David B Curtis - Berean Bible Church

Pastor David B. Curtis

Paul's Prayer

Colossians 1:9

11/09/2003

Before we begin our study this morning , let's review just a bit to make sure that you are retaining what we have learned so far. Can you answer these questions?

1. Who wrote the book of Colossians? Paul.

2. Where was Paul when he wrote Colossians? In prison at Rome.

3. When was this book written? Around 62 A.D.

4. Who is this letter written to? First century Christians living in Colossae. Paul is writing, "to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae..." Are these two separate groups? The saints and the faithful brethren? I don't believe so. The word "faithful" is the plural of the adjective pistos, which may mean either: "faithful" or "believing." It could very well be that Paul is defining who saints are from the standpoint of faith. They are "the saints, believing brethren in Christ."

5. Why was this letter written? This letter appears to have been written because of some special need of the Colossians. Paul had received a report of the situation at Colossae by way of Epaphras. The subject matter in the epistle strongly suggests that the church was facing a doctrinal danger. Many of them had seemingly been caught up in a new teaching (although based on old ideas), which was distracting them from Christ. It is often called "The Colossian Heresy". The only details we know about the heresy are what we can extract from the letter. It would seem to have been a mixture of early gnosticism and Judaism. It further included the practice of asceticism, of following certain ordinances in respect of abstinence from food and drink and observing of holy days as a means of battling with the flesh. The primary purpose of the letter was clearly to combat this false teaching. The false teachers were not giving the person and work of Christ proper interpretation or emphasis.

6. How did the church at Colossaeet started? Epaphras brought the gospel to them.

7. What does the word gospel mean? Good news!

8. Paul, writing to the Colossians about the year A.D. 62 in relation to the gospel, says, "which has come to you, as it has also in all the world". Had the gospel been preached to all the world by A.D. 62? Why is this important? This is very important to eschatology because Jesus said:

Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

In this context Jesus is answering the disciples' question. "What shall be the sign of your coming and, of the end of the age?" "The end" in view here is the end or destruction which was to come upon Jerusalem and the temple ending the Jewish age. Jerusalem would be destroyed, but "first" the gospel would be preached unto all nations.

Commenting on verse 6 where Paul says of the gospel, "which has come to you, as it has also in all the world", One dispensational writer says, "One could use this verse to establish that, even in Paul's day, the Gospel had been carried to the ends of the earth." Chuck Missler, Colossians and Philemon ,page 11.

Yes, he's right, one could use this verse to establish that, even in Paul's day the Gospel had been carried to the ends of the earth - thus fulfilling a condition for the end of the age to come.

The apostle Paul greeted the Colossians (1:1-2), gave thanks to God for their faith and love (1:3-8), and then followed with a specific prayer for their growth in the knowledge of God's will (1:9-14). In verses 9-11 Paul prays for certain blessings for the Colossians. Then in verses 12-14 he lists things for which he gives thanks. Verses 9-14 are one long sentence in the Greek.

Colossians 1:9 (NKJV) For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Remember that Paul had already thanked God for their faith and love. In fact, he said they had a love for all the saints. But Paul wasn't content with that, he wants them to continue to grow. So here he prays for their spiritual growth.

Paul's constant concern was for the maturing of believers. That was his burden and the desire of his heart, that believers would continue to grow. That is the burden of any teacher. Let's look at Paul's prayer for these Colossians:

Colossians 1:9-14 (NKJV) For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul had a passion for the spiritual development of the people of God. That was his great concern. We see this passion revealed in his prayer life. As Paul prays for the believers, he prays for their maturity. This is the very focus of his prayer life. Look at his prayer for the Philippians:

Philippians 1:9-11 (NKJV) And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Notice how he prays for the Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:15-19 (NKJV) Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

Paul is saying, "I want you to grow." He is praying for their spiritual development. Look at chapter 3:

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul prays for their spiritual health, their spiritual maturity. This was Paul's passion, the spiritual maturity of believers. Combining them, we noticed that the apostle prays that those addressed may abound in wisdom, knowledge, power, endurance, longsuffering, joy, gratitude, and love. Please notice that he prayed for their spiritual needs.

We don't find Paul praying on behalf of physical needs. I'm sure that there were believers at these churches with physical needs. Paul didn't pray for generic church success and blessing. He ties his prayers directly to their spiritual needs. That was his passion and burden.

If you are wondering how to pray, the Pauline prayers are reliable guides. They were brief and explicit, directed to the needs at hand. He did not "pray all around the world" before coming to the point. Paul's prayers are tremendously instructive and often stand as a rebuke to the way many Christians pray. These prayers are not only brief and explicit, but they are spiritually strategic in nature. They center on the great spiritual issues facing individual believers and the body of Christ as a whole.

