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 his 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 word 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.
Paul thanks God for the Colossians faith in Christ and love for their fellow believers, which stem from their hope in the gospel (vv. 3-5). The gospel that they have received is spreading and impacting communities throughout the world (v. 6). Paul’s commendation of Epaphras (church founder at Colossae) is somewhat curious (v. 7). Perhaps Paul felt the need to defend Epaphras because of questions and concerns that were arising from the errant philosophy. Then again, the tone of the letter does not demand such a conclusion. It might have more to do with the fact that Paul had never visited Colossae. By extension, the close relationship that Paul, Timothy, and Epaphras share, as well as Epaphras’ faithfulness toward the ministry that Paul and Timothy commended to him, connects the community of believers to the apostles (v. 7). Love stood out as the key virtue worth reporting (v. 8).
1.9-14 “Prayer for Colossian believers”
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, 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 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.
On account of Colossians receptivity to the gospel message (vv.3-8), Paul now prays that they continue on the course that they had begun (vv. 9-14). Note the prayer’s emphasis on intellectual maturity: knowledge, wisdom, understanding (v. 9), and knowledge again (v. 10). The historical circumstances probably best explain this particular emphasis: Paul hopes that the Colossian believers grow in knowledge of God as opposed to the errant views that the false teachers are promoting. But it is also important to recognize that knowledge does not stop with intellectual understanding. In fact, knowledge that the Spirit gives (v. 9) enables individuals to live in a way that pleases the Lord (v. 10). The next two verses spell out what this looks like: “bearing fruit,” “growing in knowledge of God,” “being strengthened (by God, which produces the ability to persevere with patience in difficult circumstances),” and “giving thanks with joy” (vv. 10-12).
In vv. 13 and 14, Paul reminds his readers how this new life came about. The rescue and redemption language of v. 13 echoes the story of God’s deliverance of his people from the land of Egypt (see Exodus 6.6-8). But significant events for the people of God tend to build upon one another. The Israelites return from exile was also seen as God’s deliverance or redemption (see e.g., Ps 107), and this, in turn, serves as a paradigm for the ultimate rescue, which “comes not in (physical) return to the land but in (spiritual) redemption from sin through Christ” (Moo, 104). God’s deliverance in Christ becomes the new exodus (cf. Mk 10.45; Ro 3.24; Eph 1.7).
God’s people were transferred from light into darkness (cf. Isaiah 42.7; 49.9) and brought into “The Kingdom of the Son he loves” (v. 13). This reference highlights Jesus’ role as the Messianic King—likely drawing upon Old Testament prophecies concerning the establishment of this figure’s Kingdom (see Ps 2; 2 Sam 7.12-16; cf. Mk 1.11) (Moo, 106-7).