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“REMEMBER MY IMPRISONMENT”
by Philip Owen

            I doubt if anyone reading these paragraphs has ever closed a letter with the words in the title above.  Paul did.  The final verse in his epistle to the believers at Colosse reads thus:  “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.  Remember my imprisonment [lit., bonds].  Grace be with you” (4:18).  “Remember my imprisonment”?  “Remember my imprisonment”!  Is it any wonder that he might ask the Colossian Christians to remember that he was incarcerated?  Aside from one allusion to the same fact earlier in the chapter (“Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings” [v. 10]), written so casually that he might well have said, “Aristarchus, my fellow vacationer, sends you his greetings,” there is no hint of his dire straits. (A third allusion, the initial one, will be noted later.) Neither in theme, nor specific subject matter, nor tone is there any intimation that Paul is enduring a severe trial.

            Theme.  Note the theme, which expresses succinctly what is consuming Paul’s heart and mind:  “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.  For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (2:8-10).  Clearly, two principles motivate Paul, namely, that Christ is supreme and that the Colossians must shun every other enticement and grasp Christ for all He is and all He’s done.  Until Paul has disburdened himself of these wonderful truths, he finds no place to express what would be for most of us an all-consuming trial.

            Specific subject matter.  A quick overview will not do justice to the truths found in this epistle, but it will suffice to pinpoint the focus of Paul’s heart and mind, which was not on himself and his problems but on the glories of Christ and the need of the Colossians to embrace those truths by faith.  He begins by giving thanks for the brethren in Colosse.  Then he launches into one of the greatest expressions of praise for Christ to be found anywhere in God’s Word, touching on His supremacy in creation, redemption, and the church (1:13-29).  In chapter two, He exalts Christ above “persuasive argument,” human philosophy, the opinions of men, false worship, and human doctrines.  The third chapter and first part of the fourth are taken up with exhortations to put off the old man, put on the new man, and to live a holy life in every realm of experience—family, work, and public life.  The remainder of the letter is filled with commendations and greetings to the brethren.  As a consequence, there can be no doubt about what is uppermost in the heart and mind of the apostle.

            Tone.  No sorrow, no grief, no expressions of distress, not one scintilla of evidence of self-pity.  The statement of his theme is not an intellectual exercise, not some principle to be expressed and applied to someone else.  No, Paul knows that all the fullness of the godhead dwells in Christ, that he is himself complete in Christ and requires nothing else, and that because Christ is both Sovereign God and loving Savior and “head over all rule and authority,” Paul is content with the lot Christ has given him.  He is actually more than content, for in his initial allusion to his imprisonment, he says only this:  “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (1:24).  Rejoice?  Paul has succeeded in doing what he has encouraged the Colossians to do:  “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (3:1-4).  Praise, thankfulness, contentment, along with selfless concern for the Colossians permeate the letter.

            Have you, like Paul, found Christ to be sufficient in your “imprisonment” as you delight to serve?

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