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Walking Worthy. Colossians 1:9-10

That when your children go forth the way they behave and conduct themselves says an awful lot about the family and about parents. Even today, if you are an adult, how you live your life reflects upon your parents and on your family. Sometimes we don't like that and say I can live my life my own say, and sure we can, but it still reflects something the way you were reared, it says something about your family background, something about our parents. If we have been trained well by our parents then that shows. If we haven't then that also shows. If we are rebellious then that also says something not only about us but something about parenting. The point is, how we live doesn't just reflect upon who we are, it reflects upon the family out of which we come, the family to which we belong.

The same thing is true in the spiritual life because at the time that we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ a number of different things a number of different things happened. They weren't things we experienced but nevertheless they were real. We received the imputation of Christ's righteousness which is the basis for our salvation, and so God the Father could declare us to be just, not because of what we have done but because of who Christ is and what He has done and because of His righteousness. We were regenerated, we became a new creature in Christ. We were given a new life so that we are now spiritual infants, and we are also adopted into God's royal family so that we have a new identity along with that new position and we are part of a new family. And in God's family there is a code of conduct: protocols, ways in which we should live as believers that reflect upon that new family.

Understanding that is important to understanding many things that are said in Scripture, some of the difficult passages that some people will go to try to prove that you can lose your salvation, or not really that at all, there are passages that are basically saying if you are a member of God's family this is how you are going to live. That doesn't mean that if you live differently, if you violate that code of conduct, those standards of behaviour, then you are not a member not God's family; it is just that you are a rebellious, poor example of God's family. It is just like if we are disobedient and don't go along with what our parents have said we bring shame and dishonour upon our human family, it doesn't mean they are still not our parents. We can never change that, it is a reality, nobody can take away your parents or your birthday; those are set forever and so you are still a member of that family.

The same thing is true in the Scripture: we are members of God's family. Sometimes we act like we are step-children, sometimes we act like we have been kicked out of the family, disinherited, but nevertheless we are still members of God's family. We can never have that salvation, that adoption into God's family because God does not do that; He does not go back in His Word. Think of all the different things that God does for every person at the minute of salvation and you just can't imagine what would reverse all of that. It is not just a matter of getting eternal life and having it taken away from you. Think about justification, reconciliation, redemption, adoption, reception of all the ministries of God the Holy Spirit, all of the changes that take place in just an instant of time when we trust in Christ as savior, and that those are all irreversible. He has given us so much that with that comes a certain obligation to live as a member of His family. That doesn't mean that if we don't live that we lose our salvation; it does mean that if we don't live that way we do come under divine discipline. As Hebrews 12 states, whom the Lord loves He chastens.

As a member of God's family what is it that God expects us to do? How do we learn this code of conduct, this code of behaviour, this way of thinking that is to characterize our new position and our new family responsibilities? That comes from a study of God's Word primarily but as we look at different passages and as we study this opening section of Colossians one of the things we see is how the apostle Paul prays for these believers in this church in Colosse. He has never been there, he has only heard about them through the man who pastored them for many years, a man by the name of Epaphras. Epaphras has told Paul about all of the many different things that characterize these new believers in Colosse and how they have grown and that that their faith is becoming known far beyond their geographical vicinity, that they have a love for all the saints, and that this is motivated by their hope, their confident expectation of future rewards and their future destiny in heaven.

So as Paul has received that message we then come to Colossians 1:9 NASB "For this reason…" That refers back in a general sense to what he has received in this report from Epaphras. Because of all that he has heard he is going to give them additional information. Also remember that in each of these epistles Paul is addressing, usually, more than one problem or situation in one congregation. Think about that, because what usually motivates us to go anywhere in the spiritual life, even to get saved, is that we have some problem in life. It brings us to this position where we realise that we are not sufficient to handle life on our own; we need someone else, we need God, whatever it may be. There is always this sort of a problem.

In Colosse the problem is that they are getting sucked into some false teaching. But it is not just the sort of academic this like do you believe in this philosophy or that philosophy, this religion or that religion; the reason they are motivated and moved to believe in one thing or another is because somehow they or we think it works for us and is going to solve these problems in life. Fundamentally they were being attracted to it because they thought that it offered them something that somehow they weren't getting in Christianity. What that indicates is that they had an anaemic view of Christ, an anaemic view of what God provided for them, and an anaemic view of the Christian life. So in this opening section of the epistle as the apostle Paul goes through these prayers what we see is his focus is on what really ultimately matters in any of our lives in terms of our spiritual growth. We look at what Paul is thankful for and what he is praying for in relation to these believers in Colosse and it tells us where the real priorities should be in our own thinking and in our own spiritual life.

