Locate the Passage
1:9-14 contains Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae. This is the final introductory paragraph before the main body of the letter.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
Vs. 9-14 are one sentence in Greek. Vs. 9 links 1:9-14 with 1:3-8. Because Paul has heard of the Colossians’ “love in the Spirit,” he indicates that he does not stop praying for them. His prayer contains two main purposes. The first is identified by a hina clause (“that”), stating that he prays that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (vs. 9b). The second purpose is a result of the first, and is identified by an infinitive (peripatesai, “to walk” or “so that you may walk”), stating that he prays that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (vs. 10). Their worthy walk is a result of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
Vs. 10b-12 contains several participles that express what a walk worthy of the Lord looks like: bearing fruit and growing, being strengthened, and giving thanks. Vs. 12-14 provides reasons for the last participle (“giving thanks”), namely the saints’ share in the inheritance of light, their rescue from the domain of darkness, and their redemption through the Son.
- Exegete the Passage
Vs. 9 explains that because Paul has heard about the Colossians’ spiritual progress (vs. 3-8) he doesn’t cease praying for them. Vs. 9-10 gives the content of Paul’s prayer. Paul prays, first, that the church would be filled with the knowledge (epignosin, “full knowledge”) of God’s will. Some scholars believe a kind of proto-Gnosticism was at work in the Colossian church. If so, Paul’s language may be polemical here. Full knowledge only comes in relationship with Christ. Paul prays that the knowledge of God’s will may be accompanied by wisdom and spiritual understanding. That is, that they would fully comprehend the knowledge of God’s will.
Vs. 10 gives the second part of Paul’s prayer, that the church would “walk (peripatesai) worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.” The subsequent participles in vs. 10b-12 give definition to what Paul means by a worthy walk. First, walking worthy means “bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (vs. 10b). “Bearing fruit…and growing” is a repetition from vs. 6. In the same way that the gospel bears fruit and grows around the world, Paul expects that the Colossian believers will bear fruit and grow in good works and knowledge of God. Second, walking worthy means “being strengthened with all power” (vs. 11). This is a present passive participle, indicating that the act of empowerment is carried out upon, rather than by, the Colossians. Paul modifies this statement by stating that the Colossians will be strengthened “according to His glorious might,” stressing the fact that the believers’ empowerment comes from God and is consistent with God’s power. The purpose for this empowerment is “so that you may have great endurance and patience” (vs. 11b). Paul fully expects the Colossian church to persevere in faith, not falling prey either to the heresy that threatens the church or any possible persecution associated with their faithfulness to Christ. Not only are the Colossians to endure, but they are to do so “with joy” (vs. 11b), a distinctive marker of Christian perseverance. This joyful perseverance is enabled only by the empowering work of God.
Vs. 12 gives the final participle that modifies the worthy walk for which Paul is praying. Walking worthy means “giving thanks to the Father.” Vs. 12b-14 describe three reasons for which the Colossians should give thanks. First, God has “qualified (hikanosanti) you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (vs. 12b). Paul uses klerou (“inheritance”), a reference in the Septuagint to the Promised Land. This is perhaps a reference to the new creation, the believers’ “promised land.” Second, God has “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (vs. 13). The transfer of citizenship given to believers from Satan’s dark kingdom to the Kingdom of the Son is a reason for their thanksgiving. Third, “In Him (the antecedent of this pronoun is “Son” in vs. 13) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14). “Forgiveness of sins” is set in apposition to “redemption” and thus gives a theological definition to the term. To be redeemed means to have one’s sins forgiven. It is this forgiveness that causes the believer’s thanksgiving.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
- A Prayer for Knowledge (vs. 9)
- Of His Will (vs. 9b)
- With His Wisdom (vs. 9c)
- A Prayer for a Worthy Walk (vs. 10-14)
- A Worthy Walk Means Growth (vs. 10c)
- Bearing fruit in every good work
- Growing in the knowledge of God
- A Worthy Walk Means Empowerment (vs. 11)
- By God’s glorious might
- For Endurance and Patience with Joy
- A Worthy Walk Means Gratitude (vs. 12-14)
- For an inheritance (vs. 12b)
- For a new kingdom (vs. 13)
- For forgiveness of sins (vs. 14)
- A Worthy Walk Means Growth (vs. 10c)