Paul’s Intercessory Prayer

An Examination of Colossians 1:9-14

his group of verses form a kind of intercessory prayer on behalf of the believers at Colossae. This prayer of Paul’s is in response to a report that has come to him regarding a subtle heresy that has found its way into the church. Incidentally, here is a classic example why I refer to Paul as the Master of the Run-On sentence. This sentence runs an astounding 218 words! It begins in verse 9 and runs through verse 20.

1. Two petitions, one prayer, verses 9, 10

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.

Paul’s prayer contains two petitions or requests. The first request is the one closest to Paul’s heart and is the foundation of the entire prayer. He asks God to fill the believers in Colossae with a knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. E.F. Scott thinks that this request hints at the problem with the church at Colossae, that is, that despite their devotion to Christ, they had somehow failed to acquire true knowledge, “mistaking windy speculations for a deeper wisdom.”

The phrase “fill you” is written in the aorist-passive, meaning “a complete experience.” It reminds us of what James said:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.

Paul’s second request is that his friends might “live a life worthy of the Lord.” This is a natural progression from knowing God’s will. If you know God’s will, your life will be worthy of the Lord. Curtis Vaughan rightly notes that a knowledge of God’s will is not an end in and of itself, but knowing God’s will carries with it a responsibility to carry it out. As Lightfoot observed,

The end of all knowledge…is conduct.

Interestingly, the English “live a life” comes from a single Greek word, peripatesai, meaning literally, “to walk.” To walk after the Lord, and to live a life worthy of the Lord suggests living a life commensurate with what the Lord has done for us and in us. Furthermore, living a life worthy of God means that we will “please God in every way.” The Greek word for “please” carries with it an attitude that “anticipates every wish.” What a powerful thought: as believers, we are to live a live that anticipates what God wants of us and from us. Most of us live life the other way; we live a life that seeks to get as much as we can out of God.

2. Four ingredients of a pleasing life, verses 10b-14

[B]earing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The first ingredient of a life pleasing to God is a life that bears fruit. “Bearing fruit in every good work” shows the quality of the believer’s conduct. The active voice of the the verb, “bearing,” indicates that one’s will and determination are needed and expected.

Secondly, the Christian should grow spiritually. “Growing” is a strong Greek word in the present tense and, like “bearing fruit,” implies a habitual action. Growing in the knowledge of God is to be continuous action; life-long learning is indicated. What is really of significance is a small preposition “in.” This tells us that spiritual growth takes place in the realm of knowledge. In other words, Christian maturity can only occur when one’s knowledge of God increases. John Nielson remarks,

[T]he power for the “worthy walk” [is] to be drawn from the knowledge of God. How important, then, the faithful study of God’s Word and prayer! Such holy practices strengthen on for the holy walk.

Again, Vaughn eloquently states,

What rain and sunshine are to the nurture of plants, the knowledge of God is to the growth and maturing of the spiritual life.

The third element necessary to living a God-pleasing life that of “being strengthened with all power.” In the Greek, this phrase is written as a passive participle, indicating that the ability to live a holy life come from a source outside ourselves; it comes from God. The believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit is sustained in his walk by a power greater than himself: divine grace. The believer can do anything that God requires because God give him the ability to do so. The word “strengthened,” which speaks of continuous empowerment, comes from the same root word used in Philippians 4:13,

I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

Of special note is that this strengthening is not according to our need, but according to His power, or more accurately, according to “the might of His glory” (lit.) Since God’s glory is everlasting, His power is never ending. Such is the resource that stands in back of every single believer.

The reasons God empowers believers is stated plainly: so that you may have great endurance and patience. The NIV’s “endurance” is a way of translating a Greek word which is closely tied to “hope” and which is the opposite of cowardice. Another commentator has suggested the word means “the ability to see something through to the end.” The other word, “patient,” comes from a word which means the opposite of wrath or an attitude of revenge. It means “even-temperedness,” the kind of attitude that does not seek to “get even” or retaliate when injured.

The fourth ingredient of the worthy Christian life is gratitude. Since all good things come to us from the Father, our words of thanks need to be expressed to Him first, before anybody else.

As a side note, this passage indicates that believers, in and of themselves, are not fit to share in the “inheritance of the saints.” It is God Himself who qualifies us for that privilege. The phrase who has qualified you is written in the aorist tense, meaning the qualifying is not a process, but something that happened immediately.

4. God’s deliverance, verses 13-14

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Finally, God has “rescued” or “delivered” (KJV) believers. This refers to an decisive act of God. The verb, once again, is in the aorist tense, revealing a decisive, completed act. This deliverance is a present deliverance from sin and sinning; it is something that has already been accomplished for us. This is a proof that God has qualified believers to share in the inheritance of the saints. The word “rescued” is errusato, meaning to liberate, save, or deliver somebody from something or someone.

Believers have been delivered from the “power” or “dominion” of darkness. In Scripture, “darkness” often refers to ignorance or evil. Through Christ, we have been moved from the sphere of darkness. Nielson wrote:

Christ never domineers; Satan always does. The passions of sin always dominate the man. The fruit of the Spirit never holds a man under any dominion; the believer controls them.

This deliverance was in the aorist tense. It is a present experience: the action was taken in the past, the rescue is a completed reality. Nobody has to be rescued again!

But the implications of this rescue are far reaching. Not only are we delivered from the “power” or authority of darkness, but we have been “brought” into the Kingdom of Christ. The word is metestesen, and it is used in Greek literature of relocating people from one country to another country. It could be thought of as “re-established.” We have been relocated from the Kingdom of Darkness, to the Kingdom of Light. At the moment, this kingdom is within our hearts, and Christ is the Royal Sovereign over our hearts. But one day it will be a physical reality.

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