Colossians 2:1-3 (NIV)
1 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. 2 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, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Have you ever wondered what the real purpose of pastors should be? I know that a lot of people figure that the pastor is there to lead the people through the worship service, or to be a counselor when things go wrong in peoples’ lives, or to set direction for the congregation, or to be a liaison with the public. All of these are important jobs, but is that really what the Bible’s idea of what the number one duty of the pastoral position is all about?
Paul really gives us a different viewpoint in this passage. Even though he has never been to Colosse (the congregation was started by a man named Epaphras – see Colossians 1:7), note that in verses 2 and 3 he actually give us his purpose for what he does as he struggles for the people in Colosse. And in my opinion, there is not a higher goal for a pastor of a local congregation than what he shows us here as his purpose:
- First of all, he desires that the people would be encouraged in heart. Sometimes being a Christian can be challenging. This can be especially true if your family members and friends have not yet come into the kingdom. Your new-found faith can put you on the outside of the groups that you used to be in the middle of. And Christians can experience attacks against their faith, even if they don’t experience physical attacks. Even in America these days it is open season on Christian beliefs. We often can find our core beliefs and values belittled and sneered at by some of the “intellectuals” of our day. And that was true in Paul’s day as well. But Paul doesn’t want the people to grow frustrated or lonely or discouraged – he wants them to be encouraged in their hearts. After all, the truths that they need to keep right in the front of thier minds is that since they have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord, they have passed over from death to life. They now have a future hope that extends from where they are all the way into the depths of eternity future. They never have to worry about death, because Jesus told us that those who believe in Him will never even taste death (John 8:51-52; 11:25-26). In all of his letters, which got passed around from congregation to congregation, Paul reminds his readers of these facts in order to encourage their hearts and keep them optimistic, no matter what happens.
- Next, he wants the people to be united in love. In desiring this, Paul is actually echoing the very prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23. To Jesus, unity was vital, because God’s intent was to make the group of believers into a body, and a body must be unified. If a body is at war with itself, it will destroy itself in a very short time. The Church also was to have a huge job to do – quite literally to save the world – and without the unity of love, that job would be totally impossible. And not only that, a powerful unity actually validates the message of the Gospel. What could possibly bring together in unity such a huge cross-sectional group like the early Church (or even like the modern Church)? No human power could possibly fill those early disciples with love for each other. The only possible explanation as to why fishermen and tax collectors, zealots and scholars, priests and Pharisees could come together as one body would be the power of God Himself, working love throughout the whole body.
- Paul notes that hese things are important so that the people will have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ. Without a heart that rests securely in the truths of the Gospel, and without the unity of the Spirit that is sparked by and demonstrated through love for one another, we have some major blocks in our ability to experience (the base meaning of the word “know” – it’s not just head knowledge, but relationship) the mystery of God, which is not someTHING to know, but someONE to know – Jesus Himself. Paul tells us that in Jeus are hidden all the teasures of wisdom and knowledge. In other words, to know Jesus relationally connects you with all of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
There are a lot of good and necessary things that pastors and other Church leaders can and should do. But helping to encourage peoples’ hearts, and helping them to be united to one another in love is the work that pays the most important dividend, resulting in a stronger and more living relationship to Jesus Christ, in whom can have access to all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.