1:10 — … walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God .…
It pleases God when we depend upon His Spirit to do “good works.” It also pleases Him when we spend time in His Word, learning more about Him. This is what it means to “walk worthy” of Jesus.
A Worthy Walk
so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects (1:10a)
Walk is used in the Bible to refer to one’s pattern of daily conduct. A mind controlled by knowledge, wisdom, and understanding produces a life worthy of the Lord. Although it seems impossible that anyone could walk worthy of the Lord, that is the teaching of Scripture. Paul desired the Thessalonians to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). He exhorted the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). He told the Philippians to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).
God has not left us to our own resources for walking the worthy walk. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ dwells in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Paul prayed for the Ephesians “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:16–17). Trying to walk worthy in our own strength is doomed to failure. Martin Luther stated that truth clearly in his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”:
Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same.
And He must win the battle.
The New Testament describes several features of the worthy walk. We are to walk in humility (Eph. 4:1–3); in purity (Rom. 13:13, KJV); in contentedness (1 Cor. 7:17); by faith (2 Cor. 5:7); in good works (Eph. 2:10); different from the world (Eph. 4:17–32); in love (Eph. 5:2); in light (Eph. 5:8); in wisdom (Eph. 5:15); and in truth (3 John 3–4). Such a walk will please Him in all respects.
A Fruitful Life
bearing fruit in every good work (1:10b)
Fruitfulness also results from knowledge. Fruit is the by-product of righteousness. It is the mark of every redeemed individual. Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (cf. vv. 2, 5–6). Paul told the Romans, “You also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4).
The Bible defines fruit in various ways. Here Paul speaks of bearing fruit in every good work. Converts are referred to as fruit. Paul spoke of the household of Stephanas as the “first fruits of Achaia” (1 Cor. 16:15). He also desired some fruit among the Romans (Rom. 1:13). Hebrews 13:15 defines praise as fruit: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Giving money can also be fruit (Rom. 15:26–28). Godly living is fruit, as indicated when the writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s discipline produces in us “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Finally, the holy attitudes mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23 are referred to as “the fruit of the Spirit.”
What produces fruit in believers’ lives? First, union with Christ. Jesus said in John 15:4–5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Second, wisdom is a necessary prerequisite for bearing fruit. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Lack of fruit is directly related to lack of spiritual wisdom. Finally, diligent effort on the Christian’s part is required, as Peter writes:
Applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:5–8)
increasing in the knowledge of God; (1:10c)
A third result of knowledge is spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is progressing in the knowledge of God. Tē epignōsei (in the knowledge) is an instrumental dative case. It indicates the means by which our increasing, or growth, takes place. The knowledge of God revealed in His Word is crucial to spiritual growth. Peter wrote, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). As always, the Holy Spirit infuses our own efforts with God’s enabling grace (2 Pet. 3:18), without which we could not grow.
The marks of spiritual growth include: first, a deeper love for God’s Word. “Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).
Second, spiritual growth is reflected in a more perfect obedience.
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. (1 John 2:3–5)
Third, spiritual growth will result in an enlarged faith. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged” (2 Thess. 1:3; cf. 2 Cor. 10:15).
A fourth mark of spiritual growth is a greater love: “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and discernment” (Phil. 1:9).
10. That ye may walk worthy of God. In the first place he teaches, what is the end of spiritual understanding, and for what purpose we ought to make proficiency in God’s school—that we may walk worthy of God, that is, that it may be manifest in our life, that we have not in vain been taught by God. Whoever they may be that do not direct their endeavours towards this object, may possibly toil and labour much, but they do nothing better than wander about in endless windings, without making any progress. Farther, he admonishes us, that if we would walk worthy of God, we must above all things take heed that we regulate our whole course of life according to the will of God, renouncing our own understanding, and bidding farewell to all the inclinations of our flesh.
This also he again confirms by saying—unto all obedience, or, as they commonly say, well-pleasing. Hence if it is asked, what kind of life is worthy of God, let us always keep in view this definition of Paul—that it is such a life as, leaving the opinions of men, and leaving, in short, all carnal inclination, is regulated so as to be in subjection to God alone. From this follow good works, which are the fruits that God requires from us.
Increasing in the knowledge of God. He again repeats, that they have not arrived at such perfection as not to stand in need of farther increase; by which admonition he prepares them, and as it were leads them by the hand, to an eagerness for proficiency, that they may shew themselves ready to listen, and teachable. What is here said to the Colossians, let all believers take as said to themselves, and draw from this a common exhortation—that we must always make progress in the doctrine of piety until death.
10 If the Colossian Christians are filled with this right knowledge, they will live and act in a manner worthy of the holiness of him whom they confess as their Lord. The phrase “in a manner worthy of the Lord” or “worthy of God” (cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; 3 John 6; also Matt. 10:37; Wisdom 3:5) is a formula of a type appearing on inscriptions in the province of Asia; according to Deissmann, it seems to have been popular at Pergamum. If pagans appreciated the importance of rendering worship which was worthy of the deities whose votaries they were, much more should Christians render the spiritual service of obedient lives to the living and true God and to his Son Jesus Christ.35 Thus the fair fruit of good works would spring in greater abundance from the divine seed which had been sown in their hearts, and at the same time they would make ever increasing progress in the knowledge of God. For obedience to the knowledge of God which has already been received is a necessary and certain condition for the reception of further knowledge.
