The past month or so I’ve been trouncing through Colossians with the Jr High on Sundays. It isn’t like a normal exposition, though. I study the text, outline it in Greek, try to get the nuances, and then take it in to Sunday School. It is there that we go through the text as a group and outline it together and try to piece together Paul’s argument. I remind them of the context Paul is writing in and what Colosse was like. The basic purpose is to get the kids to understand how to understand the Bible on their own. So far, so good!
Well, last week I was teaching through verse 9-14 of chapter 1 and we planted on verse 11 for quite awhile and I thought I’d plant my observations down here. The first part of the verse says “in all power you have been made powerful.” The words are the same in the greek, being used as a noun and a passive participle. The first observation is that it is with a power outside of ourselves that we are made powerful, or strengthened.
The second thought was an explanation of “according to” versus “out of”. Paul says that we are stregnthened according to His glorious might. It is an observation that I think is important when understanding the significance of the phrase “according to”. Here’s how I illustrate it. Picture a homeless person on the side of the road. He has nothing except a cardboard sign pleading for money and a dirty cup. The man is sitting there, begging for money, and what do you know, Bill Gates walks by! The homeless man looks up and recognizes this man as being wealthy and thinks to himself, “payday!” He watches as Bill Gates slowly reaches into his pocket. The homeless man imagines the hundred dollar bills that must line Gates’ pockets, and wonders how many were going to end up in the cup. He begins to imagine the warm clothes and food he could buy with this man’s money. In the middle of his imagination running wild he notices that Gates reaches out his hand and drops one bill down. The homeless man tracks the bill with his eyes, trying to see how big the number is. as it finally drops into his lap he sees a big “1” but no “0” following it. One lousy dollar.
The homeless man is absolutely depressed. Normally he’d be quite happy with a dollar, but not now. This is Bill Gates after all! He wasn’t giving according to his wealth, but out of. One dollar means nothing to Gates. One hundred dollars means nothing to Gates, but it would mean everything to this man who has nothing. What would it have looked like if Gates walks by this man and gave to him “according to” his wealth? He would have stopped, taken out a checkbook, and written a check for over $1,000,000! That is much more in accordance to his wealth.
So how does this understanding of “according to” and “out of” relate to God stregnthening us according to his glorious might? It means that God has given us all the strength that we could possibly need! God doesn’t give us stregnth out of his might in order that we might float on through life. God gives us stregnth according to His glorious might so that we might live life with endurance and patience. This strength isn’t in us, in and of ourselves. it is a foreign strength that originates from God’s glorious might, and is granted to us in abundance, according to His glorious stregnth.