1. Introduction, 1:1-14
Paul now prays that his readers might be filled with the knowledge of God's will, enabling them "to live a life worthy of the Lord" in "bearing fruit", "growing", "being strengthened" and "giving thanks". He wants the Colossians to know what is spiritually important.
i] Context: See 1:1-2.
ii] Background: See 1:1-2.
iii] Structure: Paul's prayer for his readers:
Harris suggests the following structure for this passage:
Paul asks: that you may be filled .... (content)
by having all spiritual wisdom .... (means)
so as to lead a life ..... (purpose / result)
bearing fruit (four characteristics of a worthy life)
giving thanks to the Father
who has qualified ....
has rescued and transferred ......
In this prayer, Paul asks that his readers might be filled with a knowledge of God's will, enabling them "to live a life worthy of the Lord" in "bearing fruit", "growing", "being strengthened" and "giving thanks". The prayer concludes with an explanation of what Paul means by being qualified "to share in the inheritance of the saints", v12. The inheritance involves being delivered from the realm of darkness, translated into the kingdom of God's Son and given redemption, v13-14. Paul writes that he has never stopped directing his prayers to God for the Colossians, prayers which are always focused on truth, v2, 9. He wants the Colossians to perceive / understand the will of God, to know what is spiritually important. Once they know the truth they will be set free to live the truth, v10, live the truth in and through the power of God in Christ, v11.
v] The Greek Text:
This passage consists of one sentence in the Gk. with the main verb being pauomeqa, "we do [not] cease", along with its complementary participle proseucomenoi, "praying"; "we have not ceased to pray for you", ESV. Paul then expresses the content of the prayer in a hina clause, iJna, forming a dependent statement of indirect speech; "that you may be filled .....", v9. Then follows the result (possibly purpose, or hypothetical result) of the prayer, expressed with an infinitive; "so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord toward his good pleasure." The manner of this life is then outlined in a series of adverbial participles - bearing fruit, growing, being empowered and giving thanks to the Father. "Father" is qualified / limited by the adjectival participle tw/ ikanwsanti, "who has qualified [you .....]", v12, and the relative clause headed by the pronoun o}V, "who has delivered us .....and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son", v13. "Son" is modified by the prepositional clause headed by en w|/, "in whom we have redemption ....", en, "in" being either local, "in union with", or instrumental / means, "by whom."
vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the pew-level sermon notes The Power of God's Word
Paul's prayer for the Colossian believers, v9-14. In the opening verse, Paul asks that God might "fill" the Colossians with knowledge. The false teachers in Colossae claim that they are able to supply fullness in the Christian life; they can provide the extra - full sanctification. Yet, Paul reminds the Colossian believers that they have already heard "the word of truth, the gospel." Paul now asks that God fill them with this truth. And what is this knowledge, this truth? The "perception of God's will consists in wisdom and understanding of every sort, on the spiritual level", Moule.
dia touto "for this reason" - because of this. This causal construction is usually inferential, "therefore", as NIV.
kai "-" - [we] and = also. Moule argues for an emphatic use here and so "that is precisely why ..." Probably just adjunctive, eg., "we thank God for you. We also therefore pray for you."
af (apo) + gen. "since [the day]" - from [day which we heard]. Temporal use of the preposition, identifying a starting point in time.
proseucomenoi (proseucomai) pres. part. "praying" - [do not cease] praying [for you]. As with the participle "asking", this participle is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "ceased / stopped". The construction would normally call for an infinitive; "we .... do not cease to pray for you", AV. Both participles form a hendiadys (two word joined by "and" expressing a single idea) serving to "enforce the idea of petition in the otherwise general praying", Moo.
iJna + subj. "to" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing the content of Paul's prayer, or first prayer point.
plhrwqhte (plhrow) aor. pas. subj. "fill" - you may be filled with. Theological passive serving to identify God as the agent. Probably in the sense of "complete".
thn epignwsin (iV ewV) acc. "with the knowledge" - the knowledge. A genitive of content would be expected, as NIV. The prefix is probably intensive so "clear knowledge [of his will]", Weymouth.
tou qelhmatoV (a atoV) gen."of [his] will" - of the will [of him]. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective; "the knowledge about / concerning his will." The genitive pronoun autou, "of him / his", would then be treated as verbal, subjective.
