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Filled with the Knowledge of His Will

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Let us live our lives to the Glory of God by being filled with the knowledge of His Will.

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The passage before us today gives us some insight into a very interesting topic in the New Testament - the topic of prayer; and not just prayer itself, but further, what do the writers of Scripture pray for?
There was a man named Epaphras. Epaphras was a minister of the Word of God in a city called Colosse. Now, Epaphras had travelled from Colossae to see Paul who was imprisoned at Rome. That would have been around a 1200 mile journey - Quite a distance to travel in those days. Epaphras brought word to Paul, word of the growth of the Colossian Christians, and word of some of the false teachings that had spread around in that place. Both the faithfulness of the Colossians and the danger of the surrounding false teaching were worthy of note, and Paul’s letter addresses both of those things.
When we get to verse 9, Paul says “and so” or “for this cause” we have not ceased to pray for you.
Prayer is a discipline of the Christian life that is much needed, but is often neglected. It is an activity that needs honing and practice and application as much as our scripture study does.
In the book of Acts chapter 6, there is an interesting “conflict,” if we could call it that, that takes place. Some of the Christians, Hellenists, who were Greek-speaking Jews, in the early church were complaining because the widows of their people were not being ministered to as readily as they thought necessary.
The Apostles certainly recognized the importance of that matter, but they asked an interesting question. They said, “it is not right that we should give up the ministry of the Word of God to serve tables.” Now, what they were saying was not at all that the ministry to these widows was not important, but they were saying that it was not more important than the ministry of the Word.
So what they did, in essence, was ordain what would be similar to the first Deacons in the early church. They appointed seven faithful men who would set out to minister in these situations; but the Apostles would stay focused on their intended purpose.
Acts 6:4 ESV
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Why is this significant, you may ask? Well, it is significant because when we see the Apostle Paul speaking of his prayer life in the Epistles, we are not simply getting a glimpse into his personal time, or what he does behind closed doors, or his own spiritual habits - we are getting a glimpse into something that was, at least by inference, a critical and vital role in his ministry. And noting all of the churches and young believers that Paul knew of and was instrumental in coming to faith, we can easily surmise that prayer took up a large portion, and a large priority, in the Apostle’s ministry.
A side note here, before we move into the crux of our message for today, is to remind you that this is the attitude that you should be looking for in your spiritual leaders. All kinds of ministry are important, but every ministry in the local church should be driven by these two things that the Apostles devote themselves to - The ministry of the Word, and prayer. It is my hope that the men who have been called to lead here follow this pattern. And i would go a step further to say that a minister who focuses on peripheral areas of ministry to the neglect of his prayer life, and to the neglect of the ministry of the word, is a minister who has perhaps lost sight of the scriptural agenda of his office.
Now, all that to say this. We are interested in the importance of prayer in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, but we are also interested in the substance, or subject of the Apostle Paul’s prayer. As a preacher I am, obviously, very interested in the content of Paul’s message, and when it is included by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I am equally interested in the content of these inspired prayers for the saints.
Now, as we look at these verses, we are going to shift away from the subject of prayer itself and focus in on the content of the prayer - what is Paul praying for in the lives of the Colossians, and by implication, what is the application of this prayer request in my life. But there is a strong secondary purpose here that I want to highlight before we lose its significance, and that is this: does the content of our prayer life reflect, at least in principle, what the writers of scripture prayed for? We can conclude by the fact that they are recorded in scripture that these prayers are something that God not just listens to, but He also desires to listen to them and answer them. These are prayers that honor Christ and His Work. They are prayers that focus on getting down to what is central in our Christian walk, and shift away from prayer being some genie-in-a-bottle type divining rod for out Christian experience.
That being said, the main topic of Paul’s prayer request in this passage is simple - it is the title of the sermon - it is that we, as believers, would be filled with the knowledge of God’s Will.
So as we look at this scripture today, the call is simply this:

Let us live our lives to the glory of God by being filled with the knowledge of His will.

