13th April 2018

Paul, Working from Prison 

“I’m signing off in my own hand: PAUL. Remember the chains I’m wearing. Grace be with you.
Colossians 4:18 (NTE)

When we read the Bible, we find people like you and me in difficult situations. It’s easy to think of them dispassionately, as if they were characters in a book or play. They were, however, real people, often caught up in difficult situations.

Perhaps we can imagine what it would have been like in the Colossian church when Paul’s letter was read aloud to them, as was the custom with all Paul’s letters. “When this letter has been read to you,” Paul wrote, “make sure it’s read in Laodicea as well; and you, too, should read the letter that will come on to you from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16).

Probably it was Tychicus, an ordained minister and Paul’s fellow servant in the Lord, who read it to them, and also passed on more news about Paul (see Colossians 4:7). Maybe the reading was shared with Onesimus, the Colossian slave who had become a Christian. As people listened, they would have understood how relevant Paul’s teachings were. Perhaps some nodded in agreement, or some were distracted by other things, just as would happen in church services today. Most would have found it encouraging, and would have been moved by Paul’s final words.

Would the Colossian Christians have imagined Paul in prison? There in that cell, which was probably damp and dimly lit, were Luke, Demas, Tychicus, Onesimus and Epaphras, who had co-founded the Colossian church. In their mind they could see all of them standing together, and then parting to reveal Paul — in chains! Paul looks older than when they saw him last. And thinner too. Are his feet and his hands in chains? Paul finishes dictating the letter, and asks for pen and ink. Maybe Timothy dips the pen into the ink and hands it to him, and he holds the parchment firmly so that Paul can add his signature to confirm this came from him. And, with a chained hand, he writes “PAUL. Remember the chains I’m wearing. Grace be with you”.

Paul was real to the Colossians. Not some distant figure, and I suspect, that, as they imagined their beloved apostle writing his letter from prison, tears would have welled up in their eyes.

Prayer
Father, it amazes me that when Paul was in adversity, his concern was for the church of Jesus Christ. Thank you for his example, and help me to focus on your work, even when circumstances are hard. In Jesus
’ name.
Amen
 

Study by James Henderson

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About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.

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