Firm Foundations – Study 2 – Colossians 1:9-14

Praying like a Christian

Topics include: How do we pray and enjoy it?
Glossary: kingdom of God; endurance, redemption, 

Discussion Question

What things do you like to pray about?


The Apostle Paul is writing to a church that he has never met in person but has heard much about from his partner in mission, Epaphras. The reports are that this church has heard the true gospel of God and have truly understood what God’s grace is all about. The evidence is in the faith that they display for Jesus and their love for one another. The true gospel comes to us from God the Father. It is about salvation through Jesus Christ alone and not based on any of our own merits. And it is spreading across the globe by the words of faithful servants like Epaphras and Paul and by the Spirit of God.

Paul always thanks God for what he hears about the church in Colossae because of the reports that he is hearing about them.

Read Colossians 1:9-14

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,t 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

What did you see?


  • Paul’s prayer for knowledge of God’s will (9)
  • In order to live worthy of the Lord (10-12)
    • Good work (10)
    • Growing in knowledge of God (10)
    • Strength from God to endure (11)
    • With a life of thankfulness to God (12)
  • Because that is God’s plan (13-14)

Paul’s prayer for knowledge of God’s will (9)

“For this reason…” Phrases like this mean we need to recap what was the reason already laid out? Epaphras has told Paul and Timothy about the faith and love of the Colossians springing out of the hope that they have because of the gospel that they heard! Because of this report…

“…we have not stopped praying for you.” The subject of this section is the content of Paul’s prayer. We mustn’t imagine that Paul spends his whole day 24/7 praying and not doing anything else. His ministry is about preaching and teaching but he is a prayer. He says elsewhere to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This verse is worth looking up and including in the study somewhere. It is God’s will that we speak with him with joy and contentment in all situations.

“We continually ask God…” This is a reminder that one prayer to God once only is not a sign that you really need what you are asking for. Jesus spoke about approaching God the Father in prayer and being persistent. He also gave the profound formula of prayer in the Lord’s Prayer which can be prayed over and over because we know what God desires in our prayers. You see, prayer is faith speaking. We know who God is through his word, we know what he is like and what he has promised to us. We now, by faith, ask God to fulfill exactly what he has promised. Not because he is likely to forget, but because our prayers are a reflection of our understanding and relationship with God. Shallow prayers about selfish things are indications of immaturity. But mature prayers are about fulfilling God’s purposes in your life and in the life of others. This is why the Lord’s prayer is so profoundly helpful! It is about God’s will being done and his kingdom coming. This kingdom is about forgiveness, the provision of what we truly need while continuing to trust God for the future and it is about running away from darkness and into the light of God’s grace. So, Paul does not just pray once and forget. He is invested in the church in Colossae and his prayer for them is repeated because he is keen for them to grow up in the kingdom of God’s grace.

“…to fill you with the knowledge of his will…” Let this request be clear to us! Christianity is not about choose-your-own-adventure and let love guide your way. It is about knowing the will of God! In Ephesians 1, Paul explains that God’s will was a mystery for ages but now that Christ has appeared, it has been made known. His will is to bring everything under Christ’s rule. Paul’s prayer is that the Colossians would get the full grasp of that will. This is life changing to anybody to grasp what God’s plans are for this world and everyone in it and then to shift their thinking to fall in line with him! This is foundational to the Christian faith.

“…through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” The bible teaches us that the Spirit works through transforming minds in accordance with the word of God. Jesus spoke in John 16:12-15 about the Spirit being sent in order to speak only what the Father and the Son gives Him to speak. Although God is one, he is three persons in one. All three are equally God. Yet there is a relationship within the Godhead which is other-person-centred. The Spirit is not fighting for headship nor is the Son. The Father freely gives everything to the Son and the Spirit gladly works in this world to tell of the good news of Jesus and the love of the Father. It can be difficult to wrap our heads around an apparent hierarchy without imagining the Spirit as less than God. But this is a truth that we must grapple with and give all glory to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the bible is God-breathed which literally means ‘God-Spirited’. It is the Holy Spirit that has worked in the mind and hearts of people to bring us God’s word the bible (2 Peter 1:21). The Spirit of God fills our minds with the knowledge of God’s will through the message of the bible. If we wish to know the will of God, pray for the Spirit to help you to understand the word of God, the bible, as you try to read and understand it. The COMA method is very helpful in learning how to listen well to the Spirit of God through the word of God.

