Walk in a Manner Worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:9-14)

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Scripture Introduction

Our passage for this morning’s message is Colossians 1:9–14, which picks up right where we left off last week. Our sermon last week ended in the middle of Paul’s prayer report to the Colossians. It was common for Paul to begin his letters with a report of how he had been praying for those to whom he was writing. This was particularly important in a place like Colossae because Paul had never personally visited them and needed to establish his concern and love for them.

But there is more to these prayer reports than simply reporting how Paul had been praying. These reports set the stage for what is going to follow in the remainder of the letter. They reminded the original readers, and us today, that the encouragement, teaching, and instruction, that follows, have all been covered with prayer and thus can be trusted as God’s word to them. This was not just Paul shooting from the hip. This is Paul speaking authoritatively on behalf of God. That is why we are not simply glossing over these opening paragraphs. There is solid teaching in here and details which will help us throughout our study in this book.

So we pick up today in verse 9 and will finish up today in verse 14. Where last weeks sermon in verses 3–8 was Paul’s report of how he gave thanks to God for the Colossians and their faith, today’s passage contains Paul’s report of the specific details of his prayer on behalf of the Colossians. Follow along as I read Colossians 1:9–14.

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–14 ESV)

Sermon Introduction

One of my favorite quotes, or really my favorite quote of all time, is a quote from the late pastor and author A.W. Tozer in his book titled Knowledge of the Holy. I not only like this quote a great deal, but it had an enormous role on my call to ministry. It would be really hard for me to describe how much impact these 17 words have had on my life and in discerning my particular call to ministry. Please listen to these words that have had such a profound impact on me:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

I am firmly convinced that many of the problems within the church today are tied directly to a deficient knowledge of God.

I firmly believe that when a people know God rightly many of the problems within the church today will take care of themselves, and many of the neglected ministries will no longer be neglected, and many of the disputes that destroy churches will be avoided. And so that is the aim with all my preaching and teaching… to get people to know God rightly. To get people to know the God of the Bible, not some hodgepodge of a god that has risen up from the cultural Christianity that is so popular in this country. But the God of the Bible.

I am convinced that right knowledge leads to right living. If we don’t know the God of the Bible rightly, then how in the world could we ever expect to live a life that pleases him? And so that is my passion in ministry: To make sure that the things that come into your mind when you think about God are accurate.

And this conviction is one I believe Paul shared. I believe this passage clearly demonstrates that…

If believers are filled with the knowledge of God’s will through his Holy Spirit, then they will live a life that is worthy of the name of Jesus Christ.

And so that was Paul’s prayer for them. And that is my continual prayer for you. And in this sermon I hope to demonstrate that right knowledge does indeed lead to right living with the hope that we will be encouraged to know God more and more.

So let’s jump right in, beginning in verse 9 remembering that this is a summary of how Paul has been praying for the Colossians. In verse 9, specifically, we see…

The Content of Paul’s Prayer (v. 9)

Now back in verse 3 of this chapter, which we looked at last week, Paul began to tell the Colossians that he had been praying for them. He said, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” But before he gets into the specifics of how he had been praying for them (or interceding for them), he first explained how and why he had been thanking God for the evidences of their faith, hope, and love.

But now in verse 9, he comes back around to describe his petitions and intercessions to God on behalf of this young Colossian church. He begins verse 9 in a way that links it back to his thanksgiving report. He says, “And so” or “For this reason, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Ever since Paul heard the good news from Epaphras about how well the Colossian Church was doing, he and Timothy have been praying for them. He is thankful for the evidences of their faith as reported by Epaphras, and based on the fact of what God has already done for the Colossians, Paul can be confident as he is praying now that God will continue to work in their lives. And that is how he is praying.

He is praying that the Colossians will, by the help of God, continue on in their faith. And in verse 9 we are given the specifics of his prayer. We see here that when Paul prays, he is specifically “asking that” the Colossians “may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Now this is a pretty big request and there are some important items for us to consider in this request.

God Does the Filling

First of all, it is important to note that God is the one who does the filling. Paul is praying that God will fill the Colossians with the knowledge of his will. And this is important. It is particularly important in light of what is going on in Colossae with the false teachers. These false teachers were claiming that the gospel Epaphras proclaimed to them, and the gospel the Colossian Christians believed in, was only the entry point to the faith. These false teachers were claiming that they had a fuller understanding of the faith and could pass this wisdom and knowledge on to others. And Paul is obviously going to reject that. Not only on the basis of the errors in it, but also on the basis that true spiritual knowledge can only come from God. His Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to understand spiritual things, including the discernment of God’s will.

Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding

The word “spiritual” which is attached to both “wisdom” and “understanding” indicates for us that Paul is speaking of wisdom and knowledge here that can only be given by the Holy Spirit. Paul says elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 2:14–16 that it is only the “spiritual” person, the one for whom the Holy Spirit indwells, the one who has the mind of Christ, that is able to accept and understand the things of God, including his will. To everyone else, Paul says this stuff is foolishness. They cannot understand it.

And so Paul’s point is that any spiritual wisdom and understanding the Colossians have or will have is because God filled them with it. The verb here, “be filled,” is a passive verb. The one being filled is doing just that, being filled by someone else. It is like a bowl being filled with milk. The bowl has nothing to do with it. It is a passive recipient of the milk. In the same way, we are passive recipients of the knowledge of God’s will.

Paul’s prayer then is that God might fill the Colossians with an understanding of his will, thus enabling them to understand the things that are spiritually true and important.

But this spiritual knowledge and wisdom has a purpose. Right knowledge and wisdom about God will always lead to right behavior. And so in verses 10–14, we see…

The Purpose of Paul’s Prayer (vv. 10–14)

As I mentioned earlier, right knowledge leads to right living. And so Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled by the Holy Spirit with the full knowledge of God’s will so that they will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and fully pleasing to him. It is important to note that the spiritual knowledge and wisdom that God gives has a purpose. And that purpose is to enable those who are filled with it to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” And this is why Paul is praying. If knowledge doesn’t lead to right living in the eyes of God, it is not worth having. This knowledge Paul is speaking of here is more than intellectual knowledge (which anyone can get from reading the Bible), this is spiritual knowledge which can only be obtained through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But what does it mean to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord?” It means to live a life that pleases God. To behave in a way that is fitting for one who bears the name of Jesus Christ.

Today most companies will have in their employee handbooks certain policies and statements about the type of behavior that is expected of its employees. For example, I am sure you all would prefer that I not walk around town cussing up a storm or gossiping about people in the church. There are certain expectations that you have about me as your pastor.

And this is true with most companies and their employees. Most employers want their employees to be a good representation of the company they work for… both on and off the job. Most employers expect their employees to maintain some level of professionalism.

A few weeks ago when Lara, Mary Tanner, and I were driving up from Birmingham to Huntsville, there was a moving truck (I won’t mention the name of the company) being driven by someone who, let’s just say, was in a real big hurry. To put it politely he was driving in a dangerous and erratic manner in a very large vehicle. In a very large vehicle that had the name of his employer on the side of it.

Well to make the story worse, that same Sunday, when we were headed back from Huntsville to Birmingham, we were nearly run off the road again by this same truck with this same driver. Had we called the company there was a good chance that young man would have been fired. I am sure his boss would have believed, “he was not driving in a manner worthy of the name of the company on the truck.”

So this is sort of what Paul has in mind when he talks about “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord.” The metaphor of walking was commonly used by Jewish Rabbis to describe the life and behavior of a faithful believer. And Paul, a highly trained Jewish scholar himself, frequently makes use of this metaphor to describe the appropriate life and behavior of a Christian. We are to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), to “walk in love” (Eph. 5:2), and we are to “walk in the good works God has prepared for us” (Eph. 2:10). And in addition to these examples from other places in Scripture, in verses 10–12 Paul describes for us more specifically what it means to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” and in a way that is “fully pleasing to him.” He gives us four specific ways.

Bearing Fruit in Every Good Work

First of all he says that those who “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” will be “bearing fruit in every good work.” Bearing fruit in a way that pleases God. If you remember from my sermon last week, Paul described the gospel in verse 6 as bearing fruit and increasing which is the exact same language we have here. So there is an expectation that those who have been filled with the knowledge of God’s will and those who want to please him will do so in part by participating in the spread of the gospel through good works. By treating others the way Christ would have us to treat them. Fruit is evidence of our faith. No fruit, no faith. No faith, no fruit. Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

So the first way believers “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” and in a manner that is pleasing to God in every way, is by “bearing fruit in every good work.”

Increasing in the Knowledge of God

And the second way Paul says we do this is by increasing in our “knowledge of God.”

Knowledge of God is kind of like a snowball. The more it grows the faster it grows. When you make a snowman you start with a little snowball and roll it across the yard and by the time you get to the other side you have a ball big enough to be the base of the snowman.

The same is true with regard to the knowledge of God. Knowledge of God and his will brings about a deeper and clearer understanding of God and his will. One commentator (E.D. Martin, Colossians and Philemon, 47) said it like this:

To receive the gospel is to come to know God
To know God is to do his will
To do his will is to know more and more of God

Do you want to know more and more of God and his will. Start by obeying the things you know to be his will. The things revealed to us plainly in the Bible. In doing those things you will increase in your knowledge of God.