10 It so happens that the opening of v. 10 translates one Greek word, an infinitive of purpose: “so that you may live a life.” The idea is that sound thinking is to lead to sound living,175 and while this theory is often claimed, the connection between thought and behavior is not automatic. Many who know do not do, and many who do do not know. Humans are more than mind, so it is important here to bring to the surface the significance of will in all concerns with virtue.
The word behind “live a life” is peripatein, a verb that literally means “to walk,” a Greek equivalent to a deeply traditional Hebrew term for a Torah-observant way of life and often translated “walk” (hlk, from which we get “halakah,” Judaism’s rules and regulations that clarify Mosaic Torah). It is asking too much here to think Paul’s own “theology of Torah” is fully on display in this expression, but there is an echo if not more of his Jewishness.179 Theological debates notwithstanding, the Bible from Genesis to Revelation makes an indissoluble connection between redemption and practice. As Wright comments, “God is at work, therefore his people are at work.” One can cut up the ordo salutis into a reified rail line, passing the redeemed along from one station to another, and one can then explain the connections as inevitable or optional or “circular,” but the fact remains that those who have been put on the rails are to walk the line.
Walking this way is to be “worthy.” The gravity falls on the substantive term that follows “worthy.” As the Romans were to welcome in hospitality Phoebe in a manner “worthy of his people” (which means lovingly; Rom 16:2), so Paul calls the Ephesians to live a life “worthy of the calling” (4:1), the Philippians to live a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27), and the Thessalonians to live a life “worthy of God” (1 Thess 2:12). The exhortation to be worthy functions as a moral exhortation of correlation to the standard—in our case, to “of the Lord,” that is, King Jesus. One suspects in “worthy of the Lord” we are to think beyond the Lord’s commands and therefore ahead to the hymn of 1:15–20 and its follow-up in 2:6 as a moral template for the people of the King, and even over to Phil 2:5–11 and to see a life “worthy of the Lord” as one that is cruciform—or Christoform.
The sphere or, better yet, direction of a walk focused on the Lord (Christ) is completed with “and please him in every way.” One might translate, “unto all [or every kind of] pleasing [of the Lord].” A deep line is drawn in the sand in Paul’s first letter, to the Galatians, when he said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (1:10). This theme of pleasing God and not others is balanced in Paul by not pleasing oneself but serving others (1 Thess 2:4; 4:1; Rom 15:1–3).
Walking worthy of the Lord is now reworked to focus on its manifestations: “bearing fruit” and “growing,” each of which participles is modified: bearing fruit with “in every good work,” and growing “in the knowledge of God.” The participles fruitbearing and growing are followed in v. 11 with “being strengthened” and in v. 12 with “giving joyful thanks.” We look at the first two now, with the substance of each being defined by accompanying words. Bearing fruit echoes the new-creation theme (see above at 1:6) and also describes moral and spiritual increase (Rom 7:4; Col 1:6), the increase here defined as “in every good work,” an expression that refers to good deeds done by followers of Jesus in the public sector that bring glory to God. Thus, we are to hear an echo of Jesus himself (Matt 5:16; Luke 6:9, 33, 35) and words of the apostle Peter, who speaks of “good deeds” (1 Pet 2:15, 20; 3:6, 17), as well as John (3 John 11). Paul uses the expression in a similar way at Gal 6:10; Rom 13:3, and Eph 2:10. If this refers to the public manifestations of walking in a manner worthy of a cruciform Lord, the Colossians are to grow “in the knowledge of God,” an expression that circles back to the immediate prayer request in 1:9 and surely includes immersing ourselves in the gospel and Scriptures in order to know God.
he prays for fruitfulness (v. 10). Walking in the will of God leads to a fruitful spirituality (Eph. 4:1f; John 15:1–8). It is often forgotten that disobedience grieves the Holy Spirit and results in unfruitful living (Eph. 4:30–31). Enoch walked with God (Gen. 5:24) and so must we if we would be co-workers with Christ (Eph. 2:10). Our aim should be to please Christ, not out of duty, but as the fruit of our love for him, ‘being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’.
1:10 / This verse begins with a construction in Greek (an infinitive of purpose) that expresses the result of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Hence the niv’s in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord (cf. nasb “so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”). The first consequence of knowing God’s will is to live as the Lord wants. The main idea is that a Christian’s profession is to correspond with his or her confession.
Second, the believer is to please the Lord fully in all things. Although the Greek word areskia has a negative connotation in secular contexts, here it does not mean seeking favor with someone out of selfish interests or for personal advantage. A life that is lived worthy of the Lord will be a life worthy to the Lord. Thus a constant goal for a Christian is to please the Lord in every way, that is, in all areas of life.