In order to live worthy of the Lord (10-12)

“So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way…” Context changes everything and is vital to a good understanding of the scriptures. It is important to live worthy of the Lord and to please him but it is impossible for us to do this without a) hearing the gospel and truly understanding God’s grace; and b) living in response to the grace of God by knowing the will of God by truly listening to him through his word. The point is that we are saved in the first place so that we can actually pursue a life of pleasing him. We do not work at living a good life in order to get his approval to begin with! The words ‘so that’ flow from the prayer that we be filled with the knowledge of God. You can’t please someone without knowing what pleases them. What pleases God is a life of faith and love flowing out from his grace. We were made to glorify God which looks like a life of pleasing the Lord – yet we cannot do that without the salvation of the cross nor the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But with the Spirit and the Word, we can now pursue life with Christ. Paul lists what he has in mind when he says this…

Good work (10)

“…bearing fruit in every good work…” The gospel carries a cause and effect message with it. When a person hears and responds to the gospel, it is expected that the outworking of this is a life of faith and love. This is the good fruit that flows from a born again Christian. If the fruit is not there, this is evidence of a person who is not born again. Matthew 7:17-19 describes Jesus using the fruit of a tree to illustrate whether someone is worthy of the kingdom or not. Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit in terms of the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Conversely, Galatians 5:19-21 describe the fruit of someone who is not part of the kingdom: sexual immorality, impurity, hatred, jealousy, fits of rage and so on. The gospel brings personal change to people. At this point, a genuine Christian can lose heart because of their failings in some of these areas but a fruit tree doesn’t immediately sprout great juicy fresh fruit! It takes time and nurture and good feeding. The same is with the Christian but the direction and purpose remains the same – we live for the kingdom now and not for ourselves. Good work refers to everything that is done in love for others and not self. “Good works” are the first in the list of ways we live pleasing lives for God.

Growing in knowledge of God (10)

“…growing in the knowledge of God…” There is an intrinsic link between what we learn and how we act. The fruit of the gospel is righteous living and we grow in our obedience with the growing of our knowledge of God. To be ‘godly’ or to live a life of ‘godliness’ (words common to this world, not quoting from Colossians) is to grow in our knowledge and love of God. We are godly when we are Godward! Fill our minds with the knowledge of Him and we learn about his grace and mercy and patience and kindness and contentment and faithfulness and truth and so on. Paul’s prayer is to keep growing in the knowledge of God. See Colossians 2:6. “Growing in knowledge of God” is the second way we please God.

Strength from God to endure (11)

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…” Living in the strength that God provides is one element of faith. That is, we trust him to grow us and equip us for the works of service. But what is the strength for? 

“…so that you may have great endurance and patience…” Endurance and patience are a key lesson in the New Testament as we continue to live in this world, waiting for Jesus to return! Jesus spoke of being dressed and ready for when he returns even though we do not know the day or the hour that he will return (Luke 12:35-40). He says that whoever gets tired of waiting and is not ready when he returns will be treated as an unbeliever (Luke 12:42-46). This is about faithfulness. The nature of our lives while we wait for heaven is to persevere with endurance and patience. The strength to endure comes also from the growing knowledge of God! Enduring through the power of God is the third way we live pleasing lives.

With a life of thankfulness to God (12)

“…and giving joyful thanks to the Father…” The audience of Paul’s prayers is God the Father and he is our Father too. He is the source of our salvation since it is his great love that sent Jesus into the world to save us. He is our creator and our lives exist to give him thanks and praise (Romans 1:20-21). The gospel doesn’t come to us so that we can praise ourselves or one another but that we can live in joy of knowing God and growing in our knowledge of him. This is what we were made for! The trouble is that all of humanity are hopeless at doing this by nature. So how can we ever come to God with joy in our hearts unless we knew for certain that he was happy to receive us?

“…who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Wow! God’s kingdom is a kingdom of light – with no darkness allowed – filled with his holy people, the righteous, sinless ones – and we who have heard the gospel and truly understood the grace of God have been qualified to share in this – it is our inheritance! When God sees you and me, in Christ he views us with the purity of Christ. The fourth desire of God for our lives is that we rejoice in the assurance of salvation!