"For this reason…" They've already grown. Paul is very positive, very thankful as he has expressed already for the spiritual growth they have attained already. But that is just the beginning, they haven't arrived. We never really arrive in this life in terms of our spiritual growth and development.

"…also, since the day we heard {of it,} we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The main idea here is, "we do not stop, do not cease to pray for you and to ask." So the main thing in this set of verses is his prayer. Whenever we are looking at the prayers of any of the saints in Scripture, whether it is David in the Old Testament or Paul in the New Testament, the first thing we should understand in terms of application is what is being prayed for. Because it is in Scripture this gives us God's view of what is important, where the priorities should be in terms of what we go to God for in terms of prayer. The verb that we find there for cessation is the Greek sword pauo [pauw] which is a very similar verb form to what we have in 1 Corinthians 13:8, that tongues will cease. It is a middle voice which indicates more of a dynamic sense that this is something that is certain that is going on, so Paul uses this in a middle voice to emphasize in this verb that he doesn't stop praying. The principle here that we see in terms of prayer is that we are not to consider prayer just something tacked on to the Christian life; that we are to make prayer a priority. It should be structured, habitual, not just one time a day. We may have one time a day when we might have a more disciplined prayer time but prayer should be something that goes on and on throughout the day. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB "pray without ceasing." The verb there emphasizes that this something that characterizes our life all throughout the day. As things come up you can just shoot little bullet prayers to God, and at other times take a little more time in prayer. But it is not just a life of bullet prayers; there also should be times of significant, disciplined, focused prayer. It is something that is not optional but is central to our spiritual life.

Paul says they do not cease to pray and to ask. In English that is translated as if it is two infinitives, to pray and to ask, and that is not how it is structured in the Greek. In the Greek there are two participles—a participle is an "ing" word—"praying and interceding." The "ing" ending emphasizes that this is an ongoing action, and that is exactly what he is saying: "We don't cease praying and interceding on your behalf." The first word for prayer there, proseuchomai [proseuxomai], is the normal word for prayer and it has to do with addressing requests to a deity. The second word translated "ask" is the primary meaning of aiteo [a)itew], but words need to be translated in terms of their usage within the context and when we are asking God on behalf of somebody else a more precise term is intercession, or interceding for somebody. So this should be translated as "We do not cease praying and interceding for you [or, on your behalf]." "For you" is the same phrase in the Greek that we see in the phrase "Christ died for you, Christ died as a substitute for you." That is the idea of intercession. We are going to God on behalf of somebody else in their place and asking for certain things. So we are to pray for others.

So Paul says, "We are praying and interceding on behalf of you" for a particular purpose: "ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." That is a loaded clause. It gives us the purpose, the focus of the prayer request. The word "filled" is the Greek word pleroo [plhrow] which is sometimes used in the sense of fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy and it is the same verb that is used in Ephesians 5:18 where we have the command to be filled by means of the Spirit, rather than being drunk with wine in the first part of the verse. The command is to be filled with the Spirit; it has to do with filling us with something. The something isn't the Holy Spirit. Greek grammar is very precise in certain areas and if we are talking about filling something up with something. Illustration: A coffee mug is filled with coffee. Never use a Greek preposition en [e)n] to describe the contents of that mug. A genitive construction would be used to describe the contents but we don't have that in Ephesians 5:18, we have an instrumental clause. So it is not the Holy Spirit we are being filled up with but it is the Holy Spirit who is filling us with something else. So what is the content of that filling? It is what we see here in Colossians 1:9, "that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will."

The way we translate these things in English loses some of the significance of the original Greek. Because when it is translated "be filled with the knowledge of" something, that could indicate the content; it could also indicate means, and it is neither a genitive here nor is it an instrumental dative; it is an accusative and should be understood as an accusative of reference, which means that it is limiting the focus of the verb with reference to something specific. So what Paul is saying here is, "so that you may be filled with reference to the knowledge of God's will." In the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit there are similarities between the results of Ephesians 5:18, "… giving thanks to God for all things, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your heart to the Lord and several other consequences. Then of we go to Colossians 3:16 we have an almost identical list of the consequences of a different command: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." That is the same kind of thing that Paul is saying here in saying that "you may be filled with the knowledge of His will." The content that we are filled with, what is supposed to dwell in our minds, is the Word of God. It is the content of God's Word, what He has revealed to us that our soul is to be filled with, so that as we learn more and more of God's Word it is not just an academic knowledge but it is knowledge that under the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit and His revealing the Word to us that it becomes more and more clear to us how to apply these things. And the more that we learn, the more we learn to think how God thinks, and then things begin to come together and we see how to apply His Word in many different areas of life. It all starts with knowledge.

