“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;”
“with the knowledge of His will”
The Greek word “knowledge” indicates a full understanding of God’s will. Again, this term is a keyword in the book of Colossians (Col 1:9, 10; 2:2; 3:10).
God makes his will known through the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry in the Word of God. The false teachers at Colosse claimed a super knowledge of the Word of God. Paul prays that the Colossians will receive their knowledge from God’s Word (the book of Colossians, for example). Paul desires that they may have a thorough knowledge of God’s will. The Colossian renegades offered false knowledge. To counteract this, Paul prayed for a deeper knowledge of God’s will on their part.
The “will” of God here is the whole purpose of God in Christ. This is the will of God in the complete sense, not simply the will of God for salvation or his general decree. This is the will of God, both in belief and behavior. The most important thing in the life of a child of God is the will of God. If we are going to please God, we need to find out his will and do it. If I want the smile of God, I need to find his will.
“in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”
The Holy Spirit uses the word “wisdom” six times in Colossians (Col. 1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5). Wisdom is the application of truth to experience. It is the ability to apply truth to life that comes only from God (James 1:5; 3:15). Wisdom is insight into the true nature of things. It is the faculty of judging and acting aright. “Full knowledge” is not the end; it is the means. The end is the “spiritual understanding” of wisdom to apply truth to experience.
False teachers submitted only the “appearance” of wisdom” (Col 2:23). Their “wisdom” trapped the Colossians in legalism. So the “wisdom” for which Paul prays for them is prudence–the ability to look at actions in terms of their results.
When we apply truth to experience, we end with “spiritual understanding.” This is the ability to categorize and relate a principle to a problem. “Understanding” (Col. 2:2) is perspicacity or discernment. This is the ability to pierce into a problem and work to an adequate solution. Understanding is critical knowledge that can apply the knowledge of the first principles of Christianity to any situation. This is the ability to live the Christian life effectively.
There is an emphasis on “spiritual” in the original language’s words for “spiritual understanding.” This is knowledge from the Holy Spirit, not from the Gnostic Judaizers. The false teacher’s wisdom was all show (Col 2:8,18,23). The most clever human philosophy can never understand this spiritual knowledge apart from divine revelation. This revelation comes from the Bible. No matter how erudite and brilliant people may be, they cannot get “full-knowledge” without God disclosing divine information to them.
Note the word “all.” This is another keyword in Colossians. The word occurs no fewer than 32 times in this one little letter of four chapters. “All” applies to both “wisdom” and “understanding.” We need “all” wisdom and “all” understanding.
It is one thing to know; it is quite another to use that knowledge properly.
Are you the type of person who loves to acquire knowledge about Christianity but cares little about living it? The words “wisdom” and “understanding” are crucial to you. Those words will enable you to live out the Christian life. That is why Paul prayed that the Colossians would have all “wisdom” and “understanding.” Do you have the courage to pray that God will give you those graces to live the Christian life? If you are frustrated with your Christian life, these two qualities may be the answer to your problem.
Thanks so much for your ministry, Dr. Richardson,
I love the Greek word synesis in this passage and others. The ‘flowing together’ of knowledge and wisdom in the Word, allows us understanding for His will.
Thank you so much for using your gifts to the Body in such a practical manner!