Because that is God’s plan (13-14)

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” Paul is underlining his last statement that HE has qualified US and we have not qualified ourselves. This is the gospel of grace. We were living in darkness but he rescued us. He saved us. He pulled us out of the pit and placed us in the kingdom of the Son whom he loves. We must be clear by now that Christianity is not about earning God’s praise but that he saved us so that we can, in truth, praise God! We praise him with our lips but also and more significantly with our actions. This is God’s plan for us.

“…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” What an amazing couple of verses of the gospel! Rescued, brought, redeemed, forgiven. Out of darkness and into light. And all of this has been done in Christ! Our next study will follow Paul’s theme of the Son of God, who he is and what he has done. We finish this lesson on the foundation of our lives which is to get on board with God’s plan for us to be part of his kingdom! He has qualified us and we ought to live lives that praise him because he loves us so much. The key to all of this is our knowledge of the gospel which transforms and grows our knowledge of God and his will.

What did we learn?

Christianity is completely for us, for our benefit, and it is at the heart of the will of God but it is not about us! It is about God and his great will and purpose to give us the qualifications of entry into the kingdom of God. Paul’s prayer is for the knowledge of God’s will to grow clearer and clearer so that we live just as God intended for us to live. Without this, we remain in darkness. But with wisdom and understanding, we can enjoy and embrace a life that pleases God. This comes to us by the power of the Spirit through the reading of his word.

Now what?

Topic A: A praying life. Notice the content of Paul’s prayer for the people of God in Colossae. Prayer is our privilege as children of God to bring to God any of our concerns (Philippians 4:7) but our concerns must be transformed to be the same as God’s for us and for the world. Look at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and compare what Jesus outlined with the prayer of Paul in Colossians 1:9-14. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we learn to pray continually for God’s will to be done. This is not merely a respect for God’s will to trump your desires but it is a plea for your desires to be the same as God’s.

Topic B: How do we pray? Just like any relationship, talking to God in prayer involves knowing who you are talking to. It also involved just talking. Calling him Father is a great start. Talking out loud is said by some to be helpful. Also, writing down your prayer can be a good way of staying focused and not drifting your mind onto other things. It’s as easy as speaking to someone who you trust with your life and every secret thing. It is also tricky because God doesn’t speak back or provide head-nods as you speak. But start praying and do so while growing in your knowledge of God. It is always helpful to take a passage of the bible, read it, and then turn that lesson or story into a prayer. You’ll be surprised how helpful that can be.

Topic C: Praying for one another. Paul shared in writing what he was praying for and this is a very useful thing to do when you intend to pray for others (see Luke 22:32). Rather than suggest that you’ll pray for a sick person to get better, be clear about what you are praying for. Also, praying out loud with one another is a practice that Christians have done right from the beginning (Acts 1:24; 4:31; 12:12; 16:25; 20:36; 21:5). Learning to pray in Growth Groups is not only a growing opportunity for the prayer but whole groups that are comfortable with open prayer are a very encouraging thing to be a part of. Start by saying a short prayer of thanks to God for one thing that you learned in the study and take things slow. You’ll be comfortable with open prayer in no time.

Firm Foundations – Study 1 – Colossians 1:3-8

Truly Understanding God’s Grace

Topics covered: The message of hope, love, faith and grace.
Glossary: hope; love; faith; grace; gospel; epistle.

Discussion question

How would you explain the message of the gospel?


After Jesus died and rose again from the dead, and just before he returned to heaven, he told his disciples to go into all the world to tell everybody that he is the LORD of all and that the forgiveness of sins is offered in his name. A man named Saul hated this new religion known as ‘The Way’ and later known as Christianity. But while he was actively resisting Christians, he had an encounter with the risen Jesus. You can read about his story in Acts Chapter 9. He was converted and rather than hating all Christians and trying to destroy this new movement, he was born again and became the most influential disciple-maker the world has known. As he moved among Greek speaking towns, he became known as Paul.

