Now it to week two of our study of Colossians, we have broken in to the second portion of Paul’s introduction to his letter to the Colossians. Whereas the former section (Col. 1:1-8) centered mostly on Paul’s thanksgiving to God for his work in and among the Colossians, he now expresses his prayer for them. Again, brought to us by us from the NET Bible, here is the text:
For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects – bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
To begin our discussion Tuesday night, we first went back to the beginning of all things in Genesis. The story of the universe, as God tells it, says that in the beginning, everything was perfect until sin came in to the world and what was perfect became marred. In response to this marring God both pronounces a curse (Gen. 3:14-19) though with a promise in the midst of it (Gen. 3:15) that evil would one day be defeated. How would this happen? By what means?
Back in Colossians, I found myself struck with the question, “Is Paul praying for the impossible?” Specifically, can we “walk worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects” (1:10)? To answer that question, we must again go back to the Old Testament where Paul has pulled these concepts from.
Though Paul makes two requests here (“walking” and “pleasing”) he is actually making one petition: that the Colossians’ life of faith would enact a great reversal of the entirety of human history. Here are the connections I see:
Paul prays that the Colossians…
…would find wisdom in Christ (Col. 1:9) as Adam and Eve were unable to do (Gen. 3:5-6)
…would take up the invitation of God (Gen. 17:1) to walk worthily (Col. 1:10) of the Lord like Enoch (Gen 5:24), Noah (Gen. 6:9), Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 48:15) did–unlike Adam and Eve who could not (Gen 3:8).
…would live lives that God could once again affirm as being pleasing (Col. 1:10) and good (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
…would bear fruit and grow (Gen. 1:28) in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:6, 10).
Though Paul’s prayer is essentially that the Gospel would reverse the total effect of sin on humanity, he bears no misconception of exactly whose work it is to complete this work. Evidencing this conviction Paul immediately turns his prayer not to the strength the Colossians will need to accomplish this transformation, but to the patience and steadfastness that will be necessary (1:11) as they wait for the Father to complete his work in them, his new creation in Christ. Further illustrating God’s role, Paul then moves back in to thanksgiving for the work God has done (not the Colossians) in qualifying, delivering and redeeming his people (Col. 1:12-14).