Overview of Verses 1-5
We have arrived at the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It is important to note: when this letter was written in the middle of the 1st century AD, there were no chapter or verse numbers. In fact:
1. Chapters did not appear in biblical manuscripts until 1227 AD.
2. Verses did not appear in biblical manuscripts until 1541 AD.
Verses 1-5 contain the second part of Paul’s introduction to the church (1:24-2:5). The apostle wants the believers in the Lycus Valley to understand that he is struggling on their behalf in prayer (2:1). Paul’s prayer is that the community would be united by their love. He wants the church to be a community where believers are encouraged and growing in their knowledge of Christ (2:2-3), so they will not be deluded by the plausible arguments of the false teachers (2:4). Paul informs the Colossians he is present with them in spirit and happy to see that they have remained faithful to Jesus (2:5).
Break it Down: Verse-by-Verse (ESV)
v1: “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,”
Paul wants the Colossians to know that even though he has never personally met them or the Laodicean Christians, he is currently struggling greatly in his efforts to help them. The struggle Paul is referring to here is prayer. The word translated here as struggle is the Greek word ἀγῶναn (agōna). It is from agōna that we get our English word agony. Paul uses a form of this word to describe Epaphras’ prayers for the Colossians (4:12).
May we follow the examples of Paul and Epaphras, and be willing to agonize in a wrestling match as we pray and intercede for the people of God.
v2-3a: “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,”
Paul paints a beautiful picture here of Christian community; the apostle prays that the church would be knit together in love. Just as many different pieces of fabric are knit together to form a single garment, God’s people should be united by their love.
A church that is mature in its walk with Jesus is a community that is united by a common love of God and neighbor. Unity is critical to accomplishing the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20); the night before his death, Jesus prayed that his people “…may all be one… so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21 ESV).
In a faithful Christian community, believers find their hearts encouraged as they gather to be reminded of God’s love and their part to play in his mission. A church united in love is also a church that is continually growing in their understanding of Christ, whom Paul refers to as God’s mystery.
v3b: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Paul uses two keywords that his opponents use a lot in their teachings: wisdom and knowledge. The false teachers claim to have the ability to impart hidden spiritual truths.
This sort of false teaching has crept up several times in church history; false prophets through the ages have accused the church of removing plain and precious parts of the truth. The false teachers often claim that through their new teachings, a person can have access to secret spiritual knowledge. Paul is clear: all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ. We do not need to look anywhere else. When we have Jesus, we have everything we need.
v4: “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.”
False teachings are often clever distortions of the truth that present themselves as reasonable ideas, as plausible arguments. For this reason, the church must be united, encouraged, and have an accurate understanding of Jesus.
v5: For though I am absent in body, I am present in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”
Though he is in shackles in a distant prison, Paul is present in spirit with the Colossians through his prayers. The apostle rejoices that these sheep have not been devoured by the vicious wolves that surround them and have remained faithful to Christ.
~Father, we want to follow in the footsteps of the Colossians and remain faithful to Christ through our trials. Help us trust that he is all we need. We pray to become a people that encourages one another, continually growing in our understanding of Jesus. Knit us together in the love of Christ, so that the world will believe that you sent him. Amen.
This post is the seventh in our series on Colossians.
Previous Post: The Hope of Glory: Colossians 1:24-29 (https://theologyforreallife.home.blog/2019/09/05/the-hope-of-glory-colossians-124-29/)
Next Post: Let No One Take You Captive: Colossians 2:6-15 ( https://theologyforreallife.home.blog/2019/11/03/let-no-one-take-you-captive-colossians-26-15/ )
Bible Hub – Greek Concordance: ἀγῶναn (https://biblehub.com/greek/ago_na_73.htm)
Bible Hub – Interlinear: Colossians 2:1 (https://biblehub.com/interlinear/colossians/2-1.htm)
Bible Hub – Interlinear: Colossians 4:12 (https://biblehub.com/interlinear/colossians/2-1.htm)
The Bible Project – Overview: Colossians https://youtu.be/pXTXlDxQsvc
The Naked Bible Podcast – Colossians (https://nakedbiblepodcast.com)
St. John Chrysostom – Homilies on Colossians (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2303.htm)
N.T. Wright – Colossians and Philemon: Tyndale New Testament Commentary (https://bit.ly/2Houfit)
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible – Colossians (https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/colossians/)