God Inspired the Little Clauses
Memories aren’t usually made on airplanes. They’re made in cars moving at just a fraction of the speed of the contrail-billowing jets above them as the desert sands and wavy rows of corn and odd tourist destinations and memorable hole-in-the-wall restaurants are driven past or frequented with a last-second decision and a high speed turn.
Life transformation doesn’t usually happen during a few late night guilt-driven minutes given to skating across a chapter chunk of God’s Word. God inspired the little clauses; and it’s usually the little clauses that open up new and unexplored ways of thinking upon God and His gospel. Like the remembrances of a cross-country road trip, spiritual memories are made by the detours of diligent study, not by jetting far above the trenches of nouns and verbs and prepositions.
Look at what I mean:
Colossians 2:2-3 …that [they may attain] to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (NASB)
The end result is wealth. That’s what Paul prays we might attain. How do we get the wealth? By having an assurance of understanding. What is the wealth? Paul says that having an assurance of understanding results in a true knowledge of the mystery of Jesus Christ, and that in Him are hidden treasures of wisdom and treasures of knowledge. Which means that the wealth we receive by having a full assurance is a greater understanding of the person and work of Christ. More succinctly, it means that we are not assured by circumstances or blessings; we’re assured by our understanding of the mystery of the atonement.
Practically? Practically this means that when there is not a confidence, a full assurance, the solution is to run to and study the empty cross and the empty tomb. It means that understanding and knowledge about the work of Christ is both the result and the cause of assurance. We gain assurance by understanding, and by having assurance we gain an even greater understanding.
Philemon 6 …and I pray that the sharing (NASB: fellowship) of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. (ESV)
One of the things that grieves me most inside the church is when people believe that hearing a sermon quenches all their spiritual needs. If you’re showing up halfway into the service in time to catch the sermon and then running out the back door immediately after the service ends, you’re depriving yourself of something vital to your sanctification. You’re loading up on Vitamin D and getting no Vitamin C.
Paul prays that the sharing (and we know from the NASB translation that he’s thinking Christian-to-Christian here, not evangelism) of their faith might become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ Jesus. That is to say, if we are to understand the depths and heights of the riches that God has given us, we must have Bible-centered fellowship. Not football-centered fellowship. Bible-centered fellowship. Our conversations, our fellowship of faith, can produce a greater devotion to the Lord because our words are effective for stirring spiritual affection in each other. Not only that, but the valuing of Christ Jesus is wrapped up in our zeal to fellowship, for what has been produced in us by Christ Jesus is in us for the sake of Christ.
There are times to airplane through the text. One of the most profitable things I’ve done in the last year was to sit and read the entire book of Romans cover to cover. It took me an hour and a half. And I walked away marveling over the great drama that is redemption, and over the heart-rending truth that I can never merit anything but wrath and yet the Lord God Himself has adopted me as a child.
But oftentimes my protestations that I’m reading quickly to “gain a better understanding of the big picture” is nothing more than a spiritual-sounding glossy paint job covering up an ugly hearted laziness towards studying. Brothers, sisters, if you’re reading larger portions of the text, your reading must be just as intentional as if you were sitting next to a ream of paper and a bible dictionary prepared to do battle through diagraming and defining.
If we are to be godly, we must be intentional. We are sinful people, and we do not grow holy by accident. May we pray that we might know God better. And then may we be diligent to use the means He has given us to make it happen, knowing that the Lord blesses those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)