A Purpose to the Struggles- Colossians 2:1-3

In this passage, Paul is informing the church at Colossae of his struggles “for” them. These struggles were external and physical, which we find in Colossians 1:24, where Paul describes his struggles as “afflictions” in his “flesh”, referring here to his body and the physical afflictions he endured for the sake of the gospel. These struggles were also internal, mental and emotional, which we find in Colossians 1:29, in which we find that Paul is “struggling” for them “with all his energy”, and that this energy was powerfully at work “in” Paul. In verse 1, then, Paul informs them that his struggles were for their benefit, an example of agape love, being willing to struggle for the benefit of others, the kind of love Jesus displayed on the cross. The Greek word struggle here is agona, from which is derived the English word agony, here in the present tense, which signifies the continual nature of these struggles. He then is quick to inform us, in verse 2, that there was a purpose to his struggles. They were not merely random occurrences due to fate or chance, but from God and for a purpose, and that knowing there is a purpose to our struggles somehow makes them easier to endure, that this may be part of God’s provision to bring us through the struggles we encounter in this fallen world. He then tells them more specifically of what the purpose of his struggles was and why he was now explaining all of this to them. First, he tells them that he is doing so in order that they may “be encouraged in heart”, that they would understand that the struggles they undergo have a purpose, and that understanding this helps give them the strength to keep on going through them and not let the struggles cause them to abandon their faith, but continue on in the faith. Second, he tells them that he is struggling in order that they may be “united in love”, that they would bear one another’s burdens and help one another persevere through the struggles they would endure. He then tells them why it is necessary to persevere through the struggles, that continuing on in encouragement and love are also for a purpose, they are “unto” (eis in the Greek) something, that persevering through the struggles is not pointless or meaningless, but is actually the path to true riches, to that which is truly “precious”. The Greek word riches here is ploutos, literally “that which is precious to us”, and according to Paul, true riches do not consist of material things, true riches come in the form of “complete understanding”. The Greek word complete here is plerophoria- “to be fully convinced or assured”. This term is basically a synonym for faith, we act on what we are fully convinced and assured of, and what we are assured of here is our “understanding”. The Greek word understanding here is synesis- literally “to put together”. and full riches here is to be completely convinced that we have properly put things together, that it all adds up now, that we now “know” the “mystery of God”. The Greek word know here is ginosko, experiential knowledge, and it is knowledge here not of something but of someone, “namely Christ”. God’s “mysteries” are revealed to us “in Christ”, revealed not to the head but to the heart, mysteries we are able to apprehend but never comprehend, and the fact that there is a purpose to our struggles is one of those mysteries. Enduring the struggles results in obtaining the treasures, here referred to as “wisdom and knowledge”, which are hidden in Christ and only discovered through a growing intimacy with Him, a growing knowledge not of a body of information but of a person, the person of Jesus Christ. The terms wisdom and knowledge here can be seen as two sides of the same coin, they go together, with wisdom being knowledge put into practice. Our struggles serve to draw us near to Jesus, to teach us to turn to Him rather than relying on our own strength. As we do so, we grow to know Him more and more intimately, grow to know His heart and mind, and this growing “knowledge” produces in us the “wisdom” which shows us how to deal properly with the struggles we face, to find the purpose in them and to show us that the purpose is always for our good and the good of others. This knowledge and wisdom produce the encouragement we need to endure those struggles and come through them as people who act, think and speak more and more like Jesus, as more Christlike disciples, as those who follow Paul’s example here and are willing to undergo struggles, not only for their own benefit but also for the benefit of others, as those wiĺling to love.

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