Colossians 1:9a

Filled With the Knowledge of His Will



1. Epaphras brought a report to the apostle Paul about the spiritual condition of the church in Colossae.

2. He reported that they heard the gospel, they put their faith in Christ Jesus, that it effectually worked in their lives, that fruit was being borne by them, and that it was evidenced by their love in the Spirit.

3. Paul stated that since he heard this good report, he was constantly giving thanks to God and praying for them…

4. In vs. 9 and following he tells us exactly WHAT he prayed for…

5. We have before us a divinely inspired pattern of prayer for the Christian life.

a. The Lord Jesus left a pattern of prayer for His Jewish disciples as they anticipated the earthly kingdom.

b. Here the apostle Paul leaves a pattern of prayer for the Christian church… for those who have been raised into heavenly places in Christ… and have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings… whose citizenship has been transferred from earth to heaven…

We Do Not Cease to Pray for You

1. Paul and Timothy continued to pray for the Colossians since they heard the report from Epaphras.

2. After hearing the report concerning all the doctrinal attacks that had descended upon this little church, Paul saw the urgency of bringing them before the Lord in prayer daily…

a. Although many of them were probably dealing with sicknesses, and financial struggles, those issues were not the content of his prayers.

b. From heaven’s perspective, Paul had more important things to be praying about… their SPIRITUAL condition…

c. The real problem and danger facing these folks was not the fact that Fred was losing his vision, and that Alice might end up in a wheelchair… or even that the bank was about to repossess the farm from the McDougal family.

d. Their problem was not a lack of health or money…

e. The real danger was a lack of spiritual understanding and power!

3. Paul prayed that they would be FILLED with the knowledge of God’s will… because he sensed that they were being FILLED with other things.

a. 2:8 – someone was filling their heads with philosophy… a world view that was not compatible with their Christian faith. (A problem for us today too!)
• What could be more useless than human philosophy – even a religious philosophy designed to teach a Christian how to THINK… when we have the mind of Christ… and through His Word our mind is being renewed day by day?!

b. 2:16-17 – someone was filling their hearts with religious ceremonies, rituals, and traditions…
• What could be more useless than the Jewish rituals which were designed to give Israel a faint access to God… when we as Christians are already united with Christ… and indwelt by Him?
• What good is a mere symbol of access to God when we have genuine access to Him through the Spirit?

c. 2:18 – someone was replacing communion with Christ with angel worship.
• What possible good is it to be obsessed with angels, when we know the One who made the angels… the One whom angels adore?

d. 2:21 – they were filled with external legalism rather than with the grace of God in truth (cf. 1:6c)
• What good are rules designed to help make us holy, when in Christ, we are robed in HIS holiness?

e. 2:19 – they were being filled with all these other things – and were not holding the Head – Christ.

4. The particular KIND of philosophy or tradition was relatively insignificant.

a. What really mattered was that they were being filled with things other than Christ Himself!

b. They were occupied with angels rather than with Christ… with the religious symbols and shadows rather than Christ…

c. Other things were occupying their minds and hearts and souls… and those other things were hindering their communion with Christ… and growth in Him.

d. All of these “other things” passed off by the false teachers as special “keys” to aid in the Christian life, were in reality hindrances to the Christian life…

e. In our day and age there are groups still offering their special “keys” without which one cannot either be saved or walk with God. (Funny the early church seemed to do OK without these modern keys!)

f. It might be a new fad course being offered; it might be a new book; a tape series; a seminar; video; a new Bible teacher; a new fellowship of churches; secrets of psychology; the latest scientific discovery;

g. Many in Christendom today are being FILLED with all of these new religious fads… and their time, energy, money, and resources are poured into them… often times these fads are quite lucrative, making the promoter a wealthy man…

5. Paul knew of all these dangers, hence he did not cease to pray for the Colossian believers.

a. We ought not to cease to pray for one another – for we are surrounded today by MANY MORE fads, isms, cults, videos, philosophies, and new teachings than ever before in church history.

b. The new believer today is instantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information and literature to digest.

c. Sometimes we can innocently be part of the problem rather than the solution.
• We might give a new believer a pile of good tapes and doctrinally sound literature in hopes that he will get off on the right foot…
• We may mean well and may have good intentions… but what he really needs is to be encouraged to read the WORD!
• Point him to the Gospel of John or Romans rather than a book by Charles Ryrie or a tape by some radio preacher.
• As helpful as those tapes and books are, they are NOTHING compared to the inspired Word of God!
• Point him to Christ and His Word – and don’t cease praying for him… that he would be FILLED with what God wants him to be filled with.
• If we want to see a new believer get off on the right foot – encourage him to read the Scriptures for himself!
• FILL his mind and heart with it!

