Monday, 12 June 2017
Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. Colossians 4:16
Paul’s words of this verse show that it was meant that his letters be read openly, and thus they are intended as church doctrine. “Now when this epistle is read among you” shows us this. It is similar to his words to those in Thessalonica –
I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren. 1 Thessalonians 5:27
The letters he wrote were not intended only for the leadership, but they were written for all to hear and understand. It is an amazingly similar sentiment to what it says in the Old Testament at the giving of the Law. Time and time again, the words “Speak to the children of Israel, saying:” are used. At times, it specifically says, “Speak to Moses [and/or] Aaron,” but these are usually within a section which has already been addressed to all of the children of Israel, and they are those things which are specific to the priestly duties.
The same is true with Paul’s letters. They are addressed to the church, and give doctrine for all to hear. It is an important thing which is done, showing that the word of God was to be open to all, and not held in private by a select few who would then have control over it.
After the letter to those at Colossae was read to the congregation, Paul says, “…see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans.” The intent here is that the letter was to be circulated for others to know proper doctrine as well. It is possible that the original itself was circulated on to the next church, especially because it contained Paul’s personal signature with his own specific handwriting. It it is also possible that a copy was made and sent. Or, if the original was sent, it is certain that a trustworthy copy was kept back in case the original was lost. The letter would be cherished and referred to often as questions or disputes arose.
Finally, he says, “and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” There are about seventeen hundred miles of commentary on these words. As there is no letter to the “saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Laodicea,” it is speculated that this is a lost epistle. As if Paul wrote a letter to them and it just disappeared. This is unlikely because, as stated above, a copy would have been made, and either the original or that copy would have been retained.
There is a forged letter known as the “Epistle to the Laodiceans,” but as scholars know that it is an obvious forgery, that is not what is being referred to here. This is sure because Paul says, “from Laodicea,” not “to Laodicea.” There was no letter written to Laodicea, but rather there was a letter written to someone else which was carried to Laodicea for their instruction This letter was then to be passed on to Colossae. As this is so, it is rather certain that Paul is referring to the letter to the Ephesians.
Both letters are similar in content in some areas, but both contain many great differences as well. Also, Tychichus was used to convey Paul’s words to both Ephesus and Colossae (see Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7). Because of this, it can be deduced that there is no lost letter, and also that the letter he is referring to is that of Ephesians. If this is not the case, it would then be another letter which we possess and which was picked up by Tychicus and brought from Laodicea to Colossae.
Life application: We have a sure word, and that sure word is not to be secreted away, but it is to be openly read and proclaimed. Its truths are not for a “pope” and his magesterium to determine what it means, nor is it meant for any other select individual to interpret. Instead, it is intended for all of God’s people to open, research, and delight in. It is also intended for our doctrine.
Lord God, it is Your intent that Your word belongs to all people. It was never intended that a “pope” and his select group of people would be the arbiters of what it says and what is expected of Your people. You decide what is right for them, and then in both testaments, you have instructed that they are to hear it and to receive it as Your word. With modern printing, and even the internet, we have it available to us to read, cherish, and obey. Help us to take advantage of this marvelous time in which we live by seeking out Your word. Help us to not instead just get stuck on Facebook reading stupid posts! Amen.