The Epistle to the Colossians - Part 3
William Banks, Hamilton, Scotland
The two prayers, vv. 3-14 (continued)
The two prayers can be outlined as follows:
- Thanksgiving, vv. 3-8 – two hearings:
‘Since we heard of your faith . . . love . . . hope’, vv. 3-5;
‘Ye heard’, vv. 5-8. Note it is stated twice, vv. 5, 6.
- Petition, vv. 9-14 – two requests:
‘That ye might be’, v. 9;
‘That ye might walk’, vv. 10-14. 1
The second prayer – petition, vv. 9-14
The inbuilt couplet is again apparent in this prayer. In the first case the apostle and Timothy, linked with him again in united exercise, are praying ‘that ye might be’. They desire that character will be built, before praying ‘that ye might walk’. This, of course, is always the divine order. What we are is more important than what we do and should be the springboard for it – our scriptural standing and conviction leads to proper behaviour. There are six references to prayer in the Epistle. 2
‘That ye might be filled’, v. 9
The communication from Epaphras led to an intelligent basis for the apostle’s prayer. In other words, his prayer was specific, not general like many of our public prayers today. He wasted no time in initiating his request, ‘from the day we heard it’, and being consistent in it, ‘do not cease’, cf. 1. 3. The heart of the apostle was in the request, ‘and to desire’. To desire is to pray, the two ideas are intimately linked – the one the inner emotion, the other the outward expression.
The details of the filling which the apostle desires are bursting with richness, vitality and intensity; knowledge (full knowledge), wisdom and understanding.3 The qualifying descriptors are telling; he wants them to be full of knowledge in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This is unparalleled spiritual territory.
- Filled with the full knowledge of His will. The basis of knowing His will is clearly articulated in Romans chapter 2 verse 18, ‘And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law’. It comes about only through a thorough knowledge of the word (‘the law’) – essentially an awareness and accumulation of scriptural facts or material which can then be used as an appropriate base to do His will.4 Many today want to know ‘the will of God’ for their lives; there is no shortcut; it takes ‘blood, sweat and tears’ – reading, praying, meditating, waiting, patience – there is no easy road to be ‘filled with the full knowledge of His will’! This is spiritual territory!
- The fullness of the wisdom – ‘in all wisdom’. ‘Wisdom’ occurs six times in the Epistle.5 It includes the whole range of mental faculties, applying the facts obtained by the above knowledge to a particular situation. The whole of life’s choices are involved – spiritual and secular – including assembly responsibilities (exercise of gift, general contributions), career, marriage, location etc.
- The spiritual understanding – this is intellectual discernment based on spiritual saturation, resulting in the ability to differentiate between the false and the true, the good and the bad – thus, full knowledge and wisdom leads to right choices and behaviour – approving ‘things that are excellent’, Phil. 1. 9, 10.
The fundamental requirement for implementing all of the above is ‘the fear of the Lord’. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’, Prov. 1. 7; ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding’, 9. 10. The three ideas can be summarized as follows: knowledge is perception, moral cognition; wisdom is ethical and spiritual conduct; understanding is insight, perception, spiritual discernment, leading to control.
‘That ye might walk worthy of the Lord’, vv. 10-14
The apostle is now desirous that what they are by the implementation of the weighty truths of verse 9 will be worked out in a worthy walk in the sphere of the Lordship of Christ. Having laid the spiritual foundation in verse 9, he now desires appropriate devotion. Peake notes, ‘Doctrine and ethics are for Paul inseparable’.6 The idea behind the word ‘worthy’ is that of equal weight, i.e., spiritual truth should have adequate corresponding outworking in the Christian life, cp. 2. 6; 4. 5. We have to walk worthy of our calling, Eph. 4. 1; of the gospel, Phil. 1. 27; and of God, 1 Thess. 2. 12. All of this is to be done with the objective of bringing pleasure to God, seeking to please God in every aspect of life, ‘unto all pleasing’, not merely pleasing others, v. 10.
The worthy walk of the believer is then seen in four governing participles in verses 10 to 12; bearing fruit, growing (increasing), being strengthened and giving thanks.7 The first two are related, as they are in verse 6.
- ‘Being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’, or ‘Bearing fruit in every good work and growing by the true knowledge of God’, v. 10 JND. These two features, bearing fruit and growing, were seen to be a unique feature of the gospel in verse 6. Those who embrace the gospel should take on its features. There is, however, a very important difference in the grammar involved. In verse 6, the verb is in the middle voice indicating that the power is inherent in the gospel itself; in verse 10, it is the active voice indicating the personal responsibility of the believer for both bearing fruit and growing.8,9 In addition, the tenses in verse 10 are in the present tense, and therefore continuance, indicating an ongoing responsibility.
