Colossians 1:9-14 “9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Paul’s prayers for the Christians in Colossae reflect his true feelings about them and provide God’s people today with instruction. In our last article in this series on Colossians, we saw how Paul’s gratitude for the Colossians’ faith implies they received the full revelation of Christ through the preaching ministry of Epaphras which is why they should not look for a higher religion (Colossians 1:3-8). Colossians 1:9–10 advances Paul’s teaching, encouraging his readers not to pursue this false teaching.
While it’s fashionable today to pursue methods that advance ourselves in power and holiness, whether it be through name it or claim it or the health and wealth gospel, or perhaps some other method of teaching other than what is revealed in the Scriptures. An emphasis on secret or obscure methodologies for spiritual growth though has been a problem in the church for ages. Back in first-century Colossae, false teachers promised quick paths to spiritual maturity through diet plans, ascetic practices, holy days, and more (Colossians 2:16–23).
The apostle Paul’s aim here is to ground the Christians in Colossae in what has been presented clearly to all in the gospel. Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-10 has many parallels with Colossians 1:3–6, indicating that growth comes through diligent continuance in what God has revealed to the whole church in Scripture, not in chasing after the latest fad. He asks the Lord to help the Christians in Colossae walk in a fruitful manner (v. 10), just as the gospel bears fruit in the whole world (v. 6). Paul also prays they would love the truth that is found in gospel message and would strengthen the faith of God’s people (vv. 4, 9). That Paul prays, this shows how powerful the preaching of the truth is and how Christians are brought into the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus, along with how they are made mature through hearing and studying the Word of God.
Once we know the basics of the gospel, we may think, we must then move beyond them for actual spiritual growth. The truth is we do not need extra-biblical revelations and methods to mature us. Instead, what we need to continue to do is mine the gospel message and its application to all of life, which are found in the redemptive story of the Bible.
Colossians 1:11-12, “11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
The essence of the Christian life can be summarized in many ways, including forgiveness, namely the realization that the Father has forgiven His people in Christ and now requires them to forgive others (Colossians 3:13). It can also be summarized in holiness because Christians have been set apart as holy through the work of the Savior, which is why we now must put on holiness into the daily practice in our lives (1 Peter 1:14-16). Further, the Christian life can also be summarized by patience, since in His patience, the Lord, brought us to repentance, so now we must bear patiently with one another, even, as we wait for the Lord to fulfill His sovereign purposes (James 5:7-11). While other summaries could be suggested, in our study of Colossians, the one that has been most clear is thanksgiving.
Gratitude is shown in Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae in Colossians 1:3-12, indicating its central place in the life of the Christian. Thanksgiving is the perpetual attitude of Paul and is to be ours as Christians as well. Paul is always giving thanks for the faith, hope, and love of the Christians there (vv. 3–5). The Colossians and all other Christians by extension are to give thanks for their great salvation in an abundant, overflowing manner (v. 12; 2:6–7). Such an emphasis on thanksgiving is not surprising, for gratitude must undoubtedly be a chief virtue of redeemed people since a principal vice of fallen humanity is an ungrateful disposition toward the Lord for His gifts (Romans 1:18-32). Israel perpetually fell into idolatry because they did not remember the Lord who brought them out of Egypt, and instead, ended up thanking gods who were no gods at all for their redemption (Ex. 32).
When we recall everything we have as Christians, we should live our lives full of gratitude because of the inheritance; we now have in Christ. An inheritance is something that is passed from the person who earned it to someone who has not worked for it, at the initiative of the earner. Paul refers to our salvation as an inheritance because Jesus earned it for us. We do not work for our inheritance in Christ but receive it by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 4; 2 Corinthians 5:21). John Chrysostom, an early church father and bishop of Constantinople in the late fourth century, writes, “For no one leads a life so good as to be counted worthy of the kingdom, but the whole is his free gift.”[i]
In our own strength; it’s difficult to give thanks to the Lord (1 Thess. 5:18), which is precisely why we need strength from the Lord to preserve in joy in Christ (Colossians 1:12). Power in the Christian life comes from the Holy Spirit who indwells God’s people and reminds them of the blessings they have now in Christ, and their need to thank Him. As a result of the indwelling Holy Spirit, no true Christian can live a life without gratitude.
Colossians 1:13-14, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Gratitude is often hard to define precisely but is something every single one of us can recognize when we see it. G.K. Chesterton’s once remarked, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”[ii]
“Happiness doubled by wonder” is an amazing way to describe the proper response of the Christian to what Jesus has done for His people in His death, burial, and resurrection, particularly, when we consider what we truly deserve, and the inheritance we have now in Christ. As Paul expands on his teaching on giving thanks, he explains what happens to all who place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, God’s people appropriate the work of Jesus that delivers us from the “domain of darkness” (Colossians 1:13-14; Gal. 3:1-9). No matter how “good” our parents or we are, all of us are born into this world as children of Adam, cut off from blessed fellowship with God the very purpose for which He made us (Romans 5:12-21). The Bible describes being in Adam as a dreadful state of chaos, darkness, and judgment, one of misery where we were dead in our trespasses and sins, willing servants of the Devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). There is absolutely no escape from this condition apart from the divine intervention of the Lord since nothing in ourselves could move the Lord to save us, He graciously acted to rescue us. Such an act is beyond our natural comprehension and too marvelous for words (Romans 5:6-8). As we realize how far from Him, we were, when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, before we knew Jesus, the only response is to give as G.K. Chesterton, “happiness doubled by wonder.”
Christians have been rescued by the Lord Jesus from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of Light in which there is the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14; 1 John 1:5-7). The Prophets foresaw, this redemption out of the darkness and exile of sin into which Israel, as a picture of all mankind in Adam, had fallen despite having access to the oracles of God (Isa. 42:5-9). What’s so amazing about this rescue from exile is that Christ has saved not only Jews but Gentiles from their hopelessness.
While Adam, despite, the benefits of Eden, fell into sin, Israel, despite the Promised Land, also fell into sin, thus, demonstrating the drastic measures that the Lord had to take to restore the image of God in man so they could have fellowship with their Creator through Christ. In Christ, we have been rescued from utter darkness and hopeless and now as children of light, have been empowered through the Holy Spirit to walk in the light and image God in His fullness through the crucified Christ who now calls us to live increasingly cruciform lives before His face.
From Darkness to Light, Copyright (2021), Ligonier Ministries.
[i] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT vol. 9, p. 7; hereafter ACCNT
[ii] The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, p. 463.