Lesson 22: "That Ye Might Walk Worthy. . ." (Colossians 1:10)
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson #22. Welcome again to cur study. In our last lesson, we tried to introduce the book of Colossians by discussing who wrote it, when and where, who delivered it AND where Colossae was located. In the last moment or two of that lesson, we tried to zero in on some of the problems that Paul began to address in this letter. By way of review, we said Paul in this book discussed the gospel and Christianity in a more elementary way; thus, leading us to conclude that the saints at Colossae were not as well grounded in the faith or perhaps less so than the saints at Philippi and at Ephesus. Paul mentioned worshipping of angels and intruding into a lot of nonsense which Paul had probably learned through Tychicus or Epaphras or Onesimus or someone else (that's Col. 2:18). He said they were all puffed up, i.e. thinking they were real smart in keeping feast days, holidays, sabbath days and all that stuff (Paul mentioned in 2:16)- I envision or should I say: my concept of Colossae, at the time of Paul, was a place where superstitions and pagan philosophies abounded. It is amazing how some people like to dabble in that stuff even today and think they are rational, intellectual and psychic and all that. Most bookstores, even today in America, have several shelves covered with a bunch of garbage known as astrology. I'm NOT talking about astronomy, now. The word is astrology, A-S-T-R-0-L-O-G-Y. Supposedly a study of the Zodiac, which is some imaginary belt through the heavens. They explain everything by the position of the moon and the stars and the planets and all that stuff which they refer to as the signs of the zodiac. They believe the affairs of men are controlled by the positioning of the planets and other heavenly bodies. Some go around saying "I'm a Virgo" or "I'm a Libra" or some other sign of the zodiac; apparently meaning, this was the position of the earth as explained in terms of all those zodiac signs when they were born. To hear them talk, you would think, they knew what they were talking about. It's the biggest bunch of bologna I ever met...absolute garbage. This stuff apparently abounded at Colossae and in that part of Asia Minor in those days. At Ephesus, six or eight years before Paul wrote this book to the Colossians, he and the Christians at Ephesus gathered to gather all of that kind of books they could find and burned them. This is discussed in Acts 19:19; described there as the books on the curious arts (in KJV). Luke tried to impress us with the value of all those book they burned there at Ephesus; he said they counted them up to be worth 50,000 pieces of silver. I am inclined to think that: Luke would be even more impressed by the millions of dollars worth of this garbage that still passes across the book shelves of America today. It AMAZES mE how many people still spend their time and their money on such rubbish. The porno hucksters have added another bookshelf today; that would, I guess, embarrass even the Colossians. Remember now, Ephesus (the center of Diana worship) was only about 100 miles west from Colossae down that Roman highway. Paul said to the Colossians (over in 2:8), "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ." This is the only place where the word "philosophy" occurs in the KJV, although Luke spoke of "philosophers" i.e. those who practice these thing at Athens (back in Acts 17:18), you will remember. And, Athens was just across" that big pond called the Aegean Sea from Asia Minor (take a look at your map). The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek language and means literally, to love wisdom by studying nature (etc.). Look at that verse real close; Paul said "philosophy AND vain deceit." Now what is "vain deceit?" Vain, of course, means empty, i.e. void of any value and "deceit" carries with it the idea of deception. In other words, it's a fake, a fraud or a hoax. Some of the Colossian Christians were apparently being taken-in by such deception. They were being SPOILED (in a spiritual way) by such nonsense, if you use Paul's word for it (2:8). Now, the reason I take the time to mention all these things is to (hopefully) help you get just a little better mental picture of some of the pagan religious nonsense to which the Colossians Christians were apparently exposed. Exactly how they worshipped angels, I don't know. But, please don't feel sorry for the Colossians. If they could have but understood all the nonsense incorporated in denomi-nationalism as it exists in America today, they would probably feel lucky to live in Colossae instead of America. I am very serious. The apostle Paul was very serious. It was hard for those brethren at Colossae to pull themselves out of that religious quagmire in and around Colossae. by