What is “the knowledge of His will” in Colossians 1:9?
The question comes from one of Paul’s beautiful prison prayers, where the richness and depth of his intercessory ministry at the throne of grace is wonderfully displayed. His request begins with the desire that the believers in Colossae, whom he had never met, would be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col 1:9).
Notice that Colossians 1 is one of those glorious, Christ-exalting “Chapter Ones.” See also John 1, Hebrews 1, and Revelation 1. Colossians 1, particularly beginning at verse13, is pointing out the supremacy of Christ. He is “the Head of the body” and it is God’s purpose “that in all things he might have the preeminence” (v18). In the context, the specific aspect of God’s will with which Paul is concerned in verse 9 is particularly God’s will for “the Son of His love” (v13, JND). This meshes nicely with the subsequent verses that primarily concern God’s will for His Son.
A better understanding of God’s purposes for Christ allows us to see the greatness of this One in Whose kingdom we have been placed. This should certainly help us grasp something of the standard to which we have been called and enable us to walk in a more worthy manner (v10). It should also give us joy and peace, further strengthening our steps, knowing our redemption and forgiveness are entirely secure (vv14, 22), because they are enjoyed in Him. Growth occurs in an environment of security. Knowing God’s program for His Son, and that we are now participants in that program, contributes to our spiritual understanding and therefore our development. Notice that in Colossians 4:12, we read again of “the will of God.” There is a reference to their assurance of God’s will for their lives, how He wants them to live. But in the setting of chapter 1, he desires that they would, first and foremost, be filled with the knowledge of God’s will for Christ, a noble, instructive, and uplifting subject to contemplate.