The knowledge that is mentioned here is the verb epignosis [e)pignwsij]. gnosis is the root noun for knowledge and when the prefix epi [e)pi] is added it intensifies it and in many cases that word epignosis has to do with a full or experiential knowledge of something. It has gone from just being academic knowledge to something where you are learning the practical applicational value of something. It is one thing to learn how to add and subtract through a column of numbers; it is another thing to do it when you are filling out your tax return and the stakes are a little higher than just getting an A or a B and it has to do with your pocket book. But if you learn at school how to add a column of numbers and how to subtract and all of your basic mathematic functions, then later on in life when you have to do these other things all of that academic knowledge that you had in a math class now becomes practical knowledge. Now it has moved from the realm of gnosis to epognosis and therefore there is value to it. And if you learn to do other things with numbers mathematically then that allows you to use that in many other areas, and that develops skill with math. The concept of skill with something is what the Old Testament writers referred chokmah (wisdom). So when we get into the New Testament, even though it is written in Greek, the wisdom that is usually referred to as part of the spiritual life isn't the sort of abstract wisdom that one would get in Greek culture from understanding Greek thought, it is still that Old Testament concept of skill. The writers were all Jewish writers; their frame of reference is all the Old Testament. So when they talk about wisdom as a positive spiritual virtue in the New Testament they are talking about that same idea of a practical and skilful application of God's Word that is found in the Old Testament.

So what Paul says here is, I'm praying constantly for you and what I am praying for is that you are filled first with epignosis, with this full knowledge that you get from God's Word. The difference between epignosis and gnosis is that there are many people who are Christians who have an academic knowledge of God's Word but they don't really believe it. They can tell you many things about what the Bible says. They have studied the Bible as human literature; they haven't studied it as the Word of God that is supposed to change their life. There is a distinction: gnosis emphasizes more of just an academic understanding whereas epignosis emphasizes the knowledge that comes because you believe it to be true and that you have made it a part of your thinking as a result of the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

So Paul is praying that this is what would be true, that it wouldn't just be academic knowledge but it would be full spiritual knowledge of God's will. Often what God expresses to us is His will. What Paul is talking about is that we have the mind of Christ and therefore understand God's thinking through studying His Word—all of the mandates, do this, do that, think this way—that is understanding how God wants us to think and how to live. So we are to be filled with the knowledge of His will and that comes from studying God's Word. We don't get it any other way.

There are many churches today where people go to church for what they emphasize as a "worship time" and they use that phrase "worship" to just relate to the singing part of the service—which is an abuse of the term. Ultimately the highest form of worship is when we are studying God's Word because that is when we learn to think like God wants us to think and to live like God wants us to live. We learn His will, and that is the foundation and what the emphasis should be. If we don't know the Word then we don't know God's will.

A lot of people will stop there and say: "If we would just apply all that we know. Our problem is that we don't know enough and we don't apply enough. We need to quit learning all this stuff; we are just getting so filled with all this knowledge about the Bible that we don't apply anymore." The reality is that in every endeavour of life we know a thousand times more than we ever will apply, but we never apply more than, say, three per cent of what we know. The way we increase our application is to know more, not to try to apply a higher percentage. If we learn, instead of knowing 5000 things we know 50,000 things, if we still apply the same percentage we will be applying a lot more if we know more. That is just the way things are in life.

We are to be filled with a knowledge of His will, and this results in "in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The adjective for spiritual here, which is pneumatikos [pneumatikoj] (relating to the spirit), should apply to both of these nouns "wisdom" and "understanding." So that should be translated "with reference to the knowledge of His will by means of all (spiritual) wisdom (contained in the Scripture) and understanding" that is in the Scripture. But it doesn't stop there. Paul isn't just saying I want you to be filled with the knowledge of His Word by means of all spiritual wisdom and understanding; there is not a period there. There is a purpose. That is a means to an end, and the end comes up in the next verse.                        

Colossians 1:10 NASB "so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." So the goal of the knowledge, the goal of learning God's Word, isn't just to know it. It isn't necessarily just to be cognisant of all the Bible stories and all of the things that go on in the Scripture, but it is focusing us on a direction in terms of our practical life—that we are to live in a way that brings honour rather than shame to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are members of His family and therefore are to walk worthy of the Lord.

When we look at this passage the focus is to walk worthy of the Lord. Then that is modified by saying "fully pleasing Him." This isn't to gain grace; it isn't to gain blessing; but it is because we have already received blessing, already been adopted into His family and have already received grace, and we are now to walk worthy. It is an expression of gratitude to God for all that He does, and now that we are His family we want to walk in a manner that brings honour rather than shame upon the royal family of God.

This brings us to a summary of the doctrine of walking. What does it mean to walk? This is a terminology, a picture for us of the Christian life.