en + dat. "through" - in, by. The preposition is either going to be instrumental, or local, but possibly also modal, expressing manner, "the manner in which the Colossians will be filled with the knowledge of God's will", Campbell. Most translators opt for an instrumental sense, as NIV, "through / by means of", ie., our knowledge of God comes by means of spiritual perception. Yet, a local sense seems more likely. Paul's prayer is that the Colossians be complete in the knowledge of God's will, "in a full measure of (all) spiritual wisdom and understanding." So, the prepositional phrase is appositional / epexegetic, further defining the lead clause; "that you will have complete insight into what God wants for you, a full measure of spiritual wisdom and understanding." Paul, in this letter, wrestles with a false wisdom which has infested the Colossian church. As outlined in the introductory notes, it is likely that this wisdom / knowledge is the theological position espoused by the circumcision party / judaizers. Paul prays that by means of the gift of spiritual insight, his readers will gain a clear (true) knowledge of God's will.
pash/ "[in] all" - all, every [wisdom and spiritual understanding]. Wilson takes the view that this adjective, along with "spiritual", the one following, modify both nouns, "wisdom" and "understanding". So, Paul's prayer is that the Colossians grow "in wisdom and understanding of every sort, on the spiritual level." Throughout this letter, words like "all", "every", "fully" serve to "show that Christ is all in all, that in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and that therefore everything the Christian needs is to be found only in Christ", Pfitzner.
Paul's prayer for wisdom and knowledge has an intended purpose: that the Colossian Christians may live a life that is worthy of their Lord. The phrase "live a life" is actually "walk" in the Greek, such that the Christian life is often described as a walk - a walk that is worthy of God, pleasing to God. Paul specifies this "walk" with four descriptives. The first two are in v10: "bearing fruit" (producing an abundance of good works), and "growing in the knowledge of God" (growing in our understanding of God / acquiring the mind of Christ.
peripathsai (peripatew) aor. inf. "so that you may live a life" - and we pray to walk. Obviously in an ethical sense, "live / behave / conduct one's life". The infinitive may parallel the iJna + subj. construction of v9 and so serve as an object clause / dependent statement expressing Paul's second prayer-point, "we pray that your life and conduct be worthy of the Lord", but it may serve to introduce a purpose clause, as NIV, so O'Brien, Barth, Moo, or result clause, "so as a result live lives worthy of the Lord", cf., Lightfoot, so Dunn, NIV11. Another possibility is that the infinitive here introduces an epexegetic clause specifying "the knowledge of his will" (Dunn's alternative suggestion), or even, as an outside possibility, an imperatival clause expressing an apostolic demand. However we take the grammar, "the wisdom and understanding just mentioned are not merely theoretical - they are to lead to right conduct", Wilson.
tou kuriou gen. "of the Lord" - [worthy] of the lord. The modal adverb axiwV, "in a manner worthy of", often takes a genitive, as here. The Lord Jesus, or God the Father?
eiV + acc. "and" - to / toward [all / every pleasing (desire to please / type of pleasing)]. Possibly expressing purpose, "in order to please him in every respect", but more likely expressing result. Living in a way that is appropriate for a believer results in a life that is pleasing to the Lord. The two phrases are closely related and express a similar idea, a life worthy of the Lord / a life pleasing to the Lord. Of course, only one person has lived such a life, and only in him, in Jesus, can we live such a life. We can though, try to be what we are, and Paul's prayer serves this end. Yet, it is unwise to imagine that our trying is in any way worthy of, or pleasing to, the Lord!!! - our righteousness is but filthy rags.
karpoforounteV (karpoforew) pres. part. "bearing fruit" - bringing forth fruit. As with the participles "growing", v10b, "being empowered", v11, and "giving thanks", v12, all being nominative, an accusative would have been expected after the infinitive "to walk", but if the participles are imperatival (in a prayer they would function as an appeal) they would not follow this rule; "He who lives thus (walks worthy / pleases in every way) brings forth fruit and grows", Barth. Of course, they could agree with "praying and asking", v9. In which case we again have dependent statements, indirect speech, expressing further prayer point. This is somewhat of an ask, since Paul has then expressed a series of dependent statement with three different constructions, namely iJna + subj. v9, an infinitive, v10a, participles in v10b, 11, and 12. "We pray that your life will be productive of all kinds of good action and that you will continue to come to know God better and better." So also v11, "We pray .... that you receive power ....", v12, "We pray that you will be ever grateful ....", Barclay. This approach makes for a smooth read, although the syntax leads us to take the four participles as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the new walk is accomplished (inf. "to walk / may life a life worthy"), so Moo, spelling out "more precisely what is involved in walking worthily of the Lord", O'Brien, or as above, an appeal to so walk.
en + dat. "in" - in [every good work]. Local, expressing space / sphere, but instrumental is possible; "the circumstance under which bearing fruit takes place", Campbell. "A life which yields a harvest of good works of every and any kind", Cassirer.
auxanomenoi (auxanw) pres. pas. part. "growing" - growing. The participle, as above. "Extensive growth", possibly "intensive growth", Schweizer.
th/ epignwsei (iV ewV) "in the knowledge" - in the knowledge [of god]. The dative may be instrumental, "by the knowledge of God", so Lightfoot, Peake..., or local, "increasing in the knowledge of God", Wilson, ie., come to a better / full / clear knowledge of the will / mind of God, or reference, "with respect to every good work."
