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

The Power of God (Colossians 1:11) ~ A Devotion for August 20, 2014

“May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience..” ~ Colossians 1:11

Explanation of the Text: Paul continues on in his prayer for the Colossians noting now that he prays that they will be strengthened and then explains what that looks like for them. In the times of Paul, spiritual power was important because it was often sought by people, usually through pagan Gods and rituals) in order to find protection from evil spirits or to find something such as wealth.[1] Interesting Paul does indeed pray for spiritual power for the people. However, Paul’s prayer for spiritual power stands in stark contrast to that of the culture of the time in that Paul prays specifically to the one, true God. Furthermore, Paul’s prayer is not done for the purpose of selfish gain or ambition, but rather, he prays this in order that God would be glorified. As you read the text, you should take note that the entirety of the text revolves around God and His work in people. This can be seen from the very start of the text.

The wording used for ‘may you be strengthened’ is in the form of a present participle, meaning that it is a continuous action. This is not a one-time event in which a person receives power from God. This is an ongoing event in which one must constantly be strengthened by the power of God. Paul clearly identifies that the strength comes from God through His power and might and not from humans themselves. This is because we humans can do nothing apart from God. Therefore, for anything to be accomplished (such as having endurance and patience, walking worthy of the Lord, and even being able to please God) it must be done through God himself and cannot be our own power and strength. Ephesians 5:18 says to “be filled with the Spirit” which is yet another ongoing action. These two work hand in hand. In order to be strengthened with the power of God continuously, one must be filled with the Spirit continuously. Likewise, Paul says to be strengthened with all power. The idea of all is meaning with complete power, which again can only come from God.[2] One cannot be complete if they are walking a life apart from God.

Furthermore, as this is the work of God, Paul writes it is specifically according to His glorious might. Glorious is the manifestation of God’s attributes and might refers to strength in action.[3] Therefore, that attribute that we see is God’s strength and seeing it in action. One should stand in awe at the might of God as He displays His strength. This can be seen much throughout the Old Testament stories and Gods sovereign control over the nations and tribes.

So if we take all of this information that we have learned so far, what can be seen is that Paul is praying for people to be strengthened. However, he is not just praying for something arbitrary. He is praying that believers are strengthened through all the power of God that one can seen on display as He interacts with people throughout history. What an amazing thing to think about! We have the very power of God available to us from the One who is infinite!

Paul then goes on to give a purpose for having God’s power, which is to be manifested through endurance and patience. These words can almost sound a bit redundant because they cover the same areas. However, it should be noted that there are two different Greek words used. Μακροθυμία (endurance) is reference to long-suffering towards people, while ὐπομονὴυ (patience) is used to refer to longsuffering towards situations and circumstances.[4] Therefore, the two words actually represent two distinct forms of patience which is meant to encompass the need for patience and endurance in a full range of various activities, from interactions with people to dealings with circumstances that one faces. Lightfoot probably best summarizes this by saying, “ὐπομονὴυ (patience) is the temper which does not easily succumb under suffering, while μακροθυμία (endurance) is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.”[5]

It is interesting to look at this because when we think about power, we have connotations of one who has authority that is being exercised over people for personal gain. And yet, Paul actually refers to something that is quite contrary to how people think, and instead says the power is supposed to be used for something that most people would be characteristics of weakness. Therefore, it seems to many that Paul is praying that the Colossians would be strengthened in order that they may be weak. This is not the case at all though. Having just said he prays that they will walk worthy of the Lord, patience and endurance are ways in which one can manifest walking worthy of the Lord. This is so that God will be glorified and that others may recognize the difference in Christians and desire to follow Christ as well. Likewise, the only way that a person can be patient in ANY given situation is through the power of the Lord.

Examination & Application of the Text: First off, part of the character of the walk worthy of the Lord (verse 10) and being pleasing to Him (also in verse 10) is a life that manifests patience and endurance. Again, this encompasses all situations. I can’t speak for all of you, but I know that this is a constant battle for me. My initial reaction to most situations is “how does this affect me” and then to become frustrated with it. Yet, this response is contrary to the very teachings that we find throughout Scripture, and especially in the New Testament. The Epistle of James tells us that endurance through trials and testings produces maturity and completeness of a person. Therefore, the first response should be to ask, “How can I best react to this situation to reflect Christ according to what His word says?” and the second question that should follow is, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” These are opportunities for growth and should be embraced as such.

Therefore, as you try to walk worthy of the Lord, keep evaluating your own patience and endurance. Acknowledge your failings and shortcomings, taking note of them so that in the future, when faced with similar circumstances, you can look back to it as an example and respond rightly. Likewise, keep in mind that these are characteristics of Christlikeness to be developed in your life.

However, there is an overarching consideration that you must have in all of this as well. Everything we just talked about is null and void if it is done in your own strength. The power to endure, the power to be patient can only come from the Lord. Therefore, this takes a constant relationship with Him, being filled with His Spirit, recognizing that it is His work. If any of us works in our own strength, we will fail every time. Therefore, this must also be part of that constant evaluation, not only examining ourselves in terms of how well we handle the situations, but in whose strength are they being handled as well. Remember that the power Paul prays for is all or rather, complete, which comes from God alone.

There will be times when we fail. Unfortunately, we are still humans who are progressively being sanctified and only in heaven will that part of the work be complete (remembering the act of sanctification that took place with the death of Christ on the cross so that we can receive the imputed righteousness of Christ). Therefore, do not be discouraged and give up in this area. Simply acknowledge the failure and move on, with the will to incite change in the future and keep progressing in this by being filled with the Spirit continuously (Ephesians 5:18).

[1] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 2294.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 97.

[3] John MacArthur Jr., Colossians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 32.

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000), #5281.

[5] Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1886), 138.

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