From January 1916 Word & Work

      A good report had come to the ears of Paul from the Church at Colossae. Epaphras (vs. 7-8) had declared their “love in the Spirit”–that love which is free from all selfishness, sham, and dissimulation and has its source in the new life imparted through a union with Christ by faith. From the time the report had reached him until the Colossian letter was written, the apostle had not ceased to pray for them. (v. 9). What an example this is of his “care for all the churches” and of his belief in the efficacy of prayer. At the throne of grace he had been a constant supplicant in their behalf and his intercessions are of such a nature as to lend encouragement to the exercise of our priestly functions as to “royal priesthood.” (1 Pet. 2:9). The prayer is confined to their spiritual needs and contains seven parts. Not all apostolic prayers deal directly with spiritual affairs nor are we to conclude that the providence and power of God are restricted in our behalf to the spiritual. The prominence and importance of the spiritual though are most obvious throughout and God’s providence in the temporal, as put forth in the behalf of his children, has their best spiritual condition and welfare in view.


      “That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The church was in possession of faith, hope and love (vs. 4-5), had a knowledge of the gospel which was production of its fruit and had grasped the great doctrine of the grace of God. (vs. 5-6.) We should hardly suppose such a congregation to be in particular need of a “filling” with knowledge and spiritual understanding or wisdom. It may have been that it was with them as it is with many now–they did not themselves realize their need, but I hardly think this was the case at Colossae. At any rate, Paul understood that there was much for them which they did not already possess and that they would be constantly and always in need of knowledge and spiritual understanding to direct them into the channels of service which God had chosen for them. Likewise in the perplexing problems which confront the Christian in his every day life there would be an especial need for spiritual wisdom and the apostle knew that their sufficiency and efficiency both were of God.


      “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” (v. 10). Like all Christians they were identified with their Lord, not only in the likeness of His death, burial and resurrection but also were to walk “even as he walked.” It is no doubt the aim of God to bring through grace the walk of the believer to a point worthy of his high calling, standing, and position in Christ. Christ himself is judged by the walk of Christians and it was jealousy for his Lord which prompted this prayer. Such a walk [9] is far beyond the power of the natural man and is even beyond the power of the redeemed unless grace is abundantly supplied. But let us not become discouraged; Paul prayed that such a walk might be the walk of the Colossian Christians, and it must therefore be possible. Let us likewise remember that Paul was not praying to the Colossians that they might so walk but was praying to God. It must be that God will do something.


      “Being fruitful in every good work.” (v. 10). Paul would have them “careful to maintain good works for these things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:8). God’s people should be a helpful people ready for every good word and work. Good works are acceptable unto God when they am the fruit of a spiritual union with Christ, otherwise they are dead works. (Jno. 15:4). The fruitage is also in the hands of the husbandman who purges and prunes, the branch that it may bear more fruit, hence the prayer of the apostle to this end.


      “Increasing in the knowledge of God.” (v. 10). This petition is very much akin to the first, save that it suggests the thought of a continued increase of knowledge. What a rebuke is here for all who are satisfied with the rudiments of the first principles and also what encouragement to faithful, prayerful, efforts at finding out the import of all that God has revealed. The fact that the inspired writer so prayed is proof that God will assist the devout seeker for knowledge.


      “Strengthened with all might according to his glorious power.” (v. 11). Of all the requests in this apostolic prayer, none gives more genuine comfort and encouragement than this one. Is it possible to be strengthened according to the glorious power of God? Evidently this is the case. We may think it too good to be true, but nothing is too good for the Heavenly Father to do for his believing children. It is just here that most of us fail. We know much more of what is right than we are willing or able to perform, but still all are without excuse seeing the the strength will be supplied of God. Like all of God’s benefits He is not stingy in His bestowal of strength, for it is “according to His glorious power.”


      “Unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness.” To suffer long and wait patiently, to endure pain, privation, persecution, to withstand temptation, to bear the jibes and sneers of the sinful, to go outside the world’s camp with Christ and bear His reproach are things which take more than the philosophy of the stoic or the hypnotism of Christian Science to endure. But not only does the prayer teach the possibility of longsuffering and patience, but that it can be done “with joyfulness.” What a secret is here. The secret of “keeping sweet” when everything from a natural point of view is opposed to it. It is possible, though, that in whatever state we are therewith to be content, for [10] with Paul we may say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthenth me.” (Phil. 4:12-13). If this be its source, it is no wonder that Paul so prayed in behalf of Colossae.


      With the above prayer which the apostle had not ceased to make since he had heard of their love in the Spirit, there had ascended continual thanksgiving to the Father “who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love in whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins.” There were the blessings freely bestowed upon their acceptance of Christ and obedience to the gospel. In position they were fit for the inheritance. In life God was making them fit. All is spoken of as having already taken place–a present possession–because “He is faithful who has promised.” We most earnestly desire that every Christian who reads this make this prayer his own.

  • H. L.Olmstead was a preacher for many years for the  Gallatin Church of Christ in Gallatin, TN–He died in 1958