Monday, 23 March 2015
Colossians 1:1-14 Recap: It’s Shocking!
“I’ve read Colossians hundreds of times, but today I saw MORE. God’s plan is huge. His words are so alive they jump off the page. Qualified! Delivered! Transferred to his Kingdom! He broke in and rocked my world today!”
That’s what one woman said as she left Bible study. It was simply the power of the Holy Spirit shining a bright light on words we’ve known for a long time. That’s why we’re doing the “grunt work” of Bible study–learning to observe the individual words, answering questions, paying attention–so we are positioned to see the glory.
To use another analogy, we place ourselves under the faucet, mouths wide.
Finding the shape of this section. Today we read the passage section by section and looked at the words. Many jumped out at us. After that we took a step back to look at the whole section at once. We were trying to see its shape.
I don’t mean whether it’s a circle or square, but what’s the structure of these 14 verses–the beginning, middle, and end. We’re like an English teacher instructing her eighth graders in how to write a 5 paragraph essay. “The first paragraph should introduce your topic. The next three must give three examples of what you are trying to say. And the final paragraph should summarize.”
We found that this section has three clear parts. It is a prayer with thanksgiving as the bookends. After the greeting Paul tells the Colossians what has made him thank God for them (1:3-5). Faith, love, and hope were so evident in their lives that the news had reached Paul in prison. They were fruit borne by gospel seed.
Next Paul prays for them. The prayer is directly connected to the very things Paul gave thanks for. God is obviously at work in them. Paul prays for that work to increase. He specifically asks for two things: that they may be filled with the knowledge of his will, and that they may be strengthened with all power. He’s confidant that God will answer, continuing what he began.
Thanking comes full circle. I would probably have ended the prayer at 1:11, but Paul doesn’t. He returns to thanking God. This time instead of thanking him for the gospel fruit he sees in the Colossians, he thanks him for the gospel truth that he and they have experienced together. It puts the exclamation point of FACT on the prayer of HOPE.
This pattern, thanks-prayer-thanks, isn’t some kind of new magic formula to ensure that our prayers will be answered. It is a picture of Reality. Our prayers are always sandwiched between what God has already done and what he has promised to finish. Praying this way will give us confidence that we’re praying right in line with God’s will. Dick Lucas writes:
The balance of Paul’s teaching is preserved if the thanksgiving and the prayer are kept in close relationship with one another. It is just because he can thank God for the fulness of what the Colossians have already received in truth and life, that he can pray that the young converts may ‘daily increase in the Holy Spirit more and more.’
Strong reassurance. Do you ever wonder if there’s something missing in your Christian life? Do you ever doubt that all this is really true? Do you ever question if you’re a true Christian? Let this pattern of prayer encourage you. Don’t turn your gaze inward. Turn it outward. Thank God for objective reality: his truth, his promises, his fruit in your life (you may need to ask someone else). Then seek him for what you sense is missing.
He can’t wait to give you more of himself!