A PASTORAL PRAYER
epistle is penned within thirty years of the time that
Jesus stood on a mountain in the area of Caesarea Philippi and prophesied, “I
will build my church.” He had done
exactly that. The church had extended
throughout the known world. It had come
to the major cities and it had also come to a little
suburb known as
did not take place in a vacuum. There were other teachings and ideas and philosophies that
were already entrenched in
an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the
saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and
peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1_2).
epistle to the Colossians is one of the “prison epistles.” It was written
during the time when Paul had been imprisoned by the Roman authorities. Part of that imprisonment took place in
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
the epistle opens, Paul has learned about a small, fledgling church that has
sprouted in the town of
1. Thanksgiving for the Character of the
Colossians: We give thanks to God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we
heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the
saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of
which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel (Colossians 1:3_5).
There are three things for which
Paul gave thanks on behalf of the Colossians. They were
three things that marked a supernatural change within their character and that
showed they had come into contact with the gospel of
What is the interrelation between these three
qualities? We could note the very obvious point that these reflect a past, present, and
future aspects to the Christian life.
Faith looks back to what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, though
it also looks to the present and to the future.
Love is our present reaction to that gracious gift. Specifically, we are told
that this love is for all the saints.
This does not mean we do not also love the world, but the love that is
specifically in view here is the love we have for those who are in Christ.
If faith is directed
primarily upon what Christ has done in the past and love is focused on my
attitude toward other believers in the present, then the realm of hope is
directed toward the future. We have a
hope that is laid up for us in heaven.
It is that one day we will see the risen Christ and that we shall be
like Him (1 John 3:2). At the same time,
we should note that the qualities of faith and of love are themselves said to be predicated upon the hope laid up in heaven. We could chart the flow of thought like this:
give thanks to God, praying for you as we heard of your....
...because of the hope laid up for you in heaven
for the Fruitfulness Gospel: ...because of the hope laid up for you in
heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also
it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you
also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth
How does gospel fruitfulness take place? It is an organic process, but that does not
mean it is not also a process that can be described.
• First, it
involves hearing the gospel. Paul says
that they had previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel (1:5). The word “gospel” means “good news” or “good
message.” The very term presupposes that
the message has been delivered and heard. Paul was a minister of that gospel and there
is a sense in which all Christians share in that ministry.
it means that the gospel has been understood. Paul speaks in verse 6 how the Colossians had
both heard and understood the grace of God in truth. It is possible for one to hear the gospel
without understanding taking place. When
I was a young boy, I was taken to church on a regular
basis, but I quickly learned to tune out the message being preached. It was not until the Lord did a work in my
heart that I heard and understood that message that it came to bear fruit in my
the gospel must bear fruit. Believing
the gospel and “getting saved” is not an end in itself. Life comes in order to produce more
life. Jesus said that the Spirit was
given so that we might become a well of water springing up to eternal life
for the Faithfulness of Epaphras: ... just as you
learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond servant,
who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, 8 and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:7_8).
Epaphras was a Christian worker who had taught the Colossians
the gospel. He is described as both a fellow
bond servant as well as a faithful servant,
literally, a “deacon” of Christ. Did Epaphras hold the office of a deacon of the church? Perhaps. We will read in Colossians 4:12 that Epaphras is numbered among the Colossians (he is further
described in Philemon 1:23 as Paul’s fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus). He may have served as a deacon in the
PAUL’S PRAYER OF INTERCESSION
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not
ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of
His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of
the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and
increasing in the knowledge of God; 11
strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining
of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance
of the saints in Light. 13 For He rescued 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
In verses 3-8, Paul tells how he had heard of the
ministry of Epaphras in bringing these Colossians to
know the Lord. He rejoices over this
news. After all, it is a wonderful thing
when someone comes to know the Lord. But Paul does not stop here.
The fact that they have come to know the Lord now means that there is
work to be done.
Imagine being in the delivery room when a baby is
being born. There are the nurses and the doctor and the expectant father. Just outside are the grandparents, waiting
for the expected arrival. And then it takes place.
The baby is born. Pandemonium
breaks loose. Everyone is celebrating and happy and excited until the nurse walks in
and exclaims, “What is that newborn baby doing all alone on the floor of the
hospital?” You see, the birth of a baby
might mark the end of the labor pains, but in a very real
sense, it is only the beginning of the real labor. The work has only just begun
as that newborn baby requires constant care and attention.
The same is true with a new believer. He has just experienced a new birth. He is a new life in Christ. But that is only the
first step in what will eventually be a life-long walk in Christ. Like that newborn baby, he needs care and
attention. It is for this reason that
Paul writes to the Colossians. He writes
to them to tell them that he is praying for them.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Prayer of Intercession
Paul thanks God for their conversion
Paul prays for their sanctification
Unceasing Prayer: For this reason
also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you
Paul was an apostle of prayer. He emphasizes this throughout all of his
epistles, but this emphasis is especially strong within the prison
epistles. Why is this? Perhaps it is because it was during this
period of imprisonment that Paul found more time to pray. I have often found this to be the case in the
lives of older Christians who are not quite as able to get around as they once
were. They may not be physically mobile,
but they can have a great impact upon the world as they pray.
