Phil Cox

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Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding and Power

9th August 2008

Colossians 1v9-11
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience...

To understand Paul's phrase “For this reason” we need to read verses 3-8. These show us that Paul and his team had heard of the work of God in Colossae, that the church there had received love, faith and hope in Jesus Christ, and that the gospel was continuing to bear fruit in that town. Knowing this, Paul's team were praying for God to do more among the Colossians. In particular, they were asking God to fill the Colossians with "the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding".

How would you like to have "the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding"? And how full of knowledge, wisdom and understanding do you think you are so far?

There's a lot of "wisdom" around, but not all wisdom comes from God. As Christians, we need God's wisdom, and no-one else's.

And there’s more than one sort of godless wisdom. We tend to think of “worldly” wisdom, the sort that's interested in material acquisitiveness, selfishness, or the pursuit of pleasure. But the church is also in danger from the teachings of false (i.e. non-Christian) religions and philosophies. It’s not only man who stands up against God, it’s also the demons. And we must also be aware of some of the ideas of good, God-fearing, loving Christians – ideas that are well-meant and genuinely believed but not actually Biblical.

God’s truth is both necessary and sufficient for us. We need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We need to give up our Earthly wisdom. We need the spiritual wisdom that comes from God. But we also need to avoid the false spiritually that comes from other spiritual sources.

Our own, human wisdom is not sufficient:

1 Corinthians 1v18-25
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

God’s wisdom, unlike our own, is powerful and effective:

Isaiah 55:8-11
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

We must understand that God’s wisdom is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from man’s wisdom. If we try to work things out for ourselves we’re bound to fail. We can’t help it:

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

And godly wisdom and understanding bring us into "the knowledge of his will". At least 99% of what you discover about God's will for your life, you will find in the Bible. And when you obey that 99%, you will find it far easier to hear and accept the other 1%. We receive spiritual wisdom in and through the Bible. It's nice to get a prophecy from time to time, or to "feel led" by God to do something or other, but we can only test these prophecies and "leadings" against the Bible. That is our only sure standard.

Paul goes on to say, in verse 10,

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God

The purpose of Godly wisdom is to help us to live godly and fruitful lives, pleasing God. Our own efforts and our own understanding do not help us. As we pursue both godliness and fruitfulness, we experience more of God, and so grow in the knowledge of Him. Our knowledge is not just theoretical, it’s practical and personal. And if we stop seeking His wisdom in prayer and Bible study, or if we stop seeking fruitfulness in witnessing, we lose mush of this practical and personal knowledge, and slip back into the merely theoretical.

And in verse 11, Paul says:

being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience...

To achieve our aim of being as godly and as fruitful as we can, we need to be "strengthened with all power". This is especially true when we go through periods in which we need to manifest "endurance and patience".

In the Bible, we have many examples of men and women of God who showed great endurance and patience. These can inspire us, but they can't give us the power we need. We only get power from the Holy Spirit.

It's a great tragedy that many in the church respect the Bible but disrespect the Holy Spirit. And it's another great tragedy that many respect the Holy Spirit but pay scant regard to the Bible.

We get wisdom from the Bible, and we get power from the Spirit. I know that's a bit too simplistic, but I'm trying to make it clear that every Christian needs the word and the Spirit.

The amazing thing about these twin tragedies is that if we really listened to the Bible, we'd learn about the Spirit, and if we really listened to the Spirit, we'd learn about the Bible:

  • The Bible teaches us about the power of the Holy Spirit, about being baptised in the Holy Spirit and about exercising spiritual gifts
  • The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, and teaches us about Jesus Christ

Luke 3:16
John answered them all, "I baptise you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

John 14:15-17
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever - the Spirit of truth...”

John 14:23-26
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So those of us who revere the Bible have no excuse for quenching the Holy Spirit, and those of us who love the Holy Spirit should revere the Book that He wrote.

But all of this - knowledge, wisdom, understanding and power - come to us from God, by grace.