In this verse we find the third description of the "walk". "Strengthened with all power" indicates the enabling source of the "walk". The power Paul is speaking of here is the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ who enables the believer to walk in a way that is worthy of God, pleasing to God. This empowering will give the Colossians perseverance and patience as they struggle against the trials, temptations and opposition of the powers of darkness.
dunamoumenoi (dunamow) pres. pas. part. "being strengthened" - being empowered. The participle, as above.
en + dat. "with" - in, on, by [all power]. This preposition here is usually taken as instrumental, as NIV; "with strength of every kind", Weymouth; a spiritual strengthening, a powerful strengthening in full measure, a divine strengthening necessary to meet the difficulties of the Christian walk.
kata + acc. "according to" - in accordance with. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with, corresponding to." A strength that corresponds to God's radiant ("glorious") strength, the power evident in his shekinah glory.
thV doxhV (a) gen. "[his] glorious [might]" - [the might] of the glory [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "might", as NIV.
eiV + acc. "so that" - to. The preposition here probably expresses result, as NIV, so producing a consecutive clause; "so as to be led to be steadfast and patient in every way", Cassirer. This clause indicates that the power / strength in mind is not the power to work miracles, but rather an inward spiritual power that allows a believer to move forward in the Christian life.
meta + gen. "joyfully / giving joyful thanks" - [all endurance and long-suffering] with [joy]. Cf., v12, TNIV. Expressing association, "giving thanks with joy", or adverbial, expressing manner, "giving thanks joyfully." The NIV takes this phrase with v11, but it may also go with the next verse.
The fourth description of the walk is contained in the words "Giving thanks". This involves a joyful thanksgiving to the Father. Paul explains the ground of this joyful thanksgiving in terms of the gift of an eternal inheritance. The "inheritance" is the promise of a kingdom, an inheritance the Colossians are already "qualified" to share in. The tense Paul uses here is important because it undermines the false teachers who have failed to understand that eternal perfection is already theirs in Christ.
eucaristounteV (eucaristw) pres. part. "giving [joyful] thanks to" - giving thanks. The participle, as above.
tw/ patri (hr roV) dat. "to the Father" - to the father. Dative of direct object after the participle "giving thanks."
tw/ ikanwsanti (ikanow) aor. part. "who has qualified" - the one having made fit, able, qualified. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Father". The sense of the word is "to qualify", moving toward "to authorize", even "to privilege; "making us able to share with his other godly children", Junkins.
uJmaV pro. "you" - you. Accusative direct object of the participle "being made fit." The variant hJmaV "us" exists. Certainly "us" reads better, especially as it seem likely that v13 should be taken with this verse, but then that is a good reason to change the original from "you" to "us".
eiV + acc. "to" - to, into. Probably with the sense toward a goal / advantage, so "for a share in the inheritance."
tou klhrou (oV) gen. "in the inheritance" - [the part, share] of the portion, allotment. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The word "the part", being the part of a whole, and "the portion", being the portion given to someone, are similar in meaning. The language reflects the LXX references to the gift of the promised land to Israel, a gift which was "a part" of the middle east (the lot) "apportioned" to Israel. So, as NIV, using Biblical language, the phrase means "the lot of the inheritance", Wilson; "everything bright and beautiful he has prepared for us", Peterson.
twn aJgiwn + gen. "of the saints" - of the saints. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "a share of the promised blessings which belong to believers."
en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing space.
tw/ fwti (wV wtoV) dat. "the kingdom of light" - the light. Most commentators take "the light" to refer to "the realm of light" as opposed to "the realm of darkness", so NIV. As to what the prepositional phrase "in the light" modifies, we probably should follow Moo who suggests it modifies "inheritance"; "the inheritance that exists in this realm of light."