- ‘Increasing in the knowledge of God’, v. 10. This phrase is looked at separately to ask whether the idea is locative – growing in knowledge – or instrumental – growing by knowledge. Darby is in no doubt that it is instrumental. Perhaps this is fitting in the development of knowledge in the chapter. In verse 6, there is knowledge of the grace of God; in verse 9, knowledge of the will of God, and now knowledge of God Himself. The knowledge of God is to be the means of their spiritual growth. The development is intrinsic; it will lead surely to increased fruit in the life of the believer.
- Being ‘strengthened [found only once in the New Testament = dunamoo] with all might [dunamis] according to his glorious power [the power (dominion = kratos) of His glory – manifested excellence]’, v. 11. Note the three important words related to power, cf. Eph. 1. 19, 20; Rom. 6. 4. ‘The power which Paul and Timothy long to see manifested in their readers’ lives is the power of God himself—nothing less’.10 The objective of the strengthening is ‘unto all patience [endurance] and longsuffering with joyfulness’. The idea behind the word patience is that of restraint (not to retaliate a wrong) or calm sweetness, cf. 1 Cor. 13. 4; Gal. 5. 22. The lack of despondency and revenge and the presence of joyfulness are seen in the experience of Paul and Silas at Philippi in Acts chapter 16 verse 25.
- ‘Giving thanks unto the Father’, vv. 12-14. This last participle is really an expression of worship (cf. ‘walk’ and ‘work’ in verse 10) for four reasons which are expanded in the succeeding verses. The Father has ‘made us’, ‘delivered us’, ‘translated us’, and redeemed us. We should be a thankful people!
The Father has ‘made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light’. Believers are qualified, based on grace, to have a share in the inheritance of the saints in light. That there is an inheritance is clearly articulated elsewhere in our New Testament, 1 Pet. 1. 4. But in this case it is being shared with others now. Walking ‘in the light’ is the current sphere in which the believer moves, 1 John 1. 7. While we share this with saints of the present dispensation, there could be a reference to Old Testament saints as well who also anticipated a glorious future inheritance, cf. Heb. 11. 10, 16; 12. 23.
We have been ‘delivered . . . from the power of darkness’. This was the ruling principle of the region we occupied before conversion. It is evident in current society, with the god of this world very much in control. The errors to the fore in the epistle emanate from this source. They are in direct contrast to the sphere of ‘light’ mentioned above in which the believer moves. These dark forces were overcome at Calvary in the triumph of the Lord Jesus ‘having spoiled principalities and powers’, 2. 15.
The Father has ‘translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son’ – the One who is the object ‘of His love’.11 This kingdom is both present and eschatological, Rom. 8. 30; Phil. 1. 6. The believer has the honour of sharing presently the affections of the Father for His Son in a kingdom of love, and the glad prospect of sharing in a millennial kingdom which will demonstrate the Son’s sovereignty to a wondering world. It will not be under the authority of angelic beings as the Colossian teachers of error would anticipate, but under the sway of the man who destroyed every opposing foe by His triumph at Calvary.12
We have also been redeemed [apolutrosis]. The word involved here means ‘a releasing, for (i.e., on payment of) a ransom’. 13 It is linked with forgiveness and justification, redemption as the result of expiation, deliverance from the guilt of sins, Rom. 3. 24; ‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’, Eph. 1. 7; defined as ‘the forgiveness of our trespasses’ RV; so, Colossians chapter 1 verse 14, ‘the forgiveness of sins’, indicating both the liberation from the guilt and doom of sin and the introduction into a life of liberty. Its basis is ‘through his blood’ as the ransom price paid, and its effect ‘the forgiveness of sins’.
1 This outline is carried over from the last article by way of continuity.
2 1. 3, 9; 2. 1; 4. 2, 3, 12.
3 Cf. 2. 2, 3 and Prov. 3. 19, 20 for the same three words.
4 See Col. 4. 12; Rom. 12. 2; 1 Tim. 2. 4; 1 Thess. 5. 18.
5 1. 9, 28; 2. 3, 23; 3. 16; 4. 5.
6 A. S. Peake, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 3, Hodder and Stoughton, 1903.
7 H. Alford, The Greek New Testament, Vol. 3, Moody Press, 1968.
8 W. E. Vine, Colossians in The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine, Gospel Tract Publications, 1985.
10 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Colossians, William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 1984.
11 J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Zondervan Publishing House, 1879 Edition.
12 Cf. 2. 18 and Heb. 2. 5-8.
13 W. E. Vine, Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, World.