So the two things that he is specifically asking is that they would understand the will of God and that they would undertake a walk worthy of God.

An Understanding of God's Will

He says, “I am asking that you will have understanding of the will of God.” Notice in verse 9 again, the word understanding . “I am specifically asking that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Notice that Paul is not just praying that they will know what the will of God is. He is not just saying, “I am praying that you Colossians will know whether it is God's will to do a certain thing or not.” The Scriptures are full of instruction about understanding God's will. It is beyond the scope of our lesson to go into the details about that. We have information available in the printed literature, the lessons that Dad has taught. We have information on tapes that both Dad and I have taught, and there are many other sources outside of our own teaching here that inform us about Scriptural teaching concerning God's will. Paul is not just saying, “I hope you will know what God's will is.” He is not just saying, “I'm asking that you will know what God's will is,” but he is saying, rather, “I'm asking that you will know the will of God and have understanding about it.” The word understanding here is a translation of the Greek word sunesis . And this Greek word sunesis is a translation of a combination of two smaller Greek words. We get the word sunesis from the Greek word sun , which means with or together and a form of the word hiemi which means to send or to put or to place so that Paul says, “I'm praying that you will know the will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” He is saying, “I am praying. I am asking God specifically that you will be able to put it together about God's will.” You see how up-to-date the Word of God is. You hear people say, “I have just got to go and get it together. I've just got to go and get my act together,” or “I've got to try to get it together about this situation.” And that is exactly what Paul is praying. “I'm asking God that you will be able to put it together about God's will.”

Five Specifics of God's Will

What does it mean to be able to put it together about the will of God? Well, let's put it this way: There are many things that we know the will of God about. There may be many things that you would like to know the will of God about, that you haven't yet found God's will for, but recognize that there are at least five things that the Scriptures specifically tell us are His will. There are many other things that the Bible deals with as clearly the will of God. So if nothing else, we know of a number of things that are God's will: It is God's will that men be saved; it's God's will that men be filled with the Holy Spirit; it is God's will that men be submissive to the laws of man; it's God's will that men suffer for righteousness' sake; it's God's will for these things if nothing more.

Let's assume that we know what God's will is. For example, you may be very certain, you may believe very clearly that it is God's will for you to marry a certain individual. Many of you have already passed that point, and whether it was God's will for you is a moot question. The Bible doesn't say, “Marry the one you love.” It says, “Love the one you marry.” So after you are married is not the time to decide whether that was God's will or not. If you are married already, then that was God's will. That is God's will for you now to be married to that individual that you are married to. But let's just use the hypothetical example of a young couple who are not yet married but believe that it is God's will for them to be married. They have discerned what God's will is in this situation.

Paul is praying, and the Holy Spirit wants it to be true for all of us, that they will know all of the details about God's will, that they will be able to put it together about God's will—the timing, the financial preparation, the emotional preparation, all of those details of God's will. Isn't it a wonderful thing to realize that not only can God reveal His will to us if we will allow Him to, but God also wants us to know all the details and the aspects of putting His will into effect? That is what Paul is praying for the Colossians. That is a worthy prayer for us to make for ourselves, because it is God's desire for us, not only for the Colossians, that we will be filled with understanding of His will.

By the same token, you may feel very definitely that a certain business decision is one you should make. You pretty well have made the decision. You believe that this is God's will, but if you go about to accomplish God's will in that business situation, you need to know what other people should be involved. You need to know the means of financing. You need to know the length of time to set to it, and all of those kinds of things. So again I say, it is not just a matter of knowing God's will, but what we have here is God's desire that His people will understand all of the details of His will.

Paul is going to reveal to the Colossians later, as he deals in great detail with the theme verse which we talked about a moment ago, that the way that we can put it together about God's will is to recognize and rely on the fact that Christ is in us. So as we walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, it is possible—in fact it is God's perfect plan—that we be able to put it together about God's will. Not only can we know what God's will is, but we are able to put it together, and this is a wonderful truth. Paul is asking for it for the Colossians. God desires it for us. Paul is praying that they will have understanding of the will of God.