Necessary Knowledge: For this reason
also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to
ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His
will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (1:9).
When the Scriptures speak of the “will of God,” there
are two different ideas that can be underscored. The first is what we could term as God’s
eternal will. God is in control of
history and therefore what takes place in history is that for which God has
planned. It is for this reason that Paul
can speak of how God works all things after the counsel of His will
(Ephesians 1:11). On the other hand,
Jesus could speak of those who do the will of God in contrast to those who do
not do the will of God (Mark 3:35). Used
in such a way, the will of God refers to those who obey the commandments of
God. In summary, we can see where the
will of God refers to:
The Will of God
for which God has planned throughout eternity
things which God has commanded
Of which is Paul describing here in Colossians 1:9-10
as he speaks of believers being filled with the
knowledge of the will of God? It is a reference to those things God has commanded.
Worthy Walk: We have not ceased to
pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will
in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that
you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects,
bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (1:9-10).
Now we are able to understand Paul’s point. Before you can obey the commands
and teachings and instructions of the Lord, you must know what they are.
You have to know God’s will...
...before you can please God
Paul is going to give a number of instructions for how
we ought to live. But
first, he is going to lay a foundation as to why we ought to live that
way. A part of knowing God’s will is in
knowing God Himself and in seeing the reasons He has given for these commands.
When our daughter was younger, there were times when
she was given an instruction and she would ask, “Why
must I do this?” or “Why can’t I do that?”
I am forced to admit that there were times when
we said, “Because I am your parent.” But more often than not, I am happy to report that we
regularly told her at least a reason behind the command. God has often done the same for us. To be sure, He sometimes gives us only a part
of the reason, but it is enough.
The Lord wants us to walk in such a way that we bear
fruit. To what fruit does this
refer? It is the fruit of the
Spirit. The Spirit provides the
fruit. Indeed, we could say that the
fruit is the manifestation of the presence of the Spirit in us.
Paul says that this presence pleases the Lord in all
respects. The desire of every father is
to see those positive qualities he has to be emulated
within his children. God has the same
desire. He wants to see His own holy
character emulated within us.
Steadfast Strengthening: Strengthened
with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all
steadfastness and patience (1:11).
As Christians, we are heirs to a wonderful power. It is a supernatural power because it is according
to His glorious might. It is one
thing to be strengthened by the all-powerful God, it
is another thing entirely to be strengthened according to His power. His was the power that created heaven and
earth; it is the same power that holds the universe together.
Yet the stated purpose of that power is not to do
something immediate, but to accomplish that which endures over the long
haul. It is that we might attain all
steadfastness and patience.
Enlightened Deliverance: Joyously
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance
of the saints in light. 13 For He 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 (1:12-14).
We have an inheritance. The concept of an inheritance was important,
especially to the Jewish mind. Abraham had been given the Promised Land as an inheritance, but the
inheritance went far beyond the mere physical.
The tribe of Levi did not receive any of the land, yet they still had an
inheritance. We read in Joshua 13:33 that their inheritance was God. They were a nation of priests. That is not all; David also saw the Lord as
The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot. (Psalm 16:5).
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion
forever. (Psalm 73:25_26).
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24).
What is our inheritance? It is Christ.
We will see this when we come to Colossians 1:27 and Paul speaks of the
riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you,
the hope of glory.
This inheritance in a kingdom
inheritance. We have undergone a kingdom transfer. We have been transferred
out of one kingdom and brought into the domain of another kingdom.
Kingdom of His Son
We are no longer citizens of the old kingdom. It was a domain of darkness. What happens in darkness? You are blind. You cannot see in darkness. It is only when light comes that you are able
to see. We have been
delivered from the domain of darkness to a place where we are able to
How did this transfer take place? We are given a hint
in verse 14 when we are told that it is through Jesus Christ that we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins. The Greek
term here (avpolutrosin) carries the idea of one who has been set free from a
previous bondage. We have been set free
from a bondage.
That which previously found us is sin.
When Paul speaks of how we have redemption, the
forgiveness of sins, he is not describing two different things. They are the same. Redemption is the forgiveness of sins. It speaks to the fact that we have been freed from the penalty and the guilt of sin. This is striking because the Lord says in the
Old Testament that he is the one who forgives sin.
I, even I, am the one who wipes out your
transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25).
You remember the incident of the man paralytic who was brought to Jesus.
The man was helpless and his friends brought him to Jesus, lowering him
through the roof into the presence of the Savior. Jesus caused some considerable stir among the
Pharisees when he pronounced that the man’s sins were
forgiven. They complained that
only God can forgive sins. Their complaint was a valid one. Only God can forgive sins. Yet Jesus demonstrated that He had the power
to forgive sins.