d. Having heard of all the doctrinal attacks on the church, the apostle Paul could foresee the real danger: believers would be filling their minds and hearts with the WRONG things.
• Paul knew that these new believers, now alive unto God would have a natural hunger and thirst for communion with Christ… and a longing for spiritual growth.
• Paul feared that the false teachers would take advantage of that hunger – and feed them full of their chaff… legal ordinances and traditions – rather than the Person of Christ.
• This is always the danger in the life of a new believer unless Christ is presented to him early on as the object of our faith… as the satisfaction of our hearts… as the rest for our souls… as the Bread of life…our all in all.
• Paul knew that if they didn’t start feasting on Christ, they would soon be filling themselves with other things.
• Hence, he prays for them to be filled with knowledge… the knowledge of God and His will…
• Paul prays, leaves these dear believers in God’s care, and trusts the Lord to work this in them.

e. Paul did not cease to pray for them – for he was aware of the potential danger to their new found faith in Christ…

The Knowledge of His Will

1. Paul’s desire was that the Colossian believers know God’s will.

2. Knowledge: epignoskw = a full or deep knowledge of; more than a superficial acquaintance.

3. These believers already knew the grace of God in truth. (vs. 6c)

a. They understood well the marvelous, saving grace of God.
• They heard the word of the truth of the gospel, responded in saving faith, and there were initial signs of life… fruit was borne…
• The Colossians were taught about salvation – the glorious truths of the amazing grace of God.
• These are truths that relate to the spiritual birth: regeneration; reconciliation; redemption; justification.

b. They knew of the saving grace of God… but now Paul wants them to come to a DEEPER knowledge of spiritual things; to a full knowledge of His will.
• It is possible to have a genuine and accurate knowledge of God, yet not deep.
• A newborn baby knows his mother… but that knowledge is not deep… yet. In time that knowledge will deepen… and grow.
• That was the case with the Colossians – they had a genuine knowledge of God… but not deep yet… and hence, the reason for Paul’s prayer.
• Paul prays that their knowledge would increase… and that it would grow deeper… fuller…
• There are many truths that relate to salvation… and then there are deeper truths that relate to HOW TO LIVE the Christian life… truths that relate to growth.
• Most of Christendom today glories in the truths that relate to spiritual birth – but when it comes to living the Christian life, in ignorance cry out, HOW TO PERFORM it I find not!
• Ignorance is not at all bliss in the Christian life. It is downright dangerous!
• Hearing salvation messages 52 Sundays a year does not promote spiritual growth.
• Paul knew the danger of the Colossians remaining babes… doting over the grace that saved them… and not going on to learn about the REST of the will of God… and how to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing!
• Thus, he prays that they would come to a FULL – not a superficial knowledge of God’s will…
• He wanted them to go BEYOND the grace of God that brings salvation to a deeper knowledge of God and His will.
• This is similar to the writer of Hebrews urging his readers to leave the principles (first things) of the doctrine of Christ and to go on to perfection – maturity!
• Paul put it this way in I Cor. 14:20 – “be not children in understanding… but in understanding be men.”

4. Most of God’s will has already been revealed… in the Scriptures.

a. It is fair to say that 99% has been revealed in the Word of God.

b. Somehow, believers seem to obsess over the few 1% that is not revealed, and are concerned less about the 99% of His will that is CLEARLY revealed.

c. We worry about what job to take, what house to buy, what school to attend, etc… aspects of God’s will not revealed.

d. However, if we paid as much attention to the other 99%, we would probably do just fine in ANY school – or at ANY job!

e. God is much more concerned about what KIND of person you are than in what house you live in… or which office you work in!

f. Even if we made ALL the wrong decisions in the unrevealed will of God, and got the rest right, we would be doing quite well. Getting a 99% on a test is not bad.

5. God’s will revealed in Scripture is all encompassing.

a. It includes His will for our lives; our character; commands both positive and negative.

b. But it also includes His whole marvelous, eternal plan for the universe… and how we fit in to that plan. (Eph. 1:5, 9, 11)

6. God’s will includes God’s plan and purpose for the world and for our lives in particular…
• I Pet. 2:15 – ?For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
• I Thess. 5:18 -?In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
• I Thess. 4:3 -?For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.
• God’s will is for us to grow… mature… become more and more like Christ… set apart from the world… set apart unto God… sanctified.

