For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9)
This is Paul’s prayer for the believers at Colosse. It is a pastoral prayer.* He asks of God that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will “in all wisdom and understanding.”First, note the word “filled” (Greek, pleroo). The idea of fullness shows up a number of times in this letter. This suggests that one of the errors Paul may have been addressing is a teaching that one can have the fullness of divine blessing through the legalistic and pagan notions being introduced to the Colossian believers by false teachers.
Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis, “knowledge”) taught that the universe was created imperfectly by demiurges, intermediaries or emanations of God, and that an esoteric knowledge of this was necessary in order to escape the material world. One of their terms for God was Pleroma, the Greek word for “fullness.”
Paul’s message to the Colossians is that the fullness of God is not found through some special knowledge of divine emanations or the exaltation of angels, but in knowing the will of God. But what is the will of God? Paul talks about it at the end of chapter 1 (of course, there were no chapter or verse divisions in the original letter), when he speaks of “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).
This is not an esoteric knowledge but a mystery, a secret that has now been revealed to all the saints (remember that “saints” does not refer to elite believers but to all believers). The will of God has everything to do with this: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In other words, it is in Jesus the Messiah, not in angels or hierarchies, that we have every expectation of the fullness of God’s glory being revealed in us.
Paul’s prayer for believers is that we may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. The Greek word for “knowledge” here is epignosis. It is a fullness of knowledge, not some vague mental notion of God’s will, but a personal, intimate experience of God’s will — a personal, intimate experience of Jesus living in us.
“In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” This wisdom and understanding comes to us by the Holy Spirit ministering to our own spirits. The role of the Spirit is always to point us to Jesus. Speaking of the Spirit, Jesus said, “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:15). Here is the fullness of God revealed to us in the Son by the Holy Spirit.
In the mystery of God, which is freely given to every believer, and in Jesus the Messiah, who is revealed in us by the Holy Spirit, we find “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Here is all the fullness, all the wisdom, all the knowledge we need. Not in angels or hierarchies, but in Jesus the Messiah. When we understand who Jesus is in us, individually and as the Church, we understand what the will of God is all about.
*For more about the pastoral prayers found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles
Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”
Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.