“I want you to know what a strenuous battle I am fighting for you, for those at Laodicea, and for all who do not know me personally, that their hearts may be encouraged as they are closely united by love. How I long for you to possess the full wealth of wisdom derived from spiritual illumination so that you may fully comprehend the Father’s mystery: Christ Himself. In Him alone are found all the hidden treasures of divine insight and knowledge. I write this lest anyone mislead and deceive you through persuasive arguments. Though I am not there with you in person, I am with you in spirit, delighted to learn of your harmony and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. Since you have received Christ Jesus as your Lord you must continue to live in vital union with Him. May you persevere and draw spiritual nourishment from Him as you grow and become stronger in the truth you have been taught, overflowing with faith and gratitude.” (2:1-7, paraphrased)
Paul transitions from the preeminence of Christ in the ministry to the need for His prominence in the life of individuals. Even though he has not met the Colossians, his burden for their welfare depicts a close affinity with them. The apostle provides reasons for the church to be on guard against the seductive philosophies being propagated by false teachers. Paul agonizes (agona) over the danger to which the Colossian Christians are exposed. Agona is defined as strenuous exertion due to a struggle. His inner turmoil no doubt includes wrestling for them in prayer.
The divine call upon Paul’s life to reach the Gentiles explains his concern for all the churches in the Lycus Valley (Eph. 2:2). Apparently many souls have been won for Christ in that area, for the neighboring cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea are mentioned toward the close of the letter (4:13). It is possible the churches there were also visited by the Gnostics (4:15-16). Being exposed to these heresies may have contributed to the attitude the Laodiceans later develop which brands them as “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16).
Paul’s stated goal is to bring the Colossians to full maturity in Christ (1:28). He encourages them to knit their hearts together in love, for close personal fellowship is vital to the health of any church. Paul understands spiritual knowledge is properly imparted only within the context of Christian love. He realizes the unifying power of God’s Spirit in a church is the best insurance against the influence of heretical teachers. To be “knit together” (sumbibasthentes) means “to instruct in love.” Their unity helps them reinforce their interest in the priceless mystery of God the Father and His Son.
Gnostics see knowledge as an end in itself and speak of “unsolvable spiritual mysteries,” but Paul wants the Colossians have a settled conviction rather than speculative philosophical theories. He desires they will have both a spiritual and an intellectual grasp of the mystery of Christ. Obtaining “complete knowledge” (epignosos) depends on an experiential association with Jesus, for no one can understand God’s wisdom apart from a personal relationship with Him.
In Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. “Hid” (apokruphoi) is also a popular term among the Gnostics when referring to secret esoteric writings. The English term apocrypha is derived from this word and is defined by Webster as that which is “counterfeit, spurious, or fictitious.” Although Catholics add fourteen apocryphal books to their Bible, Protestants reject them as non-canonical. The true knowledge of Christ is not “hidden” in the doctrines of any cult or denomination. The Gospel message is concealed only until discovered by hungry hearts, for Christ promises to be found by all who seek Him (Lk. 11:9).
Paul compares Jesus to a mine of wealth from which wonderful treasures are extracted by those willing to dig (I Pet. 1:18-19). Whereas “wisdom” refers to spiritual insight, “understanding” means to comprehend spiritual truth. The apostle combines these two terms to show all true wisdom and understanding have Christ as their source.
Paul hopes to protect the Colossians from the beguiling (paralogizomai) and persuasive arguments of the Gnostics. Paralogizomai means “to delude, cheat, or deceive by false reasoning, or intriguing arguments.” These deceptions come through “enticing words.” Paul lives in an era when rhetoricians are considered more trustworthy than uneducated men. Although Paul is highly educated, he always relies on the Holy Spirit to validate truth (I Cor. 2:1-5). Though heretical teachings appeal to the ego, speculative theories springing from human wisdom are misleading and detrimental.
It is not unusual for Paul to feel affection for Believers he has not met. For example, he regards himself as present with the Corinthian Christians while he is residing in Ephesus (I Cor. 5:3). Paul’s concern for the Colossians is so great, he writes as if he is physically there with them. He rejoices as he “beholds” (blepon) their increasing faith. Blepon describes thoughtful observation rather than a passing glance.
He knows of their “order and steadfastness.” “Order” (taxin) is a military metaphor referring to an orderly band of disciplined soldiers. “Steadfastness” (stereoma) is another military term which means keeping a solid, unbroken front before the enemy. Paul sees the Colossians as a strong army whose line of defense remains unbroken.
The continuing spiritual progress of the Colossians is based on their initial salvation experience. They have not merely accepted a doctrine but have entered into a living relationship with the Son of God. The full title of “Christ Jesus the Lord” leaves no doubt about the absolute sufficiency of the truth they have received. But having received Him as Lord they must live their lives accordingly. The concept of “walking” (peripateo) is a familiar metaphor in Pauline literature. His use of the term conveys the idea of patient consistency in the faith, despite temptations and discouragement.
Paul’s goal is to see his converts firmly established in the faith. “Rooted” (errizomenoi) suggests faith must be deeply planted in the good soil of sound doctrine in order to produce fruit.
It is not unusual for Paul to mix his metaphors. From the growth of a plant he switches to the “building up” of a structure. He uses this same combination of metaphors when he writes to the Corinthians several years earlier (I Cor. 3:9). Just as Jesus is the life of a plant, He is also the mortar that holds a building together. To be “established” (bebaioo) in the faith means “to make firm.” As a present participle, bebaioo denotes ongoing continual action. They are constantly “being established” as they move progressively forward from their initial experience in Christ to an even stronger relationship with Him.
Paul specifies the doctrine they must cling to is the one they were originally taught. He knows the Colossians will excel as they abound (perisseuo) in gratitude to God, a familiar topic throughout this epistle (1:3, 2:7, 1:12, 3:15, 3:17, & 4:2). The Colossians are encouraged to express thanksgiving, live in vital union with Christ, and ignore the eloquent oratories of the Gnostics.
Points to Ponder
1. According to Ephesians 4:3, what unites Believers?
2. According to Ephesians 4:13, what other common element binds us together?
3. Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae are all located in what valley?
4. What does Paul refer to as a “great mystery” (Ephesians 5:2)?
5. What is the only way to gain divine wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30)?
6. Paul’s goal is to see the Colossians “deeply rooted” in the faith. According to Jesus, why is this so important (Matthew 13:6)?
7. How does Jesus illustrate spiritual growth in John 15:1-6?
8. Paul always seeks to protect his churches from false teachers. How does he describe his burden for the church at Philippi (Philippians 3:17-18)?