Paul goes on to explain the eternal inheritance in terms of a deliverance from the tyranny of darkness and of a transfer into the kingdom of God's Son. Deliverance from the alien power images the escape of Israel from Egypt. For the Colossian believers, it is an escape from sin and death - a deliverance "from the wrath to come", 1Thess.1:10.
o}V "for" - who. There is nothing in the syntax to indicate a causal clause here, but some commentators take the adjectival participial clause of v12 and the relative clause here, introduced by the pronoun o}V, as relative causal modifiers, cf., Hendriksen; "[We pray that you will be ever grateful to the Father] for making us fit to share ......., for rescuing us from the power of darkness, and transferring us to the kingdom of his beloved Son", Knox, cf., Phillips. A causal sense may be a bit strong, but certainly both relative clauses provide a motivation for the thanksgiving to the Father, so Wilson; "giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us .... and who has rescued us ....." More particularly, v13 "explains what is involved in the Christian's inheritance", Pfitzner, in the terms of "a rescue and transfer operation", Moo, or better, taken concurrently, "rescue by transference", Harris. "[We pray that you will be ever grateful to the Father] who has qualified us to share the lot (inheritance) of the saints in the Light, and who has rescued us from the power of the Darkness, transferring us to the realm of his beloved Son."
errusato (uJruomai) aor. "he has rescued" - rescued [us]. The aorist may be punctiliar, referring to a single act, eg., the death of Christ, but most often the aorist is constative where the whole action is viewed in its entirety, as completed, without reference to one part of the whole, the beginning or the end, or any time signatures. The business of rescuing believers has been a long and involved process, but it is done and dusted. Note the allusion to the rescuing of Israel from the kingdom of Egypt.
ek + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from."
thV exousiaV (a) "the dominion" - the power, authority, warrant, dominion. Probably "dominion / kingdom" is the sense here, balancing "kingdom of the Son".
tou skotouV (oV) gen. "of darkness" - of darkness. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting by describing "the dominion" = "the dark domain." Possibly epexegetic, so Wallace, or even verbal, subjective, so Campbell. Representing all that is opposed to God, personified in the Devil.
thn basileian (a) "the kingdom" - [to, into] the kingdom. A common term in the synoptic gospels for the eschatological reign of God in the long-promised new age, a reality which is both now and not yet. Normally referred to as "the kingdom of God", and only rarely referred to as Christ's kingdom, 1Cor.15:23-28, Eph.5:5. Of course, there is no distinction between the two.
tou uiJou (oV) gen. "of the Son" - of the son. The genitive is most probably adjectival, possessive, but ablative, source / origin, "from", or verbal, subjective, "the reign exercised by the Son", are other possible classifications.
thV agaphV (h) gen. "[he] loves" - of the love [of him]. The genitive is most likely adjectival, attributive, limiting "Son"; "his beloved Son." Possibly ablative, source / origin; "begotten of love (ie., of the Father's being)", Lightfoot.
Finally, Paul defines how it is that through God's Son his readers have deliverance from bondage and entrance into the kingdom. Jesus has gained for the Colossians "redemption" and "forgiveness of sins". For Paul, both mean the same thing. Redemption is liberation from the bondage of sin by means of Christ's perfect sacrifice.
en w|/ "in whom" - in whom. Referring to the Son. The preposition en may be local, "in", or instrumental, "by". Although salvation is wrought "by means of" Jesus redemptive act, Paul constantly asserts that a person is forgiven and glorified, so appropriating the full blessings of kingdom membership, "in union with Christ", so "in union with whom we have redemption."
thn apolutrwsin (iV ewV) "redemption" - [we have] the redemption, release. Accusative direct object of the verb "to have." The word refers to the release of someone or something, often by the payment of a (ransom) price. Although this "release" is not necessarily obtained by payment, in the NT the word usually implies the payment of a ransom price, namely the sin offering of Jesus, the perfect sacrificial lamb, a payment made as a ransom for sinners (although payment in exchange does not extend to the issue of payment to whom). None-the-less, given that no price is identified in the redeeming of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, "deliverance / being set free" is central to the meaning of the word here.
thn afesin (iV ewV) acc. "the forgiveness" - the forgiveness. This phrase most likely explains (an epexegetic / appositional accusative) the nature of redemption (standing in apposition to "redemption"); "that is, the forgiveness of sins", Moffatt. The phrase has added to the doubts some have with regard Pauline authorship of this letter. Paul is certainly inclined to explain salvation in terms of justification, but he does sometimes speak of redemption and it is not unreasonable to contextualize Old Testament theological terms for Gentiles, such that in his later letters he explains the nature of redemption in the terms of forgiveness (the word is only used in Rom.4:7 in Paul's early letters). It is also possible that the false teachers in Colossae, the members of the circumcision party with their start out in faith and go on in obedience style of Christianity, have linked forgiveness with the commencement of the Christian life and redemption with its conclusion, a conclusion reached through a sanctification by obedience stance. Thus Paul ties both redemption and forgiveness together, cf., O'Brien.
twn aJmartiwn (a) "of sins" - of the sins. Possibly the article gives the sense "of our sins." The genitive "sins" is usually taken as objective where it receives the action of the forgiving, "our sins are forgiven", REB, so Harris, but it is more likely just adjectival, attributive, limiting / describing the type of forgiveness in mind, "obtaining pardon for the sins we had committed", Cassirer.