Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae is another of his “prison epistles” (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Like the church in Rome, Paul did not plant this church but was planted by his “beloved fellow servant,” Epaphras, a shortened form of the name “Epaphroditus,” though scholars cannot tell if this is the same man mentioned in Philippians 2:25. The Colossian church was located in the Lycus Valley in southwest Asian Minor (modern-day Turkey) along with churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13-17). And like Paul’s letter to the Philippians, this letter too is filled with warmth.
The problem at Colossae seems to be that some there were toying with ideas that were “in the air” concerning angels, principalities, and powers—an invisible realm which one could penetrate with some secret knowledge and ascetical practice. Scholars debate its origin, be it Jewish or pagan, but that need not detain us. We will concern ourselves with Paul’s answer to this creeping heresy which was that Christ Jesus was all the Colossians will ever need; he is the fullness of God, the revelation of God, who has conquered all other claimants to worship. It was a dangerous heresy with temptations to idolatry and the accompanying self-abasement that always follows idolatry.
Still, Paul begins this letter as usual with love acknowledging the grace of God that had been shown the saints at Colossae and the ongoing work that grace was accomplishing through them. Paul greets the church with “grace and peace,” as believers should ever greet one another. He references the love the church has for all the saints and notes that such love is “because of the hope laid up for [them] in heaven.” It is the knowledge of our heavenly reward which frees us to love others as we understand that this world has nothing in it over which believers need bargain or fight. As aliens in this world, Christians see the things of this world as mere trinkets compared to the glory that shall one day be revealed to and in us. And this love is especially shared among the saints as those who shall one day live together in that eternal kingdom.
The older we grow, the more we love God’s people and the more we yearn for that other world. Allow that love and yearning to help you slough off the sin which so easily besets and to be the witness that God would have you be. Be the “Epaphras” that the gospel may continue to bear fruit throughout the world.