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Do We Really Love to Know God's Word? Colossians 2:1-2

The question we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis is: Do we really love the study of God's Word? Do we really love to know God's Word? There are a lot of people who think that they love the Word but when life gets tough or when they reach a level of a sort of self-satisfaction is when we discover the answer to the question. The reason we should love to know God's Word is not for some academic reason, because it stimulates our intellect though that it does. A lot of people stop there. They just love the stimulation, the thought, the learning of doctrine, learning the theology, learning God's Word. But the study of God's Word is a means to an end, and the end it to know God. The end is to then be able to live on the basis of God's plan for our lives, that God will be glorified and that we can fulfil the mission that God has given to every single believer generally, and our ministry to God is given to each of us specifically in terms of our own spiritual gifts and abilities.

In the latter verses of Colossians chapter one and the beginning of chapter two Paul has been very personal in his explanation of the Word and his life and his role as an apostle and his love for those to whom he ministers, and how he has given of his life so much and encountered many struggles and conflicts. As he puts it in 2:1, "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf…" He endured much opposition and personal adversity and suffering for the objective of enabling believers to understand the truth of God's Word and to live for God. Fundamentally, if we just think about it, if there is only one truth and that is the Word of God then really nothing else matters than knowing God's Word and understanding who we are designed by Him. But if we don't live as if that is really important then no matter what we say with the lips in terms of the significance of God's Word and the importance of God's Word then it really isn't important.

We are going to stress that, understand that importance of God's Word, in different ways with different emphases as we grow and mature as believers but fundamentally we have to understand that this is a bedrock to our life, that knowing the Word is more important than anything else in life. Because there really is a God and He really has communicated to us, and of there really is a God and He really has communicated to us then nothing else really matters than being able to know Him through His Word, because that then provides us with the consequences of being able to live life to the fullest and being happy and being fulfilled in our life—not because of our circumstances but because we understand who we are as creatures of God who have been given many, many blessings.

Colossians 2:1 NASB "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face." But what is the purpose of his enduring these struggles? He understood that the Word of God was true. God had commissioned him for a purpose and he understood that nothing was more significant for people than to understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross for them, and that by believing in Christ they could have eternal life. And that phrase "eternal life" doesn't just mean life without end but it means a richness and a fullness of life that enables us to reach all of the potential that God has given us.

So the end game, that which gives him the ability to live through whatever opposition and adversity he faces is expressed in Colossians 2:2 NASB " that their hearts may be encouraged…" That is why he endured all this. "Hearts" is just a figure of speech, a metaphor for the entire immaterial part of our nature. It is sometimes used as a synonym for the soul, sometimes for the mind, a few times as a synonym for emotion; but often it stands for the inner part of man and all that that represents—his mentality, his emotion, his conscience. It is "that their hearts may be strengthened, "having been knit together in love"…" or by being united together by love. So it brings into our thought stream here the significance and the role that love plays. Then we have another phrase: "and {attaining} to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding…"

So his goal is that we are united in love. Today we live in a world that really doesn't understand much about love. Very few people do. The Word of God gives us our real starting point for understanding love and that is simply expressed in passages such as Romans 5:8; John 3:16—"God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." For God loved the world in this way that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. That tells us what love is; that is God's picture for us of where love begins. It is doing all that we can do for the best interest of those to whom we are ministering. A lot of people think that what is best for the object of my love is what I want for them. That's a selfish-centered love. The only way we can identify what is best for somebody else is if we have an external, eternal absolute of right and what is best; and the only way we can ever know that is through His Word. That is why as Christians we understand that then only way we can truly, genuinely love somebody is to do it on the basis of who God is and who we are as creatures beings created in the image and likeness of God. And love is not something we can command, turn on and off in an instant; it is something that we grow and mature in as we learn other things and as we learn to put aside the default self-centeredness of our own sin natures and replace it with something that goes beyond and self-centered orientation of our own fallen self. This can only come as we focus on the Lord. The only way to get real, genuine biblical love operational in our own souls is going to come through knowing God. There is no other way to do it.

As Paul expresses the goal of his ministry—which has to do with what should be the goal of our lives—he uses this terminology, that our hearts, our souls should be strengthened. How do we strengthen our heart? What is the basis for having a strong soul? It is a compound object here, that their hearts might be encouraged by, first of all, being knit together in love, and secondly by "{attaining} to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding…" We have a string of genitives here. First of all this word that is translated "wealth/riches" is the Greek word ploutos [ploutoj] which can be translated riches, wealth, abundance of something, and in similar contexts it is usually followed by a genitive—the wealth of something, the abundance of something. It is used in a descriptive way: the abundance of God's grace, the wealth of God's provision. It is describing in a superlative way the expanse of all that God has provided for us. The English word "attaining" is put in here simply as an expression of the fact that there is a Greek preposition indicating the goal, the objective. The goal or objective has to do with actualising in our own live, or bringing into full experience in our own lives the understanding of the wealth, the abundance, the fullness of everything that we have in Christ.