7. Being ignorant of God’s plan and purpose results in spiritual weakness, worldliness, and will make us susceptible to the false teachers… and to a spiritual FALL!
i. In Eph. 4:13-14 – Paul states that a lack of knowledge results in immaturity… and liable to be ruined by the false teachers.
ii. Hosea 4:6 – “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.”

8. John 7:17 – God’s will is not merely intellectual.

a. If any man will DO His will, he shall KNOW.

b. Jesus states that knowing His will is not just an intellectual exercise. It is an exercise of the heart.

c. One must be WILLING TO DO… before he can know.

d. Only the surrendered heart can have a deep and experiential KNOWLEDGE of God and His will.

e. If we are unwilling to put our all on the altar… unwilling to yield or surrender… then we will have just a superficial knowledge of God and His will.

f. Shallow at best. The average Christian seems satisfied with that level of relationship to God.

g. The hungry believer will want MORE… something deeper… richer… fuller… and his hunger and thirst will be FILLED.

9. Col. 2:3 – Having a full knowledge of God’s will requires a full, rich, and deep knowledge of and relationship to Christ… for in HIM are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Knowing Christ is true spiritual knowledge…

Filled With the Knowledge of His Will

1. Filled:

a. That ye might be filled = subjunctive — suggests an experiential filling. Paul wanted them to be filled… but it was not certain that all would be.

b. Passive indicates that they themselves were not the ones who did the filling. The one doing the filling was outside of them… obviously, the Lord.

c. The term means: controlled by…
• Luke 4:28 – filled with wrath… so full of it that it becomes a controlling factor…
• Acts 13:52 – filled with joy and the Holy Spirit = full in the sense of being controlled by it…
• Eph. 5:18 – filled with the Spirit = controlled by.
• Col. 4:12 – Epaphras prayed that they would stand COMPLETE (same word) in the will of God.
• Epaphras was praying for the very same thing Paul prayed for – and for the same people. Both of these men saw the need for this kind of filling.
• I Pet. 4:2 – That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.? Our whole lives are to be lived in the will of God. This is not an insignificant issue…

d. Thus, Paul and Epaphras not only wanted the Colossian believers to have knowledge of God’s will — but to be filled with it… to be controlled by it… consumed by it… so that it governs their every thought, word, and deed.
• The prayer is for believers to be controlled by knowledge… a deep knowledge. (not by feelings, circumstances, fads, pressure, or experiences…)
• This is spiritual growth… maturity… governed and controlled by a deep, spiritual understanding of God and His will.
• Col. 3:10 – The new man is to be continually renewed in knowledge…

e. This is the life of a man who has reckoned himself to be dead to sin and self. He is dead to self will and alive unto God’s will.
• Here is a man who walks about every day thinking, “Not my will but thine be done.” (Christlike thinking; God’s will for His sons).
• He is dominated by… controlled by… a full, DEEP, comprehensive knowledge of God’s will…
• This governs all of his choices…all of his actions… the whole direction of his life… his goals… purposes…

2. We need to be filled with the knowledge of His will because the devil always attacks the MIND… how we think…

a. II Cor. 4:4 – The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not…

b. II Cor. 10:5 – Our minds need to be brought under subjection… captivity to Christ…

c. Rom. 12:2 – Our minds need to be renewed day by day…

d. The false teachers were attacking the minds of the believers in Colosse… and the devil will attack our minds too…

e. If our minds are not filled with the knowledge of His will, they will be filled with something else…

f. The devil exploits our ignorance… and Paul knows that.

3. If a man is filled with his own will, he cannot be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Self-will interferes with the knowledge of God!

a. Nobody ever needed to learn how to exert self will. It comes naturally – and that is the problem. It is natural.

b. Little babies come right out of the womb exerting self will… crying for this and that… as if they were the center of the universe… demanding attention… demanding their own way… and usually getting it!

c. As believers we need to LEARN HOW to be delivered from a life of self will… a life that is dominated by our own selfish desires…

d. We need to learn what “not my will but Thine be done,” really means in everyday life. This IS Christlikeness.

