John T. Willis

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Paul Intercedes for Christians--Colossian 1:9-11

Frequently in Paul's letters, Paul [often with Timothy and others] offers extended prayers of various types. Colossians 1:3-11 contains just such a prayer. First, Paul and Timothy express THANKSGIVING to God for all God has done for Christians at Colossae, which we discussed in the previous blog, dealing with verses 3-8. Now, Paul and Timothy transition to INTERCESSION for God in behalf of Christians at Colossae. This appears in verses 9-11, which we will treat briefly in this blog. Thanksgiving and intercession fit well together in Paul's prayers: examples appear in 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13; Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:15. In the present intercession, Paul and Timothy begin with a "reflective" introduction, and then enumerate FIVE intercessory petitions of God in behalf of Christians.

With the expression, "For this reason," changes the prayer from thanksgiving to intercession. "We" in this introduction is plural, thus referring to Paul and Timothy--see verse 1. Paul and Timothy speak of what they had "heard" events that occurred in Colossae--see verse 6. They were not there in person. Epaphras apparently established the church there. See verses 7-8. But since they "heard" this, they had not ceased to pray "FOR" the Christians at Colossae. "Pray for" is intercession.

I. First Intercessory Petition--verse 9c-d.
First, Paul and Timothy pray that the Christians at Colossae may be filled with "knowledge," "spiritual wisdom," and "understanding" or "insight." The passive "be filled" clearly refers to God. God and God alone is able to "fill" the needs of all people. "Knowledge," "wisdom," and "understanding" are not human achievements, but a gift of God. Paul and Timothy pray that they may be filled "with the knowledge of GOD'S WILL." Knowledge here does not come from human intellectual learning, but from divine revelation. Later, Paul distinguishes between "the knowledge of God's mystery, Christ" (Colossians 2:2) and human "appearance of wisdom" (Colossians 2:23). Knowledge comes from God, not from human beings.

II. Second Intercessory Petition--verse 10a-b.
Paul and Timothy affirm that they desire that Christians be filled with the knowledge of the will of God "SO THAT" they may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to God. People must not be satisfied with "hearing" and "learning" God's will; they must "DO" what God's will is. See Romans 2:18; Ephesians 5:17; Matthew 7:21; James 2:14-26. Living a godly life is an a "good work" to achieve righteousness before God. Just the reverse: Living a godly life is the natural outcome or expression of God's prior grace and salvation in the heart--see Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7. God is the standard, and wishes that human beings strive to glorify HIM by desiring to live according to that standard--see Colossians 2:6. The daily goal is to "please" God--see 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

III. Third Intercessory Petition--verse 10c-d.
Paul and Timothy yearn that Christians "bear fruit" in every good work and "grow" in the knowledge of God. Paul and Timothy had already thanked God that the Christians at Colossae bore fruit and grew--verse 6. Now, they beseech God to enable them to continue and excel in bearing fruit and growing. "Good works" here are not human achievements so that people may "deserve" salvation from God. On the contrary--they are the appropriate expression of God's salvation through grace already granted to every person--see Galatians 5:6; 6:10; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Titus 1:16; 3:1.

IV. Fourth Intercessory Petition--verse 11a-b.
As Paul and Timothy continue, they pray that Christians may be made story with strength that comes from God's power. The passive "be made strong" obviously refers to God. God alone has and gives power and strength to others. Without God, there is no strength. God's power is "glorious." God's "glory" is his magnificence, splendor, wonder. All of this is beyond human comprehension. But it is real, as we know from our own experiences. Remember the song: Savior, He can move the mountains!!!

V. Fifth Intercessory Petition--verse 11c-d.
Finally, Paul and Timothy ask that Christians may be prepared to endure everything with patience. The passive "be prepared" is not something any human being can accomplish, but a gift of God. God alone prepares us to carry out his purposes. "Endurance" is a military term. Endurance is perseverance to be proved in battle by holdingt he position one has taken against all enemy attacks. Satan and his angels unleash numerous powerful weapons against Christians. Endurance, God's great gift, sustains us. See Romans 2:7; 5:4; 8:25; 15:4; 2 Corinthians
1:6. "Patience" is the refusal of being swayed from one's hope by any power and of growing weary in love. See Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Colossians 3:12.

Throughout this intercessory portion of this prayer, Paul and Timothy repeatedly use comprehensive words: "not ceased," "all," "fully," "every," "everything." God makes available to human beings EVERYTHING we need. Let us open our hands and receive his marvelous blessings.

How do YOU respond to this intercessory prayer? Do other pray FOR YOU? Do YOU pray FOR others? It is imperative that we pray FOR others. I hope YOU do this daily. Let me hear from YOU. I am praying FOR YOU daily.

John Willis

Friday, January 22, 2010


We are constantly confronted with all types of stress. Sometimes we can relax a little bit, then we are right back into stressful situations. This past week has been a very stressful week for a wide variety of reasons. I am sure you have the same problem. Stress never stops. Is there any way to deal with this nagging problem? Maybe not. But the February 2010 issue of the Reader's Digest ran a page of quotes about stress. I am passing this on to all of you in this blog.

