3. A perspective on gospel ministry, 1:24-2:5

ii] Paul's spiritual struggle


Paul wants his readers to know that in his ministry he continues to struggle against dedicated opponents. When it comes to the believers at Colossae and Laodicea, his struggle is for believers he has never personally met, but he is willing to struggle on in ministry for their strengthening and edification that they might fully understand what it means to be a believer. To this end, Paul writes so that his readers are able to stand against the wiles of heresy. Paul may not be able to personally minister to the Colossian believers, but he is fully involved with them at a distance and rejoices to hear that the church is firm in its faith.


i] Context: See 1:1-2. Moule argues that the letter proper, Paul's theological argument, begins at 2:3, others at 2:1, but it seems best taken to begin at 2:6, so Dunn, Moo, O'Brien, .... The passage before us seems integrally linked to 1:24-29 and so concludes the introductory section of the letter.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Paul's spiritual struggles in ministry:

The object of Paul's concern, v1;

The purpose of Paul's concerns, v2-3;

The reason for Paul's concerns, v4-5.



Pokorny suggests a chiastic structure covering 1:24-2:5.

Rejoice (cairw)..... flesh (sarx), 1:24

make known ... riches ... mystery, 1:27

contend, 1:29

contending, 2:1

knowledge ... riches .... mystery, 2:2

delight (cairw) .... body (sarx), 2:5.


iv] Interpretation:

In 2:1-5, Paul continues to speak of his gospel ministry, but with particular reference to the Colossians. Even though he does not know them personally, he does strive for them and the church at Laodicea, v1. He does this so that they may be strengthened and encourage to understand the mystery, which is Christ, v2, the font of wisdom, v3. The purpose of this ministry-focus is so that the Colossians will not be led astray by false teaching, v4. Paul may not be physically present with them, but in spirit he is by their side and is warmed by the steadfastness of their faith, v5.


A number of key themes emerge from this passage:

*The mystery: Paul defines "the mystery", that secret now revealed in the gospel, as "Christ in you", or simply "Christ". Moo suggests that this letter presents a unique view of the mystery. It is certainly often argued that the mystery, particularly as it is revealed in Ephesians, is "believing Jews and Gentiles untied into one body", Hoehner. Yet, this is unlikely. The genitive tou Cristou in Eph.3:4 is likely to be epexegetic, "the mystery which is all about Christ", "the unsearchable riches of Christ" which are found "in Christ." By extension, the Gentiles being heirs with the Israel of those unsearchable riches. So, when it comes to the mystery, both Colossians and Ephesians are on the same page.

*Suffering: While encouraging the Colossians to stand firm for the gospel, Paul makes a point of highlighting "the extent to which his proclamation of the gospel involves suffering (1:24) and struggle (1:29, 2:1)", Moo.

*By articulating God's eternal purpose, Paul provides the motivation for "staying the course."

*Throughout 1:24-2:5 there is an abundance of words related to wisdom; "knowledge", "know", "wisdom", "understanding." It's as if the false teachers in Colossae see themselves as possessing a superior truth. Paul's response is to proclaim that all wisdom is found in Christ; in him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge", 2:3.


Greek: The passage before us consists of three sentences. The first sentence covers v1-3, the second, v4, and the third v5. Paul initially states that he is struggling for the Colossians, he is on their side. In v2 the iJna clause provides the purpose / goal of his struggle, namely that they may understand the mystery that consists of Christ. The relative clause in v3, en wJ/ ...., expands the mystery which is Christ. The purpose, iJna + subj., for Paul's explanation is provided in v4, namely that the Colossians will not be deluded by plausible arguments. The final verse rests on two attendant circumstance participles, carwn kai blepwn, probably functioning as a hendiadys, "rejoicing to see." Paul may not attend the Colossian church, but he is still fully involved with them and rejoices at their firm faith.

Text - 2:1

Paul's commitment to the Colossians, v1-5. i] The object of Paul's concern, v1. To further the bond between himself and his Colossian readers, Paul states that, although he does not personally minister to them, he contends for them in a spiritual battle, eg., in writing this letter.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, possibly emphatic, or simply as a stitching device as Paul moves to a more personal illustration; note how he moves from "we" to "I".

eidenai (oida) perf. inf. "to know" - [i want you] to know. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul "wants, wills", namely, .....

agwna (wn wnoV) "[how hard I am] contending" - [how great] a struggle, a contest [i have]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to have". "I want you to know the intensity of my efforts for you", Barclay.

uJper + gen. "for [you]" - Here expressing advantage; "for your benefit / for your sake."

twn gen. art. "those [in Laodicea]" - [and] the ones [in laodicea]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the preposition phrase "in Laodicea" into a substantive, "the ones in Laodicea" = "those who reside in Laodicea."

