By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Colossians 2.1-5
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the letter of Colossians in conjunction with this article.
Comforting Words from the Unseen
We all seem to experience unsettling moments in our life. Moments that seem to make us question the very convictions that we hold. Some of those moments are beneficial because they force us to re-examine long-held beliefs that may in fact need to be re-thought and re-structured. But when we have come to place our trust in the unseen, what some call “a leap of faith,” it can still be a struggle to remain convinced of truths.
Having Not Seen
Consider, for example, a parental relationship. A father or a mother spends valuable time with their child. The child later matures to an age where they can truly appreciate the sacrifices of the father and/or mother and longs to speak and spend time with them. But through the course of life, either father or mother succumbs to life’s end. All personal interactions are forever in the past, but the comfort is that while father and/or mother are unseen, they can still provide a comfort to the child.
From Colossians 2.1 we can see that at the time of the epistle, those at Colossae had never actually seen Paul. Yet, we can see from verse two, that Paul desires to be of comfort to them, and not just Colossae, but those in Laodicea, and anyone else that had never seen him, which includes you and me. But the comfort that Paul wants to convey directly relates to the disciple’s ability to remain faithful. While they may never have and we certainly have never seen Paul, his words regarding trust in the Good News can be ever valuable to us.
It is from verse five that we can see that Paul is, for us, truly “absent in the flesh” but he is with us “in the spirit”. There is no doubt that Paul is also part of the cloud of witnesses1 that the Hebrew writer speaks of as encouraging the believers to continue toward the goal. Paul states that he, while absent, “rejoices as [he sees] the disciplined and resolute firmness of [our] trust in the Messiah.”2 This is the kind of comfort that our example alluded to earlier. Parents have the power to provide comfort and reassurance, even when passed from this life, especially when the parent has expressed such comforting words prior to their earthly departure.
Comfort from the Unseen
Reassuring words are always welcomed. But let us not think that the words spoken by Paul are just a win-one-for-the-Gipper type speech. Paul’s words are very specific.
In verse two, Paul wants the hearts,3 both the emotional and intellectual parts of us, to be comforted and then to be knit together in love. Comfort like the comfort a parent would give to a child and knit together by the threads of love. While comfort and emotional reassurance are valuable, Paul does not neglect the intellectual needs of the believer.
From the remainder of verse two all the way through verse four Paul is trying to give intellectual comfort to the believer. Paul unequivocally states that intellectual reassurance is found in the understanding and acknowledging of the mystery found in God, the Father, and in Messiah. Paul provides reassurance to believers that treasures of both wisdom and knowledge reside in God, the Father, and in Messiah. Christian discipled faith is not a touchy-feely only kind of life. Becoming a believer is not done because of a “leap of faith” it is accomplished by dedicated mental astuteness toward trusting in Jehovah.
While not seemingly comforting, Paul does provide one additional detail and that is a consolation of warning. There are those, both believers and non-believers, who would seek to beguile (deceive) believers in God and Messiah with enticing words (meaning persuasive speech). There are plenty of people who would like to create doubt in a believer’s trust and create suspicion of convictions. But as believers, let us be mindful that our adversary is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour4 and some of that demolition of faith comes through intellectual discourse.
Comforting words from parents that encourage steadfast and faithful trust in Jesus are powerful, but they are not the only ones who care for us. What a great comfort it is to have one such as Paul, a chosen Apostle, to provide words of comfort to us as 21st century believers. As we walk through this barren land, we can see many problems – problems in the world and problems in the church. But even though they are there and will remain, it is my prayer and hope that my words and yours will be an encouragement to those around us to remain faithful. May the Lord grant us the wisdom to speak such encouraging words.
- Cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12.1
- Translation of Colossians 2.5b from the Complete Jewish Bible
- Hebrew Culture does not bifurcate the emotions from the intellect, they are considered unified. Consider the Hebrew foundational statement in Deuteronomy 6.5 and the Gospel rendering for the Gentiles in Mark 12.30.
- I Peter 5.8