their own bootstraps. It is just as hard for most of us to pull our selves loose from all that spoiling influence of the denominations in America today and to get grounded in the gospel and faith of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. Times really havn't changed, religiously speaking. Human nature is the same. Oh! That philosophical thinking of today is a little more refined and a little more conceited and a little more sophisticated. It is fused, merged and mingled with more gadgets (yes); but, the emphasis is even more centered today upon humanism. The feeling today is (in many circles): we can do it; we don't need God...human beings are sufficient in themselves. I read a book recently entitled: Understanding The Times, it's a new book (printed within the last couple-years) by: David A. Noebel (it's a real eye-opener) and the average Bible toting, Bible reading citizen in America today would simply not believe the thinking, the sophisticated deceit, and the absolute absurdity and folly that is being perpetuated in our so-called upper-crust thinkers of today, the so-called Secular Humanist. Some of these people are government officials, you will recognize. Some are common household names in the entertainment industry. They practically control the television entertainment industry of today and who knows what else. These philosophies of today, mostly built around the theory of evolution, have simply gone over the edge. So, Colossae didn't have anything on us. At least, to my knowledge, Colossae did not have food stores with tabloid magazines (the first thing you see) displayed with nude women in living color and you can find them in most any food store in any town in America today. Those magazines thrive on astrology, pornography and superstition. They flaunt those humanist thinkers that I've mentioned and their philosophies are the subject of page after page. They quote from these humanist as if they were God. It is simply unbelievable to me. But, it's true! Now, maybe I got a little carried away and spent too much time on Colossae and that Colossian philosophical atmosphere and how it relates to us; but, you've got to get the setting here for Paul and his book to the Colossians to be meaningful and to understand that it is just as applicable to us as it was to the people of Phrygia two-thousand years ago.
Now, let me ask you a question. Suppose you were Paul, just a moment. You are chained to a soldier in a prison, a 1000 miles from these babes in Christ at. Colcssae. Now. here's my question: How (HOW) would you go about trying to get those brethren to listen-up and get them to see the folly of all that pagan philosophical nonsense surrounding them at Colossae? What would you say to them? Remember now, Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit and knew the answers; but, all he had to work with was a blank scroll, pen and ink, and a couple loved and trusted brethren to carry that. scroll to them. What would you say?
Have you got my question? We are investigating this book, called Collossians. In effect, you and I simply have a copy of that scroll translated and printed in a language we can read. A good detective, a good investigator tries to go back and reconstruct the circumstances and the situation surrounding the mysterious problem he has right now, the problem at hand, that he is trying to solve. Back up just a moment! What is our problem? What is it that you and I want to know? It is very simply this: How can we please God, our heavenly Father, the creator of the universe, and his Son, Jesus Christ, Who is part of the Godhead, that came to earth for the very purpose of instructing us and teaching us what we need to know in this respect. This letter to the Colossians is part of the holy scriptures. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." (II Tim. 3:16). Undoubtedly, you, just like Paul, would try to restate the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ to mankind and you would try to restate it just as simply and in just as elementary way as possible. What do you think? This is what Paul did in his letter to the Colossians which has been divided for us into four chapters and ninety-five verses. Remember, Paul may or may not have known this camp of the saints personally. But, at the very least, he had heard about their faith in Jesus and their conversion. Here is what Paul said to those brethren. Paul started by letting them know of his concern for them (v.3). Let's read! Beginning in v.3, we'll read down through v.11. Please read with me. Chapter one, verse three, let's read. "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: as ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire' that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints of light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."