What is the content of your prayer life? Are your prayers characterized by thanksgiving as were Paul's? Do you pray for the spiritual health of other believers? What is more important than a believer's spiritual health? A.W. Pink writes, "How different are the prayers of Scripture from those which we are accustomed to hear in religious gatherings!"

Behind each of our requests is a desire! We often pray only for physical or material needs....why? We believe that health and material things will bring us happiness. This is not true. Our happiness comes from our relationship with God. Paul gloried in his physical problems. Do you?

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Why did Paul glory in his physical problems? Was he some kind of sick sadomasochist? No! He gloried in his problems because God was glorified in them.

So, Paul cut through all the superficial stuff and prayed for their real need-- growth, which will bring blessing.

James 1:25 (NKJV) But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Blessings, spiritual and material, are connected to spiritual progress. As we grow in our relationship with God, we will be blessed.

Today, the prayer life of many Christians centers primarily on health and wealth issues. By contrast, Paul's prayers focus mostly on the spiritual needs.

The Lord of all, the God who created everything, the One who rules and reigns, whose purposes are accomplished, commands me as His child to talk with Him about whatever is on my heart, to enjoy communion with Him. What a blessing to pray for others. What a joy to know that others are praying for us. The Apostle Paul made it a regular part of his life to earnestly pray for fellow believers. Prayer is our duty. Do you realize that?

Luke 18:1 (NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Romans 12:12 (NKJV) rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

Prayer is our duty. Prayerlessness is a declaration of self-sufficiency, which is pride! On the other hand, prayer is a declaration of our dependency. Does your prayer life declare that you are dependant upon God for everything?

Colossians 1:9 (NKJV) For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

"For this reason..." refers back to verses 4-8, where he mentioned the encouraging report he received from Epaphras that told of what God has done in their lives, and the manifestation they have of the working of God in their lives. "Since the day we heard..." brings out the sensitivity and quickness of the apostle to go to the throne of grace for the body of Christ. It shows us how Paul's life was engrossed in concern for others and for the glory of God, and how he believed in the all sufficiency of God. Prayer was never far from his heart and on his lips, because God was his confidence, and people were his concern.

"Do not cease to pray for you , and to ask..." this again draws our attention, as in verse 3, to the persistency of Paul's prayer life. You can't help but be impressed about the importance of prayer that Paul placed in his life. I take it that when Paul said to someone, "I will pray for you," he didn't walk away and forget. You know, sometimes we will say that to people because it sounds like the spiritual thing to say at the time. They will say something to us, and we will say, "Well, I will pray about it with you." Then we walk away, and it never crosses our mind again.

This obviously doesn't mean that he was thanking and praying for the Colossians 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But he was saying that it was a regular part of his prayer life to remember them, to pray for them. They were a regular part of his prayer life. That must have come as an encouragement to these churches to know that the Apostle Paul had them on his heart.

"Pray" is the Greek proseuchomai. This word points to the general privilege of prayer and lays stress on prayer as an act of worship and devotion to God. It looks at prayer as an approach to God from a recognition of our need and inadequacy, and of God's omnipotent ability to meet those needs. The word "ask" is the Greek aiteo, which means: "to ask, desire, or request." This is another word for prayer, a synonym, but it brings out the concept of the specific needs and desires that we bring before God in specific requests.

With the words "be filled" in verse 9, we are introduced to the content and purpose of Paul's prayer. Literally, the Greek text has, "that you may be filled." The Greek text uses a hina clause with the subjunctive mood. This request points us to the great need in every believer's life, and the means by which this need is met. It is important that the readers, and by application all believers, be filled with the knowledge of God's will (the need). The words in (or by) "all wisdom and spiritual understanding" point to the all-important means.

Throughout this epistle, the apostle used Biblical terms like knowledge, filled, spiritual, understanding, and wisdom. These terms also formed part of the vocabulary adopted by the false teachers, but what they meant by these terms was a far cry from sound doctrine or Biblical truth.

In this epistle, the apostle often used the theme of "fullness" or "completeness" to combat the claims of the false teachers. This can be seen in the different, but similar terms used in 1:9, 19, 24, 25; 2:2, 3, 9, 10; 4:12, 17. It seems that the false teachers boasted that they offered the fullness of truth and spiritual maturity, while Epaphras had only instructed the Colossians in the first steps.