A Walk Worthy of God

The second thing that Paul is praying about for the Colossians is one that is perhaps more detailed, but that is the fact that they would undertake a walk worthy of God. These two things go together. They are related, and yet they are unrelated as well. They are two separate issues, but they are related. We will not be able to undertake a walk worthy of God, you see, unless we are willing to understand the will of God. The will of God is an integral part of the life of the believer. So it follows very naturally, if we understand the will of God as God enables us to put it together about His will, that we will undertake a walk worthy of Him.

Someone said one time, “You know that God does not send His will out on approval.” Some people pray, “Lord, show me what your will is.” And their attitude is, “If I like it I'll do it. Tell me what you want me to do Lord, and if I agree with you then I'll do it.” God doesn't operate that way. Jesus said, in the Gospel of John, that the one who will do the will of His Father will know the truth. If you are willing to do God's will, then God will reveal His will to you. If you are willing to put it together about God's will, God will make the information available to you that you can put it together and understand His will.

Paul is emphasizing, “Colossians, I am praying not only that you will understand God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, but I am praying furthermore that you will walk according to God's will. As you know what God's will is, you will undertake a walk worthy of Him.”

Let's notice this expression in verses 10 and 11:

Colossians 1

10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

You see, this is the second part of his request. “That you might walk worthy of the Lord. That you might walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ.” What does it mean to walk worthy of a name or a person? What does Paul mean when he says, “I pray that you will walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ.”? I think you will all agree, if you give it a little bit of thought that to walk worthy of a name means to let your life live up to the position that you hold. It means there should be a parallel in our creed and in our conduct. It means that there should be a sameness in behavior and beliefs. It means, to put it in our kind of language, that you practice what you preach. That is what Paul is praying. “I'm praying that you understand the power of Christ in you as you begin to recognize that Christ in you really is the hope of glory, that Christ is all that you need. I'm praying that as you understand His will, you will walk worthy of that wonderful name, that you will practice what you preach, that your life will live up to your position. I'm praying that you will undertake a walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul's Example of a Worthy Walk

There is an example of this in the life of the Apostle Paul himself. We won't take the time to turn there, but when you have the time, look at Acts, chapter 27, verse 23, where you find the story of Paul being shipwrecked. The people on the ship were about to panic, and Paul knew that if they panicked, they would lose their lives. So he stood up and said to the group, in verse 23 of Acts, chapter 27, “Don't panic, because last night an angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, appeared to me and told me what to do about this situation.”

Our interest is not so much in the story of the shipwreck, but in the way Paul describes himself. “The angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve.” This is the man who wrote to the Colossians and said, “I pray that you will undertake a walk worthy of the Lord.” That's what it means–to recognize at all times whose we are, and to recognize that because we are His, we serve Him.

I wonder if you and I would be able to describe ourselves with a straight face to a group of strangers in this way–God whose I am and whom I serve. Would our activities, particularly among those who do not know us, but perhaps even among those who do know us, and really significantly among those who know us best, would our activities live up to that kind of a statement? “I belong to the Lord, and I serve Him.” Would we be able to walk worthy of the Lord among those who have an opportunity to observe our lives on a day-to-day basis? Well, that is what Paul was praying for the Colossians, and that is what God's desire is for us.

How do we walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ? We have mentioned some phrases that describe that, but thankfully in these verses we have listed for us three factors which are included in walking worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ. I love the way the Word of God not only tells us what we should do, but then over and over again tells us how to go about doing that.

It tells us we should walk worthy of God. That's God's desire. It tells us we should walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, how do we do that? Let's notice three factors here, beginning in verse 10:

Colossians 1

10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work…

Here is the first one: being fruitful in every good work. How do we walk worthy of the Lord Jesus Christ? By being fruitful in every good work.

Increasing In the Knowledge of God

Someone may say, “Well, that doesn't tell me much. That is another catch phrase–being fruitful. How do I do that?” The verse goes on to tell us. Notice the next line in verse 10:

Colossians 1

10…and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Increasing in the knowledge of God . Our translation in the King James text is not quite as clear as it could be. It does not completely reflect the wording of the text in the Greek, because we have here in verse 10, the form in which the word increasing is written in the Greek. It would enable us to translate it increasing by means of the knowledge of God . Putting all of that together, what we have here is that the secret to being fruitful is to learn the Word of God and to do it. “Being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” You see, the better you and I know the Lord Jesus Christ, the better we know the Word of God. As it reveals the Lord Jesus Christ, the more fruitful we are going to be. It is as simple as that.

