Knowledge of God is practical—Colossians 1:9-12

The prayers of Paul

This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.

Paul returns to personal prayer here. A prayer with lessons to be learned and invites his readers to share his concerns and make his prayers their own.

A green man pedestrian walk light against a darkening sky.

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 May you be 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. 

Colossians 1:9-12 ESVUK

“Be filled with knowledge,” prays Paul. This is the theory. Linking knowledge with wisdom and understanding reflects on Gnosticism, a growing idea in early Christianity. The Gnostics claimed to have special knowledge.

Worthiness is Pail’s next point – Christians do good works not to earn their way into heaven but follow Jesus, who gave them salvation as a free gift. We seek to be worthy of that gift we have already received, not to earn it.

But Paul moves the narrative on whilst still praying. It is one thing to have knowledge of God, but knowledge is not enough. Paul is writing so that the faith of the Colossian church is lived out in a practical way. Seeing knowledge of God as something practical rather than a spiritual ideal is difficult. It is easy to sit back in the knowledge that we are saved, but something else to declare our faith before an angry mob. Declaring faith in the face of opposition is something Paul was asking the Christians in Cilossae to do. By extension, it is something we also are required to do. Sitting back is not an option.

We are not required to stand up in our own strength; Paul prays that we (yes we, this is not for the Colossians alone) shall be strengthened with all power, according to God’s glorious might, because Christianity is counter-cultural and to stand up for what we believe opens us up to ridicule and even persecution. God alone gives us the power to do this, for all endurance and patience with joy come from God. There is joy in obedience to God and in needing power.

Now look for Paul’s change in emphasis in the next bit: “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you.” As the Colossians move from theory to practice so the name by which Paul identifies God moves from God to Father. We don’t need a relationship to know about God but practical Christian living depends on knowing God personally. It is personal, not formal. We in Britain use the Word father in a formal way. Here the word is used less formally, it is the experience of Christians that we have a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere him as their reconciled and loving Father. (Strong’s Analytical Concordance.)

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