In Colossians 1:9-10, Paul tells the Christians in Colossae of his prayer for them:
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:9-10, ESV)
We can learn a lot from Paul’s prayer. First, it’s important to notice that of all the things that Paul could ask for, he prays that the Christians would be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. In Colossae, the Christians were being tempted to be led astray by some false teaching that claimed to have the “true knowledge” of God. And what is interesting is that despite the danger of these gnostic teachings, Paul doesn’t hesitate to pray that those Christians would still be filled with a knowledge of God’s will- a legitimate knowledge, revealed in God’s word.
In another letter penned by Paul, he says that Scripture is the source of teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in Christian living (2 Tim. 3:16). So it’s no doubt that here, Paul is saying, “you want to really get to know God? To be equipped and able to live out this life? Then be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in God’s word!”
These are the types of exhortations that blog-writing, theology-studying nerds like myself get excited about. “See? My disconnected, naval-gazing love of theology is justified!”
Because if we keep reading to verse 10, Paul lays out the end to the means of gaining a knowledge of God’s will. And it’s not so you can write the most insightful blogs, write pithy twitter posts, or gain nerd cred. No, the reason we’re to pursue a deeper knowledge of God’s will is for a fruitful life.
Pleasing our Lord
When we pursue the knowledge of God, the expectation is that we don’t just hoard it like someone with a houseful of cats and old newspapers. Instead that knowledge ought to be the iron beams in the edifice of our Christian life. If our knowledge isn’t building something that pleases God, then we’re just hoarding.
Bearing Fruit in Every Good Work
Furthermore, if our belief is genuine, then it should result in action. When theology becomes a badge of honor or just a point to be debated, we’re doing it wrong. I’m guilty of this. If I take this gospel seriously, my life and actions shouldn’t be characterized by pride, arrogance, impatience, and frustration; rather humility, patience, and kindness should inform my every action.
Beyond this, our faith should be an active one, that expresses itself in loving acts. Giving generously. Sacrificing time and resource. Caring for others. Because as our knowledge of God’s will increases, we should decrease and the love of God and others should increase.
Increasing in the Knowledge of God
There’s a fascinating interaction that happens when we learn about God and then act on that knowledge. Through our obedience response to God’s knowledge, we come to know him more. I can see this in marriage. Every newly-wedded husband would claim he loved his bride. But as he comes to know her more deeply and to care for her through the marriage, he learns more about his love for his bride. He loves her more deeply than he did before.
When we pursue God with our minds and let Him dictate our actions, we come to know and love Him more deeply.
Theology is for life.
There’s definitely a place for pastors and scholars to help and inform the body. God wouldn’t have given them to us, had we not needed them. But that can’t keep us from individually pursuing a deeper knowledge of God and His will. We’re all doing “theology” to one degree or another. Paul calls us to continually strive to do theology that is faithful to God’s word and results in gospel-informed action.