1.  Walking isn't simple. When we get walking broken down to its basic steps we realize that it is not something that is easy to do. If we have an injury later in life, especially if it is a traumatic injury where we lose the ability to walk and have to learn how to do it again, then we realize how complex it is and how much concentration is called for to make each particular step. Transferring this over to the Christian life and the fact we have to learn how to walk as a Christian, it involves that same kind of thought and concentration and effort to learn it. It is not just going to happen mystically and magically. When we are going to walk—which is a metaphor for how we live our life or how we conduct ourselves—it involves doing a number of things, some things simultaneously and some things in the right order. If we don't do them in the right order then we make a misstep and fall down. So there are procedures here that are part of the Christian life that we have to follow. The Bible describes all of the mechanics, and even though it is not mechanical we have to learn all of the mechanics. So walking is a procedure we have to practice over and over again.

2.  Walking is a metaphor in the Scripture. It is using the step-by-step that we take with our physical feet as a picture for how a person lives their life; it is a lifestyle. It includes our norms and standards, our values, our policies, our habits, our priorities, how we manage our time. In essence it is everything that we do is included in this concept of walking, so it expresses a code of conduct. God the Father has a code of conduct, a behaviour standard for everybody who is a member of God's royal family. The Scripture uses this metaphor numerous times to express the dynamics of the Christian life and the standards for the Christian life. 

3.  For example, then Christian's lifestyle is related to understanding we have this new life. We have a new life in Christ. This is the emphasis in the first half dozen verses in Romans chapter six. Because we have been identified with Christ in His death burial and resurrection we become a new creature in Christ and are given a new life. Now that we have this new life we are to live in a way that reflects the standards for that new life. Romans 6:4 NASB "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." So we are to walk in this new category of life. But we don't always do that; we often fail. We often live like we did before we were saved, and that is called living according to the sin nature, living according to the flesh.

4.  We only have two options in the Scriptures as to how we walk. We walk either according to the flesh, the sin nature, or we walk according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3, 4 NASB "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God {did:} sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and {as an offering} for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." At any given time we are either conducting our life according to the sin nature or we are conducting our life according to the Holy Spirit. This is also seen in other passages such as Romans 13:12-14 where Paul uses the contrast between night and day. NASB "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to {its} lusts." "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ." That comes as we learn the Word of God and we learn to think as Christ thinks and according to divine revelation. Galatians 5:16, 17 has the same contrast.

5.  In walking by the Spirit we walk by faith. That is not in contrast to reason; that is faith in the Word of God. We have to understand the Word of God and trust it and believe it to be true, and implement that in our daily life. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB "for we walk by faith, not by sight."

6.  When the Scripture says that we are to walk worthy the emphasis is not on gaining salvation or gaining grace from God or gaining God's favour, but because we have it we are now going to live in light of it. We are going to bring honour to God rather than shame to God. Ephesians 4:1 NASB "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." We have already been called, already been saved; now we should live in a manner that reflects honour and glory to God. Ephesians 5:2, 3 NASB " and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints… [8] for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light {consists} in all goodness and righteousness and truth)… [15] Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise." Where do we get wisdom? We get it from our study of the Word of God. We first have knowledge and then as we come to understand it more fully under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit we develop skill and application, and that is wisdom. The parallel verse is in Colossians 4:5 NASB "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NASB "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us {instruction} as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more." There is a standard for how we are to walk.

As we look at Colossians 1:10 it says, NASB "so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit [production] in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." The two phrases, "bearing fruit" and "increasing" are participles that should be understood as a means. How do we walk worthy? By being fruitful in every good work and by increasing in the knowledge of God. We are to be fruitful in every goods work.

Ephesians 2:10 NASB "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." God saved us so that we would do these good works. This isn't morality or a kind of superficial good works, limiting it to Christian serviced or things like that; this is all of the production that God the Holy Spirit brings to our life as a result of application of God's Word. It includes mental attitude changes, our belief system changes, actions as well. A lot of people can go out and do good things. If it is done in the energy of the sin nature it is just human good and has no eternal value. If the same thing is done walking by the Spirit then it has eternal value. We can read our Bible in the flesh just as much as we can read our Bible walking by the Spirit. We can pray out of fellowship, witness out of fellowship, all these things, and it is just a work of the flesh; but if we are doing it by walking by the Spirit then it has eternal value. So we see that it is God who produces this in us. The spiritual life is supernaturally dependent.

Philippians 1:6 NASB "{For I am} confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." God is the one who is going to be consistently working in our life so that we grow to maturity. We can rebel against that but that doesn't mean He is going to stop working. 

2 Timothy 2:21 NASB "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself [1 John 1:9] from these {things,} he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." How do we get prepared for every good work? Study of the Word. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NASB "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."