This is a series of brief comments on Paul’s New Testament Epistle to the Colossians. I hope it encourages you to study the Epistle – and all of the Bible – with great care. The more we dwell in Scripture, the richer it gets. Take the time and the rewards will be deep and refreshing. Be sure to have Colossians in front of you as you read this blog.
Paul wants the Colossians to know that he works hard on their behalf, even though he has never been to Colossae or its near neighbor Laodicea. His work for them is part of his broad ministry throughout the Roman world, a ministry which he describes in rich terms.
[I work so] 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, in whom are hidden all he treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Whew! Try to understand all that with just one reading! Before writing any of these postings, I usually translate the passage from Greek for myself. When I opened my Greek NT to this passage, I did so with the confidence that Paul’s original language would be clearer than the translations. Hmm, didn’t work that way. Ever try walking through a patch of quicksand?
But let’s dig in. Just because the text stretches us doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort.
First, we see his goal: the encouragement of their hearts. That, of course, is exactly what this letter is intended to do as Paul encourages the Colossians to persevere in their devotion to Jesus Christ. The word translated “encouraged” is parakaleo, which can be translated as encourage, comfort, advocate. In the Gospel of John, this is Jesus’ word for the Holy Spirit. Here it is a hint of where the sentence is going: We are to be an encouragement to one another.
Second, the encouragement comes from the hearts of the Colossian Christians being united, knit together in love. It is not my faith alone which makes me strong, not your faith alone which makes you strong. Our strength lies in the loving communion we share in Christ, believing on each other’s behalf.
Third, this mutual encouragement leads us to a deep sense of wealth as we revel in all the riches that await us in Christ as we grow in clear and certain understanding and insight. This does NOT mean that we learn lots of cliches and pat answers. This is not a matter of seeing some truisms but seeing into them, having inisght.
Fourth, this mutual encouragement leads us also to an ever-growing knowledge of Christ himself. As we share Christ’s love, we find we are sharing Christ’s heart. And as loving one another leads us to knowing one another deeply, so we find that loving one another leads us to knowing Christ more deeply. We cannot emphasize enough that the New Testament – like the Old Testament – speaks more often of shared faith rather than individual, private faith. “Private” Christianity is a modern contradiction in terms. We are who we are together.
Fifth, in Christ we find the hidden secrets of wisdom and understanding. At its heart, the secret revealed in the coming of Christ is simply Christ himself, the hope of glory as Paul said in 1:26-27. But in Christ we discover a whole world of treasures, all part of wisdom and understanding or (more literally) wisdom and knowledge. We ought never to forget this trio of mutually dependent ideas: wisdom is built on understanding which is built on knowledge. And those who are wise are motivated to gain more and more knowledge, thus feeding the cycle.
Our thirst for knowledge and understanding and wisdom ought to spread as broadly as possible, though time and ability do limit us. We should value and learn about trees and history and theology and art and trout, about philosophy and psychology and music and . . .on and on and on, ever hungry for more knowledge. We are currently in a phase in our country when ignorance is being touted by some as a virtue. We should fight this with all our energy.
The center, however, of all knowledge is our knowledge of Jesus Christ. Remember what Paul said in 1:17, that in Christ “all things hold together.” Jesus Christ is the focal point of all God has revealed about himself and the focal point of all we can know about the universe, ourselves included.
Want to be rich? Then revel in the treasure chests of knowledge and wisdom to be found in Christ Jesus. You will be wealthy beyond measure, rich in joy and peace and love.