Fruitful Christians (Colossians 1:9-13)
From the beginning of time, there have always been those who considered themselves to be especially enlightened. Human pride and self-glory didn’t start in the 1900’s. Elitist arrogance dates back beyond the Tower of Babel. There will always be a certain class of people who believe that they have special light, light that nobody else has.
The desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Think of the offspring of the “desolate” — Gnostic re-runs in modern times. Buddhism considers itself to be elite, to have that special light that only the enlightened can approach to. How about Hinduism? What about the Jehovah’s Witnesses? And don’t forget about Mormonism. Gnosticism has many, many stepchildren. One might even argue that modern-day Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism has a Gnostic great-grandmother or two.
And that is why, in verse 9, Paul prays for the believers at Colosse, that they might be filled with the knowledge – the full knowledge (epignosis) – of God’s will (the written Word) in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. The Gnostics claimed that they had gotten a special fullness of knowledge independently of God. Paul desires that the Colssians would be filled with full knowledge from God. And he wants this for a particular reason. He wants them to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. He wants them to be fruitful in every good work. He wants them to increase in the knowledge (epignosis – ‘full knowledge’ again) of God. He wants them strengthened with all might. He wants them to be giving thanks unto the Father.
Full knowledge of God’s Word always leads to these things. On the other hand, none of these things are possible apart from that full knowledge of God’s Word. In our day and age, we have made ourselves judges of God’s Word. We are the authority on what the Word says, and we bend our texts to fit our theories. But God’s Word must be the authority, and we cannot be filled with full knowledge of God’s Word until we submit ourselves to the Word. We must not bring our theories, our systems of theology, our opinions, and our standards to the Word, and bring the Word into agreement with us. Rather we must bring ourselves into agreement with the Word.
When the Word of God governs, when it dwells in us richly, when we are filled with the fulness of God’s Word in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, then we will walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. That is the natural result. God makes us “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” God qualifies us for glory, God perfects us through the work of Christ, so that we are not making ourselves worthy of salvation. This does not remove our responsibility to walk worthy of the Lord. We still must walk as children of the light. But it is to say that “it is God that works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” He strengthens us with all might according to his glorious power.
In this passage, Paul juxtaposes these ideas with the teachings of Gnosticism – false teachings that continue in our day among Bible-believing Christians. On the one hand, we have Christians living a neo-Amish lifestyle, afraid to enjoy any of the good things that God has allowed us in this day, lest their hearts be drawn to the world. It is up to them, they think, to make themselves worthy of the Lord. They are saved by grace, but they are made perfect by the flesh (Galatians 3:3). Although they deny that they are legalists, they hold the Gnostic principle of ascetism. Their dreary lifestyle is less than holy and hardly worthy of the Father who has made them partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
On the other hand, we have Christians living a lifestyle that is wholly given to pleasure and worldliness. These Christian hedonists aren’t afraid to enjoy anything in this world. God allows sin in the world, and they do not restrain themselves from any of it. They think that since God has qualified them for salvation, since they are saved by grace, that they cannot err in any way. Although they will deny that this is licentiousness, they hold the Gnostic principle of antinomianism. Their worldly lifestyle is hardly holy and less than worthy of the Father who hath delivered them from the power of darkness and hath translated them into the kingdom of his dear Son.
One thing is needful to produce a truly fruitful Christianity — and that is to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. A fulness of knowledge of God’s Word that enables us to walk worthy of the Lord, that bears fruit (see v. 6), that increases our knowledge of God, that strengthens us with all might, that produces a thankful heart, and that delivers us from the power of darkness.