Thursday, May 18, 2006

Colossians 1:9

Vs. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
The response on behalf of the Colossians leads the team to pray that their knowledge of God’s intentions will be increased, and that this will be full of spiritual skill [1] and understanding. It appears the apostolic teams is convinced that sharing with them the content of their prayers will also encourage them to both pray the same sorts of prayers, and seek to implement what is being requested. Rhetorically then, Paul and the team are modelling spiritual formation. They are encouraging the Colossians by commending their behaviour which has led them back to God in thanksgiving and prayer.
The fact that they continually pray for these believers also hints at an intensity of prayer that is aware of God’s intervention.[2] Therefore, it must be seen that Paul is here looking for and expecting the intervention of YHWH, through his Spirit. God is not aloof, or far away, but rather interactive within the churches and the world. As Dunn comments:
For a theist who believes that God’s active purpose determines the ordering of the world, lies behind the events on earth, and shapes their consequences, one of the most desirable objectives must be to know God’s will. The corollary, spelled out in the following phrases, is that such knowledge gives insight into and therefore reassurance regarding what happens (often unexpected in human perspective) and helps direct human conduct to accord with that will. Such desire to know and do God’s will is naturally very Jewish in character and was, not surprisingly, shared by Jesus and the first Christians.[3]
To know what one does, and what one wills is a good indicator of what kind of person you are dealing with. Actions speak louder than words, and Paul here builds momentum for describing the great act of GOD in rescuing us from the dominion of darkness. This in turn sheds light on the very identity of GOD which is then disclosed in the famous hymn of 1:15-20. What God does, declares who God is. What God wills, declares God’s character and identity. These elements are all interconnected, and circularly related. Knowledge feeds purpose, which incites action, which then leads to insight and the cycle continues. Thus, the petition is that they might be “filled” with knowledge. This indicates that it will affect every facet of their lives.
However, it takes spiritual skill to be able to see this. It takes a heart that is devoted to God, a mind that is open to God and the disciplined practice of paying careful attention. It’s a skill and an art to hearing the voice of GOD and being invited to contemplate the supreme excellency of the divine nature. And that is what Paul is preparing the audience for. This is why Paul and company pray this for the church. The prayer of the apostles is that they will be given the insight to see what God’s will is, in every situation they face.[4] This will then commence a chain reaction of understanding and implementing that will compel them further into the purposes and knowledge of God’s will for them. Prayer is thus a catalyst for provoking momentum amongst these followers of Jesus, just as it has provoked momentum among the apostolic team in their prayer and mission.

[1] It appears that within the context, the writer has ‘practical wisdom’ as the intended meaning here. Thus sofiva/, is better rendered “skill.” This is something they must know how to do well, not just something they must know.
[2] O’Brien, Colossians and Philemon, pg. 20
[3] Dunn, Colossians, pg. 69
[4] O’Brien, Colossians and Philemon, pg. 20 notes that “the petition is that God might fill the Colossian Christians with a perception of his will, which consists of an understanding of what is spiritually important.”

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