As we seek to point this out, I would like to see:
The Apostle’s Supplication
T
The Intended Application
Our Humble Recognition

1. The Apostle’s Supplication - Vs. 9

So, again, we see that the specific, major, driving prayer request in the Apostle Paul’s mind is that the believers would be “filled with the knowledge of His Will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” This was absolutely paramount in Paul’s heart and mind. Now, what exactly does Paul mean by this?
The word that he uses to be “filled” here is one that is not uncommon in scripture. This word had an interesting usage in that day. The picture if gives is of a sailboat on the Mediterranean Sea, and as you picture that sailboat, you picture the sail of the boat bellying out as the wind fills it up. So we could say that the sail is “filled” with the wind, but we can also say that the sail is “driven” by the wind, or “controlled” by the wind.
This is illustrated for us in another passage of Paul’s.
Ephesians 5:17–18 ESV
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:17–18 ESV
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Here we see the same word used for being “filled.”
Paul contrasts being “filled with the Spirit” with someone who is “drunk with wine.” Now, to be drunk is not simply to have your belly full of a substance - that would cheapen the meaning of that illustration - but rather it is for that substance to control you. He contrasts that with being “filled” with the Spirit. The picture here is not that believers simply need more of the Spirit in volume, for every believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, but rather what we need is for the content of the Spirit in us to drive, or control, our minds, as contrasted with one being out of control in their drunkenness.
The word for being filled also has a level of totality involved. That means that Paul wasn’t simply intending that believers have some content of what he was praying for, but that they would have a total fulfillment of it, a total control by it - this fulness would be the key driving factor of their life.
So what is that key driving factor? Well, it is, simply, the knowledge of the will of God.
Knowledge here is an interesting word - there is the greek word gnosis which is the typical word used, and it is employed here as well, except it is used here with the prefix “epi.” So it is knowledge Paul is praying for, but it is really “above knowledge.” It is supreme knowledge, not because the ones possessing it are intellectually elite, but because it is the knowledge of God’s Will.
Now, whenever we approach the subject of God’s Will, people’s ears perk up because one of the most popular questions asked of any minister of God’s Word is “how do I know God’s Will for my life?” And even if we have never voiced that verbally, we have certainly thought it, have we not? A little later on, I want to address that question specifically, because this passage does shed some important light there.
But first, we must understand that when we speak of God’s Will, we are speaking of two things. Not two things that are opposed, but two things that are distinguished nonetheless.
The first, and perhaps trickier aspect of God’s Will is God’s Will of Decree. This is that concept in which God by His own power and Sovereignty decrees and oversees everything that comes to pass. This is something that is critical to our understanding of God. Some people would argue that the absolute sovereignty of God in all things is a view reserved for one particular Christian view of God, but it is not necessary at best and harmful at worst.
I would counter with this. A belief that God is Sovereign over and ordains all things is not simply a necessary tenant of one view of God, but it is necessary to be a theist in any real sense of the word. A God who is bound or limited by anything outside of himself is not God at all, but is rather a false idol in the imagination of man. A God who has his actions forced or determined by outside causes is not a God who is able to accomplish His means in any real sense, and that is simply not the picture of God in scripture.
But rather, in contrast with Idols of silver and gold, made with men’s hands, the Psalmist in says
“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
Psalm 115:3 ESV
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Now,
God is providentially ruling over all of creation. All things happen for a purpose, and all things happen according to the council of God’s will of decree.
So God’s will is firstly what He intends to do as he sovereignly rules over creation. This is a beautiful picture of God’s power and might, but this is not specifically what is in view in our text. God’s will of decree is unknown to us, except in the case of prophecy, until after events take place in real time.
However, what is known to us is God’s will of desire, or God’s will of command. That is the will of God that has been explicitly laid out for us in scripture, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - and this is what Paul prayed that we would be filled with. Now, what is God’s Will for us in this sense?
God’s will of desire is all that He commands, or prescribes, in His Word.
Ephesians 5:17–18 ESV
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:17-18
1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
1 Peter 4:19 ESV
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
So what is God’s will? Well for starters, God’s will is that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit, That we would grow in sanctification, that sometimes we would follow Him through suffering, and that we would thank Him in all these things.
Now, we could go through scripture and find every instance in which God prescribes or commands us to do or not to do something, but for sake of time let us just think about the implication of this.
Paul prays for us that we will be filled with the knowledge of what God desires for us to do. The question is, how many of us ignore what God has explicitly stated that He desires for us, and yet ask the question, “how can I know God’s will for my life?”
My answer to that is twofold:
As we wrestle against the desires of our flesh, we want to have God’s will in our lives without being willing ourselves to obey what He has actually stated.
What we really are interested in when we ask “how can I know God’s will for my life” is not God’s will of desire, but God’s will of decree. We could care less what God has commanded us to do, we just want to know if we’re going to have a wonderful marriage, or if we’re going to be financially successful, or if our job is going to last, or if our kids are going to do this or that.
In this mentality, we are focused and driven by the 2 year, the 5 year, the 10 year, and the 40 year plan in our lives, rather than the explicit statements of God’s Word that effect how we live now.
Know this, dear ones, God has the details of our lives worked out in his perfect wisdom. It is our prerogative to concern ourselves with His desire for us, and we find that in scripture.
God has the details of our lives worked out in his perfect wisdom. It is our prerogative to concern ourselves with His desire for us, and we find that in scripture.
If we want to know God’s will, we should saturate our knowledge with God’s Word. If we want to know what God desires, we must fill our minds with what He has said. Whether or not it is God’s plan for us to be a millionaire one day is entirely immaterial if we are not concerned with God’s desire for us to be obedient to Him in all things right now.
Paul says this knowledge of His will is in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. God’s will is spiritually discerned, not because it is mysticism and divination, but because the natural man cannot receive or understand the Word of God.
And it is “wisdom and understanding” in this way. These words are synonyms, but they have a slight nuance in meaning.
-Wisdom (sophia) is the broader word, and it refers to our ability to collect and organize in our mind principles from Scripture.
-Understanding, in this context, takes it a step further and deals with how we apply these principles in our life.
-Both of these are Spiritual, or derived from the Holy Spirit.
This reminds us of