And “increasing in the knowledge of God” is the second way we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”

Be Strengthened with All Power

And thirdly, we see in verse 11, that those who “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” do so only through the strength and power of God. Paul knows that living the Christian life is hard. Remember he was in prison as he was writing this letter. And so he is praying that the Colossians would find the strength to patiently endure trials and suffering, not in themselves, but in God. Without God’s enabling power, the Colossians would fall far short of “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord.”

Endurance and patience are the byproducts of a firm faith that God is sovereign, that he has the world under control, and that he will work everything out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Paul knows that if the Colossians are going to persevere in their faith, if they are going to be able to withstand the false teachers who are threatening to destroy the church, that they must rely on God’s strength and power. And so their faith in God must be strong.

One commentator pointed out that the word translated “endurance” was a word that “signifies that kind of perseverance which enables one to hold a position already taken in battle against enemy attacks” (O’Brien, Colossians-Philemon, 24). This type of endurance is defined as “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty” (BDAG)—something Paul knew all about. And because this kind of strength and endurance come only from the hand of God, we are able to endure the trials of life with joy as we recognize that God is the one giving us the strength to withstand. That doesn’t mean we are happy about it, but it means we can still have joy in God.

So we “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” by bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, displaying endurance and patience by God’s strength, and finally by Giving Thanks to the Father.

Giving Thanks to the Father

There are many things we should thank God for. But here Paul is speaking very specifically about the work God has done for us to make us fit for the inheritance that awaits us in heaven. Or as he describes it, “the inheritance of the saints in light.” Or as he said earlier, this is the “hope laid up for us in heaven.” According to verse 12, God has made us fit for or made us qualified to receive something that apart from Christ we were not fit for or qualified to receive.

How did God do this? In two ways. He delivered us and he redeemed us.

He Delivered Us

Notice in verse 13, Paul says that God has delivered us from the domain of darkness. And notice the contrast Paul draws between the inheritance of the saints in light that awaits us and the domain of darkness from which we have been removed. Formerly, we were all under the power of an evil, tyrannical ruler and now God has delivered us from that kingdom and and transferred us into “the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

In the same way that God rescued his people from the Egyptian Pharaoh in the Exodus, God has brought about a new Exodus through the death of Jesus Christ, who serves as our Passover lamb, and has delivered us from the Satanic Pharaoh who was holding us in bondage as slaves to sin.

The word “redemption” was used to describe someone’s liberation from service as a slave or imprisonment. So the illustration of Moses and the Israelites coming out of Egypt being freed by the power of God remains in play here. Actually that is exactly what the Exodus was meant to foreshadow. Our Exodus from our slave master, sin.

He Redeemed Us

And so we see in verse 14, that the second way God made us fit or qualified us for the inheritance which awaits us in heaven was by redeeming us and forgiving our sins. And pay special attention to the fact that this redemption and forgiveness is in his beloved Son or in Christ. Ephesians 1:7 tells us that we have redemption through Christ’s blood. And so our redemption and our forgiveness of sins is brought about only through the spilt blood of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters our redemption price was high, it was infinite! Though the grace of God is freely given, it is not free! Christ bought it with a price and that price was his own life. That is an infinite price. One we could never pay.

And so in verses 12–14, Paul explains to the Colossians and to us, that we are to thank God because, in Christ, he has granted us deliverance and redemption and salvation. This is what has happened for us! And this is what we commemorate and celebrate every Easter! And what follows our passage for today is a beautiful and majestic hymn about Christ as our Lord and Savior. And we will pick up there next week.


But for now, I would like to ask us all to take a step back and look at our own lives. Are we walking in a manner worthy of the Lord? Are our lives fully pleasing to God? Are we bearing fruit? Are we increasing in the knowledge of God? Are you persevering and enduring in your strength or God’s strength? And are you so amazed by the gospel and the hope that is laid up for you in heaven that you are giving appropriate thanks to God?

If not, why? There are really only two answers to that question.

Maybe you have just allowed yourself to drift off course. Maybe you just need a course correction. Again I point you back to the gospel. Allow yourself to be enthralled with it. Allow the wonder of it to shake you back into your senses.

Or maybe, until today, this has all sounded like foolishness to you. But maybe today, you are hearing it in a new way. And maybe today you are ready to began your walk with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

If either of these two things are true of you, I would like to talk with you this morning. In a minute we will sing a hymn of invitation and at that time you come. If you are not comfortable coming forward during that time, please come see me after the service.

But before we sing, let’s pray.