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, 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 (Col 1:9-10)."So?" Yeah, sounds pretty simple. In fact, it's so simple that it's part of Paul's greeting to the Colossian church. But it struck me as not quite as simple as it sounds. Or perhaps just as simple as it sounds, but we've missed it.
If you ask or think about how it is that we please God, the typical response is "obey". We are fed concepts like "obedience" and "duty" and all that as pleasing to God. We are encouraged to "do" even when we're not fully convinced. "Act like a Christian." Indeed, it is biblical language. "Do not grow weary in doing good" (2 Thess 3:13). And that's all well and good. But I notice that Paul has a slightly different slant on it here, and perhaps it would benefit us to learn from it.
Paul wants the believers in Colossae to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord", to be "fully pleasing to Him", to be "bearing fruit in every good work", to be "increasing in the knowledge of God" -- all those things that we associate with pleasing God. And they do. But Paul doesn't tell them to do all this in a vacuum. He bases it on something prior to obedience. Paul indicates that the way they can do all this is not simply to knuckle under and do, but by being "filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Now that's not what we often hear when we're being told to "act like a Christian."
Paul is telling his readers that genuine believers walk in a manner worthy of the Lord based on a growing knowledge of His will informed by spiritual wisdom and understanding. Pleasing God is accomplished rationally, with proper information, good understanding, and a deepening wisdom. It isn't a shallow obedience. It is an informed obedience. Christ's followers are not supposed to be blind followers, but trained, knowledgeable, understanding, wise followers. We are not asked to simply know what to do, but how and why to do it. That's a bit more than the normal instruction we're given to obey God. Perhaps we ought to get to work on that.