Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

November 29, 2003

Thanksgiving was a doozy (wouldn't you know?). There was a major crisis in a family that has become very dear to us. Not much we ourselves could do, of course, but simply knowing about it changed the dynamic of our own family get-together. In the end C. checked himself into a drug rehab clinic, which is what we'd all been praying for. The crisis is of course not over, but this is a positive development. Now he's got to stick it out in there. My sense yesterday as I prayed for him was that there was much spiritual warfare ahead for him, and that there was spiritual danger for him from within the clinic. Nevertheless, this is the place he needs to be right now, and with God as his refuge he will overcome what the devil throws at him.

More notes on Colossians coming up. These are not the refined product of years of study (I suppose that will have been obvious by now), but my attempt to arrange my thoughts, such as they are, after dwelling on the epistle for a couple of weeks. By this means I hope to work through to a clearer understanding than I had at the start. This is, in other words, writing to learn, not writing to teach.

Notes on Colossians (3)
Colossians 1:3-14 is designated "Thanksgiving in Prayer" by the NIV. In verses 3 to 8, the thanksgiving, Paul speaks of the faith and love of the Colossians, and focuses our attention on its source, "the hope that is stored up in heaven." In 9 through 14, the prayer, Paul prays for the addition of knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding to the Colossian faith. This prayer is the foundation of much that is to come in the epistle. From 1:15 on, the letter to the Colossians is an elaboration on and a fulfilling of the prayer of 1:9-14. Paul prays that they will mature in their spiritual wisdom, and then he goes on from there to lay out some of the foundational principles of that wisdom.

So let's take a closer look at Paul's prayer for the Colossian church. Paul says, I haven't stopped praying for you Colossians since I first heard about your love in the Spirit, and what I pray for is that God will "fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding."

So, first of all, the Colossians are going to need knowledge, wisdom, understanding. They're going to need this spiritual/intellectual capacity in addition to their faith and love. Remember that their faith and love was founded on the hope they heard in the Gospel, and now Paul is saying it is time for you to continue on to wisdom, because this is a tool you're going to need in the coming times.

Note first that he prays for them to be "filled" with this knowledge. Not simply that they possess the knowledge, that they know something or other about God's will, but that it fill them. The idea is that nothing should be lacking, but that this spiritual knowledge should be fully-adequate to meet the challenges of life. John Gill writes that by implication Paul "supposes that they had knowledge, but it was not full and complete; it was imperfect, as is the knowledge of the best of saints in this life; and [he prays] that they might have a larger measure of it, and such a fullness of it as they were capable of in the present state, and not such an one as the saints will have in heaven, when they shall know even as they are known."

This is a key passage because it links up with the future-orientation of much of the letter. Paul is looking at the life of faith set before the Colossians, that space of time between this day and the future realization of the hope that is stored up for them, and he is saying, in addition to your faith and love, I pray that you will be filled with the knowledge of the will of God.

So there has been a progression here from the hearing of the Gospel, which was the Good News of hope breaking into our lives of alienation from God, and out of that grew the fruit of faith and love, and now Paul is praying for the crucial addition of "the knowledge of God's will." This is what the Colossians are going to need, apparently, in order to live their lives in a manner worthy of the Lord. This is, clearly, a crucial part of their maturing process as believers. In the rest of the letter Paul will 1) describe in further detail the nature of God's will for them, and then 2) the nature of the worthy life. We are at the heart of Paul's purpose for writing this epistle.


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