Meditations in Colossians: 15. A Filled People
Col 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Simple words, profound meaning. Have you ever poured someone a cup of tea or made them a cup of coffee and for whatever reason didn’t fill it very full and got the ribald comment, “So, I’m only getting a half a cup then?” We want a full cup and feel deprived if we get a partial one. Watch children in a sweet shop going to the Pick ‘n Mix counter and they take a cup, and one thing you can be sure of, they will fill that cup right up; they want to get every bit they can.
These pictures from everyday life simply say that a full cup is what we want because we like the contents and want as much of it as we can get in the cup. How we take Paul’s writing for granted! I wonder how many times we have read this verse above with little thought of the meaning of this phrase we are focusing on today. What is the alternative to what Paul says? We’re asking God to give you a little glimpse of the knowledge of his will. Which bit? How would that help us? We’ll come to look at the knowledge of his will in the next meditation but the apostle’s intent is not that we just get by with a minimum of knowledge. No, he wants us to be filled up with this knowledge. Just like those cups, he wants us to get every bit we can.
This presents a challenge. Is that how we view the knowledge of God’s will? Are we a bit indifferent to it? Well, I expect if I study the Bible long enough I might catch a bit of the stuff that is on God’s heart, sufficient perhaps to keep me happy, sufficient to reassure me, but just sufficient…… That is a minimalist approach to faith. It’s a bit like the person who says, “Yes, I’ll have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed.” (Mt 17:20) Well, yes, according to Jesus you can move a mountain but why think in tiny bits. Jesus was deriding the disciples for their lack of faith. He wants us to have lots of faith, not just a tiny bit!
To the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul wrote, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19) That is staggering! There he speaks about having knowledge and love as much as God can give, and the picture is of a never-ending resource. You can never get to the end of God! Paul wants abundance, no, super-abundance of knowledge and love for us. Later in that same letter, he said to them, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) The world says wine is good for it lightens the heart (Psa 104:15) and makes merry, but the apostle says being filled with the Spirit does it so much better.
How we take that expression for granted – being filled with the Spirit. Let’s not worry whether it happens for every believer at conversion or is a separate experience but let’s note that it’s always “filled”. Paul didn’t say, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, have a little bit of the Spirit, just sufficient to lift you up without becoming an embarrassment!” When it comes to descriptions of the ‘amount’ of the Spirit, it is always ‘filled’ and make no mistake that means filled right up. It means have a lot, have all you can take.
Look at another of Paul’s prayers: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11) He doesn’t say, “I hope you will have a little bit of righteousness,” he says he wants us filled up with righteousness so there is no space for anything else.
The apostle Peter used this ‘abundance-type language’ as well: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet 1:8,9) In other words, may you be blessed up to the hilt with the shear wonder of this salvation we have.
How do you get all these ‘fillings’? Jesus said it so simply: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6) You want to be like Jesus? Watch this: “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” (Mk 1:30-42) You don’t touch a leper with just a glimmer of compassion. To be Jesus we need to yearn for all that Jesus has, and if that includes compassion to touch lepers, let’s have it in abundance!
So when we read on and consider the verses that follow on here in Colossians, will you read with a hungry and thirsty heart, a heart that says I want it all, I want everything God can pour into me, His word and His Spirit; they are both so wonderful that I want this cup filled to overflowing! Now there’s a good word to meditate upon – overflowing! Not just a bit, not just filled to the brim, but overflowing! That’s what the Lord wants us to aspire to. Go for nothing less!
Just one more thought: when believers were ‘filled with the Spirit’ it was always to overflowing so on the Day of Pentecost they overflowed with languages that praised God, when the disciples were filled they spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31) and when Paul prayed over the Corinthians, they poured out tongues and prophecy (Acts 19:6). Rather like the love and faith we considered before, when the Spirit is poured in to overflowing, it is visible, it is in abundance. Accept nothing less. Hunger and thirst!