Lily Tomlin: For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.

Natalie Goldberg: Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.

Chinese proverb: Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

Dolly Parton: The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

Calvin Coolidge: If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.

Reese Witherspoon: Many people worry so much about managing their careers but rarely spend half that much energy managing their lives.

Julius Caesar: As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men's minds more seriously than what they see.

Scott Adams: Stress is your body's way of saying you haven't worked out enough unpaid overtime.

Thomas Jefferson: How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

David Mamet: Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.

Donald Tobesing: Stress is like spice--in the right proportion, it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull mean; too much may choke you.

Jesus Christ says in the Sermon on the Mount--Matthew 6:25-34:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap or gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if god so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."

What a wonderful promise. This is easy to hear, but very difficult to live. I need God's help every day to make it through life. There seems to be so much stress. But God is always with us.

I hope these thoughts will encourage YOU today.

Let me hear from YOU. Share your stresses and your encouragements to others.

John Willis

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Triad of Spiritual Commitment and A Triad of Divine Persons

Immediately after Paul and Timothy's greeting in Colossians 1:1-2, they express prayers of thanksgiving and supplication to God in behalf of Christians, in this case Christians at Colossae, related in Colossians 1:3-8. This prayer is one long sentence, while translators divide this into smaller sentences to help the reader or hearer. There are two "triads" in Colossians 1:3-8, this blog divides the discussion into two parts along the lines of the two "triads," while in reality this prayer is indivisible.

I. The Triad of Human Spiritual Commitment. Verses 3-6a.
a. Paul and Timothy uncessantly declare that they "always" thank GOD THE FATHER. Verse 3. All human being has consists of GIFTS from GOD. We "receive" God's gifts--see 1 Corinthians 4:7; James 1:17. The ONLY appropriate human response to God is GRATITUDE or THANKSGIVING. Hence, Paul and Timothy THANK GOD ALONE for all his blessings. See 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3; and often in Paul's letters.
b. Paul and Timothy "have heard of" certain important things about the Christians at Colossae. They had never been there themselves, but others, including Epaphras [see verses 7-8], had been there and now told Paul and Timothy what was going on there, and Paul and Timothy are thankful and elated. Verse 4a.
c. Paul and Timothy emphasize a TRIAD of spiritual commitment among the Colossian Christians, which are the core or center or kernel of Christianity itself.
1. Faith in Christ Jesus--verse 4a. Faith here is not a "proposition," but a deep commitment of persons to Jesus Christ. Faith here means total trust in someone else who is trustworthy, in this case, Jesus Christ.
2. Love for all the saints--verse 4b. Love to God through Jesus Christ naturally flows into love for all the saints. If God has saved others and other loves God, there is no way that people cannot but love all other believers in Christ. What a tragedy when professed Christian people abuse and mistreat and slander and ignore and gossip about other people!!!
3. Hope laid up for God's people in heaven--verses 5-6a. Hope is active expectation of the hope which God reveals to human beings through "the word of the truth" which Epaphras and other had already brought to Christians at Colossae.
*Faith, love, and hope are the "triad of human spiritual commitment" to God through Jesus Christ--see 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrew 6:9-12; and often in the New Testament.

II. The Triad of Divine Persons. Colossians 1:6b-8.
a. Paul and Timothy continue to declare that "faith, love, and hope" cause communities of faith "bear fruit and grow in the whole world." Verse 6. God's work is like a tiny seed. But gradually, tenaciously, slowly, God causes this tiny seed to bear fruit and grow in all the world. In our own day and time, Christian people populate in nations around planet earth. We do not accomplish this by our own wisdom or power or influence, but ONLY by God's "hidden power" through our hearts and lives.
b. Paul and Timothy consistently refer to three "divine persons" in this prayer, and often in their letters.
1. God the Father--verses 3 and 6. The Bible consistently describes God metaphorically as our "Father"--see Exodus 4:21-23; Deuteronomy 1:31; 32:6; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 3:19; and often in the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament simply repeats this metaphor about God.
2. Jesus Christ--verses 3 and 8. God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ work together in harmony to carry out the divine purposes for human beings and throughout the universe. Paul and Timothy had already made this harmonious connection in Colossians 1:1-2.
3. The Holy Spirit--verse 8. Paul and Timothy remarks the Epaphras had made known to Paul and Timothy the love of Colossians Christians "in the Spirit." Like God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son, the Holy Spirit constantly functions in a wide variety of ways in the community of faith.
*In the fourth century A. D., Christians proposed serious conflicts about the nature and work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, time and study and discernment have taught God's people to accept the testimonies of faith proclaimed in the Bible without making sharp distinctions between these persons. Of course, there are serious issues like: How can there be ONE GOD and three persons all of whom are divine? If rational thoughts prevail, there will be division over such matters. But by faith, Christian people can accept these biblical affirmations without insisting on this or that view of what this might mean.

What are YOUR thoughts? Share your experiences and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis