Colossians 1:9-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 8, 2009


The church in Colosse was located in the Lycus Valley, in the area we know today as the nation of Turkey.

One of the interesting things about this letter is the fact that Paul had never visited Colosse.  He is writing to people, most of whom he has never met personally.  The church was started by a man named Epaphras who probably came to know the Lord through Paul’s ministry while Paul was staying in Ephesus, about 100 miles to the west of Colosse.

(Col 1:3-8 NKJV)  We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, {4} since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; {5} because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, {6} which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; {7} as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, {8} who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

:9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask

ceasepauo –to restrain a thing or person from something

The verb is a “present” tense, meaning that Paul continually works at not allowing anything to restrain him from prayer.

to prayproseuchomai – to offer prayers; continual praying.

askaiteo – to ask, beg, crave, desire; continual asking

Paul then tells us five things that he has been praying for the church in Colosse.  You could circle the verbs in your Bible to see how these five things are divided up:

1. To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (vs. 9)

2. To walk worthy of the Lord (vs. 10)

3. To be fruitful in every good work (vs. 10)

4. To be increasing in their knowledge of God (vs. 10)

5. To be strengthened for endurance and patience (vs. 11)

:9 that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

be filledpleroo – to fill to the full

Paul doesn’t want the Colossians to just have a taste of God’s will, He wants them to be filled with it.

the knowledgeepignosis – precise and correct knowledge; more thorough knowledge; knowledge based on experience

willthelema – will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure

What is God’s will?

(1 Tim 2:3-4 KJV)  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; {4} Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
In the Greek Paul uses the same word as here – it is God’s will that you be saved.
What does it mean to be saved?
It means to be saved from the penalty of your sins.

You and I have a big problem.  Our sin has separated us from God.  Our sin keeps us from knowing God.  Our sin will one day be judged by God.

But God has a way out.  God sent His Son Jesus to take the judgment for our sins.  Jesus died on a cross to be a sacrifice for our sins.

God now offers to us forgiveness and eternal life.  He will remove the thing that blocks us from knowing God if we will put our life into His hands.

all wisdomsophia – wisdom

Wisdom is not just knowing facts, but knowing what to do with those facts.

It’s not the person who can win at a quiz show; it’s a person who does the right things in life.

spiritualpneumatikos – relating to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit

understandingsunesis – a running together, critical understanding

It’s a good thing to pray for people to know God’s will, even better to know by experience what God’s will is.

Sometimes we can make God’s will out to be a formula – you put a nickel into God’s “will machine” and you always get the same result.

But sometimes that lacks wisdom and spiritual understanding.

For example – some people will tell you that since God loves you, that God’s will is always for you to be healthy, wealthy, and without any trouble in life.  When difficult times come into your life, they will tell you to “rebuke the devil” and that you must be out of God’s will.  The problem is that this isn’t very wise and it certainly lacks a true sense of spiritually critical thinking.

Paul writes,

(2 Cor 4:16-18 NKJV)  Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. {17} For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, {18} while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

James wrote,

(James 1:2-4 NKJV)  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, {3} knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. {4} But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

It sounds to me that Paul understood that sometimes God’s will involves difficulty.  In fact, sometimes that difficulty is what helps you grow and mature.

:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him,

walkperipateo (“around” + “to tread”) – to live your life

worthyaxios – suitably, in a manner worthy of

fromaxios – weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much; befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing; of one who has merited anything worthy

pleasingareskeia – desire to please; literally, “unto all pleasing”

What does it mean to walk in a way that is worthy of God and is pleasing to Him?

Paul gives us one way this happens:

(1 Th 4:1-3 NKJV)  Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; {2} for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. {3} For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
One of the ways we may dishonor God is through sexual immorality – which is any kind of sex outside of marriage.
This certainly isn’t the way our world thinks today – movies and TV seem to give you the impression that it doesn’t make any difference whether you are married or not, that sex is the thing that we all live for.  But God’s whole plan was for sex to be a part of a committed relationship, marriage, where two people enter into a covenant of faithfulness to each other.

:10  being fruitful in every good work

Paul doesn’t pray for them just to do good works, but for them to be fruitful in their good works.

Sometimes we can get caught into just doing the same thing over and over again and not even being interested in whether or not there are results.

We do these things because “that’s the way it’s always been done”.

Paul’s prayer is not that they just stay busy, but that their good works would produce fruit, results.

Sometimes we do good things, right things, without immediate results.  We want to stay faithful and keep doing what God wants us to do, and be willing to wait patiently for the harvest.

:10  and increasing in the knowledge of God;

increasingauxano – to cause to grow, become greater; “continually increasing”

Often the word is used to describe an organic, natural kind of growth.  The lilies of the field “grow” (Mat. 6:28), a mustard seed grows into a tall plant (Luke 13:19), a child grows to be a man (Luke 1:80).

the knowledgeepignosis – precise and correct knowledge; a fuller, clearer, more thorough knowledge; knowledge based on experience

Back in verse 9, the issue was the knowledge of God’s will.  Here the issue is the knowledge of God.

This isn’t just facts about God, but knowledge based on experience – in other words, growing in your relationship with God.

Don’t stagnate in your walk with God.

If you think you’ve learned all that can be learned about God, you’ve stopped way too short.
When you think you’re at the point where now you finally understand the Bible, you’ve only run the first lap of the race.

