Paul reports in summary fashion how he regularly prays for the Colossians. He prays that they will know God’s will and that God will give them the power to live it out. The prayer concludes with an expression of thanksgiving for God’s mighty act of deliverance and redemption (ESV Study Bible; Summary note on Colossians 1:9-14). By studying his prayer we get a picture of what it means to live a life pleasing to God – a life worthy of the Redeemer who enables it. We also get a wonderful model to use when we pray for ourselves and others. What’s better than praying that we or someone we care about knows God’s will, knows God, loves God and is empowered to live a life pleasing to Him?
Paul moves from his praise of the Colossians to an explanation of how he prays for them. He has already told them he prays always for them (vs 3) thanking God for their faith, love and hope. Here he tells them that because of their love in the Spirit (vs 8) he also prays (without ceasing) that God will continue to work in them and develop more of what they already have.
His first request is that they be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The Colossians can’t abide by God’s will unless they know it, and Paul prays that they’ll know it supernaturally through the Spirit. He wants the Spirit to fill them with the knowledge of God’s will and along with that knowledge to give them wisdom and understanding. They will understand how the will of God should affect their lives and how to apply it in wisdom. They will know the truth and how to apply the truth. Paul prays for God to do this because it is in Christ that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3).
Something to note: the filling Paul asks for is supernatural but it doesn’t come without work. The Spirit won’t fill us with what we don’t want to know. If we don’t study God’s word – the full explanation of His will – then we can’t pray that God will fill us with knowledge of it. By the same token, however, if we study God’s word without the Spirit’s help, it becomes an intellectual exercise and won’t result in the wisdom and understanding that guide our lives. We must strive to know God’s will and depend on the Spirit to reveal it in such a way that we can understand it and apply it.
Verse 10 reveals the purpose of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. It begins with so that. Paul has no desire for the Colossians to know God’s will as an end unto itself. He is not asking for them to know a lot of facts. He wants them to know God’s will so that it will then affect their behavior. Knowledge without application leads to arrogance and self-deception. Spirit-filled knowledge leads to changed actions. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (I Cor 13:2).
There has to be a so that in our lives. Unless we’re preparing for Bible class or a sword drill, it does no good to just accumulate Bible knowledge. Knowing all kinds of passages or hearing good lessons and sermons that don’t change our behavior are ultimately worthless. God doesn’t call us to purely academic pursuits.
So what is the purpose of being filled with God’s will? To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects. Knowing God’s will causes us to live the way God wants us to. It is a logical outcome. We will live in a way that is worthy of His name when we’re supernaturally filled with an understanding of His will. We are adopted sons and will live in a way that honors our family. We will please our Father with our behavior – ALL of our behavior (all respects).
Paul elsewhere writes that we are to live in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27), worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1), and worthy of the God who calls us into His own kingdom and glory (I Thess 2:12). Our conduct reflects on our Father and our redemption. If we live in the same way as unbelievers, then we show the world there’s no power in the gospel and our Father’s words are meaningless. When we please Him with our behavior, we show the world whose will we obey. How we live proves our calling. And if we can please Him with our lives it follows that we can displease Him also. How differently would we look at the choices in our lives if we always had at the forefront of our minds that we’re to walk in a manner worthy of God to please Him in all respects?
Paul’s request that we please God points to the role of love in the obedient life. Why do we want to please God? Because we love Him. If we don’t love God we don’t care about pleasing Him. But if we love Him and want to please Him, then we’ll obey Him. Obedience thus becomes a product of love. Jesus said this Himself when He told His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). Ultimately we can’t live a consistent life of obedience out of a sense of obligation or fear (though both play a role). The only way to consistently live a God-pleasing life is to love the One we want to please.
Two characteristics of a life that is worthy of God are: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Paul already told them the gospel is bearing fruit in them (vs 6). Here he prays that this will continue as a part of their lives that please God. The Spirit will bear fruit in them that will show in the good works they accomplish. It’s not a stretch to associate this fruit with Galatians 5 – they will grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, and those fruits will show themselves in good works (But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh – Gal 5:16).