2. The Intended Application - Vv. 10-11

Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The picture here is this -
The one who is conformed to the world has their mind saturated with wordly wisdom, worldly understanding, and worldly knowledge. He thinks like the rest of the world thinks, so therefore, when it is time to make a decision or action, he decides and acts like a child of the world, walking in the flesh.
On the contrast,
The one who is transformed by the renewing of his mind has his mind saturated with scriptural wisdom, scriptural understanding, and scriptural knowledge. He thinks according to the explicit statements and principles of scripture, therefore when it is time to make a decision or action, he decides and acts like a child of God, walking in the Spirit.
This addresses an important topic - the question will come, “what about decisions that i have to make that aren’t specifically addressed in scripture? Who i’m going to marry, what job i’m supposed to take, where i’m supposed to go to college, what house should I buy, etc.
This is when we begin to blur the lines of God’s will of decree, and God’s will of desire. Here is the principle. We live our lives based on God’s will of desire. When we come to a decision like this, God has chosen not to write in the sky the name of our future spouse or future job or future college or future address. He has rather chosen to allow us to make real decisions based on the explicit statements and principles in His Word.
Sometimes we make the best decision possible, based on much prayer and meditation on scripture, and it still seems we have failed. Or furthermore, perhaps we seek to live our entire life making all the best decisions possible, operating on the basis of scripture and prayer, and we still are face with tragedy beyond imagination. Well, remember this - suffering of all kinds is part of God’s will of decree, and being obedient in that suffering is part of God’s will of desire. It may not be that we have made the wrong decision, or that we are being chastised for wrongdoing, but rather that we are looking for validation in a positive outcome rather than seeking to glorify God.
One of the key enemies that the Apostles were writing against in this time was the rise of the “gnostics.” The gnostics held to many heretical teachings, and they weren’t necessarily unified in their cause, except for on one front. What unified the gnostics was this desire and need for “special knowledge” or “supernatural knowledge.” A knowledge that only came to those who were especially enlightened by spiritual revelation. The gnostics also loved the words fulness, wisdom, and understanding, because they claimed that all these things were attained only through this mystical enlightenment that only came to a few fortunate teachers, and therefore the rest should be subject to the ones who had this special knowledge.
If this was the case, then what we see here is that Paul is praying for true knowledge, true fulfillment, true wisdom, and true understanding. This does not come from mysticism or divination, and certainly does not come from the world - rather it comes from scripture.
We fill our minds with scripture, and we learn to live by the explicit statements and principles of God’s Word.

