Wednesday 31 December 2008

Fill 'er up! Colossians 1:9

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9

What we pray for most earnestly reveals what we long for the most. In the case of Paul, his prayer is a petition for the most important thing God could bless the Colossian church with. We approach this verse with 4 points: 1) The reason, 2) The repetition, 3) The re-filling, and 4) the revelation.

1. The Reason
  • Paul is continuing on his prayer for the Colossian church. He started with thanksgiving (1:3) - thanking God for the faith and love of his readers (1:4) and now moves on to petition - asking God to bless the believers.
  • The evidence of the Colossians' faith is not just a testimony of God's grace in all its truth (1:6) - the fruit of the gospel - working in their lives; but also the basis and reason for the content of his request.
  • The gospel declares that believers in the Lord Jesus are now reconciled to him. Paul can pray directly to God because he has full direct access to the Father through Christ (1:3).
  • The prayer reveals Paul's part in the ministry of the gospel that has "come to" the Colossians (1:6) - the work of teaching and proclamation of Epaphras in establishing the church there. Paul has been upholding the ministry of the gospel in prayer, never ceasing in his role as intecessor before God on their behalf.
2. Repetition
  • Paul's emphasis is revealed in his repetition: he asks God to reinforce the work he started in the Colossians in opening their hearts to the gospel.
  • We should not miss Paul's joy in praying for the Colossians. He is thankful to hear the report of their faithfulness in Christ.
  • This stands in stark contrast to what brings us to our knees. We pray often for what we do not have. We petition God to give us something we want but lack. We cry out all the more in the midst of suffering, pain and grief. Yet, when things go well, prayer is the last thing on our to do list.
  • Paul is motivated by what God has already done, what Christ continues to do, in the lives of other Christians.
3. Re-filling
  • Why does Paul keep asking God to fill the Colossians with knowledge of his will? Is it because they aren't filled with the Spirit? Is it because they are not yet filled up?
  • Paul's prayer reveals how the Christian life is one constantly dependant on God. But not just for our daily lives: every breath, every heartbeat; our jobs, financial and emotional support, our family. Our greatest need is the knowledge of Jesus. And this isn't a one-off event. We need to feed off Jesus, the same way need food, sustenance, relationships to function as human beings.
  • Paul is praying for the ministry of the Word that is central to this knowledge of Christ. That is why he keeps re-emphasizing the need to be reminded: to hear, to learn, to understand and take in the messsage of salvation. This is how God is filling the Colossians with the knowledge of his will - through the proclamation of his Son.
  • The theme of "filling up" will be picked up further by Paul in this letter - God being pleased to have his fullness dwell in Christ (1:19), and Paul's filling up in his flesh the signs of Christ's presence in his ministry so as to propagate the gospel.
4. Revelation
  • Only God can reveal his will in our lives.
  • This is more than just insight into what job we're meant to be doing, who we should marry, whether I should go for a skiing holiday. God's will revealed in the bible focuses on his kingdom made up of men and women redeemed through the work of Jesus on the cross. Preaching and teaching Christ, what Paul and Epaphras have been doing all this while, is communicating the very will of God for this world - that all would come under the lordship of Christ.
  • God's wisdom ordains the means of knowing his will, but only God's Spirit reveals the meaning of his will. Our sinful minds in opposition to God (1:21) can only begin to understand the glories of Christ through the work of his Spirit - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (1:26)
A brief scan through the prayers of Paul written his letters will reveal how earnestly he seeks for the ultimate good of others in appreciating the love and recognising the glory of Christ through the gospel (eg. 1 Corinthians 1:4-6, Philippians 1:9-11). Also here, from his letter to the Ephesians:

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-18

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