oJsoi pro. "[and for] all who [have not met me]" - [and for] as many as [have not seen]. The pronoun serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to see", "the many who / all those who"; "and all the others who", Moule.

en + dat. "personally" - [the face of me] in [flesh]. Local, space + "my face" = "face-to-face", "personally".


ii] The purpose of Paul's concerns, v2-3. Paul strives for believers he does not know personally because he wants them to come to a full understanding of gospel truth.

iJna + subj. "my purpose is that / my goal is that" - that [the hearts of them may be encouraged]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that." That their hearts be encouraged refers to the comfort of their inner being, so simply "that they may be comforted."

sumbibasqenteV (sumbibazw) aor. pas. part. "and united [in love]" - having been advised / having been united together. The second sense, "united together", "welded together", Moule, is more widely accepted, so Bruce, Louse, Moo, ..., but O'Brien argues for the first sense, "being instructed in love." If the second sense is adopted, the participle becomes somewhat unclear, being nominative in agreement with what? Probably best taken as ad sensum, a construction according to the sense, nominative in agreement with an assumed autoi, those Paul is writing to. With the second sense the participle it usually classified as modal. If the first sense is adopted, "being instructed in love", the participle is attendant on the verb "to be encouraged" and thus a second element in the iJna clause expressing purpose; "My purpose is that they may be strengthened in heart and instructed in love", O'Brien.

en + dat. "in [love]" - If the attendant participle takes the sense "welded together" the preposition is instrumental, "welded together by love", if the sense is "instructed", the preposition could take a number of meanings: local, expressing sphere, adverbial, manner, or reference / respect, or accompaniment. How does a person instruct someone "in love"? Is it "instruct them into the art of love", or "lovingly instruct them", or "instruct them about love"? And what "love" has Paul in mind? Is it the love of God in Christ, his loving mercy? It is very easy to over analyze a person's words and so when Paul speaks of encouraging the heart and instructing in love he is probably just trying to express a simple desire; "I want you encouraged and strengthened in your Christian walk, and instructed in everything there is to know about God's love in Christ."

eiV ..... eiV + acc. "so that ...... in order that ...." - [and] to. The preposition here expresses either purpose / end-view, or result, possibly as NIV, result and then purpose, or better result and result. Paul's instruction of the Colossians will result in their "complete understanding", and thus their knowledge of "the mystery."

thV plhroforiaV (a) gen. "[full riches] of complete" - [all wealth] of full assurance, complete certainty / fulness. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "wealth", possibly attributive, as NIV, or epexegetic, a wealth "which consists of a conviction of understanding", so Moule.

thV sunesewV (iV ewV) gen. "understanding" - of understanding. The genitive here is usually treated as verbal, subjective; "a conviction that is brought about by understanding", Harris, also Moule; "the full wealth of conviction that understanding brings", REB.

eiV + acc. "in order that" - to, into = resulting in. See eiV above. If Paul were adding to what he had already said he would use kai, but in again using eiV he is probably restating what he has just said, even explaining it. So, his words are virtually appositional; "resulting in complete understanding, namely, the knowledge of the mystery of God, of Christ."

tou musthriou (on) gen. "[they may know] the mystery" - [knowledge] of the mystery. For "the mystery", see 1:26. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective, "the knowledge about / concerning / toward the mystery." The epi prefix to gnwsiV, "knowledge" is intensive = "full knowledge"; "a full wealth of conviction concerning the mystery."

tou qeou, Cristou gen. "of God, namely, Christ" - of god, christ. Variants abound, but Metzger holds that this reading "is plainly to be preferred." The genitive "of God" is possibly adjectival, possessive, "God's mystery", but better taken as epexegetic, specifying the content of the mystery, "a mystery which is all about God." The addition of Cristou, "of Christ", has prompted endless speculation, as well as endless textual variants. The NIV takes it as adjectival, epexegetic, so "namely, Christ." The mystery = Christ. This seems unlikely. What is more likely is that it stands in apposition to "God"; "a full wealth of conviction concerning the mystery which is all about God, actually, all about Christ."


On the subject of divine knowledge Paul makes the point that "the whole of God's revelation of himself is contained in Christ, and (so by implication) that the truth about God should not be sought anywhere else but in Christ", Pfitzner.

en + dat. "in" - in [whom]. Local, expressing space / metaphorical - incorporative union. The antecedent is "Christ", not "mystery", so "in whom"; "in Christ are hidden all (God's) stores of wisdom and knowledge", Moule. Harris suggests a slight causal sense and this may well be present; "for it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge", Phillips.

apokrufoi adj. "[are] hidden" - [are all the] hidden [treasures, treasury]. Linked to the verb-be eisin, so "are hidden" = "lie hidden", REB; "in whom there is stored up (eisen, "there is), hidden from sight, ...", Cassirer.

