Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PRAYER: THE CHURCH MARCHES ON HER KNEES exposition of Colossians 1:9-14

The beloved fourth century early church father, John Chrysostom of Antioch, wrote about the sweetness, beauty and majesty of true prayer near the end of his life after being exiled by the Empress Eudoxia for confronting her extreme materialistic and opulent lifestyle:

"A monarch vested in gorgeous habiliments is far less illustrious than a knelling supplicant enabled and adorned by communion with his God. Consider how august a privilege it is when angels are present and archangels' throng around. Where Cherubim and Seraphim encircle with their blaze the throne of God that a mortal may approach with unrestrained confidence and converse with Heaven's dread Sovereign. Oh, what honor was ever conferred like that? How inestimable is the privilege of entering into the throne room of God surrounded by the hosts of His heavenly angels to commune in simplicity and with rapt attention with the One who is devoted to us. If prayer were nothing more than that, it would be the highest honor to pray without ceasing."

The Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:9-14 gives us several precious and powerful principles on how to pray for other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Fervent in Prayer - (v.9a)
"For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you..."

Paul begins in verse three of this chapter of Colossians one with the same heartfelt encouragement for these young believers at Colosse when saying, "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." The Apostle here begins with praise and ends in prayer; if verse nine he begins in prayer and by verse twelve ends in praise! The two are indivisible.

Prayer was the constant conversation of this "prisoner of the Lord." The prison drove him to pray and brought him into sweet communion with the Lord. Do our confines do the same? Do our trials and sufferings do the same? When was the last time we felt the pains of depleted resources that we had to truly pray, "Give us this day our daily bread?"

Prayer is the driving privilege and the very life-breath of every believer in Christ.
We read in Ephesians 6:18, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." Paul writes in 1Timothy 2:1, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men." "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16b-18)

How are we to pray? We are to pray fervently beloved.

As we breathe without ceasing, so we must pray without ceasing. Never give up on praying not even though Satan should suggest to you that it is in vain for you to cry unto God. Pray in his teeth-pray fervently.
-Pray on, though devils attack you;

-pray on, though trials overwhelm you and flood your soul;

-pray on, when the heavens seem as brass to you;

-pray on, when you think your prayers go unanswered and have been miscarried continue on to draw near to God;

-pray on, though others you love may wound you, hurt you, gossip about you, and abandon you;

-pray on, though your heart be cold against spiritual things - pray until the Spirit of God warms it again;

-pray on when the philosopher tells you all in life is a matter of chance and natural law, do not be discouraged, for God has given you a wonderful opportunity to show grace to that one through prayer;

-pray on, when you are on the mountain top of blessing or in the ease of worldly graces;

-pray on, when all is taken from you and you are stripped of this earth's possessions and comforts;

-pray on, though you only see a cloud in the shape of a tiny hand in the distance-pray until the clouds are many--full, black and pregnant--ready to burst their showers upon you;

-pray on when you think you are too busy to pray--for this too is a great mistake for prayer is a saving of time. Remember the words of Luther when he said, "I have so much to do today, that I shall never get through it with less than three hours of prayer;"

-and lastly, pray on, for no other reason than it brings glory and honor to God for us to be dependant upon Him and bow the knee in worship to Him in all things.

Pray with contrition- brokenness before the Lord is never unfruitful;

Pray with confession- for if we cherish iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not even hear our prayer;

Pray with commendation- for the Lord is worthy to be praised;

Pray by commandment- for when we pray with an open Bible we are delighting in the things that the Lord has sovereignly designed for us;

And pray with communion- for He is our God, our Lord, our Savior who is not ashamed to call us His brethren.

Does God hear the prayers of all people?
Listen to these revealing words:

-"For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off, when God requires his life? Will God hear his cry, when distress comes upon him? Will he take delight in the Almighty; will he call on God at all times?" (Job 27:8-10).

-"The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29).

-Jesus said, "We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him" (John 9:31).

Only the prayers of His own children will the Lord ever hear (except to hear the sinner crying out in prayer for mercy and repentance to be saved from sin).

2. Filled with His Word - (v.9b)
"and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,"

Paul's petition is that the Colossians be filled with the knowledge of His will. "Filled" here means to be completely filled, or totally controlled. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31), while Stephen was full of faith (Acts 6:5). In each case they were totally under the control of what filled them. Paul wants the Colossians to be totally controlled by knowledge. The knowledge Paul wants the Colossians to have is a deep and thorough knowledge of God's Word.

