Paul’s prayers for the believers in Colossae reflect his true feelings about them and provide us with instruction. We saw yesterday how his gratitude for the Colossians’ faith implies that they received a full revelation of Christ through the work of Epaphras and should not look for a “higher” religion (Col. 1:3–8). Verses 9–10 advance the point, encouraging them to continue in what they had learned and not to pursue the false “spiritual vitality” allegedly found among the heretics.
We are ever tempted to pursue dazzling displays of “spiritual vitality” and quick growth that are supposedly available through that one insight or method heretofore overlooked. A great many books and teachers today promise speedy advancements in power and holiness, whether it be through the exact repetition of the same prayer every day, the “name it and claim it” of the health-and-wealth gospel, or the promise of immediate victory over the Devil through a post-conversion baptism of the Spirit. Far less is actually achieved in the lives of most who embrace such teachings, as any honest survey of such things reveals. Yet emphases on secret or obscure methodologies for spiritual growth have actually been a problem in the church for ages. Back in first-century Colossae, false teachers promised quick paths to spiritual maturity through diet plans, ascetic practices, holy days, and more (2:16–23).
The apostle’s answer is not to deny spiritual growth and progress altogether, but to ground it in the faithful, simple pursuit of what has been presented clearly to all in the gospel. Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9–10 has many parallels with 1:3–6, indicating that growth comes through diligent continuance in what God has revealed to the whole church, not in chasing after the latest fad. He asks the Lord to help the Colossians walk in a fruitful manner (v. 10), just as the simple gospel of Paul and Epaphras bears fruit in the whole world (v. 6). Paul also prays for increasing knowledge of the Lord’s will — a deeper understanding of the truth that is accessible to all in the gospel message and that strengthens the faith of those who believe it (vv. 4, 9). That Paul prays for such things — things people already had in the preaching of the truth — shows that believers are brought into the kingdom and made mature in the same way, namely, in studying and hearing the Word of God that has been revealed to all His people.
It is all too easy for us to think that once we know the basics of the gospel we must then move beyond them for true spiritual growth. Yet it is not extrabiblical revelations and methods that mature us, nor is it the search for esoteric meanings and codes in Scripture. Instead, it is the continual attempt to plumb the depths of the gospel message and its application to all of life, which is, in fact, the story of the Bible.