A Study of Knowledge (epignosis): from Colossians 1:9-12
We have been studying this word epignosis as it applies to God, which is a heightened, deeper, intimate knowledge of God. We have said that we gain it by diligent Bible study, prayer, and obedience. So far we have studied it as it appears in Ephesians 1:17; 4:13; and in 2 Peter 1:2-9. Now we will take a look at epignosis in Colossians 1:9 and again in verse 10. Notice these words (in bold) in the following prayer (Colossians 1:9-12):
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
In verse 9, knowledge isn’t the knowledge of God, but the knowledge of His will. This makes it more specific. The prayer is that they (the Colossians) would know what He desires and what His plans are. And the next phrase, “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” tells us how God has planned for us to have this knowledge. That is, the knowledge of His will comes to us through His supernatural wisdom and understanding. And so this is how we should pray for it: that God would give us His spiritual wisdom and understanding to know His will.
But what is our part in knowing His will besides prayer? Is there anything God expects us to do? Yes there is! First of all, since we know that His will is completely revealed in the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16), we should be diligent to study it to find His will (2 Tim. 2:15). Secondly, the words Paul uses, “wisdom” and “understanding” gives us a clue as to what we are to do as we study the Word. According to MacArthur’s notes, wisdom is “the ability to accumulate and organize principles from scripture;” and understanding suggests “the application of those principles to daily living.” Therefore, when we study the Word we should make effort to organize the principles we find, and then make application to those principles.
And so, this gives us more to pray about than just, “Lord, help me to know Your will.” And it should also move us to action. We should be seeking His will in the Word; we should be endeavoring to do His will in application to His Word; and our prayer ought to reflect all of this: “Lord, help me as I study Your Word to find Your will; help me to see the principles in Your Word that You want me to see; and help me to do them.”
In verse 10, Paul gives us the reason God wants us to know and do His will. In my words, it is so that we would please Him and so that we would grow in our knowledge of Him. So we see that when we get to know His will it benefits Him—He is pleased; and it benefits us, as we grow close to Him.
Now I want to say something more about this epignosis in verse 10. Look at this phrase: “Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” That phrase stands out to me because it is the same as what we saw in 2 Peter 1:5-8. There we saw that if we were diligent to apply the previous seven virtues (good works, in verses 5-7) that we would not be unfruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here in Colossians 1:10 we see the very same thing: that when we bear fruit in every good work, we will increase in the knowledge of God.
Are you increasing in the knowledge of God? Are you getting to know His will? I am asking myself that question and am considering what I will do about it.