August 21 – Colossians 1:9-14
Main focus: This is the fruit the gospel bears.
Many of Paul’s letters start with a prayer for the church or person receiving it, and those prayers, like we saw in verses 1-8, often focus on the theme(s) of the letter as a whole. Last week we saw how Paul is thankful that the gospel has been bearing fruit everywhere and especially in Colossae. This week we’ll see the kind of fruit that God is producing among his people.
Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church has a logic to it: he is praying that God would fill the Colossians with “knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” so that they will “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,” which includes “bearing fruit…increasing in the knowledge of god…be[ing] strengthened…[and] giving thanks to the Father.” If we forget that this is Paul’s prayer we might miss the fact that God is the author of this whole process; he’s the one to whom Paul appeals to give us what we need. As we talk about what it means to live as a follower of Jesus (to “walk”), this shouldn’t leave our mind for a single moment: there’s no option for living the Christian life outside the empowerment of God. There’s no homebrew, DIY, bootstrap path for following Jesus; “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1).
God is the one who gives knowledge so that we can understand him and discern his will, learning from him what is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; cf. 1 Cor. 2:12). His Spirit helps us understand these things so that we can grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding, which is markedly different from the worldly sort of wisdom that we typically value (1 Cor. 1:20). If we’re wondering how he gets this wisdom into us, look no further than the Bible, which is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
God is the one who gives knowledge through his word and the working of his Spirit, and God is the one who causes these things to bear fruit in our lives as we walk according to them. This leads to the four-fold reality Paul mentions here: 1. Bearing fruit in every good work, 2. Growing in the knowledge of God, 3. Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, and 4. Joyfully giving thanks to the Father.
Translation note about v.11-12: The Greek that Colossians was written in doesn’t have punctuation, meaning that comma you see in verse 11 is a translation decision. Some translations read, “…patience with joy, giving thanks…” and others read “…patience, with joy giving thanks…” The difference doesn’t really change the way we read the text; between enduring with patience and giving thanks to God we know joy has to be in there somewhere.
In our discussion we’ll look at these four aspects of “walk[ing] worthy,” asking ourselves which ones sound most precious to us and which ones we tend to neglect. This should highlight for us the way in which this reality describes the kind of patient, joyful, wise life we likely want, as well as the aspects of faithfulness to which we most need to grow in (ex. being strengthened for endurance sounds great; I often forget to give thanks to God).
We should use this passage to assess where we know we have room to mature in the Christian life, but we shouldn’t discuss this without also returning to that crucial principle mentioned above: there’s no option for living the Christian life outside the empowerment of God. To wrap up, we’ll turn to what God has already accomplished in the lives of followers (v.12-14)—he has given us a share in the inheritance (i.e. eternal life and citizenship in the coming Kingdom), has delivered us from darkness, and has redeemed us by forgiving our sins. All this goodness we have received from God should remind us both of our dependence on him and his ability to fulfill his work within us. Rather than leading you to sit out the Christian life, propping your feet up while God does this work, this can actually give you perfect confidence to get up and walk, trusting that “[he] is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24).
• Could someone read Colossians 1:9-14 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• In v.10-12, Paul lists four aspects of what it means to “walk worthy of the Lord.” What are they? (1. Bearing fruit in every good work, 2. Growing in the knowledge of God, 3. Being strengthened for endurance, 4. Joyfully giving thanks to God)
• How do those four aspects help us understand what it means to follow Jesus?
• Of those four aspects, which sounds the most precious to you?
• Which do you tend to neglect?
• How does this passage describe the work that God has already done in the lives of followers? How does that encourage you to “walk worthy of the Lord”?