2. The Intended Application - Vv. 10-11

Dr. John MacArthur observes that the outcome of Paul’s prayer request is five things that we see in these next two verses. He states it so simply that I’m going to reiterate them here.

A Worthy Walk

Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We are enabled to walk in a manner that pleases God because of what Christ has done for us.

A Fruitful Life

Christian fruit comes in many forms. Consider the fruit of the Spirit. But also consider where it comes from.
John 15:4–5 ESV
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Growth

Another way to word “increasing in the knowledge of God” would be “growing by the knowledge of God.”
Think of the blessed man in -
Psalm 1:2 ESV
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Strength

This idea of being strengthened is not a one-time rocket boost by which God sets us on our course and then leaves us to our own devices, but rather it is a continuous action - it is “continually being strengthened.”
When Paul said that he knew how to live in famine and in plenty, he said he could do them through Christ who strengthened Him.

Endurance

This is that gift of Grace by which God enables us to go through trials with a heavenly point of view.
James 1:2–3 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:2–4 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

3. Our Humble Recognition - Vs. 12

Finally, we see our call to humble recognition. Not recognition of ourselves, but recognition of God. Glorifying Him for what He has done!
If we are filled with the knowledge of His will, and live our lives to His glory by His spirit, it is not that we have done well, but that He has done well.
And his work is not just temporary, but note that it has eternal benefit!
He has “qualified us”
The idea that god has “qualified” means that he has made us sufficient, made us adequate, made us capable - which points to the opposite.
Without God we were unqualified, insufficient, inadequate, and incapable of any of this, and especially of sharing the inheritance of the saints.
Paul, in Ephesians, points out that our inheritance is not what we earn as good Christians, but what God has predestined by His Grace.
Ephesians 1:11-14
Ephesians 1:11–14 ESV
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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
So it is clear to us, I hope, that Paul’s Prayer request is not just some petty desire or passing thought, but it is a rich and full understanding of what it means to know and pursue God’s will.
For believers, we know God and love Him. This is a call to not neglect what He has given to us. For those here who do not know God, let this be a call to listen to what God has to say in His Word. For this matter of knowing and doing God’s will is immaterial if you do not know God.
In Paul’s sermon in Athens, he said this.
Acts 17:30–31 ESV
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Certainly we will all stand before God as judge. Those of us who are His children will stand having the righteousness of Christ on our account. That righteousness is given to all who call out in faith and repentance. If he is calling you to himself today, do not resist in your flesh any longer. Reach out to one of us here, we would love to show you more about knowing God and placing your faith in the work of Christ.
We will never know everything that God has decreed by his Providential care, but we can certainly know what he desires for us and has commanded us to do. So,
Let us live our lives to the glory of God by being filled with the knowledge of His will.
Let us live our lives to the glory of God by being filled with the knowledge of His will.
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