In this passage we see the apostle Paul fulfilling the stewardship the Lord gave him to be a shepherd over the Gentile churches. Paul loved the Lord, and he loved the Lord’s people. It seeps out of his words in this passage.

He says in verse one: “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those in Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face.” The word for struggle literally means he agonizes over these people. Paul is in prison as he writes this; a Roman prison. It isn’t exactly a resort with comfortable accommodations.

Nevertheless, Paul is not agonizing over if and when he will get out of prison. His heart is focused on people he has never met; Christians who have begun well in the faith, but who face great challenges to their faith. He worries over the detrimental effects false teaching may have on them, how the tribulations they face will impact their faith, and many other things.

Paul is singularly concerned over what can be summarized simply: that Christ is formed in them, and they evidence the fruit of that union. Paul may be chained in a dark, damp, hard stone prison cell, but he truly lives when he hears of Christians loving Christ (and each other).

Paul knows that if the Christian eyes Christ rightly he can endure all things. He is crucified with Christ. He has taken up his cross to follow Christ. He can justly rejoice in all afflictions, even though they are painful at the time. They are very little compared to his sin. The Lord of glory suffered terribly on the cross so that we would be his now and forever.

When we lose sight of Christ crucified for us, it leads to vanity or fear; or both. Pride is equated with blindness in the Scripture, and is the root of all manner of sin. The fear of God gives wisdom, but the fear of anything below him compromises our faith. Paul mentions three things that he longs to impart to Christians. 

The first is encouragement. He says he desires that “their hearts may be encouraged.” Who doesn’t need encouragement? This world is full of trouble. People live for the moment, because it is all they have. It isn’t so for the Christian. He has the promises of God. They are eternal.

No doubt Paul’s concern was an encouragement for the Christians in Colossae. They could easily trace his help to them from the throne of Christ. Christ had called and appointed Paul. Christ had given the church this gift of a self-less apostle; a messenger from the Lord himself. How Paul longed for Christians to see beyond all gifts to the Giver, and be encouraged.

Paul also longed to see Christians “knit together in love.” You see how good the Lord is: his chief requirement for you to be a soul of love. Ironically, it is only when we see how devoid we are of this grace that we can begin to exercise it. When we see the necessity of Christ’s death, then we become a seed that falls to the ground and takes root.

We know it is required of the Christian that he has love. There is no evidence of faith outside of selflessness and love. I am not a very good landscaper of my yard. But if I have a bush in the beds around the house that is dead, I will pull it up. The Lord Jesus cannot endure a barren tree. Paul warns of this directly or indirectly in all his letters to the churches.

Another thing Paul wants to impart to Christians is to see the riches of knowing Christ. He speaks of the “riches of full assurance” and that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” What can be richer treasure than knowing the love of God? Love sent Christ into the world, put him to death, and made him an offering for sin. All the providences of God for the Christian flow from the love of God. 

The treasures of most men are perishing. They are earthly. The Christian is to be heavenly minded; to wait on the day of the Lord. Our treasure is not here, but with the Lord. The apostle is telling the Christian to rejoice over an incorruptible treasure; knowing Christ. It is in him we become truly rich and truly prosper.