Of course, that assumes that we're going to obey the Word of God. James, chapter 1, verse 22, expresses this concept very clearly by saying, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.” “Be ye doers of the Word, not hearers only.” That is how we increase; that is how we become fruitful. That is the first factor in a walk worthy of God, that we be fruitful. That fruitfulness comes from learning the Word of God and by doing it, increasing by means of the knowledge of God.

Strengthened With All Might

A second factor in a walk worthy of the Lord is in verse 11:

Colossians 1

11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

Notice the phrase there in the beginning of verse 11, “strengthened with all might.” That is the second aspect of walking worthy of the Lord. It goes with the first one. As we increase in the knowledge of God, we are strengthened with all might. From time to time I'm sure that you have had the experience, as I have, of realizing that we just can't do this. Here is something that is a principle of God's Word, and over and over again I fail in trying to make it a part of my life. Sometimes I can do it, but sometimes I can't. Sometimes I can be obedient to this, but sometimes I can't. What am I going to do about it? Well here is the answer. As we increase in the knowledge of God, we are also strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.

Notice the route to strength in this verse: “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.” You see, we do not obey the Word of God by just gritting our teeth and doing it no matter what. We don't do it that way because it is impossible to do it that way. Some of us have tried that, haven't we? We have tried with all our might to be obedient, but sooner or later we have fallen down because our human strength is not enough to enable us to be Christ-like.

Paul is reminding the Colossians, and he is praying for the Colossians that they will realize that their strength is from Him. The route to strength is through His glorious power, not through anything that we can do ourselves. As we walk worthy of the Lord and we understand more of the Word of God, the wonderful truth is that we are strengthened with His power and we are able to obey the Word of God with His power.

Verse 11 also tells us the result of that strength. Notice what he says in the last part of verse 11:

Colossians 1

11…unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

“Unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” These two words here are very significant. The word patience is a word that is usually used in the New Testament. It is a translation of a Greek word that is usually used in the New Testament in relation to trials and troubles that come about because of events or situations in life, frustrating happenings. As God talks about patience, He is talking in terms of our being able to withstand troubling, frustrating events. Paul uses that word here, that as God strengthens us with His might, He will produce patience in our lives. But also he says He will produce longsuffering. If we took the time to trace it through the way it is used in various places in the New Testament, we would discover that the word longsuffering usually has to do with problems that come about because of people. Longsuffering is, in a sense, patience in terms of dealing with people and the frustrations that they produce in our lives.

Do you see what Paul is saying here? He is saying that the route to strength is to recognize that it is His glorious power; and the result of strength, if we will allow God to strengthen us to obey His Word, is that we will be able to put up with the frustrations and problems that come because of events and the frustrations and problems that come because of people. That is a pretty broad spectrum, isn't it? The reaction to that is what is described in the last words of verse 11, with joyfulness . That would be a very joyful situation, wouldn't it, to be able to have patience and longsuffering, to be able to quietly, strengthfully deal with the situations that come about because of people and events? That is what Paul is praying will be true of the Colossians, and that is what can be true of us as we are strengthened with God's power. God's strength can equip us to face these trials from any of these situations, from any of these sources.

Giving Thanks Unto the Lord

We have said that the first factor in walking worthy of the Lord is being fruitful, and that comes about by being increased in the knowledge of God. The second factor in walking worthy of the Lord is to recognize the strength that God equips us with strengthens not with our strength but with His glorious power. The third factor is here in verses 12-14. Notice we read there:

Colossians 1

12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Do you see the first words? Giving thanks . Here is the third factor in walking worthy of the Lord. God wants us to be a thankful people. God wants us to have a walk that is characterized constantly by giving thanks unto the Father. In these verses following these instructions, He gives us three very excellent reasons for giving thanks. Someone, I'm sure, listening on tape or sitting in this audience, is thinking, “Well, I don't have much to be thankful about. If that is what is involved in walking worthy of the Lord, I'm just going to fail on that point because I've got so many problems and so many troubles and life has been so unfair to me that I just don't have very much to be thankful about. I just can't give thanks very well.” Well, hold off on your thinking that until we look at these three reasons for thanks that Paul specifies. It is interesting to notice that out of all the things that could be specified, all of the reasons that could be specified for giving thanks, and there are so many, here are the ones that the Spirit of God points out in this particular teaching.