When we ask ourselves the question, do we really love the Word of God, do we really love to know the Word of God; that is the only way we can know about the wealth, the abundance, the riches that God has given us. We don't find out about it any other way. Part of the key to living a life where we experience all of the fullness, all of the happiness, all of the richness that God has for each of us as believers, is that we have to learn what it is that God is giving us so that that we can live on the basis of that. Otherwise we are not any different from someone who is living under a bridge somewhere unaware of the fact that they have a million dollars in a bank account somewhere. But that is the life of many Christians—most Christians. They're living like a homeless person completely ignorant of the fact that they have a billion dollars in the bank account somewhere and it is all theirs. They haven't learned that they have it and they have no clue how to use it. They really don't understand the wealth that God has given us, the abundance of grace that God has already given us at salvation, or how to live on the basis of that so that they can encounter and face any number of problems, difficulties, challenges, whatever in life and still have emotional stability because it is grounded on that which never changes, the character of God.

Romans 11:33 NASB "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" Paul is using the terms "wisdom and knowledge of God." That is that wealth that we have. He is using the term "riches" there in the same way as "the abundance of wisdom and knowledge" that is available to us. God has given us everything we need to know, yet how much of it doe we know? We can only know it by studying His Word. This is the primary focus of Paul's ministry. In Ephesians 3:8 he said, NASB "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ." The word "unfathomable" doesn't mean we can't know it; it is just that we can't know it on our own. It is beyond anything that we could ever imagine. So we can only get there through the study of the Word.

Ephesians 1:3 NASB "Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly {places} in Christ." This is the riches, the wealth, the abundance that is ours. It is one of those things that God does for every person the moment they trust in Christ. He opens up a bank account and puts a billion dollars in it for our spiritual life. How do we learn about that? Only by studying His Word. How do we then learn how to manage those resources, our spiritual blessings? Only by studying God's Word. We can't get there any other way.

Peter says it another way. 2 Peter 1:3 NASB "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything [all things] pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." The two words used there, "life" and "godliness," indicate both our physical life [bios/bioj] and our spiritual life [eusebeia/e)usebeia]. God didn't forget. He didn't just give us some spiritual blessings and living the Christian life is just going to church and living in another plane. That's more like eastern mysticism. They relate—"everything related to life," so that we can fulfil that which God has planed for us. He is not going to give us resources we don't need to accomplish the goal or that which will distract us from accomplishing the goal. So He has given us everything we need related to our physical life so that we can achieve that which He has for us in our spiritual life "through the knowledge of Him." It is not apart from the knowledge of Him; it is through the knowledge of God's Word. [4] "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises [in His Word]…"

We need to apply promises in all kinds of circumstances where we can't get to the Word to find the promises. So what do we do? It has to be in our souls, and we need to learn them. "… so that by them you may become partakers of {the} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." What that means is that we benefit from God's grace and when we grow, the Scripture says, God is conforming us to the image of Christ. That is what Peter means by partaking of the divine nature. We become more and more Christlike. The character of Christ is formed in us by God the Holy Spirit. So we have to learn to live upon the sufficiency of God's Word. That is what this is talking about. God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness, and it is in His Word. That tells us that God's Word is sufficient. We don't need to go anywhere else to get the knowledge. We have everything we need right now to excel in our spiritual life through the Word of God.

Colossians 2 goes on to say "and {attaining} to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance…" This is the Greek word plerosophia [plhrosofia]—pleroo = fullness of something; sophia = wisdom, combined to indicate a conviction, a confidence, a certainty about something. We have to understand is that we have a wealth, an abundance of something. An abundance of something comes from understanding. Paraphrase: "abundance that results from the full assurance of [something]." We don't really come to understand how much is in the bank account and how to use it until we are sure it is ours. The only way we become sure it is ours is because we have to learn from God's Word. That is the understanding part. Confidence comes from understanding—"understanding…" This is the word sunesis [sunesij] which means a comprehension or perception, understanding, intelligence. It comes to mean the content of our understanding of what we know to be true, what we understand. So it is the assurance based on what we understand. We have a confidence and a conviction based on what we understand to be true. To understand something we have to learn it; to learn it means we have to study it. To study means we have to mentally sweat, plan and prioritize and prepare to be in Bible class—more than three times a week; every day! That doesn't mean we have to sit down and listen to a whole class every day, we can listen for just fifteen or twenty minutes. But there is a constant reminder in that teaching that fortifies our souls, because we forget very, very easily what God has provided for us.

The way that our hearts are strengthened is twofold: a) By being united in love. Our unity is a unity of the faith based on knowing certain things to be true. There is a group of doctrines, a layer of teaching and belief expressed in God's Word that we can't compromise on. b) B y realizing, coming to a goal of understanding and applying all the things that God has given us is Christ, and that only comes through studying His Word.

