Summary: Setting a purpose for Christian living.
Christians without goals are a little like Alice in the fairy tale ‘Alice in Wonderland’. In a conversation between her and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asked, ‘Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here’? ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to’, said the cat. ‘I don’t much care where’, said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go’, said the cat.
Mark Twain shortly before his death wrote, ‘A myriad of men are born; they labour and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last--the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence […] a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever’.
The apostle Paul wants us to have purpose and direction in life. He wants us to have the full riches of complete understanding which come from being in Christ. The Lord Jesus gives us purpose and direction in life.
Imagine we are with Nympha in her house church as Paul’s letter is being read (Col 4:15). The apostle opens by praising our faith in the Lord and Jesus and our love for one another. He prays that we will continue in our Christian walk as God fills us with a knowledge of his will. The apostle rejoices in the person and work of Christ, such praise lifting our church to new heights as we reflect upon the grace which has been lavished upon us. The Christ whom we now worship partakes of the divine nature, his primacy touches every part of creation, and he is the head of the new creation which is the church. This same Christ reconciled us to God. Once we were alienated, lost, we rejected God’s rule over us. But we who were unholy have been made holy through Christ’s death on the cross. And so we have a wonderful hope laid out before us if we continue trusting the Lord with great endurance and patience, giving thanks to the Father in everything.
Then Paul truly opens his heart to us as he speaks of his labour for our church. He has given so much of himself in order to support us. He says that God commissioned him as a servant in order to present to us the word of God in its fullness (Col 1:25). We ought to remember that we have Christ in us, the hope of glory. Paul is labouring with all his energy to present us mature in Christ (Col 1:28). There’s been lots of encouragement in his letter. Paul does not tire in commending us for our continuing faith in the Lord Jesus. Now, before moving on to address the spiritual opposition confronting us, the apostle tells us the purpose of his writing, so that we might be built up in Christ, so that we are well prepared for the scoundrels that constantly question our salvation.
Come with me to chapter 2, verses 1 to 3, ‘I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’.
Paul begins this section with a beautiful conjunction of words, ‘My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love’. The truth of the gospel sets us free. Within the cradle of gospel truth, we are called to unity and to a wonderfully expressive freedom which comes when following Christ. After a service of ordination, a sad-faced woman came up to the newly-ordained pastor and said, ‘It’s a grand thing you are doing as a young man—giving up the joys of life to serve the Lord’. There’s a commonly held belief that to be serious about our faith means that all joy is gone. But the apostle states the contrary, ‘My purpose is that their hearts may be comforted, being knitted together in love’.
Paul is concerned about our spiritual state. His purpose isn’t that we be healthy and merry, and rich, and great, and prosperous; his purpose is that our hearts may be encouraged and comforted through the trials of this world. Matthew Henry says, ‘The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity, and what we should be most solicitous about for ourselves and others’.