As I have written here before, we’ve been going through an inductive study of Colossians in our High School Sunday School class. I lay out the concordances, commentaries, and theologies on the tables, and we walk through the verses, step by step. The goal is to help the high schoolers read and understand the Bible, and study it for themselves. They are also getting familiar with the tools, and learning what question to ask.
Once in awhile, we really see the light come on in the heads of the kids, and this past week, we had another one of those moments. We were covering 2:1-5, and Paul begins the passage talking about how he wants the Colossians to know the great struggle that he has for them. Paul’s struggles and tribulations weren’t news to them, but he wanted them to know why he struggled, which he explains in 1:28-29, saying that he desires them to presented mature in Christ.
As a side note, it is interesting to note the use of a pronoun in verse 29. Paul isn’t trying to be noble and self-promoting, but says that he struggles with God’s energy, not his own. Paul says he is struggling, toiling, growing weary, while he is striving with HIS energy.
But WHY does Paul want them to know the struggle that he has? So that their hearts may be encouraged, like their hearts being knit together. He wants them to know that he is experiencing these trials, he is enduring them, why he struggling, so that they will be encouraged. When they are falling into trials and tribulations, they know that Paul endured great trials, but not because he was a great, strong guy, but because God’s power is working through him. Paul knows that trials lay ahead of them, if they are not already enduring them.
But there is some interesting language used at the end of the passage that brings it all together. Paul tells them that he rejoices to see their good order adn the firmness of their faith in Christ. Upon some study, one of the students was excited to see that these the first word was often used as a military term. “The word described the orderly line of soldiers, without ragged sections or breaks.” Then the second term, stability, “comes from a word that is used to describe something as firm, stiff, strong, or solid. It can depict a castle or bulwark.” (“Studies in Colossians and Philemon” by Homer A. Kent Jr.)
Paul’s message seems to be clear. The trials and tribulations that he has faced was not a unique situation for a believer, and that those believers, too, would face opposition. The nearest opposition was this heresy that Paul continues to address. It is mostly assumed to be a form of gnosticism. But Paul is not worried about the well-fare of this small church. He knew they were standing strong, ready to face an opponent that would challenge its very foundation, Jesus Christ. Their faith would be tested through false teaching, but Paul knew that they were knit together in love, founded in true doctrine, and would stand as one unit, against the enemy.