3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.Colossians 1:3-14
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Welcome back to our study of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae! We started with the above passage last week with the understanding that it would take us a few weeks to work our way through it. To refresh our memories and keep our study in its correct context, let us do a bit of a recap.
Colossians 1:3-14 is Paul letting the church at Colossae know what he has been praying for them and why he is praying for them. We even broke this section into smaller chunks to help us wrap our heads around – and to look at how Paul’s prayer for the Colossians has an impact on the Church today:
- Paul thanks God often for what he has heard about the church at Colossae – their faith in Christ, love for each other, and hope found in Him – because of the gospel bearing fruit in their midst (vv. 3-8).
- Paul prays specifically for their continued growth in knowing God and walking with Him so that they can continue the gospel work in Colossae (vv. 9-12).
- Paul reminds them that the gospel that they believed is the basis for their faith in Christ and his prayer for them – which is enough to combat the false teaching they are encountering (vv. 13-14).
Today, we will dive into verses 9-12 at the specific things that Paul was praying for God’s Spirit to do in the lives of the Colossian church and what we should be praying for the Church at large and, especially, the local churches to which God has called us.
A Prayer Worth Continuing (or Not Ceasing) (vv. 9-12)
All of these aspects of the what Paul is praying here flows out of the why that we looked at last week. Since Paul had heard of their “faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 4), “the love that [they] had for all the saints” (v. 4), and the hope they knew was “laid up for [them] in heaven” (v. 5), that knowledge – that testimony of their relationship with Christ – motivated Paul to continually pray for them. I love the way he words it: “from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you” (v. 9). This is a beautiful picture of the relationship and care between believers that is supposed to exist because of common faith in Jesus.
Today, as we walk through what Paul – and those who were serving with him (“we” – v. 9) – prayed for the church at Colossae, let this study move you to pray for your church. To help keep our prayers grounded in the Word and what God’s Spirit wants for His Church, explanations will be minimized and more attention will be given to showing what the Bible says about these requests. After all, how much better could our lives be if God granted our prayer, giving us these “characteristics” of a life that is pleasing to God, dependent on His power, and overflowing with fruitful thankfulness because of all that Jesus has done for us.
…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… (v. 9)
- ch. 3:16 – Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- Ephesians 1:17 – …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him….
- Ephesians 5:17 – Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
- 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to Him, and He is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
- Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
This is a request for God to fill the Colossian believers with His knowledge – knowledge that comes from His gospel and grows through His Spirit inside them. Part of the reason for this request is for the knowledge of God and His will to counteract and overpower whatever false teaching is occurring in Colossae. But we all need to be filled with “the knowledge of His will” and interpret it with the “wisdom” that comes from His Spirit – to understand based on the new life we have in Christ and His indwelling Spirit rather than with our own worldly brains and experience.
Let us pray that God would grant us knowledge according to His Word that shows us His will. Let us ask to rely on the wisdom and understanding of His Spirit instead of leaning on our own understanding.
…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him…. (v. 10)
- Ephesians 4:1 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called….
- Philippians 1:27 – Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel….
Understanding this particular request requires a little bit of understanding and context regarding the original language. When it says “to walk” here, it is referring to one’s “manner of life”. It is also related to the command of Jesus for His disciples to “follow” Him (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:14, 19:21; Mark 1:17, 2:14, 8:34, 10:21; Luke 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 14:27, 18:24; John 1:43, 10:27, 12:26, 13:36, 21:19-22). You also need to understand that when it is translated as the English word “worthy” it is not referencing our value to be saved or ability to save ourselves. The original word had a connotation of being suitable or fitting; it referred to one’s walk showing evidence of actually following Christ. This was important to the church at Colossae and in our churches today. And it only occurs when our own lives reflect the gospel that our mouths proclaim. But there’s a catch: it is not based solely on actions that can be observed by man because it requires a new heart that can only be observed by God (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26; Hebrews 4:12-13). Oh, that the content of our lives would be pleasing to Jesus!
Let us pray for God to make our hearts and our lives match. Let us pray that the knowledge of His will that we gain from His Word would impact our lives in such a way that people recognize we are walking with Jesus.
…bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…. (v. 10)
- ch. 1:6 – …which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth….
- Matthew 7:16-20 – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in to the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
- John 15:1-6 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
- Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Hopefully by now you have noticed that these prayer requests build on each other. There is no way to do one without God having granted the former (i.e., walking a walk that is fitting for a believer requires knowing what God wants a believer to walk like). This request is a little tougher. This request requires a bit of pruning.
