It was Epaphras who informed the Colossian believers of Paul’s thanksgiving for them and, doubtless, it was he who had brought to Paul news of their faithfulness in standing fast against the errors that were infiltrating the area (1.3-7). He had also informed Paul that the love they had to all the saints (v 4) was generated by the Holy Spirit Himself. This is the only reference in the Bible to “love in the Spirit” (v 8). When Paul heard of the faith of the Colossian believers (v 4), it caused him to begin to pray, but the report of their love in the Spirit made him become very specific in his prayers for them. He told them how he was praying that God would do a work in them that would control first their head, then their legs and, finally, their inwards; similar to the ritual performed upon the animals for a burnt offering (Lev 1.8-9). Paul was evidently looking for devotion in the saints as they were enabled, by the Spirit, to understand the will of God for their lives. Let us look closer at this important truth.
The Head (v 9)
One has said “Beware of an untheological devotion.” It is quite evident that the Lord desires to instruct each of us regarding divine purpose, and here the servant of God prayed that all “might be filled with the knowledge of his will”. This is not the will of God for our individual lives but, rather, the mind of God relative to what He has decreed according to the purpose of His will. This must be “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”. Wisdom is the application of the knowledge we come into, and this must be in spiritual understanding; the ability to think things through. When Paul prayed, he was like Epaphras who prayed “fervently” (4.12), for the word used of his prayer is ‘to desire, to beg or to crave’. How often I feel that my prayer life does not come up to the divine standard for those who supplicate the throne of God for His own.
The Legs (v 10)
The purpose of knowledge is not to puff us up, as it did those at Corinth (1 Cor 8.1), but that we might “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph 4.1). Is it not sad when our lives are inconsistent with the high calling into which we have been brought? At creation, we were brought into being for the pleasure of God (Rev 4.11), as this was the object of all that He created. The result of sin is that this desire has been thwarted but, now, on redemption ground, we can at last give to God the desire of His heart. However, this can only be accomplished as we come to a knowledge of His will, and have the desire to fulfil it. Such a walk, in that knowledge, will be manifested by being fruitful and increasing, that is, being enlarged in the knowledge that we have come into. Some would despise doctrine, and accuse those who seek to follow it as bigots, but if we do not know the mind of God we cannot walk so as to please the Lord. The thought behind the word “walk” is ‘to tread all around’, and it would speak of the habit of a believer’s life.
The Inwards (v 11)
The ability to fulfil the purpose of God for our lives, as described in the former part of this prayer, is not dependent upon our own ability, but on that which is divinely imparted. There are three words that express the power that has been given to us, and two come from the same root: “strengthened” (Gr dunamo) and “might” (Gr dunamis). The first is only found here, and means ‘to grow strong, to enable’. But what does God want us to grow strong in? How delightful is the answer: “strengthened with all power according to the might of his glory …” (JND).¹ Ephesians 1.19-23 tells us of the mighty power that God has to enable us to live as we ought. This power will allow us to endure difficulties without succumbing to the trial. The Lord does not want us to be depressed during such seasons, but to have joy as we experience the power we have as our resource from Him.
Thanksgiving for what we have in Christ (vv 12-14)
The prayer now turns from one of supplication to one of thanksgiving, as Paul sets forth all that God has done for us in salvation. There are four definite things that cause a paean of praise to rise from the lips of the apostle; he gives thanks for fitness, freedom, favour and forgiveness.
Fitness (v 12)
The believer’s relationship with God is first brought before us as Paul gives thanks to the Father. It is this relationship that brings us into fitness with God, as He has “made us meet [fit] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”. As William Kelly said, it means to “qualify us for sharing in the inheritance.” This inheritance is amazing; it is to be a part of God’s clergy, the Greek word being kleros, that is, God’s chosen portion. The word, from which we get the so-called ‘clergy’ in the systems of men, describes the believer as the chosen portion, and we have been made fit for it. This standing has brought us into the sphere where God is, that is, light.
Freedom (v 13)
When we were brought into the sphere of light where God dwells, we were also delivered (rescued) from the satanic realm of darkness. Satan has delegated power, but his power cannot withstand the power of God which was manifested in our conversion. We have been translated, and carried away into a place of safety and honour, for God has bestowed favour upon us.
Favour (v 13)
We have not only been taken out of Satan’s realm, but we have been translated into the kingdom and sphere of rule of the Lord Jesus. How blessed it is to see that this is a sphere of love and devotion, for it is “the kingdom of the Son of his love” (JND). The love that moved God to save us is the love that will continue to be enjoyed throughout eternity, for His love for the Son will never diminish.
Forgiveness (v 14)
The final thing that caused Paul to raise his voice in thanksgiving was the fact that we have also received forgiveness of sins. Oftentimes the extent of this truth is not entered into, and there are some Christians who torment themselves over past failures. Dearly beloved, can I appeal to any such who may read this article, to be assured that the sin question has been settled forever. God makes a very definite statement in Hebrews 10.17, when recalling the finished work of Christ on the cross (set forth in verses 10-14 of that chapter), that “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Such is the value of the precious blood of Christ, which is the ground whereupon our sins are dealt with, that they have been put away for ever from the presence of God. Well might Romans 8.1 declare “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”. This is confirmed in verse 33, where a court scene is set before us, and the question is asked “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” The answer comes directly from the throne of God, and it is certainly not God who will condemn, for He is the one who has cleared us of all guilt and justified us. Nor will we ever be condemned by any other, for the fact that the sin question is settled forever is based on the death of the Lord Jesus and, not only so, but also that He is risen again and, at the right hand of God, continually makes intercession for us. Let every child of God rejoice in a work that has dealt completely with every aspect of sin, so that it will never again be brought up against us. (To be continued …)
¹ J N Darby, The Holy Scriptures – A New Translation from the Original Languages.