The book of Colossians was written by him, along with his younger colleague Timothy, to one of the churches located in modern day Turkey. Paul had not personally established this church in Colossae nor visited it prior to writing this letter (Colossians 2:1) but his preaching for two years in a lecture hall in Ephesus impacted the whole province which Colossae was part of (Acts 19:10). A man named Epaphras is mentioned in Colossians 1:7, 4:12 and Philemon 23. He may have heard the gospel from Paul in Ephesus, taken the message back to his hometown of Colossae (Colossians 1:7) and continued in mission with Paul but never forgetting his church in prayer (4:12).

The city of Colossae in relation to almost every location mentioned in the history of the bible!

Read Colossians 1:3-8

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

What do you see?


  • 3-4 God has clearly worked in you
    • (Hearing of the faith and love of the Colossians)
    • Who do we thank for Christians? God the Father.
  • 5-6 Because the gospel has beared fruit in you
    • (Which flowed from them hearing and truly understanding the true message of the gospel)
    • What does the gospel do? It produces love outflowing from hope.
  • 7-8 This gospel is faithfully spread by people through the Spirit
    • (Which is spread by faithful servants by the power of the Spirit)
    • How do we understand God to be at work in this world? By faithful ministers and the Holy Spirit.

(3-4) God has clearly worked in you

“We always thank God…when we pray for you…” Paul along with Timothy are writing this and that is the we. Notice their letter comes in the context of a relationship in prayer for the church. They are not putting themselves as head over the church and telling them what to do but are thankful to God for what he is doing in that church.

“…God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Billions of people across the globe and across history believe in a god of some sort. We speak of him as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not any god that you can imagine but the true God who has revealed himself to us ultimately through his son. This son is Lord meaning ‘the One in Charge’, the Commander, the Boss of all. He is Jesus, a common name in first century Israel but he is the Christ which means God’s chosen king. But it is God the Father to whom Paul and Timothy pray.

“…because we have heard of your faith…and love…” Paul has heard reports of the church and two things cause him to thank and praise God – their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all of God’s people. These two observable attributes flow out of the gospel that they heard.

“…faith in Christ Jesus…” Such a small phrase that means so much! It describes a person putting their trust for the future in the hands of a man that they have never met in the flesh! It also describes something that is reportable since Paul had heard of their faith. The Bible uses the word faith, as it should, as a word of confidence and knowledge that produces action. Like trusting that a car will keep you safe as you travel at 110km down a freeway – your faith in the car is evident since you are traveling in it. Likewise, faith in Christ Jesus is seen because it alters the way of life for a Christian. Paul conveys why faith makes a difference in Verses 5 and 6.

“…the love you have for all God’s people…” The second observable attribute of the church in Colossae is their love but specifically their love for all of God’s people! Here is another element of the bible that is important. The whole earth is God’s creation and every human ever living has been made in the image of God. But, the world contains two types of people – those who are for God through Jesus Christ and those who do not know God through Jesus Christ. In 1 Peter 2:9 those who have heard the gospel are described as those called out of darkness and into God’s wonderful light and they are described as God’s people. A special possession. The theme of the People of God is one that is carried right through the bible and can be investigated in our God’s Big Picture Plus+ course. When Paul refers to all of God’s people, he is referring to everyone that has declared Jesus as Lord and who believe that he has risen from the dead and that we now have our future hope in him (Romans 10:9-13). Just like faith can be observed, love is observable too in that it is more than a feeling, it produces action of care for others.

(5-6) Because the gospel has beared fruit in you

“…that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven…” The greatest impact of the gospel on a person is their shifted vision of the future. Without the promise of a bright future, the Christian faith would be empty. But we have the promise of the resurrection and a place reserved for us in heaven. John 14:1-6 shares of Jesus’ promise that this is what he has come to give us: eternal life through Christ. See also John 3:16. The worries of this life a put into perspective when we think of eternity. When we know that the future is secure, it affects the way we understand life here and now. Even suffering is placed in the context of temporary trials that test our faith rather than a curse from God. The Christian faith is about hope! Not wishful thinking! But the knowledge that a better future is prepared for us.

“…the true message of the gospel that has come to you.” The faith and love is not something that makes the people of Colossae stand out as amazing – like they are wonderful people by nature. Their faith and love have sprung out from hearing the gospel. The gospel means good news. And Paul uses the phrase, ‘true message of the gospel.’ Many things can be attached to the message of the gospel to make it untrue! Things such as the need to keep the Old Testament law, or the need for baptism in a specific manner, or the need to earn God’s love. Then there is the melding of the true gospel with a specific denomination or preacher or theologian. The true church of Christ is not about which institution you follow or whether you are Calvinist or some other labeled variety of Christian. The true message of the gospel is about Christ crucified for the sins of the world and gifted without charge to all who put their trust (faith) in Christ Jesus. Full stop. The effectiveness of this true gospel when received by a person will not go unnoticed by others because their faith and love will be visible. Lastly, this message has ‘come to you.’ Each generation of Christian are merely receiving the same message that the prophets predicted, that Jesus fulfilled and that the Holy Spirit, through the word of God is taught. It comes to us by word of mouth as people teach the bible in truth.

“In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world…” Paul continues to make the point that Christian faith is not specific to a location or race but is the same message intended for the whole earth to hear because it is the message of the one true and living God, the Father of Christ Jesus. This message gets transmitted from person to person as the true message is retold, believed and received as truth in the mind and heart of the hearer.

“…just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it…” There is no secret to the spread of Christianity. You hear the good news and understand it and you tell others about it and on it goes. Even when the church in Colossae heard it, they spread it around town themselves. The gospel is not something that we keep to ourselves. It is also not something that we just wait for church Ministers to tell. When you get such good news as the gospel, you pass it on! If you heard that the cure for all sicknesses was available and all you had to do was go to a fountain in the centre of town look at it – you’d investigate it and then let everybody know!

“…and truly understood God’s grace.” This is a key phrase to this whole section of Verses 3-8. See, many will hear the gospel taught to them by family or friends or even at church by their own minister BUT will fail to truly understand God’s grace. All of humanity are dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1). We are unable to truly please God because all of us have fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). We have lived in darkness and God is only full of light – with no darkness in him. This makes him unapproachable by us. But God is full of compassion and mercy and has sent his one and only Son into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). The end result of our sin is death – that’s the bad news. But the gospel – the good news – is that through Jesus Christ we can be forgiven! See Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Peter 3:18. This has been described as the great exchange – our sins for Christ’s righteousness. Imagine us clothed in filthy rags and Jesus standing clothed in dazzling white. Imagine that this represents our condition before God the Father. Now imagine that Christ swaps his bright white and perfect clothing for ours. He takes on our unworthiness and, free of charge, gives us his spotless record. At the cross, he took on the full wrath of God’s judgment for sins that he never committed. He absorbed the punishment for us. He died so that we might live. Grace, truly understood, is that we have done nothing to earn God’s love and we cannot repay Christ for what he has done for us. Grace is God’s love – underserved, unmerited and unable to be repaid – ever. Salvation is about being saved – and you cannot save yourself! God doesn’t save us because he gets something more from us. He saves us and gives us the hope of eternity and we get everything great from him – the privilege of calling Him Father – access to pray to Him at any time – the promise of eternal life without punishment – all at the cost of Christ crucified.

(7-8) This gospel is faithfully spread by people through the Spirit

“You learned it from Epaphras…” See again, the gospel magically come to us but is brought to us and taught to us from someone. The church in Colossae has Epaphras to thank for bringing the good news to them. He is described as a faithful minister of Christ working on behalf of Paul. Where Paul could not come himself, Epaphras was trustworthy with the message so that what he brought to them was the same message. Since it is only the TRUE gospel that gives hope then we want to be receivers of that same TRUE gospel and not an altered one. The word minister is the same as servant or slave. It is not that Epaphras was necessarily paid or appointed with a special role but that his service was to Christ is spreading the gospel correctly.

“…who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” We have read of God the Father who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and we have heard of the good news traveling around the world by faithful servants of the gospel. This message was of grace and it produced love. Now we are informed that this love is demonstrated in the Spirit. The gospel is not only transferred around the world by the words of faithful servants like Epaphras, it is also illuminated and made real in a person by the Holy Spirit. Verse 9 tells us that the Spirit gives wisdom and understanding. This is why many people hear the faithful retelling of the gospel but do not ‘truly understand God’s grace.’ Instead they remain in the error of believing God only loves those who are lovely and who earn his respect. Humans all have the capacity to love but only the Spirit of God can produce love that is Christ-centred rather than self-centred.

