We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way… Col. 1:9-10, NIV
The Apostle Paul, himself, is praying for the Christians in Colossae. This great man of God, writer of most of the New Testament, is praying. What is he asking for these believers? Is he asking for God’s protection to be on their lives? Is he asking for success for them? Is he asking for them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Are any of those things wrong? No, but what was on his heart for these dear people?
He wanted them to have a knowledge of God’s will. The word used for knowledge [epignosis] means an exact and accurate knowledge of things ethical and/or divine. This work is used 20 times in the New Testament. It shows the importance of working to have a precise knowledge of something or someone. It is used of getting to know Jesus for example Eph. 1:17 and Eph. 4:13.
[Now I know for some the verse in 1 Corinthians 8:1 [knowledge puffs up] will come to mind. As Feed Yourself students know, when the translators translated the Greek New Testament into English sometimes they had to use the same English word for different Greek words. The word translated “Knowledge” in 1 Cor. 8:1 is not the same word as in our text. In Bible Study it is important to check these things out to be sure we are comparing “apples with apples.”]
When Paul was praying that they would have the precise, accurate and correct knowledge of the will of God, was he envisioning a dictatorship where Christians line up at the Throne to receive exact details of how to manage their lives? We addressed this a couple of months ago when we talked about the King of kings, not the King of slaves. So the answer is No. God does not usually give us exact details of how to manage our lives.
This is a scary thought! It means we have to take responsibility for our choices. Remember the business man in the Parable of the Talents [Matt. 25:14-30]? Did he give his servants instructions on what to do with the money? No. He gave them an opportunity to prove themselves. He gave them the freedom of choice with a broad set of boundaries. They were to increase his wealth in legitimate ways.
So if God is not giving us detailed instructions, what is this precise and correct knowledge of His will that we need? The answer to that question falls into two areas: Boundaries and Relationship.
We need the precise and accurate knowledge of the boundaries God has set in His world, for His people and for us specifically. This comes from a Holy Spirit enlightened study of God’s Word. It is there we have an objective standard for knowing who God is, how He acts and how He expects life to be lived. These standards are found thoughout both Old and New Testaments. The joy of discovery as we study the Word of God is a life-long pursuit. If we are willing to put away preconceived ideas and study the Bible in context, then we have an objective standard by which to begin our understanding of God and life.
But God’s goal is relationship. He wants to know us and be known by us on a personal level. Life is both physical and spiritual. We were created to operate in both realms. Through prayer, praise, worship and quiet times in His presence we can learn to hear the voice of God and develop a personal, growing relationship with Him. This is a vital part of the Christian life, but it is much more subjective. We learn to discern the voice of God by comparing it with the objective standard of the Word of God, knowing God will never contradict Himself.
As we walk through life, with the knowledge of the Boundaries God has placed and our hand in His in relationship, we will walk in the precise Will of God. What if we make a misstep? Jesus will guide us back. What if Jesus has a different plan than what we think the will of God is? Then He will tell us, just like He redirected Paul.
What goes with the Knowledge of God? Wisdom and Understanding.
Wisdom is the ability to practically apply what we know in a variety of situations. For example, you will probably not find an exact Biblical example of what you are facing in life; however, through using wisdom you can understand the principles in the boundaries and relationship that will show you how to handle what you are facing in a Godly manner.
Understanding is compiling the different things that we know in order to be able to use wisdom to practically apply them.
Think of knowledge as streams flowing in the same general direction but separately. Understanding takes those streams and channels them into a mighty river which wisdom then directs in the way it should go.
And where does all this come from? From the Spirit of God who generously supplies knowledge, wisdom and understanding as we live within His boundaries and pursue our relationship with Him.