Main point summary
God fills his children with knowledge of his will so that they walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
Colossians 1:9-10 ESV
9 And so, r from the day we heard, s we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that t you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all u spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as v to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, w fully pleasing to him, x bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
...we are not ceasing [in your behalf] praying
...οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι
...We have continuously prayed for you, [brothers and sisters in Colossae]
we have done this by asking
that t you may be filled with the knowledge of his will
ἵνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ
that you be filled with deep rooted, full bodied comprehension of his will
in all u spiritual wisdom and understanding,
ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ,
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
so as v to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, in all thing pleasing [him]...
περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως τοῦ κυρίου εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρεσκείαν...
IN ORDER THAT you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in all things...
Understanding εν here as a "marker of extension toward a goal that is understood to be within an area or condition" BDAG (pg. 327)
Could hold a purposive idea but also could just be content.
And so, r from the day we heard, s we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that t you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all u spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἀφʼ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν, οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ,
For this reason also, a since the day we heard of it, b we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the 1 c knowledge of His will in all spiritual d wisdom and understanding,
so as v to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, w fully pleasing to him, x bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. y May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for z all endurance and patience a with joy, b giving thanks 1 to the Father, who has qualified you 2 to share in c the inheritance of the saints in light.
περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως τοῦ κυρίου εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρεσκείαν, ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ καρποφοροῦντες καὶ αὐξανόμενοι τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει δυναμούμενοι κατὰ τὸ κράτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ εἰς πᾶσαν ὑπομονὴν καὶ μακροθυμίαν. Μετὰ χαρᾶς εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ πατρὶ τῷ ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν μερίδα τοῦ κλήρου τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τῷ φωτί•
so that you will a walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, 1 b to please Him in all respects,
c bearing fruit in every good work and 2 increasing in the 3 knowledge of God; a strengthened with all power, according to 1 His glorious might, 2 for the attaining of all steadfastness and 3 patience; b joyously giving thanks to a the Father, who has qualified us 1 to share in b the inheritance of the 2 saints in c Light.
These phrases sound cozy and spiritual—things we expect a guy like Paul to say. They seem broad and land on us almost like a formality. So our eyes and minds move past these words eagerly anticipating what nuggets of gold we might uncover in the body of Paul’s letter. But wait! This is Paul! And this is the word of God! I don’t think Paul ever wrote down empty words or said something just to sound spiritual. And besides, no one ever found gold by simply surveying a landscape. When we sit on these phrases a little longer and begin asking questions, Paul’s profundity begins to show. What is the “knowledge of his will” that Paul wants the Colossians to be filled with? Here in Colossians is the only place that “knowledge of his will” shows up in the entire Bible. It would be prudent then, to break the phrase apart in attempt to uncover its meaning. How is Paul using “knowledge” or ἐπίγνωσιν? Paul uses this word 15 times in his letters. When he uses ἐπίγνωσις, it is often paired with an objective genitive. This means Paul is frequently talking about specific knowledge like knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; 3:7; Tit 1:1), knowledge of the Son (Eph 1:17; 4:13), knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20), and knowledge of God’ mystery (Col 2:2). Because of these associations, it is highly unlikely that Paul’s use of ἐπίγνωσις excludes emotions. It is a full-orbed knowing. It enlists all the services of the mind and body instead of simply the part of the brain that retains facts. When we think of the noun “knowledge,” we are inclined to conceive of it as a static data point—something that sits in a folder, organized in the filing cabinets of our minds. But I think Paul’s use of this word is dynamic. It cannot be contained in the filing cabinets of our minds. Instead, I think Paul conceives of knowledge as a seed. A seed that, when planted, is rooted in our minds and grows branches into the whole of our being. So if this is how we define knowledge, how is Paul using it in Col 1:9? then how do we define God’s will? I think the best way to try and define Paul’s meaning of “his will” in Col 1:9 is by looking at his three uses of this phrase in the first chapter of Ephesians. Eph. 1:5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will , Eph. 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will , according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ Eph. 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will , After looking at these verses, what else can “his will” be but God’s incredible plans for the salvation of his people and the redemption of this world. Therefore, when Paul prays that the Colossians would be filled with the “knowledge of his will,” I believe he is yearning for the unfathomable love, wisdom, and mercy of God demonstrated in events of the past, grace of the present, and promises of the future to put down deep roots in the minds and hearts of the brothers and sisters in Colossae. In what sense does Paul mean “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”? The “in” here makes this phrase fairly ambiguous. It could mean many different things. The translators that do attempt to make this phrase clearer usually translate it as the means by which we are to be filled with the knowledge of his will: “…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” I think this is a good translation. This phrase sets the correct acquisition of the “knowledge of his will” in direct contrast with an acquisition that is human oriented. It is to be spiritual . And how is Paul using the words “wisdom” and “understanding”? 1 Corinthians 1:19 is the only other place in Paul’s writings that these two words are used together. This verse and the larger context help clarify the type of wisdom and understanding in our passage. They both focus on the event of the cross—which is explicitly the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of men. It is the life, ministry, and fulfillment of Christ that is to function as believers’ daily wisdom and understanding. So what is Paul’s prayer? After digging deeper into some of these full words, we must be careful to observe exactly what Paul is praying for. He is praying for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (and all that encompasses) SO THAT we may walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord. This purpose infinitive is crucial to the idea in these two verses. It is so very important to see that Paul does not stop his prayer after v.9. He sees knowledge working in believers for the purpose of action. Being filled with extensive knowledge could be good for a lot of reasons, but Paul chooses to give a reason that purposes holy actions. This is not good doctrine for good doctrine’s sake. This is God glorifying doctrine for God glorifying godliness lived on by showing Christ-like love to others. This holy living is fleshed out partly in v.10 and mostly in verses that follow. So may God fill us with deep rooted, full bodied comprehension of his will, through all spiritual wisdom and understanding—centering around Christ, so that our good deeds would be seen by others and bring glory to God!