Colossians 1 ended with Paul’s reference to the purpose of his ministry, which was to proclaim, warn, and teach so that all might find maturity in Christ (vv. 24–29). Moving on to Colossians 2, we find the specific application of his work to the believers in Colossae, a passage depicting his concern even for those he had not seen in person.
Paul refers to the great struggle he endured for the sake of those who saw him face to face and also for those in Colossae and in Laodicea (2:1–2), believers he had not personally met when Colossians was written. Though he did not know these men and women directly, his pastoral heart was moved with concern for those who had been converted as an extension of his ministry through Epaphras (1:3–8). The parallels are not exact, but if we take the apostle as a model (1 Cor. 11:1), we too should feel great concern for Christians in other places, especially if our churches have sent missionaries to them or helped them in any other way.
Often, concern is viewed as a feeling of empathy for another, which is true, but this does not go far enough. Authentic concern for others leads us to lay down our lives for them, just as Paul earnestly struggled for the Colossians’ well-being (v. 1). He likely struggled through praying, preaching, and writing, but the main point is that his concern moved him to do something. Moreover, the goal of his struggle was to encourage the Colossians to have their hearts knitted “together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (v. 2). This is an important point, as it reveals how Christian love is key to our assurance of salvation. As essential as truth is, knowing that we belong to Jesus is impossible if we rely on a mere intellectual knowledge of the gospel. Instead, gospel assurance depends also on loving other believers (see 1 John 4:7–12).
She was not a Christian, but being made in God’s image, the poet George Eliot captured a bit of truth in The Spanish Gypsy, wherein she wrote, “‘Tis what I love determines how I love.” If we love not God, we will ultimately love only ourselves and cannot know Christ. But if we truly love Jesus, our hearts will be as one with other Christians. We will love what the object of our love cannot help but love — His people — and, loving His people, we will know that we belong to Him (John 13:34).