In this passage of Scripture Paul outlines the content of his prayer for the Colossians.
'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, (11) being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully (12) giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (13) For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (14) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.'
This prayer brings out an interesting progression. In verse 9, as we saw in the last study, Paul prays that they might know God’s will, and then he adds this phrase, ‘through all spiritual wisdom and understanding’.
This phrase is linked to the heresies which are infiltrating the Church in Colossae. Knowing God’s will and having spiritual wisdom go hand in hand. Once we are aware of God’s will, then it is time for action. As I implied in the last study, God doesn’t want us to act presumptuously, as this can lead to many errors, however, once He has made His will clear to us we need to act, for this is the outworking of faith. Now let's observe the progression of Christian maturity in Paul's prayer.
Read verse 10. 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...
The knowledge of God’s will leads to living a life worthy of the Lord which pleases Him in every way. This kind of life produces fruit in every good work. There are fruits of the Spirit and fruits of good works. We use the fruits of the Spirit to do good works, and when we do good works we likewise produce the fruits of the Spirit. These good works are service to others, both in Christ and unsaved, and works of evangelism.
Contrary to what some teach and believe, good works are not something we do to maintain our salvation. Salvation is solely the work of Jesus Christ 'for it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this is not from your selves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus Christ is both the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and no person can ever take any credit for attributing to their salvation. Such an idea is considered a form of 'slander' and blasphemy towards Christ, as it nullifies His selfless sacrifice on the cross.
This form of slander has existed from the very birth of the Church. In those early days there were many Jews claiming to be Christians who were insisting that Christian converts must keep the law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). Their error came from a heart of pride, a belief that all Jews were saved and all Gentiles were simply 'Gentile sinners' (Galatians 2:15). They believed that doing works of the law saved them, and were deeply surprised at Paul's teaching that all were sinners before God.
In these days in which we live there are groups who have resurrected this old heresy, and just as many that believe a Christian can lose their salvation. The latter then teach that good works are needed to keep a person's name from being deleted from the Book of Life. This topic deserves a study on its own and we will address it when we examine 1:23.
'...bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God...'
As we produce these fruits we also grow in our knowledge of God. When we are growing in the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, etc we grow in our knowledge of God, for all of these reflect his character. Also, when we are serving Christ in the Church and in evangelism we grow in the knowledge of God’s love for his bride the Church, and in his heart for the lost.
Read verse 11 '...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience...,
Now Paul links God’s power with our knowledge of him. Notice how Peter does the same thing in his second letter. 2nd Peter 1:3 'His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.'
God calls us to live lives which are worthy of him, producing fruit in every good work, producing a godly character and wining souls. By ourselves these things are completely impossible, so He has firstly given us His Divine power within us, and as we do His will, we are constantly strengthened by that power. Some people feel that they haven’t experienced that power. Often it is because they have not put themselves in the position of needing it. Consider this analogy.
A soldier goes to a camp and trains for war. He learns military disciplines, obedience etc. He learns what he must do when in different combat situations through many drills and exercises which attempt to simulate battle conditions. He learns how to use his weapons; guns, knives, hand-grenades, etc. Then he goes home. At home he is the same old citizen with a lot of head-knowledge and training. However, if he goes to war he suddenly has other elements which were not present in training camp. He has fear, adrenalin, he has an enemy trying to stop him and kill him. This situation requires him to call upon every element of strength, and to daily renew that strength.
Those who go to battle for God, which is in effect to do His will, serving others, evangelizing, and living a life worthy of the gospel, will need God’s power every day, will need to be strengthened by the filling of the Holy Spirit every day. This will produce in them great endurance and patience as Paul says in verse 11, and they will also have good reason to give thanks joyfully.
V 12-14. '...giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us 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'.
If we can read these promises of God without desiring to 'give thanks joyfully', then I wonder if we have any inkling of what we have been saved from, what has been done for us, and what is prepared for us. We are 'qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light'. Paul tells us we are 'co-heirs with Christ', (Romans 8:17) meaning that all that is His is also ours. We have been rescued out of the 'dominion of darkness'. Notice the word 'dominion' here as opposed to Christ's 'kingdom'. The word dominion comes from the idea of being dominated as a slave under a dictator. Satan is that dictator, the one who 'blinds the minds of the unbelieving' (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is the prince of darkness, and those who have not accepted and embraced God's offer of rescue, will eventually be cast into eternal darkness (Matthew 22:13).
But Christ 'reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light' (Job 12:22), because 'the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of shadow of death a light has dawned' (Isaiah 9:2).
We who know Christ were once under Satan's dominion, walking in darkness, unable to rescue ourselves. But we have been rescued by Jesus Christ, the 'light of the world' and our inheritance is with Him in the kingdom of light. He calls us to walk in the light as He is in the light (1st John 2:6), living a life worthy of Him and bearing fruit in every good work, reflecting His glory as we 'let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven' (Matthew 5:16). In order to do this He strengthens us 'with all power according to His glorious might' so that we may stand against all the schemes of the enemy (Ephesians 6: 10-11).
There are times when we are watching the news and see horrific scenes of violence, cruelty, immorality, greed, death, disease and corruption, that these verses we have read remind us of this dark world in which we live. But there are as many times when we are enjoying times with friends and family, looking forward to some important event, marriage, a new car, our first home, or holidaying in the mountains or at a beach, playing sports, etc. The world often seems like a pretty nice place. It is often difficult at such times to see the intensity of this dominion of darkness, because all seems well in our little corner of the world. We may have close friends and family who are simply uninterested in Christianity, friends who are helpful, loving and supportive. Do we view such people as 'walking in darkness', blinded by the 'god of this world', in need of rescue from eternal separation from our Lord? We should, we must, for this is the reality.
There are many decent unbelievers in this world, people who are basically law-abiding citizens. They may be war heroes, or volunteers involved in charity work, they are people who you could never imagine committing murder, or stealing, cheating on their spouse or abusing children, indeed they are people you may have a great deal of respect for. But the truth is, all of us are sinners, all have rebelled against our Creator, and all, under vile circumstances, can and do things which come out of our fallen natures. Unbelieving people are still 'nice people' by the grace, provision, and love of God. Satan usually leaves such people alone, for the most part, as he knows that pushing them to the edge of despair may push them into the arms of Jesus Christ as easily as pushing them to hate God.
Be a person that 'bears fruit in every good work', a person who acts with all 'spiritual wisdom and understanding', a person who bears witness to the glorious power of God when difficult times come and we need 'great endurance and patience'. In those difficult times, which all families go through, we can be the 'light of the world'. Be prayerful and patient, and above all, thankful to the one who has rescued us, made us 'saints' and given us an inheritance with him in his glorious kingdom of light.