panteV adj. "all" - all. Serving with "treasures" as the subject of the verb to-be. "All without exception", Harris; "the whole treasury", Cassirer.

thV sofiaV (a) gen. "of wisdom" - of wisdom [and knowledge]. The genitive, as with gnwsewV, "knowledge", is adjectival, idiomatic / content, a treasure which consists of divine wisdom and knowledge; "the whole treasury of God's wisdom and knowledge", Cassirer. Many have followed Lightfoot by proposing that Paul is alluding to the false teaching of gnosticism and it's hidden knowledge. To counter this Paul argues that knowledge is only found in Christ. Yet, as Moo points out, Paul's language is naturally descriptive; a treasure is always hidden, waiting to be discovered. The treasure hidden in Christ is the full complement of God's wisdom and knowledge, a treasure-chest waiting to be found and unlocked - a mystery once secret now revealed in Christ.


iii] The reason for Paul's concern, v4-5. The reason why Paul stresses the fact that Christ is the one and only source of divine truth, wisdom and knowledge, is so that the Colossians will not be led astray by those who claim to possess divine truth independent of Christ.

iJna + subj. "[I tell you this] so that" - [i say this] that. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that ..."

en + dat. "by [fine-sounding arguments]" - [no one may delude you] in [persuasive speech, enticing arguments]. The preposition is instrumental, expressing means, "by / with ..." "I tell you these things to keep you from being fooled by fancy talk", CEV.


As apostle to the Gentiles, Paul is entitled to advise the Colossian believers. He may not be able to exercise personal oversight, but he is with them in spirit and greatly warmed by their determination to hold firmly to their faith in Christ in the face of the enemy.

gar "for" - because. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why it is appropriate for Paul to warn the Colossians of those in their midst who would deceive them with plausible arguments, because, although he doesn't minister to the congregation personally, he is an integral part of the congregation as apostle to the Gentiles with responsibilities for their welfare.

ei ... kai + ind. "though" - and if [as is the case, i am absent in the flesh, yet i am i rejoicing with you in the spirit]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. The presence of kai in the protasis gives a concessive sense, "even if", "although", but it could be emphatic, "if indeed", Moo. The apodosis is introduced by alla, "yet", cf., Harris, BDF #448.5.

th/ sarki (x koV) dat. "in body" - in the flesh. As with tw/ pneumati, "in the spirit", the datives are adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "bodily" and "spiritually". How does Paul see himself spiritually present with the believers at Colossae? O'Brien thinks it is not as simple as present with them in his thoughts and prayers, although that is how we would commonly express the sense of being present with someone who is at a distance from us. O'Brien is more inclined to a theological sense, as also argued by Best - a believer's corporate identity with Christ; they are one with Christ and Paul is one with Christ. Less convincing, "united with them through a common faith in Christ", Pfitzner, or present with them "in the spiritual realm by means of the Spirit", Dunn. It is quite possible that Paul's so called spiritual presence with the Colossians relates to his personal identification with the news that he has received concerning them; "I am nevertheless with you in spirit, as I observe with enjoyment your well-ordered condition and the firmness of your faith in Christ", Berkeley.

sun + dat. "with" - Expressing accompaniment / association.

cairwn (cairw) pres. part. "and delight [to see]" - delighting, rejoicing. As with blepwn, the participle may be classified as attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the verb to-be eimi, "I am [with you]", as NIV, or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of being "with" them "in spirit." The accompanying participle blepwn, "seeing", may be taken to form a hendiadys, as NIV; "it is a joy to note your steadfastness", Moffatt. On the other hand, it may be adverbial, temporal, "it makes me very happy when I see (hear of)", Barclay. Dunn suggests that blepw, "to see", may be "hope to see" and that sense may well be present, but then the word "see" can take the sense "learn of"; "I'm delighted to lean of ...."

thV .... pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "[your] faith" - [and seeking the order of you and firmness] of faith [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, probably attributed, where the lead nouns function as an attributive adjective, rather than the genitive. Paul has seen / learnt of their ordered and firm faith in Christ and it has filled him with joy. The two head nouns have a military background, so Paul "has much to say by way of commendation and hope (see Dunn above) that they will not break ranks and lose their oneness in the face of an intruding enemy", Martin; "their ranks have not been split by defections from the faith, and they are standing together as members of the one body in Christ", Pfitzner. In a general sense, the words express "good order" and "firmness". Paul expresses his confidence in "the firmness and solidarity of his readers' faith", Wilson.

eiV + acc. "in" - into, to [christ]. Again we note a common interchange between the prepositions eiV and en, "to", "in". "Faith" is being used in a dynamic sense here, namely, the act of believing, the object of that belief being Christ; believing "to" = "toward" Christ, which of course means the same as placing one's faith en, "in / on", Christ.


Colossians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]