What did we learn?

Christianity is a worldwide phenomenon initiated by God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is all about the message of the gospel. This good news centres on God’s free gift of salvation, which is spread by people telling people the authentic unaltered message of grace. The Spirit of God brings that message alive in people when they receive it and believe it. The outworking of the gospel is Christian love flowing from people’s real trust in Jesus Christ. When God’s true message of grace reaches someone’s ears, the Spirit transforms that person’s life because of the hope that produces faith and love. God’s authentic transforming message is packaged in human relationship but empowered from Himself.

Picture this in diagram form beginning with the will of God and ending with hearts transformed by the gospel of grace…

God the Father → Jesus Christ crucified for sins IS the gospel of grace → Paul preaches this gospel → Epaphras hears it and delivers it back home → people in Colossae hear the true message and truly understand it → faith and love through the Spirit

Now what?

Consider one or more of the following ways that this passage can form a firm foundation for your faith.

  1. What is the true message of the gospel and do you truly understand it? Try and explain it or write it down. Do you have any questions arise in your mind as you try to explain the gospel? What can you do to answer those questions? Lookup the following passages to hear the gospel from other parts of the New Testament:
    1. Ephesians 2:19
    2. Romans 3:23
    3. 1 Timothy 1:15
    4. Romans 6:23
    5. John 3:16
    6. 1 Peter 3:18
    7. John 4:9-10
  2. Faith, hope and love: three great words with great misunderstanding.
    1. Faith, as used in the bible, is about such knowledge of God and his promises that it alters your life because of your trust in him. Read Romans 3:21-28.
    2. Hope, as used in the bible, is about picturing the future that God has promised to those who love him. It is not wishful thinking, but it is imagining something that has been guaranteed to us. Read Romans 8:18-25.
    3. Love is both an emotion and a decision. Love, as an emotion only, is fleeting. Love, as a decision only, is without affection. But love is to choose who or what you are committed to. Jesus said, for example, that you cannot love both God and money. You can choose to love money as both something that provides security and something you will do anything to keep. But to love something that is fleeting itself is foolish. Rather, love God who has given us the gospel of grace. Read Romans 5:8.
    4. Faith and hope are words for this life but love is eternal. Read 1 Corinthians 13:13.
  3. Christianity is a spiritual faith grounded in real relationships. The gospel could not have reached Colossae without Paul or Epaphras. The gospel could not have reached Colossae without the Spirit of God. We do not belong to church for human relationships only. We belong because of the Spirit of God who has brought us into the knowledge of God’s grace and love. We only know this truth, however, because of humans who have also been touched by God’s grace in truth.

Firm Foundations Introduction – Who are we listening to? Colossians 1:1-2

What is your worldview?

What do you build your hope upon? We all construct an understanding of the world that we live in so that we can work out how to make decisions and make sense of events that play out around us. This is called our worldview. We take in all that we experience and learn and we create a road map that explains everything properly. The way that we think of this world is moulded and shaped over time by our culture, our own story, our life experiences and our education. Our worldview makes sense of the world around us and provides a hope for the future. Our worldview matters and how we create our worldview matters. Incorrect input or misinterpreting the world around us tends to result in a false hope.

What is God’s worldview?

Christianity is based on the knowledge that God Himself has revealed His grand plans with us. We could say that God has shown us His worldview. The Firm Foundations course is about listening to God’s perspective on our lives and moulding our worldview in response to this knowledge. As we’ve already noted, our worldview is shaped by information from our senses and from those who have tried to educate us in the past (eg, parents, teachers, peers and media). If we could add God’s message to our learning, that would be wise, right?

We’ll examine in lesson 4 how we can be confident that God has spoken to us in the bible. We’ll use one book in the bible, Colossians, to listen to God’s perspective of life here on earth. But before we proceed, we need to look at how to listen properly.

The art of listening to the bible

Reading the bible is not magic but it does take some effort. It takes the same amount of effort as it does to listen well to somebody speak. If you have ever read a book with the aim of understanding what it is trying to say, then you are well on your way to being able to read the bible with understanding.

