Paul closes his letter to the Colossians Christians with a sentence that has captured my attention, “Remember my chains.” For months Grace Community Church has been reading, preaching, and discussing Colossians. And, Colossians has been reading us. As we come to the end, what are we to make of these final words?
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us see the ways and love of God. God is powerful and purposeful. He gets glory and shows his love even in the imprisonment of his people. Throughout the Bible, in the lives of people like Joseph, Daniel, and the prophets and apostles, we see how God uses the hardship of imprisonment to build character and open up doors for his word. Throughout history we see the same thing. He has never forsaken one of his faithful followers who suffered for his sake. He has loved them to the end.
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us see the power of the gospel. When Paul and the other apostles were thrown in jail, even the jailers heard the gospel. It seems the more Christ’s followers were imprisoned, the more the gospel spread. The same is true today. As Paul said to Timothy, “the word of God is not bound.”
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us see the nature of the church. Jesus said he will build his church. Throwing Christians in prison will not stop what Jesus intends to do. Whether it was the first century church in the Roman Empire, or the church today in North Korea, it will grow because this is the will of Christ.
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us see our Christian calling. The early apostles rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41). The early church was told to expect a level of suffering as followers of Christ. Suffering is a calling.
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is a body with each member suffering and rejoicing with the others. When any member of our Christian family suffers we should take up their cause in prayer, service, and advocacy, as best we can. Let us broaden our vision beyond ourselves and see the suffering of others.
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us deal with our own hardships. Are you experiencing a breach in family relationships because you have become a follower of Jesus? Has faithfulness to Christ cost you something, or someone? Are you doing without in order to give to others? You are not alone. The multitude of saints who have gone before you and experienced these hardships are happy and blessed today.
Remembering Paul’s chains helps us look to the One who was bound, crucified, and raised for our salvation. Christ’s sufferings for us were of a different kind than ours for him. We suffer as those who have received mercy, whose sins are forgiven, and who will inherit eternal life by the merits of Christ. Christ suffered in the place of sinners as an act of mercy, to forgive sins, and to secure eternal life for us. Grateful as we are for the way Christians have suffered for the sake of the gospel, it is in Christ’s suffering that we trust. It is to Christ that we look for the strength to suffer with him.
This weekend, I encourage you to read the entire letter of Colossians, and pray for our worship and gathering on Sunday.