Lesson 30


Paul's Letter to the Colossians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

4:16 When this letter has been read among you, cause it to be read also in the assembly of the Laodiceans; and that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 4:17 Tell Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you fulfill it." 4:18 The salutation of me, Paul, with my own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.


Today's Lesson 

This passage concludes Paul's letter to the Colossians. Paul gives some last minute instructions concerning the reading of this letter and then has a personal note to someone at Colossae named Archippus. He then concludes the letter, as was often his style, by writing some words in his own hand.

 

Laodicea was a city that was near Colossae. Along with Hierapolis, these three cities populated the Lycus valley in Asia Minor. When Epaphras brought the gospel to Colossae, it was easy for it to spread to the other cities in the valley as well. The church had made a firm foothold in Colossae and Laodicea by this time. We are not given much information about the situation in Hierapolis.

 

Paul apparently not only wrote this letter to the Colossians but another one to the Laodiceans as well. He tells the Colossians that after they had read this letter in their assembly, to send it on to Laodicea and allow them to read it in their assembly too. Laodicea was, in turn, instructed to forward their letter to the Colossians. In this way the churches in both cities would be aware of what Paul had written to the other and he would not need to duplicate the things that he had written to them.

 

The question might be asked, "What happened to the letter to the Laodiceans?" The most likely answer is that it has been lost over the centuries. Not everything that was written by the apostles found its way into our canon of scripture. Over his years of ministry Paul probably wrote many letters to the churches that he had a hand in founding. Especially during his first imprisonment, Paul apparently had plenty of time to write. What has been preserved might well be only a small minority of the writings of Paul. This concept would fit quite well with most theories of inspirations. The Spirit of God preserved and protected only those writings that best served the church as a whole and allowed those that were less useful to fade into obscurity.

 

The other prominent theory about the letter to the Laodiceans is that we actually have that letter preserved, though under another name. Many scholars have concluded, for one example, that the letter that we have that is titled Ephesians could not have been written to the church in that city. The letter is written without much personal information and Paul spent several years in Ephesus. It is unlikely he would have written to that city without greeting people that he knew well there. There are other scholars who feel that some of the writings that we have are actually fragments of smaller letters that have been put together. In particular, the Corinthian letters have lent themselves to this interpretation.

 

Though there is no other information that we have about this letter to the Laodiceans, I would tend to believe the former explanation. I prefer the explanation that there may have been other letters that God chose not to preserve for His own reasons. The apostles themselves are not described in scripture as being perfect people who always said and did the right thing. We are told of the great things that they did, but we are also told of the mistakes that they made along the way. There is no reasonable reason to believe that everything they wrote would have been worthy of the being preserved as sacred scripture.

 

Archippus is mentioned in the short letter of Philemon but little else is known about him other than what is mentioned here. The last thing of note in this letter is the personal note that Paul adds to the end of this letter in his own hand. It is likely that everything that had gone before had been written by Timothy. Some scholars believe that Paul may have had problems with his eyes that prevented him from writing his own letters. Whatever may be true about this, Paul obviously wanted the Colossians to know that he had written the last phrases. This may have been because the handwriting was radically different or it may have been because he wanted them to know his writing so that other people could not forge a letter under his name. Paul asks them to "Remember my bonds," which would have been another way of asking them to pray for him during his imprisonment.

 

This potent letter ends quietly with simple instructions. In this letter, we have some of the most important expressions about the significance of Jesus Christ. The last lesson in this series will be a summary of this epistle. The last advise that I would always give after studying a book like this would be to read it several times through again. This passage reminds us that these letters were meant to be read aloud in one reading. They were not originally meant to be broken up into short passages for study. We do follow this method in order to study the important concepts in depth, but having broken it down into little parts, it is important to read it through completely to reinforce that all of the parts belong to a greater whole.

 

Dear Lord, thank you for preserving this epistle so that we might continue to be enriched by its study. Thank you for inspiring Paul and the other writers of scripture with your wisdom and strength. Bless us now as we take this letter into our hearts and into the world. Amen.

 

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