- Locate the Passage
2:1-5 is connected thematically to the previous paragraph and is a continuation of it. This paragraph is part of the grounds contained in 1:15-2:5 for the exhortations to come in 2:6ff. Paul’s ministry serves as the topic of the paragraph.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
The topic of this paragraph is Paul’s ministry – specifically, his struggle on behalf of the Colossian and Laodicean church. There is a tail-head link between 1:29 and 2:1, where Paul says in 1:29 that he is “laboring” (agonizomenos) and in 2:1 that he is “struggling” (agona). 2:1 could be translated, “I want you to know I am exerting myself greatly for you” or “I want you to know I am working very hard for you.” This thematically links the two paragraphs.
2:1-5 is divided as follows. 2:1 provides the theme for the paragraph, describing Paul’s hard work in ministry for the sake of the church. Paul’s hard work is the means by which he accomplishes two purposes, both of which are given in 2:2. The first purpose Paul’s hard work accomplishes is to encourage their hearts (vs. 2a). This phrase is modified by a participle explaining the means through which this encouragement takes place: “having their hearts knit together in love.” The preposition eis in vs. 2b introduces the second purpose of Paul’s hard work: that they may have “all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ.” The pronoun in vs. 3 modifies “Christ” in vs. 2 and gives a description of Christ, that “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 2:4-5 give the intended or expected result of Paul’s hard work: that no one will deceive them with arguments that draw them away from Christ.
- Exegete the Passage
Paul uses another tail-head linkage, where “labor” in 1:29 is the tail of 1:24-29 and “struggling” (or, “working hard”) in 2:1 is the head of 2:1-5. Paul’s labor in ministry for the Colossian and Laodicean churches serve as grounds for their obedience to his commands in 2:6ff to remain faithful to Christ.
Paul elaborates on the nature of his labor mentioned in 1:29 by re-stating the fact that he is “struggling” (agona) for them (2:1). This word has the sense of strenuous exertion or “working hard,” emphasized with the addition of helikos (“how greatly”) to “I am working hard.” Paul may be referring here to the spiritual work of prayer or perhaps the work of instructing them via his letter to them, since Paul was confined to prison at the time of writing and therefore it can’t be referring to his physical presence or ministry among them. This is reinforced by his statement that his hard work is “for all who have not seen me in person.”
2:2 gives two purposes of Paul’s hard work. First, Paul works so that the hearts of the saints will be encouraged (paraklethosin). Paul’s desire is to strengthen the hearts of the believers. The participial phrase “being knit together in love” describes the means through which their hearts will be encouraged. It is by loving one another that their heart will be bonded together and the saints will experience mutual edification and encouragement. Paul sees his ministry to them as instrumental in their spiritual health and welfare. Second, Paul works so that they would possess “all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ” (vs. 2b). Paul, in his usual diplomatic fashion, is hinting here at the fact that they do not yet possess this complete understanding, a point he will make increasingly explicit in the rest of his argument in chp. 2. Paul’s goal is that they would not remain incomplete in their understanding of the mystery of the gospel, but that they would fully come to know the supremacy of Christ. Paul’s high Christology in chps. 1-2 are the antidote to the incipient heresy in the Colossian church, something he will address directly in 2:8-23.
2:3 is an expansion on Paul’s reference to “Christ” in 2:2. Paul argues that Christ is the sum of all wisdom and knowledge. This should be read polemically against the background of the Colossian heresy which contained perhaps proto-Gnostic elements which encouraged adherents to seek a higher wisdom or knowledge (see comment on 1:9). The treasure of wisdom and knowledge is found in the person of Christ alone.
The hina clause in 2:4 explains the intended or expected result of Paul’s ministry of hard work for the church. Paul is working hard so that no one will be “deceived” (paralogizomai) by persuasive arguments (pithanologia). KJV translates this memorably, “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” Paul is using his labor among them as a reason that they should not turn from what they have been taught. His is an appeal to ethos; his faithful ministry among them should motivate their faithful adherence to the gospel.
Lest someone question whether Paul indeed has among them the kind of influence that he espouses due to the fact that he isn’t with them physically, he states in 2:5 that although he is absent in body, “I am with you in spirit.” This may be an additional hint at the nature of his hard work, that his labor for them is a labor of prayer. His presence in spirit reinforces the claim he makes as one who has labored for them. There is a participial phrase at the end of 2:5 explains that Paul rejoices to see how well ordered the believers are as well as the strength of their faith in Christ. Paul deftly encourages the believers by acknowledging his expectation that indeed their faith in Christ is strong and they will doubtless follow his instructions. He is preparing them for his warning in 2:8ff not to be taken captive by the heresy present among them. While this should not be read as “sweet talking” his audience, there is nevertheless an element of diplomacy at work here. He fully expects his audience to respond positively to his message. It only helps their obedient response for him to express his confidence in the strength of their faith.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
- The hard work of ministry encourages the hearts of the saints (2:1-2a)
- The hard work of ministry entrusts to others the mystery of the gospel (2:2b-3)
- The hard work of ministry emboldens faithfulness in the church (2:4-5)