Friday, May 21, 2010

By God’s Power (Ponderings in Colossians 1)

Colossians 1:9-11
 “…we…do not cease praying for you and requesting that you may be filled full with the realization of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, you to walk worthily of the Lord for all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the realization of God; being endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy…”
Are we in need of understanding and wisdom?  Then seek and ask God for it and wait for Him to grant it in His perfect timing.  It is only God who can fill us with understanding and wisdom and grant us the growth of realizing Who He really and truly is.  He is the One who grows us up and brings us to a realization of the truth of Himself—Who He is and what He is all about.
“…and growing in the realization of God; being endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory…”
I have some thoughts and notes written about that phrase from when I was studying it four months ago.  And I started to type them up for this post.  However, even as I was typing and thinking about their meaning, I realized that the phrase could be read and understood in at least two different ways.  The difference takes place with regards to where the punctuation is placed.  Punctuation can certainly change the meaning of a sentence.
Do you know that punctuation had no part whatsoever in the original Scriptures?  Paul’s letter to the Colossians did not have neat punctuation marks, and it certainly did not have chapter numbers or verses!  These have all been added by man over the years for ease in readability and study.  E.W. Bullinger states the following in his book How to Enjoy the Bible on pages 37-38:
“One other mode of dividing the Word as to its Literary Form is by Punctuation; which is a still more important manner of dividing the Word, as it seriously affects the Text by dividing its sentences, and thus fixing its sense…
…The Greek Manuscripts have, practically, no system of punctuation: the most ancient, none at all; and the later MSS nothing more than an occasional single point even with the middle, or in line with the top of the letters.  Where there is anything more than this it is generally agreed that it is the work of a later hand.
So that in the Original Manuscripts we have no guide whatever to any dividing of the Text, whether rightly or wrongly.  Indeed, in the most ancient MSS there is not only no division at all, but there is not even any break between the words!”
Let’s take a closer look at the phrase:
“…and growing in the realization of God; being endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory…”
The word “endued” stands for the original Greek word “dunamo” literally meaning to make-ABLE.  Reading the verse with the punctuation in place, I understood it to say that God is the One who enables us with power in accordance with the strength and power of His glory.  I read it this way because Paul is telling the Colossians that he does not cease praying for them and requesting that they may be filled full with the realization of God’s will  in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.  He also writes of his desire that they may walk worthily of the Lord, bearing (carrying) fruit in all their good work, growing in the realization of God.  I read his words as expressing different things he is praying for them to receive from God and of the spiritual life he desires for them to live out in Christ. 
Therefore, when he states “growing in the realization of God; being endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory”, I initially understood him to be saying that his desire is for them to grow in the realization of God and that God may endue them with all power necessary for all endurance and patience with joy.  The power that God endues us with is not so finite and earthly focused as merely describing a “controlling power” over someone.  It speaks of power much greater than that.  It speaks of a power to be able to do or endure in countless different situations.  It speaks of a power to remain silent when we are being cursed and attacked or the power to speak when we are feeling terribly afraid to do so.  It may be the power granted to us so that we put someone else’s best interest before your own, even when they could care less you are doing so or could care less about you as an individual.  Or, as in this case, Paul is saying that his hope and prayer is that God will enable them with all power “for all endurance and patience with joy”.
So, what happens if we take the punctuation out of the phrase and take the phrase out of its context?
“…and growing in the realization of God being endued with all power in accord with the might of His glory…”
Now, I can also read the phrase as stating that there will be a growing in the realization of God, but that God is being endued with all power in accord with the might of His glory.  One of the definitions of endued is “to be clothed”.  Can we read this to say that God is being clothed with all power in accord with the might of His glory?  We could.  I firmly believe that God IS ALL-powerful.  He is The One with ALL power regardless of how much power man thinks he has.  However, being faithful and careful to read these words in their context of what Paul is expressing and to whom, we can see that in this situation he’s not speaking of God being endued with power.  Digging further into the Greek text, we can gather more information. 
The Greek language is quite complex and rich in its expression.  I am FAR from being some kind of Greek scholar, but I do like to dig deep into trying to understand the original word in its original language and what it literally meant.  I use online Bible study tools such as Blue Letter Bible and the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer to help my understanding.   And I also make great use of the excellent concordance at the back of my Concordant Literal New Testament.  The Greek language has different “tense”, “voice”, “mood”, and various other grammatical divisions for words.  Depending on these factors, the exact meaning of one word can vary.
Looking up “endued” on Blue Letter Bible, we discover the Greek “tense” is in the present, the “voice” is in the passive, and the “mood” is in the participle.  The present tense of course states that the action of “endued” is taking place right now, in the present.  The passive voice tells us that the object of the sentence is receiving the action of this verb without the object having anything to do with making it happen.  And the participle acts like “-ing” added to the word; hence, the CLNT translating “dunamo” in this case as “being endued”.
Tying those facts together along with the fact that no one endues God (He is all powerful Himself) and with the context of the phrase in this letter where which Paul is expressing of list of things which he is praying for the Colossians to receive from God, it is clear to see that Paul is saying that “the saints and believing brethren in Christ in Colosse” are “being endued with all power” by God, according “with the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy”.  They are being enabled with all power that they may have “endurance”—the ability to remain and persevere under whatever circumstances come into their lives.
This stands true today for Christ believers today!  We are being enabled by God, with all power, in accordance with the might of His glory, for all endurance and that we may have patience with joy in any circumstance that we find ourselves in on any day.
Thank you, Mighty God!  Thank You for Your amazing power that carries us through the most difficult of circumstances and helps us to endure when we would rather give up.  Thank You for Your graceful and patient power that carries us when we can’t seem to carry ourselves.  Some days I grow so tired of persevering, the circumstances wear me down, and I feel like throwing my arms up in the air and saying, ”Forget it!  I give up!”  But there You are, holding me up, carrying me through, enduing me with all the power I need to take one more step and walk in the direction that You have chosen and prepared for me to walk.  Thank You for the path You have masterfully designed for me.  There are many difficulties on this path, but I know You are there every single step of the way.  Not one thing I come across on this path is out of Your control.
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