According to His Glorious Might
Colossians 1:1-14 – Colossians: Made Alive in Christ
2nd Sunday after Pentecost – June 3, 2018 (am)
We’ve been exploring the idea of life together in the local church by examining the sweet relationship between the Apostle Paul and the church at Philippi. Our aim has been to press ourselves not just toward trying to relive what we see in that letter, or to reenact the experience of the early church, but to discover and engage in whatever quality of life together, of Christian community, God has intended in twenty-first century Warrenville.
The core of what we’re talking about is most clearly describable in Phi.3:20. That’s where we see the clearest expression of common experience that was true for them, changing the way they lived in first century Macedonia, and is still true for us, changing the way we live today. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (NIV). Our life together as a local church (and in the universal church in our day) is an experiment in dual-citizenship. And our primary citizenship is there, not here. The reign of Christ and life in His Kingdom takes precedence over our our allegiance to any human government, and to life in this world.
So, it seemed to us on the Preaching Team that exploring experience of life together under the preeminent King of kings would be the natural follow-up to our study in Phi. Col. is the obvious place to go to encounter that theme. And that letter, also written by Paul has the additional advantage of being a virtual opposite of Phi., in that Paul had never met them. The church at Colossae was planted by another, as we’ll see in a few moments. And yet, I believe we’ll hear a similar press toward life together here. Let’s look at Paul’s opening in three parts.
Greeting – 1-2
As he get’s rolling in the expression of his heart for these Colossians, he’s going to pray that they’ll be filled with the knowledge of (God’s) will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (9). So, as he starts, he identifies himself as one whose very life and calling are defined by that same standard, that same expression: 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
And Timothy (1), his coauthor, was another brother whose life was taken captive and consumed by the will of God (2Ti.1:2-14). These two wanted nothing less for the Colossians in their relationship with God than they were experiencing themselves, even though they’d never met. They considered the saints… in Christ at Colossae (2a) to be faithful brothers (and sisters), and Paul was as devoted to their spiritual growth and well-being as he was to the same in his beloved Timothy.
And Paul greeted them with grace… and peace from God our Father (2b), the very riches and reward of their salvation—grace is the means by which God accomplishes His work in them, and peace is the epitome of the work He accomplishes: peace with God, peace with one another, personal peace…, forever! This was Paul’s greeting to this church he’d never met!
Thanksgiving – 3-8
And he was thankful to God for the work that was being done in them—thankful that He saw evidence in them that the true gospel was actually taking root among them. He heard of (their) faith in Christ Jesus and of (their) love for all the saints (4). And he knew this was the clearest evidence that they had understood and embraced the hope that was laid up for (them) in heaven (5) by faith in the the finished work of Christ. And they knew this to be true. The same fruit that was being (borne) in the whole world (6), as Paul put it—the spiritual fruit that was produced as the gospel (5) took root in one place after another —was also being produced among the Colossians (6). It results from (understanding) the grace of God in truth (6). And as that happened among (them), it was cause for thanksgiving!
But notice that Paul was not thanking the Colossians for anything here. He was thanking God for what He was doing among the Colossians. His grace was at work, bearing fruit (6).
And here (7) is also where we learn that this church was planted by another. This fruit-bearing gospel (6) that changed the way they lived because of the hope laid up for (them) in heaven (5)—they learned it from Epaphras (7), not Paul. Evidently, while Paul was preaching in Ephesus those three years, teaching… in public and from house to house (Act.20:20), Epaphras, who was from nearby Colossae (4:12), had gone to hear him and brought the gospel back to his home town. Now, here, it appears he’d also traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison, and made know to (him the Colossians’) love in the Spirit (8). He (was) indeed a faithful minister of Christ on (their) behalf (7).
And Prayer – 9-14
But next Paul gave and rich sample of his (prayer) for (them) (3). Let’s see what he asks. First, he asks that (they) may be filled with the knowledge of (God’s) will (9), as we mentioned earlier. Now, surely Paul desires that (they) know God and what He expects of them, but look what he mentions in particular that a knowledge of (God’s) will produces: all spiritual wisdom and understanding (9). That sounds quite a bit like what he praised the Colossians for back in v.6.
Spiritual wisdom and understanding means that the things of God make sense to us, that we’re tuned-in to God’s heart and mind such that His ways are more appealing to us than our ways. His ways are wise and discerning and desirable and satisfying. So, the desires of our flesh are unmasked before our eyes; we see them as foolish and shortsighted and misdirected and empty. That’s what happens when we’re filled with the knowledge of (God’s) will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (9). It’s part of the fruit that’s already evident among this church.
The next thing that this knowledge of (God’s) will enables them to do is walk in a manner worthy of the Lord—that is, to be fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (10). But doesn’t that once again sound like something he just commended them for in v.6—bearing fruit and increasing in their (understanding) of the grace of God in truth? We’re starting to see something that’s teaching us not just about life together but about how best to pray for one another.
Third, they were 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy—strengthened by nothing less than the power of God to endure trials and escape temptations, to deal with the brokenness of this world and the maddeningly strong grip it has on our hearts, deadening our discernment of God’s ways, hardening our hearts, shifting our sights to infinitely lesser things. Do you feel that pull, like a massive biomolecular magnet always drawing your desires away from the grace of God in truth? (6)
But Paul is praying for them, like Jesus prayed for Peter when Satan demanded to have (him), that he might sift (him) like wheat (Luk.22:31). Paul is praying for them to (be) strengthened with the power (of God’s) glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, that they will not fail to hold on to that hope laid up for (them) in heaven (5) until it’s fully realized, and that life in this world will not even be able to steal their joy in the process! Rather, Paul wants the power of (God’s) glorious might to be so at work in them that, through it all, like him, they will also be 12 giving thanks to the Father—the One who has qualified (them) to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, the One 13 (who) has delivered (them) from the domain of darkness and transferred (them) to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom (they) have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. They have God’s cleansing work accomplished in them. They’ve been purchased out of slavery to this sinful world, (redeemed) by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul wants them to enter into thanksgiving in response to this, just as he has (3).
And in this process, we learn something not only about life together and how we’re linked as family with all who’ve been united with God by faith in Christ, but we also learn what it looks like to pray for one another within that family—that our prayers are not driven along by what we sense we lack in our walk of faith, by all the things we sense that we need. Rather, our prayers flow out of what God is at work doing among us. We pray in line with the outpouring of His grace. We pray in line with the strengths we see in the body, identified in the Word as manifestations of His manifold grace!
Prayer spotlights what God is doing among us, and joins in with it, joyfully pleading for more.
Prayer soaks-in the (strength) that God supplies and eagerly anticipates putting it to work, testing it out, in areas of weakness and struggle.
Prayer flows forth as thanksgiving, knowing that God 12 … has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, that 13 he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. And He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom.8:32)
Prayer is not a tool we use to twist the arm of a grudging God, trying desperately to wring a bit of grace out of His clinched fist.
Prayer is the means by which we engage a loving and gracious God Who has saved us by the sacrifice of His unique Son, and Who delights to give us everything we need for life and godliness.
And finally, prayer is not only the means by which our individual hearts are weaned from this world and drawn into conformity with the perfect will and purpose of God. It’s also the means by which we’re united together as one body, loving one another from a sincere heart (1Pe.1:22), entering into one another’s struggles, seeking on each other’s behalf to have our eyes opened the ever-present grace of God in Christ—asking that each one among us may be filled with the knowledge of (God’s) will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified (us) to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Whom do you know who needs to be prayed for today in the way Paul prayed for the Colossians?