Bearing Fruit—Even in Prison
[T]he gospel is bearing fruit and growing—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. Colossians 1:6b
Paul sat in a Roman prison, but he was not alone. Although he wore chains, he was free to receive visitors and send out letters such as this one to the Colossians. As he closed the letter, he mentioned the people who transported the letter, and he gave personal greetings from those with him as well as to individuals in Colosse.
Tychicus, who carried the letter, would communicate the latest news about Paul “that he may encourage your hearts” (Colossians 4:8). Paul described him as “a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord” (v. 7). With him was Onesimus, “our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you” (v. 9).
Paul sent greetings from three men: Aristarchus, “my fellow prisoner,” Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, and Justus. They were “the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me” (v. 11).
Another greeter was Epaphras, a fellow Colossian who was always “wrestling in prayer for [them], that [they] may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (v. 12). Greetings also came from “our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas” (v. 14).
Paul also greeted the Laodiceans, Nympha, and the church in her house (v. 15). The Colossians were also instructed to exchange letters with the Laodicean church (v. 16).
Archippus received an exhortation that all the letter’s recipients (including us) needed to hear: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (v. 17).
Although Paul was imprisoned, the message of the gospel still bore fruit. It was growing throughout the world—passed from him to others who spread the message to many.
Two thousand years later, we hear Paul’s message as well. We also need to complete the ministry we’ve received from the Lord, no matter what it may be, no matter our circumstances.
Have you allowed your chains—whatever form they take—to stop you from bearing fruit? Paul used his imprisonment to continue his ministry. To motivate the Colossians to complete their ministry, he said, “Remember my chains” (v. 18). What will be the fruit of your hardship?
Find Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis on a Bible map. What major congregation founded by Paul are these cities near? Do you think they exchanged other letters? Who might have been the link to Paul?
Read 2 Timothy 4:9-12. Why do you think Demas was not mentioned in the letter to the Colossians? What other names are in both places?
Compare Colossians 4:10, Acts 15:36-41, and 2 Timothy 4:11. Reading between the lines, what do you see about Paul’s relationship with Mark?
Does Laodicea sound familiar to you? See First Century Congregations under Dig into Words.
Nancy J. Baker