As well, they will increase in their knowledge of God. This is different than knowing His will. This is a process of actually knowing God Himself (All the while, you will learn to know God better and better – 1:10d NLT). The believer who’s supernaturally filled with the knowledge of God’s will such that he lives a life pleasing to God, will also grow in his actual knowledge of God. We grow to know God as we know His will because He reveals Himself through His word. Said another way, we grow closer to God as we walk with Him in a way that pleases Him. The more we know of His will and the more we obey that will, the more we know Him. This is an ENOURMOUS benefit of pleasing Him and a HUGE loss for those who don’t live according to their calling.
And that’s where this verse circles around on itself. As we’re filled with the knowledge of God’s will such that we know Him more and more, that knowledge causes us to love Him more and more (there’s no way to truly know God without loving Him). And as our love grows, our desire to obey – to please Him – grows. So we’re filled with God and we know God and we love God and we obey God, which causes us to know Him and love Him and so on. It becomes an amazing circle of progressive sanctification – follow, know, love, follow.
Can anything in the world compare to this kind of life? Is anything better than knowing our Creator and Redeemer who IS love and IS light and in whom is no darkness at all (I Jn 1:5, 4:16)? And then, based on that knowledge, love Him and obey Him? Why are we so enamored with what’s so far short of this??
The believer is also strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. God doesn’t leave us alone to please Him. He provides the strength to walk the way we should. And the strength He provides is limitless – it’s ALL power according to His glorious might. There’s no end to the strength He gives us because He’s eternal and omnipotent.
This strength leads to steadfastness and patience. In God’s strength we remain steadfast in the face of temptation and trial, and look at the circumstances and people in our lives with patience. Strengthened people are grounded. They’re not blown all over the place as they chase after the rewards of the world. And they treat others with the patience and mercy they themselves experience from their heavenly Father. It is only in God’s strength that finite and fallible believers can remain steadfast in a world arrayed against them.
So when we belong to Him we have God’s infinite and infallible strength at our disposal. He enables us to please Him. Yet another ENORMOUS benefit of being in His family!
The last characteristic of the one who pleases God is he will joyously give thanks to God for His redemption. The one who is filled with the knowledge of His will is closely attuned to all the gospel has done for him. He can’t understand God’s will without understanding the gospel. And he can’t live a life pleasing to God without understanding God’s will. Thus it all comes back to the gospel. The one who dwells on the gospel is the one overflowing with thanksgiving and love. The more we focus on our redemption the more we joyously give thanks to the Father for qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
In this verse Paul likely refers to the Gentiles sharing in the inheritance that before the cross was promised only to the Jews. Because of Christ, the Gentile Colossians get to live in the light – there is no longer Jew and Greek. And God is the One who qualified them (us). He justified us in spite of our works because of Christ.
Verses 13 and 14 elaborate on what God did in qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He actually delivered us from the domain of darkness – the kingdom of sin where there is no hope for redemption and no understanding of God’s will and no knowledge of God Himself – and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. What a contrast! We don’t live in darkness as slaves to sin. We live in the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. And in the Son we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins – the very sins that ruled in the dominion of darkness we had no hope of escaping. God did everything! He qualified us through His Son, and by doing so delivered us from the hopelessness and eternal damnation we were in, and instead put us into the light of His Son’s kingdom. The knowledge of this and a continual focus on it are what will awaken in us a desire to live in a manner worthy of it (a focus on the gospel causes us to love our Redeemer). It is easy to please God when we continually meditate on the truths of verses 13 and 14. And it’s just as easy to walk as if we don’t care about pleasing Him at all when we fail to focus on them.
SO – when we are filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, it leads us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects. This type of life is characterized by bearing fruit in every good work; increasing in the knowledge (and love) of God; being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; and joyously giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
One last element of this text is worth noting – the word ‘all’ (pas in the Greek). This is a modifying word meaning ‘complete’, ‘to the greatest degree’, ‘whole’. Notice how it is used:
- That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in ALL spiritual wisdom and understanding.
- So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in ALL
- Bearing fruit in EVERY (same word in Greek) good work.
- Strengthened with ALL
- For the attaining of ALL steadfastness and patience.
This is what’s available to us! Spiritual wisdom and understanding to the greatest degree. Pleasing God in every single aspect of our lives. Seeing the Spirit’s fruit in innumerable good and kind acts. Strengthened with unlimited power to obey His will. And living with boundless steadfastness and patience that enable us to weather any circumstance or individual.
WHY would we ever choose to live like the world when we know the promises of Colossians 1:9-14 are true???