Ultimately, the idea of bearing fruit is a metaphor, but it is one that is important to understand. Paul has already used it to describe how the gospel bore fruit in the Colossian church and that its message was bearing fruit all over the world (vv. 5-6), so the Colossians could connect that with what he was praying for them now. To “bear fruit” is for what is inside to produce outside results. So, walking “in a manner worthy of the Lord” is fruit of new life in Christ Jesus. Yes, good works can be fake or faked, but what is inside will always show out in the end. If you just thought of a particular person (who is not you) when you read that, you need to know the same is true for you, too! The verses above that Jesus – God Himself – spoke about this show its importance: the kind of fruit one bears indicates what kind of tree they are (or are not). Our churches need regular pruning to make sure that God’s fruit (singular) – that “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – shows that inward change has happened because none of those (individually and especially collectively) are not natural to sinful humans.
Let us pray that God helps us recognize whether or not we are bearing fruit and deal with the reality that a lack of fruit may indicate for us. Let us pray that we have a desire to bear fruit – not only in completing “good work” for Him but increasing in our knowledge (intimacy, not academics) of Him.
…being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…. (v. 11)
- Ephesians 3:16 – …that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being….
- Philippians 4:10-13 – I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Think about the illustration that Jesus gave of people being able to do nothing if they are not connected to Him – that no one can bear fruit unless they are connected to the Vine. If there is a good work to be accomplished, He provides the strength. If there is an obstacle to be overcome, He provides the boost needed to climb over it. So often, people misunderstand 1 Corinthians 10:13 to mean that God will not give them more than they can handle. This particular request relies heavily on 1 Corinthians 10:12 (remember how important context is): “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Paul’s request for the Colossians is not for them to display their spiritual strength and ability. No, he recognizes what they are up against and prays that God’s strength will be what carries them through, giving Him glory in the process. He does not ask for them to be successful in worldly sense but, instead, seeks for them to endure whatever trial with patience, holding onto the joy that comes from Him alone – from the “hope laid up for (them) in heaven” (v. 5).
Let us ask the same for ourselves – for God to supply His strength to help because our own is not enough, for God to magnify Himself in our weaknesses and accomplish so much more than anyone would ever think could be done in or through us. Oh, what a glorious revival would come if we as individuals, and especially in our churches, relied on the power of God’s Spirit to complete His mission!
…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (v. 12)
- Ephesians 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
- Acts 26:18 – …to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
Paul’s last request is what will truly occur once all of the others have been granted: thankfulness. Once God has saved us – turned us from dark toward His Light, from Satan’s power to the finished work of Jesus Christ, once we have grown in the knowledge of Him and His will, once our manner of life is fitting for one following Jesus, once we have been pruned and bear His fruit, and once we are running under Holy Spirit power and not our own steam, there is NO other result than thanksgiving. If we are in Christ, we have moved from the wages of our sin – death (Romans 6:23) – to sharing “in the inheritance of the saints in light”. We should pray as Paul did for our churches. We should pray it for ourselves. Let us do so!
Reflecting & Closing
There are a few things that are on my mind as I wrap up this week’s study.
First, I am scared to pray these things for myself. What if God answers them all with a resounding “yes”? I look at my own life and see the changes that need to happen – that will happen as I grow more in Christ and my fear of praying these things gives way to the faith in Him who does the changing in my heart. So, I recognize that changes need to be taking place that are not – just as I am sure there are the same in your life. Know I am praying for these things to happen for you, whether you want them or not! If you do not like that, feel free to get your revenge by praying for me, too.
Second, I know that the local church God has called me and my family to be a part of (Christ Community in Grenada, MS) is not perfect and will change if God grants these prayer requests. It might not feel like I am used to it feeling. Good. I also pray that God’s Spirit will give us a good swift kick in the seats of our comfort zones and do a little uncomfortable pruning so His church (not mine) will bear His fruit.
Third, I know that some of you probably do not have a church home right now. Covid is still a thing. Your old church was probably full of hypocrites and sinners. But we need a local body of believers to stir us up to the good works that we need to be doing – to keep us in check and focused on Jesus’ imminent return (Hebrews 10:23-25). All of the people who hold me accountable are in my church, and it ticks me off to no end when they have to do it. Pruning hurts. But you will never know if you are a thistle, a thornbush, or a Galatians 5 tree if you are not planted in a grove of other believers. Let that sink in. Christianity is not for spectators or solo artists. It exists in the communities God plants because that is how He decided to do it.
I am praying for you and love you. Let me know if I can serve you in any way.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:3–14.
 Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008), 81.
 Charles L. Quarles, “Colossians,” in The NIV Grace and Truth Study Bible, ed. R. Albert Mohler Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 1654.
 Compare the language and intent of Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1, and Philippians 1:27.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.