Colossians 2:1-2a 1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those who are at Laodicea and for all those who have not seen my physical presence, 2in order that their hearts may be encouraged since they have been united together in love, 

Paul shifts the image from “labor” of 1:29 to a more intense struggle (agōna) or fight as in a contest in 2:1. His ministry was not easy and often caused him much hardship. He does not identify any specific struggle in this verse, so this could be interpreted as a more passionate statement of his care and concern for the situation in the church. He may have struggled in his prayers of intercession in their behalf, since pray can be a form of spiritual battle. This verse also implies that this is intended to be a circular letter to travel to all the believers in the Locus valley. Paul includes three groups who are in his thinking. The first is obviously the Colossians who were the recipients of the letter. But then, they were to share the letter with the believers in the nearby city of Laodicea. Finally, he broadens this to anyone who had not personally met him face-to-face.

The reason Paul struggled is expressed in verse 2 in a purpose clause. He hopes to encourage them. The verb encouraged (paraklēthōsin) is sometimes translated as “advocate,” “intercede,” “coming along side,” or “comfort,” and is the same word used for the Holy Spirit in John 15:26. The Colossians have been comforted in their hearts about Paul’s struggles because the love within them. Their love (agapē) has united them together as one. Paul will used the word united in verse 19 for how the church like a body is held together. The word form here is a causal participle (symbibasthentes) reflecting back on the hearts of the Colossians. They have been brought together because of their common love. Their unity in purpose and fellowship would help them in their own struggles.

This love is for what Paul was praying (1:4, 8). His struggle and labor for the Lord would be worth it all if the Colossians would grow in their love. Paul is writing as a pastor who has deep concern for the spiritual growth of the church. Even though he was far away and imprisoned, he could still intercede for them and urge them in this letter to focus on the essential truth found in the gospel. Even though we may be far away from our loved ones (in person or in relationship), we can contend with the Lord for them and ask God to do amazing things in and through them.

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