Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

God’s Will Characterized by Spiritual Wisdom & Understanding (Colossians 1:9) ~ A Devotion for August 18, 2014

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” ~ Colossians 1:9

Explanation of the Text: As we continue on in Colossians, Paul logically moves from thanksgiving for the Colossians to prayer for them. The phrase ‘and so’ indicates a connection to the previous section. What Paul is saying quite simply is that because the truth of the gospel is bearing fruit and growing, Paul is not only thankful, but he also prays for them. It is important to realize that just becomes someone is growing, we should not stop praying (and discipling) for a person. We can be thankful for the work God is going in someone and should praise Him for that, but we should also never become content with where we are at. There should be a continued desire to more Christlike, and recognizing that, Paul gives thanks and then prays for the believers at Colossae.

Furthermore, he is specific in what he prays for, calling attention to their growth in Christ. The prayer is specifically that they be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. God’s will is often a topic that people are confused by. People always say that they want to know what God’s will is, or they want to know what His will is for their life, or they see it as something that can be hard to grasp and is a mystery. Too often, His will is made more difficult than it needs to be. First off, it should be noted that the verb (may be filled) is in the passive voice. This is important because by using the passive voice, Paul is indicating that there is nothing here that a person can do, but rather being filled with the knowledge of the will of God is completely dependent upon the work of God.[1] That is to say, in order to be filled with the knowledge of it, God himself must reveal it. Perhaps this is why so many people have such a struggle with the will of God and think it is such a mystery, but the reality is, God has revealed His will to us. There are two parts of God’s will. The first part is God’s sovereign will, which means that there is nothing that happens outside of the will of God. If it happens, it was God’s will. Nothing in the universe occurs without being allowed to do so by God. The second aspect is God’s commanded will, which is just as it sounds. God’s commanded will are the very things that God commands us to do. God’s commanded will is known by the written word of God. Therefore to be in the will of God, you must be in the word of God. To see more of a discussion on God’s will click here and read the devotion from March 5, 2014 out of the book of James.  The word used for knowledge here is different than the typical word that most think of. In the Greek text, there were two words used for knowledge. The first is one that refers to simply acquiring head knowledge that is learning about something. The word used here is an intimate knowledge that one gets through experience or doing. Therefore, the idea is not simply to learn facts about God’s will, but to learn what God’s will is by doing it, and to keep doing it.

We notice though, that Paul characterizes God’s will as being in all wisdom and understanding. Remember, Paul is writing to counteract false teaching, and this wisdom and understanding are on the spiritual level, which would be in direct contrast to the false teachers, which were at best, a show to the people (cf. 2:23).[2] God’s will must be characterized by godly wisdom and understanding, rather than the world’s wisdom and understanding. Understanding is simply the point of comprehending or making reason. Wisdom is that understanding lived out. The best definition I have heard regarding wisdom is that it is “a skilled and sensible approach to life, according to God’s definitions and standards, beginning with the fear of the Lord, and always demonstrated in/by one’s behavior.”[3] First off, we not that it is a skill, meaning that a person had to take time to learn it. Second, everything must be by God’s definition and standards, and not our own, otherwise we could not claim it to be true wisdom. Third, in order to have wisdom one must fear the Lord as found in Proverbs 9:10. Finally, because wisdom is a skill, it is practically lived out in a person’s life. This means it is not a mere head knowledge that one has that can be considered wisdom, but rather wisdom is knowledge practically and rightfully applied. For this reason one can have knowledge without wisdom, but they cannot have knowledge without wisdom. Therefore, being filled with the will of God is characterized by taking action on the will of God.

While Paul is praising the Colossians and indicating his prayer for them, this has a practical connection to the purpose of the letter, which was to combat false teaching. By praying that the people would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, they must be filled with His word. Therefore, when the false teaching comes, they are able to stand against it and teach correctly against it. Likewise, it can be suggested that Paul is saying, “The clear knowledge of God’s will which is our basic petition for you, is incomparably richer and more satisfying than the knowledge that is held out to you by the advocates of heresy.”[4] His concern for them was to remain steadfast in the truth that is the wisdom of which he preaches, so that they not be misled by the false teachers.

Examination & Application of the Text: As we look at the application today, there are two primary things that I think are important. First, it is important to understand what wisdom is and I would recommend this to each of you. Spend some time reading through Proverbs chapters 1-9 and note the differences between wisdom and folly, noting that wisdom is never hidden, but instead, actually cries out in the street. Despite what so many people may say, wisdom is not hidden. Likewise, though, note that folly also cries out. Therefore it is important to be able to distinguish between the two.

This brings us to our second point, which is to be in the word. Be ready to give a defense, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) in order to stand against false teachers (which is also the same thing that Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4). You cannot know the will of God if you are not in the word of God, therefore, make sure you are studying His word as frequently as you can. This takes an investment of time. There is much to know and learn, therefore, don’t expect to sit down and expect that in a couple of sittings you are going to get it all. However, be engaged in the word every day and get the most out of whatever text you are studying. If necessary, utilize tools to help you be consistent in this and that will help to teach you. My hope is that by doing devotions on this blog, it will help all of us in staying consistent in this. This will help you in gaining an understanding of God’s will for your life.

[1] Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary, Ed. Bruce M. Metzger (Colombia: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1982), 20.

[2] Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary, Ed. Bruce M. Metzger (Colombia: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1982), 22.

[3] This definition was given to me by Dr. Greg Harris, a teacher at the Master’s College and author of the Glory Books (The Cup & The Glory, The Darkness & The Glory, and The Stone & The Glory). It is the definition that he teaches all of his students.

[4] William Hendriksen, Phlippians, Colossians, and Philemon, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964), 57.

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