All Spiritual Wisdom, All Spiritual Understanding


This post is related to the sermon from 2/16/14 on Colossians 1:9-14.

One thing that was not addressed in this week's sermon is the phrase in Colossians 1:9, "all spiritual wisdom and understanding."  What exactly does that mean and why is it there?

First of all, in greek, the modifying words "all spiritual" are applied to both nouns "wisdom" and "understanding."  So Paul promises they will be filled with "all spiritual wisdom and all spiritual understanding." Sometimes English translations gloss over details like these so that the end translation is readable and not clunky.

Many commentators believe (especially O'Brien) that the reason they are being told that they will be filled with all spiritual wisdom and all spiritual understanding is because false teachers had shown up in Colossae and begun teaching that the Christians needed to move on from the gospel and receive a further fullness of spiritual experience. So against this Paul urges that everything they need they can have. Any time someone comes along and says, "So you're a Christian? That's good but have you experienced ________ yet? You really aren't complete until you have experienced ___________" that person is standing in a long line of false teachers. As one pastor put it Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Or as I put it Jesus + Anything Else = False Gospel. (That other pastor was way catchier, I'm sure that's why they gave him a book deal.) 

Spiritual Wisdom is the ability to rely on the Spirit to make right decisions based on spiritual, rather than earthly, realities. Anyone can live with wisdom, but only Christians who have the Holy Spirit can see spiritual realities through the same eyes that God does.

Spiritual Understanding is the ability to comprehend the truths and mysteries concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is rightly understanding who God is, what his character is like, what he has accomplished, and the right human response to this. According to the Scriptures only Christians possess this because only Christians recognize Jesus as the one true Messiah who is the Lord of their lives and the whole cosmos. Without recognizing this how can one rightly understand God?