7 Principles to being a good bible reader.

  1. Come to the bible ready to learn something – taught, trained, corrected and perhaps rebuked. Many people come to the bible ready to disagree or rebuke the words they are reading. But if we come to the bible ready to listen, then we ought to come ready to learn something. If the bible is God’s word, then we ought to give the bible our readiness to listen.
  2. Listen to the context and ask, why is this here? When we take the text our of context then we are left with a con! The context means the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the book, and the whole bible. It can also include historical context but this is always trumped by the importance of biblical context. Almost all of the bible is able to be understood by taking clues from the bible text itself. Resist the temptation to Google your questions. The context is going to give you better answers.
  3. Take time to see new things. This is known as the observation. One reading of a passage from the bible is never enough. Read and reread several times until you believe that you have understood what it is saying. It’s frustrating when you say something in a conversation and the other person completely takes your sentence out of context. It is the same with the bible. Read like you are truly interested in what the bible is trying to say. It will not be clear straight away but we read the bible with our brains on and listening for understanding.
  4. Questions are very productive. They are and more useful in growing than focusing on only the parts of a passage that you feel you know. Questions come to those who want to know more and wish to hear everything that a passage is saying. So, write down your question. Make a note of it. You may be able to come to an answer quickly or it may take some exploring. Again, the context of the bible will often provide answers to your questions.
  5. Bible reading is excavation work. Do more than skim across the surface of the text. Shallow reading produces shallow disciples – even misguided disciples. You dig deeper into a passage by carefully drawing out the implications of the passage as well as considering how that passage effects the way we read other parts of the bible and vice-versa. How does that sentence change my thinking and how does it affect the rest of the bible?
  6. Formulate a summary of what you’ve uncovered. The bible, in one sense, has a very simple message to mankind. But each passage shines a special light on the truth of God and the importance of life in Christ. Find out what each new text contributes to the bigger message of the bible. For example, the whole bible is about faith in God but every story or lesson from the bible provides are different perspective or example of this faith. So, bring together all that you’ve seen and answer the question, “what does it mean?”
  7. Don’t just listen but do what it says. The bible is given to us so that we may find life in Christ. Jesus put great emphasis on reading the bible in order to find life (John 5:39-40)! If he thought so highly of the scriptures, who are we to neglect such an important life changing gift? Answer the question, “now what?”

So, in this course, we will be using the New Testament book of Colossians to a) learn how to read the bible well and b) to build upon the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. Each lesson will look at a new section of that book and then branch off to a specific topic that was raised in that section. To look at the passage we will consider the context that it is written in, we will make observations in the text to make sure we are listening carefully, we will then propose a meaning which sums up everything we have heard, and finally consider what applications we can draw out of our new understanding.

Paul begins his letter to a church in Colossae (Kol-oss-ie) like this:

Colossians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 

2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Background (Context)

Paul was a Jew who was violently opposed to the ‘new’ Christian movement. He (known firstly as Saul) was on his way from Jerusalem to the town of Damascus with permission to extract every Jew who were now worshiping Jesus Christ as Lord and put them in gaol. Before he got there, he saw Jesus Christ appear before him and he was immediately convicted that Jesus is indeed Lord. God changed Saul from a Christian hater to a Christian maker. His life story can be read in the book of Acts from Chapter 7 onward. Timothy was a younger man who Paul (renamed to Paul as he began to spend time in non-Jewish areas) considered a partner in the gospel and a true son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2). Colossae is located on the north side of the Mediterranean Sea in what is modern day Turkey.

What does it say? (Observation)

The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’. So Paul regards himself to be sent by God’s will on behalf of Jesus. He and Timothy write this together to the people in Colossae who are also brothers and sisters in Christ – aka, Christians in Colossae. They are called ‘God’s holy people’. Holy means separated for God’s purpose. They are being labelled as holy. Paul and Timothy write to fellow Christians in Colossae with words of grace and peace from God.

So what? (Meaning)

Paul writes from the position as a sent one from God to a people who are set apart by God living in Colossae and his greeting begins with grace and peace. They are brothers and sisters in Christ and share the same God whom they are able to call Father.

Now what? (Application)

We may not live in Colossae but this letter is for unnamed believers. We would be wise to listen to what Paul has to say as a spokesperson of Jesus Christ by the will of God.