The third result that the apostle envisions is fruitfulness in good works and growth in (by?) the knowledge of God. Although some commentators believe that this sentence expresses two separate petitions (fruitfulness and growth), it is better to keep the two Greek participles (karpophorountes and auxanomenoi) together. In 1:6, the apostle stated that the gospel was “bearing fruit” and “growing” throughout the whole world. Here he is showing that what is true of the gospel in the world should also be true in the lives of the Colossians.
One of the unfortunate distortions in some forms of Christianity is the misunderstanding of the relationship between theology and ethics, that is, between faith and action. Paul has been presenting a concept of wisdom and knowledge that has moral and practical dimensions. The readers need to be preserved from a barren orthodoxy. The faith that they heard and that transformed their lives is to manifest itself in good works that, in turn, will result in fruitfulness and personal growth (for similar concepts, cf. Rom. 7:4; 2 Cor. 9:8; Gal. 5:6; Eph. 2:10; 4:15; 2 Thess. 2:17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). A Christian needs to be active in order to grow spiritually; otherwise, stagnation and regression will set in.
The niv growing in the knowledge of God gives the impression that the growth consists in understanding more and more of God—hence similar to “the knowledge of his will” in 1:9. But the Greek lacks the personal pronoun “your” (cf. gnb), and since the dative case in Greek expresses means or instrumentality as well as reference, it may be better to translate this phrase with the word “by” or “through.” Paul does not mean, therefore, that their growth is in the knowledge of God; rather, it is the result of their knowledge of God. Moral and spiritual growth comes from knowing and doing the will of God. God requires (live a life worthy of the Lord) and enables each believer to live a worthy and fruitful life.
10. Greek, “So as to walk”; so that ye may walk. True knowledge of God’s will is inseparable from walking conformably to it.
worthy of the Lord—(Eph 4:1).
unto—so as in every way to be well-pleasing to God.
pleasing—literally, “desire of pleasing.”
being fruitful—Greek, “bearing fruit.” This is the first manifestation of their “walking worthy of the Lord.” The second is, “increasing (growing) in the knowledge of God (or as the oldest manuscripts read, ‘growing by the full knowledge of God’)”; thus, as the Gospel word (Col 1:6) was said to “bring forth fruit,” and to “grow” in all the world, even as it did in the Colossians, ever since the day they knew the grace of God, so here it is Paul’s prayer that they might continue to “bring forth fruit,” and “grow” more and more by the full knowledge of God, the more that “knowledge” (Col 1:9) was imparted to them. The full knowledge of God is the real instrument of enlargement in soul and life of the believer [Alford]. The third manifestation of their walk is (Col 1:11), “Being strengthened with all might,” &c. The fourth is (Col 1:12), “Giving thanks unto the Father,” &c.
Ver. 10.—To walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:5, 11; 1 John 2:6; Rev. 3:4; Heb. 13:21); so as to please him in every way. “The end of all knowledge, the apostle would say, is conduct” (Lightfoot). Spiritual enlightenment (ver. 9) enables the Christian to walk (a Hebraism adopted also into biblical English) in a way “worthy of the Lord” (Christ, ch. 2:6; 3:24; Acts 20:19, etc.), becoming those who have such a Lord and who profess to be his servants. And to be “worthy of Christ” is to “please God” (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4, 5, 11; 1 Cor. 1:9). This is the ideal and the aim of the religious life throughout the Bible (comp. 1 Sam. 13:14; Micah 6:6–8; Heb. 11:5, 6; John 8:29; Rom. 8:8). The characteristics of this walk are set forth by three co-ordinate participial phrases (vers. 10 b–12), standing in the half-independent nominative case instead of the more regular accusative (as agreeing with the understood object of the infinitive περιπατῆσαι: see Winer’s ‘N. T. Grammar,’ p. 716: compare, for the idiom, ch. 3:16, also 2:2). In every good work bearing fruit (Eph. 4:28; Gal. 6:9, 10; 1 Thess. 5:15; 2 Thess. 2:17; 1 Tim. 5:10; Titus 3:8; Heb. 13:16; Acts 9:36). “Good work” is that which is beneficial, practically good (see parallel passages). “In every good work” might grammatically qualify the foregoing “pleasing” (so R.V. margin and many older interpreters), but appears to be parallel in position and sense with “in all power” (ver. 11). On “bearing fruit” (active in voice where the subject is personal: comp. ἐνεργέω in ch. 1:29 and in Phil. 2:13), see note to ver. 6. While doing good to his fellow-men, the Christian is growing by (or, in) the knowledge of God (ch. 2:19; Eph. 4:13–16; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Cor. 3:1, 2; 14:20; 16:13; Heb. 5:12–14). His own nature becomes larger, stronger, more complete. Here it is individual (internal) growth, in ver. 6 collective (external) growth (of the gospel, the Church) that is implied; the two are combined in Eph. 4:13–16. The dative τῇ ἐπιγώσει (so best copies and Revised Text: the Received, unto the knowledge, is a repetition of ver. 9) is “dative of instrument” (Alford, Lightfoot) rather than “of respect” (in the knowledge; so R.V.).
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Col 1:10). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 143–144). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 46–47). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 371). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.