For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
As I read this passage, it made me wonder if Paul could have done with ‘Zoom’ or its equivalents to make contact with his churches, here he refers to those who he has not seen face to face. He could well have done with social media to see the people face to face.
The Colossian Church was not one that he knew personally, neither did he know other churches in the Lycus valley, including Laodicea, but he wants to encourage them, and he writes to them with an attitude of affection. He is seeking to build links with this Christian community that he has not met. The church was made up of Christians converted by Paul’s friends and colleagues.
They are to be bound together as a community showing mutual love, and it is in this loving community that they are to gain knowledge of the mystery that is above every mystery, this is God’s purpose disclosed in Christ..
Earlier the letter Paul indicated that he was praying and asking that they would be filled with God’s knowledge and all spiritual wisdom. Such treasures are hidden in Christ. To be hidden in Christ does not mean that they are hidden from all understanding, but that they are only known through understanding Christ.
Paul remains anxious that they are not misled by those with plausible arguments. They are to be careful of those with rational arguments, which are plausible but unsound.
Paul may not have seen the Colossian Christians face to face, he may not have lived in the generation of ‘Zoom’ but he is with them in spirit and he is confident in the strength of their faith.
Paul wants to be involved with these Christians he has not met, he wants them to be open to the message that he teaches and which will only thrive in a community drawn together in love.
Gracious God We are part of the Church, Existing throughout the world, A few members we know, But many millions we do not.
Though we have not seen each other face to face Like Paul, Let us be filled with concern for each other,
In our separate communities, And as communities together May we bound together in love, And may we gain the treasures of wisdom and knowledge Hidden in Christ, In whose name we pray. Amen
The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership