Spiritual Knowledge Produces Godly Conduct
by Ed Daly
When the Apostle Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), he is explaining that a person comes to saving faith by hearing (that is, hearing and believing) “the Word of Christ,” which is the gospel. Many have heard the Word of Christ, but have not believed. But, the Holy Spirit empowers some to hear and believe the truth of God’s Word (see 2 Corinthians 3:16 and 4:3-6) which is what brings them to salvation. This is a supernatural work of grace done by God to reconcile sinners to Himself. For instance, the Word of Christ believed upon by the Colossians is beautifully expressed by Paul in this way:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13–14).
With the Holy Spirit operating within their hearts and minds, the Colossians were saved when they believed this message of the work of God as the Word of God that could transform their lives. Their salvation (and ours, if we have so believed) was on the basis of God’s grace manifested in two forms: (1) Jesus Christ’s prior atoning sacrifice on their behalf, and (2) receiving the Word with enlightened hearts to believe that Jesus Christ had indeed made this sacrifice for them.
God had done a mighty work in the lives of the Colossians, and Paul was obviously pleased with how they were doing. A lot had happened in their lives since the moment they believed. As we read the opening of the letter, we learned that Epaphras, who had originally brought the Word of Christ to them (1:7) was able to make a positive report later to Paul about their spiritual condition because they had grown in their faith (1:8). They showed faith in Christ and love for their fellow saints (1:4). There was evidence of “good discipline” and “stability of… faith in Christ” (2:5) in their lives. But, Paul does not stop at praising them for their growth in these areas, he also exhorts them further to “walk in Him” (2:6) so that they may be built up and established in their faith. Paul uses the metaphor of walking in Christ throughout his writings as an expression for the practical outworking of faith; holy living is evidence of faith, which should grow as the believer matures and is molded into the image of Jesus Christ in anticipation of one day meeting Jesus directly (Philippians 3:16-21; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 3:2-3).
How are they to “walk in Him?” To do this, they need knowledge, which as applied to their lives, is the knowledge of God’s will for them. This is Paul’s prayer for them in 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, 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; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
Paul’s first priority in prayer for them is that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v. 9). Paul is praying that they would have a complete knowledge of the truth of God’s will for their lives. But, this is not just an intellectual knowledge of the truth. We are not called to be walking biblical encyclopedias or strive for superior intellects (which only leads to pride; 1 Corinthians 8:1). The knowledge of the truth is displayed in application to daily life (spiritual wisdom) and clear thinking and discernment in our life decisions (understanding). A believer who is growing in the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding is “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord,” which pleases God (v. 10; see also 2 Corinthians 5:9). Where do we get this knowledge? It too comes from God’s Word, which makes it just as vital to our spiritual growth as to our salvation.
Paul describes four ways in which growth in the knowledge of God’s will produces a pleasing walk before the Lord: (1) bearing fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc., Galatians 5:22-23), (2) a deeper intimacy in the knowledge of God, (3) showing steadfastness and patience (as opposed to despair and despondency over our circumstances when we face trials), and (4) continuous thanksgiving for the work of God in our lives (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
This is Paul’s prayer and expectation for the Colossians. How about you? Since you trusted Christ as your Savior, have you seen a pattern of growing fruit, deeper intimacy with the Lord, greater steadfastness in difficult circumstances, and a deepening attitude of thanksgiving? Take time now to examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5). You might have stumbled at times in your walk with the Lord, but what does the overall trajectory of your life show since the day you believed? Have you noticed that your walk in the Lord is more pleasing both to God and to you when you are regularly reading the Word? Are you in your Bible daily for guidance in wisdom and discernment in how to conduct your life?
Someone once wisely said, “Our greatest battle is to be in the Word, and if we don’t win that battle everything becomes a battle.” Unless you are in the Word regularly and frequently, your walk with the Lord will be a struggle. You will become progressively more preoccupied by your circumstances (and the challenges you face) and less able to see God’s will for your life and how it is being fulfilled in your walk, which is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
As you read the Bible, talk to God in prayer: ask Him to teach, lead, and guide you in these things, and repent when you see that you have fallen short of God’s standard.
The beauty of this truth is that you are not left on your own to live out God’s will. Notice that Paul’s prayer is that they “may be filled with the knowledge of His will.” The passive tense indicates that God does the filling. Just as God enabled them to come to faith, He will enable them—and you!—to be filled with the knowledge of His will, if only they and you use the means He has provided.
Our spiritual growth and ability to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord depends on God’s work in our lives. But, we are not just passive recipients. By God’s design, we are active agents called to use the spiritual resources He has given us to grow in our walk. Like Paul, we should ask God for this knowledge and then read God’s Word regularly. God honors us when we follow this pattern by producing marvelous changes in our lives. John Owen said, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.”
Now, there is a motivation to pick up your Bible and read it to understand how God wants you to walk before Him! He will prove His love and faithfulness to you by giving you the power to understand it and then the power to live it out as a testimony to His saving and sustaining grace in your life.