To summarize, the goal of the Christian life is unity. We should be united together or brought together, bound together, grow together. It is not for the sake of unity for unity's sake but of unity of the faith. Secondly, Paul says that this unity is uniquely expressed by the manifestation of love within the body of Christ. That is a goal; it doesn't happen instantly when we are saved. First of all we have to git rid of all the superficial, sentimental, shallow notions of love that we have been brainwashed from all the romance movies we see and other things; that really doesn't have anything to do with biblical love. So we have to come to understand that we don't really know that much about what love experiences, what love is. This goes back to some basics in Scripture. When Jesus was about to go to the cross He gave His disciples a lot of instructions that were all related to what the spiritual life would be like after He left and after He ascended into heaven. He gave a new commandment. John 13:34, 35 NASB "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." This sets the bar very high. This is something that is going to distinguish the way a mature believer lives and operates and relates to other people from everybody else. It is manifested in how we treat people.

We are to love one another as Christ loved us. If that is the standard then the only way we can know how to love somebody else is by going through the Scripture and analysing how Christ related to everybody in His environment. Immediately we are going to run into places where Christ had a hostile confrontation with the legalistic Pharisees. Wasn't He loving that Pharisee? Sure He was. So love is not always this sort of gooey I'm just going to just approve of everything you do kind of thing. Love is expressed in terms of holding to a standard, and when that standard is violated there has to be a challenge to return to the standard. Without the challenge there really isn't any love. So love is not this permissive approval of everything somebody does. Ephesians 4:32 tells us what is also involved in that. NASB "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." The love for one another isn't just the idea of doing good things for people or helping people, or just the idea of not having certain mental attitude sins toward them. There is a positive initiation of action; we are kind to one another. That is not just staying away, it is an engagement. E.g. the good Samaritan.

How did Christ forgive us? If we don't understand the Scriptures and the biblical doctrine of forgiveness then how can we forgive other people? There is a non-personal aspect to love, sometimes referred to as unconditional. By that we simply mean that the person we are being kind to and gracious to is not necessarily somebody we know. It is not based on our knowledge of them. We can treat them in a gracious way and at a level of kindness simply because they a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ or someone created in the image and likeness of God. Sometimes it is easier to do that because we don't know then than it is with some people we know who are family members or close friends.

Another thing we have seen in this passage is that the unifying aspect of love is inseparable from the knowledge aspect. We can't really love one another if we don't love God. Scripture has a lot to say about what is involved in loving God. Our love for God, Scripture says, is only as robust as our knowledge of God. It doesn't matter how we feel about God. Sometimes we feel very close and intimate with God; sometimes we don't. Feelings are not a barometer in Scripture of our maturity or our love for God. Jesus said, John 14:15 NASB "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." That tells us right away that there is a correlation between our obedience to the Word and our love for God. We can't obey what we don't know, and we can't know it if we don't take the time to study it and make it a priority to internalise it. John 14:21 NASB "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." That is an intimacy of our fellowship with God expressed there, but it is predicated upon learning and applying what we know. [23] "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." That is not talking about the personal or positional indwelling of the Father and the Son in the believer, it is talking about the fellowship and the intimacy that we can have with the Father and the Son in terms of our own spiritual life and our walk with the Lord.

John 14:24 NASB "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me."

John 15:10 NASB "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love…..[12] This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." So the pattern is Christ; we have to study that; we have to know the Word to know that.

Some seventy years later John wrote 1 John. In 1 John 3:10 he said NASB "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious…" By that he doesn't mean whether you are saved or not saved, it is whether you are living like a child of God or whether you are living like a child of Satan. "… anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." He is not talking about salvation here. There are a lot of believers who still live like children of the world because they don't know any better; they haven't studied the Word. It takes time to love your brother, it is not something that instantly happens the day you are saved. [11] "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another… [14] We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death." This is not talking about eternal death and condemnation, it is talking about living like a dead person, one who is spiritually alive but who has never learned or grown spiritually and so still lives like he did when an unbeliever. Sometimes we refer to this as carnal death or temporal death as opposed to experiencing the riches and abundance of life. John 10:10 NASB "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life [eternal life at salvation], and have {it} abundantly [the richness and fullness of life that is ours as we grow and mature as believers]."

1 John 3:14 NASB "We know that we have passed out of death into life…" In other words we are living on the basis of this new life that we have in Christ. "…because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death [carnal death]." John is not giving a contrast in 1 John between believers and unbelievers but between growing, maturing believers who are living like it and those who aren't—those who are in fellowship and those who are out of fellowship.

Another thing that we see in this passage that we say is a unifying factor in the body of Christ comes from living in light of the abundance of blessing: the riches which derive from the full assurance of confidence which we have from our understanding of the Word. We have to believe that the Word of God is the total, sufficient, and final complete Word of God. But people don't live that way. Ryrie quote: "We always have to remember that we judge our experiences by the Word of God, and we never judge or evaluate or interpret the Word of God on the basis of our experiences." That is the difference between the believer who can grow and the believer who doesn't. The believer who judges his experiences by the Word of God understands the power, the authority and the sufficiency of the Word of God. But the believer who experiences what he can't explain or who is similar to what he thinks is Christian and then tries to conform that to the Word of God is a believer who doesn't understand the sufficiency of God's Word.