Final Words to Colossae
“When this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read the letter from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16).- Colossians 4:16-18
Today we come to the last three verses of Colossians and Paul’s final chance to deliver greetings and final instructions to the church at Colossae. Verse 16 of chapter 4 contains an interesting and somewhat unusual request that the Colossians have the letter read in the church of the Laodiceans. Usually we do not find specific instructions from the apostles that their correspondence should be read by those other than the primary addressees of their letters, which in this case was the church at Colossae. That Paul includes such a request in today’s passage may simply reflect the fact that the close proximity of Laodicea to Colossae would make it easy for the churches to share their letters with one another. But it also shows that Paul understood that his letters, while delivered to individual persons or congregations, also contained teaching applicable to all believers. Here is a hint that the church should collect such writings and hold onto them for ongoing use in the covenant community.
Paul’s mention of a “letter from Laodicea” (v. 16) has encouraged many commentators to speculate as to the identity of this otherwise unknown piece of writing. What seems fairly clear is that this letter is one that Paul wrote to the Laodicean believers. It is entirely possible that the epistle to which the apostle refers is actually his letter to the Ephesians, since that epistle appears to be actually intended for several churches in that region and might mention Ephesus only because that was the most notable city in the group of population centers that would receive the letter. Still, it is presently impossible to put this forward as anything more than a reasonable conjecture.
Elsewhere in Scripture, Paul uses the term remember in connection with prayer (Eph. 1:16), so it is likely that his call in verse 18 for the Colossians to remember his chains is a request that they pray for him in regard to his imprisoned condition. Such prayer might include a plea for them to intercede for his release in addition to the earlier request that they ask that his opportunities to share the gospel be increased (v. 3).
Colossians ends with a note that Paul wrote these greetings with his own hand (v. 18). This means he relied on a scribe to put his thoughts to paper and, after approving the letter’s contents, he took the pen himself to pass final words on to Colossae. These words include a prayer for grace, which is what we should extend to all people.
If the apostle Paul could implore those who knew him to pray for him in his condition of suffering, then we should be ready as well to ask others for prayer when we are in need. We should likewise remember the sufferings of Christians whom we know, both near and far, and pray for the Lord to make His presence felt in them. Let us pray regularly for the needs that we know of and ask others to intercede on our behalf as well.
Passages for Further Study