1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The passion and love Paul has for fellow believers leap from the page. He describes his feelings as “struggle” or “conflict”. This continues the theme from previous verses, using the verb "agōna" ἀγῶνα (to engage in an intense physical or nonphysical struggle) from which we get the word agonizing. This is the verb used to describe Jesus' agony during the Passion. The word would also be applied to someone striving mightily in an athletic event, beating their body into submission to do whatever it takes to win. Now although I am competitive, I am no athlete. My husband would be a better example here. No matter how bad his knee, hip, or plantar fasciitis are bothering him, he does not notice the pain during a tennis match. He may come home and collapse in a writhing heap of agony, but during the match his focus is so singularly focused on the match, the opponent, and the goal of winning that the pain never enters his mind.
This must be how Paul felt much of the time. He endured beatings, shipwreck, ridicule, and imprisonment, but he kept his focus on the goal set before him. Knowing that we should probably mirror his passion and goals, let us look at the reasons for his struggle.
- for all those who have not personally seen my face - Paul's emotion is not personal love for friends and family, he is in agony over members of the body that he has never even met! We should have the kind of passion that brings us to our knees for believers around the world, especially those who struggle in persecution or are waging spiritual warfare.
- that their hearts may be encouraged (or strengthened) – the Hebrew idea for “heart” did not signify emotions as we would use it today. A Hebrew would use the word “bowels” as the seat of emotions. (Think “gut feeling”.) For Paul “heart” would indicate the seat of thought. So Paul is in agony that the believers at Colossae may be intellectually weak enough to believe the false doctrine and unable to refute it. We should be alert for believers in error about Scripture and willing to lovingly correct them. This does not mean we should argue about minor doctrines, but we should know the important doctrines of our faith well enough to refute false teaching with Scripture.
- knit together in love – I’m a failure as a knitter, but my friends who do knit can take simple thread and knot it together into beautiful creations. What creates this unity that knots believers together? Love! I can’t help but carry the imagery further and say that when part of the thread unravels it can cause an entire creation to fall apart or at least lose some of its beauty and effectiveness. Just so we have the responsibility to strengthen the bonds of love within the body of Christ and fight against anything that would weaken our being “one in the bond of love”.
- attaining… full assurance of understanding – in contrast to the false teachers who proposed that only certain people could possess the treasures of secret wisdom, Paul writes that the true treasure of wisdom and knowledge comes from faith in and understanding of Christ Jesus. Although some modern writers are wonderful, we must be careful that the majority of our time and effort are spent on reading and applying Jesus’ words rather than the latest self help guru or Christian writer. There is no need to search for deeper meaning elsewhere; you could study and apply Christ’s teaching for a lifetime and never exhaust the depth of material!
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! - Romans 11:33