In Colossians 2:3 we learn that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. Our new self "is being renewed to a true knowledge" (Col. 3:10). Paul commends Epaphras for his faithful, fervent prayers saying, "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God" (Col. 4:12).

In a moral pluralistic time where tragically every man is his own orthodoxy and all have become their own Bible - people have recreated God in their own image and have rejected the eternal truth of God's holy Word. But for the Christian the authoritative Word of God provides absolutes. Godly living is inseparable to Scripture knowledge. In other words: there is no spiritual growth apart from God's Word. As the prophet Hosea says in 6:3, "...let us press on to know the Lord."

The Bible warns of the danger of a lack of knowledge. God says in Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Ephesians 4:13-14 tells us that lack of knowledge produces "children tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming."

Listen to what the Scriptures say about the ungodly who reject the truth of God. Romans 2:6-8, "who WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation." 2 Thess. 2:10-12 again warns, "...and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness."

But the genuine Christian always embraces God's Word as His Word. 1 Thess. 2:13, declares, "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."

Knowing God's Will
Paul prays that the knowledge we have would be of His will. God's will is not a secret; He has revealed it in His Word.
(The following adapted from John MacArthur and updated by Steve Camp)
1. Spirit-filled: Ephesians 5:17-18 says, "Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."

2. Sanctification: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3).

3. Submissive to authority: Peter writes, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution . . . for such is the will of God" (1 Pet. 2:13, 15).

4. Suffering for the Lord: may also be God's will for the believer: "Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (1 Pet. 4:19).

5. Sacrifices—Living and Transformed: "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2).

6. Shepherd God's people: "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Pt. 5:2-3).

7. Steadfast in the Faith: "Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (Heb. 10:35-36).

8. Sovereignly Content: "Rejoice always. …for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16-17).

9. Supplication: "pray without ceasing; …for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:17).

10. Saying Thanks in All Things: Paul writes, "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18).
When we pray according to God's will we are lining up our desires with His; we are not making a hopeful wish and then waiting to see if God will fulfill it. Knowledge of God's Word will lead to all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Wisdom refers to the ability to collect and concisely organize principles from Scripture. Understanding could be a more specialized term, referring to the application of those principles to everyday life.

3. Faithful to Walk Worthy - (v.10a)
"so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects,"

"Walk" is used in the Bible to refer to one's pattern of daily conduct; the habits of our lives. A mind controlled by knowledge, wisdom, and understanding produces a life worthy of the Lord. Paul desired the Thessalonians to "walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12). He exhorted the Ephesians to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Eph. 4:1). He told the Philippians to "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27).

The Worthy Walk
We are to walk: in humility (Eph. 4:1-3); in purity (Rom. 13:13); in contentedness (1 Cor. 7:17); by faith (2 Cor. 5:7); in good works (Eph. 2:10); different from the world (Eph. 4:17-32); in love (Eph. 5:2); in light (Eph. 5:8); in wisdom (Eph. 5:15); in truth (3 John 3-4); and to not walk in darkness or after the flesh (Eph. 4:17-19). Such a walk will please Him in all respects.

There are four manifestations of the worthy
walk that Paul draws our attention to in this passage.

The first manifestation of walking worthy in the Lord is:
a. Fruit-bearing in every Good Work - (v.10b)
"bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;"

Fruitfulness also results from knowledge. Fruit is the byproduct of righteousness. It is the mark of every redeemed individual-the evidence of the transformed life. "No fruit" is ever an option for a true believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 15:8, "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (cf. vv. 2, 5-6). Paul told the Romans, "You also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God" (Rom. 7:4).

The Bible defines fruit in various ways. Here Paul speaks of bearing fruit in every good work. Converts are referred to as fruit. Hebrews 13:15 defines praise as fruit: "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Giving money can also be fruit (Rom. 15:26-28). Godly living is fruit, as indicated when the writer of Hebrews tells us that God's discipline produces in us "the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11). Finally, the holy attitudes mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 are referred to as "the fruit of the Spirit."

The second manifestation of walking worthy in the Lord is:
b. Fully Increasing in the Knowledge of God - (v.10b)
Spiritual growth is progressing in the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God revealed in His Word is crucial to spiritual growth. No one ever lives greater than his or hers view of God. Our knowledge of Him determines everything about the character of the Christian life we live.

The third manifestation of walking worthy in the Lord is:
c. Fortified for Joyous Longsuffering - (v.11)
"strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously"

"strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might," (1:11a)

Believers are continually strengthened with all power throughout their Christian lives. The measure of that power is according to His glorious might. "Glorious" refers to the manifestation of God's attributes. "Might" refers to strength in action. It refers to God eleven out of the twelve times it is used in the New Testament. The power available to us is the limitless power of God Himself.

To the Romans he wrote, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13). That power is available to the believer who is filled with the knowledge of God's Word.

"for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously" (1:11b)

Paul gives one last result of true spiritual knowledge: joyous endurance of trials. Knowledge of God's promises and purposes revealed in Scripture gives the strength to endure trials and suffering. Steadfastness and patience are closely related. If there is a distinction, it is that steadfastness refers to being patient in circumstances, whereas patience?refers to patience with people. Both refer to the patient enduring of trials.

The strength provided by knowledge of God's Word allows the believer to endure trials joyously, literally "with joy." Knowledge of God's truth gives us the ability to endure trials joyously, as did Paul himself (cf. Acts 16:25). It was Paul's constant prayer for the Colossians that they be "filled with the knowledge of God's will." He knew that only when believers are controlled by that knowledge can they walk worthy of the Lord and please Him. Paul knew further that such knowledge was required for a fruitful life, spiritual growth, strength, and joyful endurance of trials.

And the fourth manifestation of walking worthy in the Lord is:
d. Forever Thankful to God - (v.12a)
"giving thanks to the Father,"

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Col. 3:17). He told the Colossians to "devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2). One indictment of unbelievers is that "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks" (Rom. 1:21).

Scripture instructs us to thank God for many things:
-We are to thank Him for who He is. Psalm 30:4 says, "Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name" (cf. Ps. 97:12).

-Paul gave thanks to God for his salvation and his opportunity to serve Him: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Tim. 1:12-13).

-We are to give thanks for the spiritual growth of others: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater" (2 Thess. 1:3).

-Even mundane things like food call for giving thanks (1 Tim. 4:3-4).

-In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul exclaims, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

4. Fit for the Inheritance - (v.12b)
"who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."

Paul sums up the doctrine of salvation in three great truths: inheritance, deliverance, and transference.

God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Qualified is from hikanooµ, a word used only here and in 2 Corinthians 3:6 in the New Testament. It means "to make sufficient, to empower, to authorize, to make fit." We are not qualified through our own efforts. God has qualified us through the finished work of Christ.

Before God saved us by His grace we were truly unqualified for our inheritance. Several passages in Ephesians describe our helpless condition:

"You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (2:1-3)

"Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (2:12)

"This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (4:17-19)

Dr. MacArthur so powerfully states,
"Before our salvation, we were Christless, stateless, covenantless, hopeless, godless. Our minds were given to futility; our understanding was darkened. We were cut off from the life of God, ignorant, hardhearted, callous, immoral, impure, and greedy. The only thing we were qualified to receive from God was His wrath. And that is what we would have received, if not for God's mercy toward us."
God has by grace qualified the unqualified to share in the inheritance. The Greek text literally reads, "for the portion of the lot." When do we receive our inheritance? The present tense participle "qualified" indicates we have it now (cf. Eph. 1:11). We have already been transferred from the domain of darkness into Christ's kingdom (Col. 1:13). Peter refers to it as "an inheritance, which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4).

Paul further defines our inheritance as that of the saints in light. Saints refers to those who have been separated from the world and set apart to God. The inheritance belongs to that group alone. Light represents two things biblically: it represents truth (Ps. 119:130); and, it represents purity (Eph. 5:8-14). The saints are those who have turned from sinful darkness to righteous by grace through faith in Christ alone.

5. Freedom from Sin - (v.13)
"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,"

"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness," (1:13a)

Delivered means "to draw to oneself," or "to rescue." God drew us out of Satan's kingdom to Himself. That event was the new birth. We are not gradually, progressively delivered from Satan's power. When we placed our faith in Christ, we were instantly delivered. "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers do not need deliverance from the dominion of sin and Satan; they need to act as those who have been delivered (cf. Rom. 6:2, 7, 11).

Those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ have been rescued from the domain of darkness. "Domain" could be translated "power," "jurisdiction," or "authority." Our Lord used the phrase domain of darkness to refer to the supernatural forces of Satan marshaled against Him at His arrest (Luke 22:53). Through His death, Jesus crushed Satan and delivered us from his dark kingdom.