O.K. back to v.3, let's talk about it. Paul said, "we." Who was it that gave thanks to God and prayed for the Colossians always? Paul and Timothy, (v.1). In some way (v.4), Paul and Timothy had heard of their faith in Christ Jesus. Now, what else did they hear? "and of the love which ye have to all the saints." O.K. what does that tell you? Even though these brethren may not have developed in spiritual knowledge and understanding to the level they should have at this point; they did have SOME strong Christian attributes. They loved all the saints. So, Paul began by commending them for their faith and for their love. Notice Paul's approach. He did not start by jumping onto their case and stomping them with both feet. They did believe in Jesus and they had a strong love for other Christians. Thus, Paul commended them for their strong points first. Paul said he gave thanks for them and prayed for them always. Verses 4-5-6 and on down seems to be a statement of Paul's prayer, i.e. what Paul regularly prayed for on their behalf. Yet, in stating the content of his prayer for them in this way; Paul seemed to be summarizing for their benefit (and for our benefit) the basics of what they had been taught and what they need further to know and observe. Paul used this same technique, I trust you remember, back in Ephesians ch. 1 and in Philippians ch. one (you might want to review Eph. 1:16 and Phil. 1:4). Down in v.9, here in Col. ch. 1, Paul repeated that he regularly prayed for them. Why? "That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Now, what does that imply? They were undoubtedly lacking in these Christian attributes. Thus, Paul could not commend them in this; but, he was praying that this might be rectified. Why? "That ye might walk worthy..." (v.10). Into this prayer summary, you might notice also, that Paul wove in some words like "pleasing, being fruitful," "strengthened," i.e. spiritually. Notice how he wove in some other characteristics they needed, like: "patience," "long-suffering with joyfulness," and "giving thanks" (in v.11-12).
How had Paul learned this? In v.8 he said that Epaphras had declared "unto us" (i.e. Paul and Timothy), their love in the Spirit. Thus, Epaphras seems to have been Paul's source (at least in part). Who was Epaphras? Well, in v.7 we learn that Epaphras had taught the Colossians, they had learned, something at least, from this man which Paul said "who is for you a faithful minister of Christ." Then, over in ch. 4, v.12, Paul said Epaphras was one of them, i.e. he was a Colossian. Now, the next question that arises is: how and when did Paul discuss these things with Epaphras? Over in the book of Philemon (which we haven't covered yet), near the end, as Paul closed out that short book of one chapter, Paul said to Philemon (who incidentally lived in Colossae, you might take note); "There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus..." Now, whether you interpret that to mean that Epaphras was in a Roman prison (possibly there with Paul) or even if you interpret that as Paul's figurative way of referring to Epaphras as a preacher; either way, it implies that Epaphras was in Rome and was in contact with Paul. In Col. 4:12, Paul said: "Epaphras ...saluteth you," i.e. we might say, Epaphras sent greetings to the Colossian church. To this Paul added that Epaphras was always laboring for the Colossian Christians fervently in prayer, that [that what?] "that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Not only does this imply that Epaphras was in Rome (either as a preacher or as a prisoner); this implies also, that Epaphras had the same concerns for the Colossian brethren that Paul was expressing (here, in the summary form of Paul's prayer for the Colossians). Thus, Paul was saying (in effect) that Epaphras, apparently one of their trusted brethren, had the same concerns as Paul, i.e. that the Colossians were- being lead astray by philosophy and vain deceit (as expressed in Col. 2:8). We have already mentioned this. As you analyze v.3-13 here, Paul's prayer summary we might call it, there is a lot of content that we don't have time to discuss in this lesson. But notice this (as we close), how that Paul in v.12-13 set the stage for a discussion of Christ and the gospel, i.e. his death, burial and resurrection. In other words, the basics of Christianity. It is the gospel that saves. Do you remember I Cor. 15:1-2? Do you remember Rom. 1:16? The gospel is the central theme of the New Testament. Paul's discussion of Christ and the gospel carries well down into chapter two here in Colossians. We'll get into this in our next lesson. Thanks for coming! Thanks for studying and thanks for listening so patiently. Have a good day.