. . . We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing 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 giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col. 1: 9-12)
Epaphras . . . is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Col. 4:12)
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
Paul is under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar on charges made by Jews in Jerusalem that he is spreading unlawful teachings and causing riots. Unable to continue his missionary travels, Paul uses the time to teach believers in Rome who come to his house, and to write to believers in the churches that have already been established.
The church in the small city of Colossae was founded by Epaphras, one of Paul’s disciples. Now it has come under a subtle but sustained attack from Gnosticism, a hybrid of Christian, Jewish and pagan elements. Gnostics claimed to hold the key to supernatural knowledge, and their false teachings threatened to undermine the faith of the believers at Colossae.
As Paul writes to the Colossians, then, he focuses on the source, the vehicle, the purpose and the result of the only knowledge that ultimately counts, the knowledge of God and His will. This is so important for the Colossians to understand that Paul and Epaphras pray for it continually.
Today we’re living in a culture that mixes big chunks of human philosphies with a sprinkle of Christianity and calls it knowledge. Society’s ideas are not conformed to God; God must conform to its ideas, or He is rejected as either a fantasy, a dangerous entity to be suppressed, or a being not worth noticing. And so we have a culture that either ignores or re-interprets the Bible, re-creating God in our image and writing our own rules.
And as at Colossae, the influence of those around us claiming to have knowledge is often subtle, and threatens our faith. Some of today’s philosophies sound so good, so kind – how could they be misleading, the thin edge of the wedge? Why the stress on constantly seeking God’s will and being filled with that knowledge? Isn’t God’s will for us to be nice, to share, to make a good life for ourselves and to be happy?
Many in our society believe that living a “good life” is enough. Under this philosophy, either everybody goes to heaven (usually as an angel), or everybody except the worst criminals do. Nobody’s perfect, so almost everything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t directly infringe on me. You are who you are; nobody should have to change unless they want to. Truth is not an absolute, but shifts with every trend. There’s no such thing as sin, judgment or hell; anyone who believes that is a reactionary and deserves to be ridiculed. The Bible is outmoded and big parts of it can be safely ignored – and should be.
Paul reminds us that we can only know the truth if we know the truth-teller. We can only avoid the gradual infiltration of false teaching if we’re filled with the knowledge of God. The prayers of Paul and Epaphras are as instructive for us as they were for the Colossians:
What they pray for is that God will fill them with the knowledge of His will.
How they can know God’s will is through the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit gives those who seek it
Why this knowledge of God’s will is crucial is so that they can stand firm in it, living in a way that is worthy of what Jesus has done on the cross for them and pleasing Him in everything they do.
The result of knowing God’s will and doing it will be seen in
- fruitful work – not just good deeds, but work done under God’s leading that advances His purposes
- knowledge of God that is not static or self-satisfied, but constantly nurtured, intentional and growing
- spiritual maturity
- full assurance in Jesus as Savior and in God’s purpose for their lives
- strength that comes from God, not themselves or others.
- great endurance and patience in the tests and trials they face
- joyful thanks to God because of their salvation.
Jesus came not to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him. We have the same choice: we can be wilful or will-filled. When we choose to be will-filled, we can be assured that we’ll be well-filled.