"and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son," (1:13b,)

Paul continues the litany of blessings that draw out his gratitude by describing our new domain. "Transferred" means to remove or change. The verb speaks here of our total removal from the domain of satanic darkness to the glorious light of the kingdom of Christ. "Kingdom" refers to a spiritual reality right now. Paul gives us a definition of it in Romans 14:17: "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Christians have acknowledged Christ as their King and are subjects in His kingdom.

They have been transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son. The Greek text literally reads, "the Son of His love." The Father gives the kingdom to the Son He loves, then to everyone who loves the Son (Luke 12:32). The writer of Hebrews reminds us, "Since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe" (Heb. 12:28).

6. Forgiveness of Sin - (v.14)
"in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1:12-14)

Before we could be fit subjects for Christ's kingdom we needed redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Redemption is one of the magnificent New Testament words expressing a blessed aspect of the work of Christ on our behalf. Alongside such terms as propitiation, justification, adoption, and reconciliation, it attempts to describe the riches of our salvation. It means, "to deliver by payment of a ransom," and was used to speak of freeing slaves from bondage-emancipation.
Paul writes, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7)

To the Corinthians he wrote, "By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).

Paul writes that we are "justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24).

Redemption results in the forgiveness of sins; and refers to pardon, or remission of penalty. Because Christ redeemed us, God has sent away our sins; they will never be found again.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12).

"He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:19).
So Christ's death on our behalf paid the price to redeem us. On that basis: God forgave our sins, granted us an inheritance, delivered us from the power of darkness, transferred into the kingdom of the Son of His love. Is there any other reason we need to pray be filled with the knowledge of His will?


littlegal_66 said...

Well, this article has convicted me to be in prayer continually. My favorite line: "Pray in his teeth."
That's great stuff! It pretty much sums up the fervency with which we should be praying--almost to the point of desperation.

Thanks for giving us a reality check.

Convicted But Forgiven,


Jeremy Weaver said...

You're on fire, Steve.
What a great passage to preach! Just as all of Paul's prayers. It's as though he gets so full of the knowledge of the glory of God and just explodes into prayer.
Another great post by the 'blogcamper'.

Terry Rayburn said...

Great reminders. I particularly like the "pray on..." admonitions in Section 1. A reminder that prayer is not just for when we "feel like" praying. When we "pray on", breakthroughs ... well ... break through ;)

Terry Rayburn

Shawn L said...

Wow what a great post! This is interesting that God had in my church a friend named Derek Perdue who is a leader in our church who gave a guest sermon on the same verse this week at church (7/27/2005). Colossians 1:9-14

It was an awesome sermon and I am happy to get more insight from our brother Steve. Boy Steve you are a busy guy and you wouldn't believe how much your letters encourage the belivers daily here in Wisconsin.

I forward alot of your articles via email so that friends in the church can continue discussions like these and begin thinking of this. When I was stuck in the muck and the mire like Christian from Pilgrim's progress you wouldn't believe how much Steve's site have helped me out and really encouraged me daily. I feel bad as I can't always return the favor to Steve, but hope he is encouraged by others he knows in his area.

Blessings to each of you tonight as you follow the Lord.

All By God's Grace,
Shawn Lynes

Iain said...

Excellent message, have saved to my HD for future reference.
In His Name and from New Zealand

JamesL said...

I thought that's a good post after the one from the day before.

theoldadam said...

Great post!

Prayer is an awesome gift.

I especially love the fact that even though "we don't know how to pray as we ought" (St. Paul)
...that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and fixes up our otherwisw inadequate prayers.

Thanks much!

- Steve Martin

DaWildBoar said...

I really needed to read this today. I may use some of this material in a study I am going to teach on prayer.

I have also emailed this to other pastors I know. Thank you again.


SJ Camp said...

I especially love the fact that even though "we don't know how to pray as we ought" (St. Paul)
...that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and fixes up our otherwisw inadequate prayers.


What a great comfort that even when our prayers are lacking, He intercedes for us.


SJ Camp said...

Me too.

SJ Camp said...

shawn l\
I forward alot of your articles via email so that friends in the church can continue discussions like these and begin thinking of this.

I humbled by this. Thank you for your gracious and encouraging words.

You as well. I hope this study can help others in their prayer life. I know I haven't arrived in this area of my life.

I really love New Zealand, One of my favorite places to tour. Thanks for your encouraging words too. The Word of God is never silent on all things pertaining to life and godliness.

IMHO, Col. 1:9-14 are some of the most powerful verses on prayer found anywhere in Scripture.

Thanks again y'all,