The Colossians had been told that they needed more knowledge and deeper wisdom beyond what they had been taught regarding the person and work of Christ. Now Paul shows them they indeed needed more knowledge, but the true knowledge of God's will by means of all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

"That you may be filled..." points to that which is God's moral will for every believer, i.e., to be filled with the knowledge of His will, but not necessarily His sovereign will. So, while this is the believer's potential and God's moral will, it may not become a reality. Its reality can be hindered by all kinds of distractions like indifference, laziness, carnality, materialism, and wrong priorities. Or, it can be hindered by false teachings that seek to add to or subtract from the fullness of salvation as revealed in Christ. It is this that the Colossians were facing with the false teachers at Colossae.

"Be filled" is full of meaning and significance. First, the tense is aorist, which looks at the effective culmination, the end product, and the design of acquiring the knowledge of God's will. The idea is filled full and running over. No one ever reaches this goal, but should it not be our objective? Second, the heretics regularly used the word "fullness". It was their claim that what they were offering as a substitute or addition to the Gospel and to the believer's life in Christ would bring an added fullness of life. Don't believe it! Fullness of life only comes through an understanding of the fullness Christians automatically have in Christ as they continue to grow and relate their lives to Him through the Word (2:6-10). Third, the verb is the Greek pleroo, [play-ro'-o] which may carry two key ideas: 1. "To fill up a deficiency." Every believer has deficiencies in his or her knowledge of the Word and these deficiencies need to be removed through a careful and accurate handling of the Word (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). 2. "To fully possess, influence, control, take over." We see this idea in other passages in the Scripture, such as:

John 16:6 (NKJV) "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

They were filled with sorrow to the point that it dominated and controlled them. What comes to your mind when you hear the statement, "He was filled with fear"? Don't you envision a man so controlled and motivated by fear that his every move and action is the product of that fear? Likewise, the knowledge of God's will is to so pervade all our being that it controls all our thoughts, affections, purposes, and plans. The more of the mind of Christ we have, the more God can bring His control into our lives.

"Knowledge" is the Greek epignosis, a compound form of gnosis, "knowledge." This is the intense form of the word knowledge. A concordance study of this word in the New Testament reveals that it is used only of moral and spiritual knowledge (the knowledge of God and His truth).

In Paul's prayer, the issue is not just knowledge, but the knowledge of God's will. "Of His will..." points us to the precise area of knowledge needed, but in context, what precisely does the apostle have in mind?

In general, the knowledge of God's will concerns the whole counsel of God's truth as it is found in the Bible regarding the person and work of Christ . The Bible is all about Christ. This was precisely the Lord's point to the two disciples on the Emmaus road:

Luke 24:25-27 (NKJV) Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

In Colossians 1:9-14, "The knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding..." has as its focus the dynamic result that a proper understanding of the person and work of Christ should have on one's spiritual walk. In this case, God's will refers to the complete rule of faith and practice. It is a knowledge that should lead to Christ-like living in the many and varied situations of life.

The important question is how do we gain such knowledge? This is answered for us in the next statement, "in (or 'by') all spiritual wisdom and understanding..." Several things need to be considered here.

Paul had just mentioned a "love by the Spirit" and now speaks of spiritual wisdom and understanding. "Spiritual" is the Greek adjective pneumatikos, which is emphatic in the Greek text. In the New Testament, this adjective most often means: "actuated or controlled by the divine Spirit" or "pertaining to the divine Spirit" (pneuma) whether of things or persons. Here in 1:9, it means a wisdom and understanding given by the Spirit.

What is Wisdom?

To understand wisdom, we need to understand what it is not. If you were to stand at the airport and watch the planes coming and going, you might be able to get a general idea of the overall plan of the various flights. As you watched them take off, land, circle the runway, and taxi in, you could learn some things about the overall plan.

But if you were to go into the tower with all the radar showing the visible location of every plane and hear the tower's communication with the planes, you would learn much more. At once you would be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of the men who control the aircraft. You would see why the plane must circle the runway before it lands. You would see why the plane on the ground must wait for clearance to take off. You would understand why that plane stopped its taxing and returned for repairs. The why and wherefore of all these movements becomes plain once you can see the overall picture.

This is NOT an illustration of what God does when He gives us wisdom. Wisdom does not consist of a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us. It is not the ability to see WHY God has done what He has done in a particular case, and what He is gong to do next.

Was Job a wise man? The Word of God says he was:

Job 1:1 (NKJV) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

The Word of God says that Job feared God, it also teaches that wisdom is inseparably linked to fearing God. I want you to see that Job was wise, but yet he never understood WHY all his trials came upon him.

Job 2:3 (NKJV) Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause."

God said that Job's trials were "without cause" so there is no way he could have understood the WHY.

What Wisdom is:

It is like being taught to drive. What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things, and the soundness of your judgement as to what scope a situation gives you. You don't ask yourself, "Why is this road so slippery" or "Why is the turn so sharp" or "Why is that car parked where it is" or "Why did they suddenly stop right in the middle of the road?" Does the "why" really matter? Instead of asking "why," you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation. Divine wisdom enables you and me to do just that in the actual situations of life.

To drive well, you have to keep your eyes focused to notice exactly what is in front of you. To live wisely, you have to do the same thing. Wisdom is properly evaluating circumstances and making right decisions. It's the ability to respond correctly to the circumstances of life.

Job demonstrated wisdom in his responses to the circumstances that he found himself in. He never understood the WHY, but he did respond correctly:

Job 1:20-21 (NKJV) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
Job 2:9-10 (NKJV) Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

In Jewish usage, wisdom described the individual who possessed moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct; a wisdom derived from his personal knowledge of God.

We all need wisdom, we need to respond correctly to the circumstances of life. Well, if you want to learn about wisdom, the Bible is the place to go. It has a lot to say about wisdom and how to obtain it.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we have "The Preacher" trying to bring home to the unbeliever the impossibility of finding happiness "under the sun" apart from God. The author speaks as a mature teacher giving a young disciple the fruits of his own long experience and reflection. He wants to lead this young believer into true wisdom, to keep him from the "control tower" mistake. He didn't want him to think that wisdom, when he gained it, would tell him the reasons for God's various doings in the ordinary course of providence.

What the "preacher" wants to show him is that the real basis for wisdom is a frank acknowledgment that this world's course is perplexing, that much of what happens to us is inexplicable to us.

Many of life's occurrences bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all. This book is a warning against a misconceived quest for understanding. It states the despairing conclusion to which this quest, if honestly and realistically pursued, must lead.

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 (NKJV) When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.

Solomon is saying, "You can't understand the divine purpose in the ordinary providential course of events, and the harder you try, the more meaningless it gets. It is to this pessimistic conclusion that optimistic expectations of finding the divine purpose of everything will lead you.

Seldom does the world appear to us as if God is running it. Has anyone ever said to you, "Why did God let this happen?" Why do two teenage boys go to school with bombs and guns and kill many of their classmates? Why does a man blow up the federal building and kill so many helpless people? Why does a mother kill her two young children? Why are children abused by their own parents? I don't know! Wisdom is not understanding the "why" of all these things. Wisdom is responding correctly to all of life's circumstances.

In chapter 12, verse 13, Solomon gives us his conclusion:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.

Wisdom is not understanding, but responding correctly to the circumstances of life. Wisdom is acceptance of, and adjustment to, God's revealed truth. Herbert Hoover defined wisdom as "knowing what to do next."

Interestingly, the text in Colossians 1:9 does not say "all wisdom and all understanding" as though they were two independent and unrelated things, but "all wisdom and understanding", because they are intimately tied together. When you think of wisdom, the book of the Bible that probably comes to your mind is the book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters of Proverbs give us a single sustained exhortation to seek this gift from God, but we should also notice that Solomon mentions these two together nearly half the time. In fourteen of some thirty-five references to wisdom, he includes understanding.

"Understanding" is the Greek word sunesis, which literally means: "a uniting, union, a bringing together." It looks at the faculty of putting two and two together. Understanding is what allows one to see clearly to discern the good from the bad and the best over the good. Understanding is the mental comprehension, and grasp of God's truth and wisdom is the application of that truth to the details of life.

These words - knowledge, wisdom, understanding - call to our attention the fact that we must use our minds to grasp the truths that God has revealed through the ministry of the Spirit. This is the realm in which we are operating. The mind plays a key role in God's plan for growth. Spiritual intelligence is the beginning of a successful, fruitful Christian life. God places no value on ignorance. Ignorance is not bliss. To remain ignorant when you can know and learn is to play the fool (cf. Prov. 1:20-22 with 1:29f).

I'm not talking about a formal education, I'm talking about studying God's word. Great men of God, like Charles Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, and H.A. Ironside, never had the privilege of formal Bible training. But they were devoted students of the Word, learning its deeper truths through hours of study, meditation, and prayer. The first step toward fullness of life is spiritual intelligence--growing in the will of God by knowing the Word of God.

As the next verse will stress, the knowledge of God in all spiritual wisdom and understanding enables us to walk in a worthy manner so we can please the Lord in every situation of life and bear fruit for Him.

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