:11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

mightdunamis – strength, power, ability

This word is based on a simple Greek word (dunamai) that is usually translated “to be able” as in “I am able to scratch my nose” or “I am not able to flap my arms and fly”

This is that famous word used to describe what the Holy Spirit does for us:

(Acts 1:8 NKJV)  "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
When we open ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to fill our lives, He gives us “power”, “might”, or even more important “ability”.
We often think of the Holy Spirit’s work as giving us “dynamite” power (a related word), but it’s probably better to think of it as “dynamic” power, that the Holy Spirit makes you “able”.  In Acts 1:8, He makes us able to be witnesses.

If we’re thinking about “dynamite” with the Holy Spirit, then we sit around waiting for the 10,000 volt jolt to give us power.

But in truth it’s more like, “Hey, I am ABLE to do this!”

strengtheneddunamoo – to make strong; this too is a similar word to “might”

We could say that Paul is praying for them to be, “powered with all power”, or “strengthened with all strength”, or perhaps even better “enabled with all ability”

according to – the word speaks of doing something with the same measure – Paul prays that the Colossians would be strengthened at the same level as God’s power.

gloriousdoxa – splendor, brightness

powerkratos – force, strength; might; dominion

I thought it was interesting to see how often these two words were found together: power and glory.  Five other times, all used to describe who God is:

1Pe 5:11 To Him [be] the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Jude 1:25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, [Be] glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.
Re 1:6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him [be] glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(Rev 5:13)  And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"

He’s not praying for them to be strengthened according to the power of Pee-Wee Herman.  He’s praying for a bigger measure of power, something even bigger than our governor (Mr. Schwarzenegger), God’s Power.

There’s a goal to this power that we need in our lives.  It’s not power to part oceans or move mountains.  It’s something much more practical.

patiencehupomone (“under” + “to remain”) – steadfastness, constancy, endurance; the guy who does not stop doing the right thing for God even when life gets hardest.

Some of you are going through difficult times right now.

Some are struggling with the economic problems our nation has – people out of work, businesses struggling.
Some are struggling with things like health issues.

We need patience, endurance, the ability to keep walking with the Lord in those difficult times.

all patience – not just some patience, but patience in all things.

longsufferingmakrothumia (“long” + “burning”) – patience, endurance, perseverance

While hupmone speaks of patience in difficult circumstances, this deals with patience with difficult people.

Some of you have very difficult people in your life.  It may be someone at work who is riding you.  It may be a marriage or relationship that is struggling right now.  It may be a child who is being rebellious.
We need “longsuffering”.

joy – it is one thing to put up with difficult people, but to do it with “joy” too?  I’d say that’s a great reason to need God’s power!

Don’t forget that all this deep things are inside Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.

Learning about prayer

1.  It starts with thanks

You might not have noticed, but the prayer we’ve been looking at actually started back in verse 3:

(Col 1:3 NKJV)  We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…

And the prayer actually continues into verse 12:

(Col 1:12 NKJV)  giving thanks to the Father …

When you begin to grow in prayer, you may find yourself learning to ask more and more things of God.  That’s not a bad thing – but don’t forget that healthy prayer is not just about asking, it’s about acknowledging God, giving Him praise, and especially coming to Him with a heart of thanksgiving.

(Psa 100:4 NKJV)  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Thanksgiving is the “gate” into God’s presence.  It’s the best way to approach God.

In our daily Bible reading, we’re going to get sick of all the complaining that the Israelites did in the wilderness.

The opposite of complaining is thanks.

When Jesus healed the ten lepers, there was only one who bothered to come back and say “thanks”.

Paul tells us that prayer with thanksgiving is the remedy to anxiety.  It’s the way we receive God’s peace.

(Phil 4:6-7 NKJV)  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I’ve found that simply reciting my “list” to God doesn’t do much to remove anxiety.
To pray with thanksgiving requires an element of faith, I believe that God is going to answer my prayers the right way, I’m able to put the issue in God’s hands, and I find His peace.

2.  Regular discipline

(Col 1:3 NKJV)  … praying always for you,

(Col 1:9 NKJV)  …since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you…

Paul drops a subtle hint that he was a man of prayer.

The man God uses is a man of prayer – there are no exceptions, no skimping

Paul knew that prayer was vital to being useful to the Lord.

Last week we looked at some qualities of the man that started the church in Colosse, Epaphras.

One of the things I left out of last week’s list of things in Epaphras’ life that God used was the element of prayer.
(Col 4:12 NKJV)  Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

Brothers and sisters – if you really want God to be at work in your life, you must learn to spend time with God in prayer.

But I warn you – it’s not easy.  There’s something in me that just hates to pray.  It’s a lot easier to read my Bible every day than it is to open up my prayer list and intercede. I am learning that I must grow in prayer.

3.  Significant content

Are you impressed by the things that Paul prayed for?  I am.

For years when I’ve tried to develop a regular prayer life, my prayers consisted of dealing with simple, earthly, physical issues.

Praying for somebody to be healed.  Praying for somebody to get a job.

I’m not saying that those kinds of things are wrong, but stack those kinds of things up against what Paul prays for, and my requests look kind of shallow.  I might not be praying the best thing for my loved one.

Pray for yourself – I would challenge you to pick one of these items Paul prayed for and pray it for yourself once a day for a month.

It will change you.

Pray for others – you ought to have a few people that you are willing to commit to pray for every day.

Is there a person in your life that would benefit from you praying one of these things for them every day for a month?

Knowing God’s will.  Walking worthy.  Being fruitful.  Knowing God better.  Strengthened for patience.  Pick one.  And pray.