Qualified for the Inheritance

First, in verse 12:

Colossians 1

12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Here is the first reason for giving thanks. He has made us qualified to receive an inheritance. He has made us meet. That means He has made us worthy, He has made us what we need to be. He has qualified us to receive the inheritance of the saints in light. That is the first reason. We could phrase the first reason this way: We should be thankful because of what we are saved to. Jesus Christ has qualified you for an inheritance. Did you realize that? We have an inheritance, Peter says, incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for those of us who are called by the power of God, for those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior. He has made us qualified to receive an inheritance. No matter how bad things may be here on earth before we get to that inheritance, that is something to be thankful for. We have an inheritance, and Jesus Christ has qualified us for that. It is not through anything that we have done. It is simply because He was willing to take our place. He was willing to take our punishment and He has placed us in a position of being just as if we had never sinned in God's sight , and we are qualified for the inheritance.

Delivered From Darkness

Secondly, in verse 13:

Colossians 1

13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Here is the second reason to give thanks. We have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We have been translated from the power of sin in our lives to the wonderful freedom that is in Christ Jesus. Isn't that a wonderful reason to give thanks? We could express it this way. Not only do we give thanks because of what we are saved to, but we can give thanks for what we have been saved from. We have been saved from the power of darkness, from the kingdom of darkness.

You are aware, aren't you, that Satan has a kingdom? Read Ephesians, chapter 6, if you are not familiar with it already, and you will see that Satan has a fully orchestrated kingdom and power that only the power of God can combat. Paul says, “I am praying that you Colossians will recognize that you have been saved from that power of sin.”

Some of you know what the power of sin is. You have lived periods of your life before you came to know Jesus Christ, or maybe even after you knew Jesus Christ before you began to walk closer with Him, when you were in the power of sin and could not do anything about it. The Word of God says here, in Colossians, chapter , verse 13, that we can be thankful because we have been translated from that authority of darkness to the kingdom of His dear Son. We can be thankful because of what we were saved from, the power of darkness.

Redemption Through Jesus

Then the third reason for being thankful is in verse 14:

Colossians 1

14In whom [that is in Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

We can be thankful because He has made possible our redemption. We have been saved from the power of sin, and this is possible because of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we could express this as being thankful because of Whom we are saved by.

The wonderful thing about our salvation is that it was procured for us by the Son of God Himself, not through anything that we have done, not through anything that our nationality makes possible, not through anything that our family heritage makes possible, but because of what the Son of God Himself has done for us. We can be thankful because of Whom we have been saved by—God Himself! Jesus Christ!

As we conclude our thinking, there is one other thing that we need to notice in verse 14. Notice how Paul expresses this:

Colossians 1

14In whom we have redemption through his blood…

That word redemption there is a very, very important word. We need to understand it to really understand how we should give thanks, or the extent to which we should give thanks. There are two Greek words translated in the New Testament with the word redeem , redemption . One is the Greek word exagorazo . This word means to go down to the slave market and purchase a slave. And that word is usually translated in the New Testament with the English word redemption . The other word is the word lutroo , and it, too, is usually translated with the English word redemption or redeem . The word lutroo though, means to purchase a slave and then give him his freedom , to purchase a slave, to get the documents that have to do with his slavery, and then either to hand them to him or to set them on fire or tear them up and give him his freedom. The wonderful thing in the context of thanking God is that the word we have in Colossians, chapter 1, verse 14, is the word lutroo . He has redeemed us, not just buying us out of a slave market, but purchasing us and setting us free, purchasing us, not to put us in slavery, but purchasing us to give us the wonderful freedom, our Christ in you, the hope of glory . Isn't that a wonderful thing. How could we help but be thankful when we recognize that?

The Scripture tells us in other places that our reaction should be not only to be thankful, but to turn around and voluntarily become His slaves, voluntarily love and serve Him because He has given us His freedom. It is the great paradox of the Word of God, the beautiful paradox of the Word of God: We have been redeemed, purchased, and set free.

Conclusion

Paul's prayer for the Colossians and God's desire for us is that we have an understanding of the will of God and that as we understand the will of God, that we walk worthy of the name of God. When we understand that we have been purchased and set free from the slave market of sin, that should be our desire too, that we should please Him in all that we do.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org