4. This all requires KNOWLEDGE…

a. God does not treat us like babies, but as full grown sons.

b. Neither does God treat us as dumb animals… but as thinking, intelligent being… able to take in knowledge and use it aright.

c. Psalm 32:8-9 – the Lord wants to teach and guide each of His children. He expects that we respond more intelligently than a dumb animal which needs to be FORCED into proper action.

d. Paul tells the Colossians that God wants them to be filled with knowledge which will enable them to learn how to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing…

In All Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding

1. The terms:

a. Wisdom: (Sophia) – the general term for wisdom of all sorts.
• This is the wisdom that is from above… and is characterized by Christlike qualities. (James 3:17)
• This wisdom stands in contrast to the wisdom of the world…

b. Understanding: this is a more particular term, referring to the application of wisdom to real life.
• Expositors define sunesis as: “the special faculty of intelligence or insight which discriminates between the false and the true and grasps the relations in which things stand to each other.”

c. Spiritual: this term applies to BOTH the wisdom and understanding. (controlled by the indwelling Holy Spirit)
• The Holy Spirit gives the believing sinner LIFE.
• The Holy Spirit indwells the believer.
• The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds to the knowledge of God’s will in His word.
• The Holy Spirit enables us to apply that truth to life.
• The Holy Spirit controls the yielded believer… and the result is that the believer is thus “spiritual”…

d. This spiritually minded believer will be discerning…
i. He is FILLED – with the Holy Spirit… and with the knowledge of God’s will.
ii. This kind of filling or control results in the knowledge of God’s will operating in the realm of discernment…
iii. What a powerful life – when the believer is filled with BOTH – knowledge and the discernment to put it to good use.
iv. Truth is not merely an intellectual pursuit. It involves and requires the intellect, but truth is not fully grasped until it is LIVED. Then it becomes ours. That’s when it sinks in.
v. That is true wisdom… and spiritual understanding… to KNOW truth… in head and heart…
vi. Eph. 5:17 – spiritual wisdom demands that we KNOW the will of the Lord… a deep knowledge of God’s will.

2. Paul was not content to know that the Colossians were saved. Nor was he content to know that they were saved and well taught.

a. It is possible to be saved and to be well taught… and not have the discernment to put that knowledge into practice.

b. It is possible to be saved, to know God’s will – and to lack the discernment to know HOW to use it…

c. Solomon was saved. He had lots of knowledge and wisdom… but did not have the discernment to LIVE it…

d. Phil.1:9 – Paul prayed this for the Philippians: “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” — knowledge plus discernment to use it wisely…

3. The natural man can know nothing of this kind of wisdom and spiritual understanding it is foolishness to him.
• The carnal, worldly minded believer will also scoff at it as foolish.
• I Cor. 2:15 – The spiritual man is understood by very few people… his wisdom and spiritual understanding is foreign to them… he is discerned of no one.

4. In some circles in Christendom, knowledge is considered a second class citizen… as if knowledge were almost UN-spiritual.

a. Men glory in ACTION… and care little for thought.

b. Men want to know what to DO… and care little for what they should BE…

c. Men are more concerned about how they FEEL rather than how they should think…

d. Too often we hear Christians say, “I don’t care about theology. I just care about Jesus.”

e. Some look at studying and knowledge of theology to be mere academics. Now it CAN be… but it should not be. It ought to be a very SPIRITUAL exercise…

f. The charismatic movement today has exalted experience and feelings OVER knowledge.

g. They seek to bypass the intellect and aim directly at the heart and emotions. Not so with the apostle Paul. He appeals to the head first… so that truth is understood… and THEN and only then can it sink in and affect the heart.

h. Bypassing knowledge and learning is not at all spiritual. It is spurious! It is dangerous!

i. Here Paul peels off the superficial veneer so all can see how shallow, shameful, and spurious is their claim.

j. Paul prays that believers would be filled with a deep knowledge of the will of God… nothing shallow or superficial about that!

k. Paul prays for believers to be FILLED with knowledge of God’s will IN all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

l. There is nothing unspiritual about studying a book – we are spiritual beings, consisting of intellect, emotion, and will. A spiritual man is spiritual in all areas of life.

m. Sometimes believers today shy away from doctrine… from knowledge of the Bible… they view studying theology as useless and unrelated to life as studying some of the courses they took in college – which information they have never had any practical need for. Not so with doctrine. We will see in the next passage that the purpose of this knowledge is THAT we might walk worthy!

• Luke 11:34 – When the eye is single, the whole body shall be full of light…
• When the believer is single-minded and focused only on Christ, he is FULL of illumination… full of wisdom and discernment…
• Spiritual understanding is not the result of study ONLY. It is the result of study PLUS a close relationship to Christ…

5. Paul prays for a filling with deep knowledge of God’s will.

a. AND he prays that that knowledge would operate in the SPHERE of spiritual wisdom and understanding.

b. It is one thing to have knowledge – even a deep knowledge.

c. It is another thing to have the spiritual wisdom and understanding (discernment) to put it into practice…

d. This part of the prayer is that the believers would not only have the knowledge, but would KNOW what to do with it!

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