For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
As Paul mentioned in the previous passage, he has suffered, toiled and struggled as he has ministered to the church. He is likely writing this letter while under house arrest in Rome, and his trip there as recounted in Acts was fraught with trials. And Paul begins this passage by referring again to his struggles. But he does not do so to draw attention to himself. He is highlighting his love for his readers, though not in an insincere, emotionally manipulative way. He really means it.
And Paul’s love is key here because he is comparing himself to others who may try to influence the church at Colassae. There are those who will try to delude them with plausible arguments, and for their own ends. He, however, is motivated by love, so his teachings are reliable.
What is at stake is the heart of the gospel. Further on in his letter we will read of those who would bind the consciences of the Colossians with dietary rules and festival observations. But Paul has just gone into some detail describing the mystery of the gospel, that Christ died for us, the godly for the ungodly, reconciling us to God and even now is at work in us, making us holy and blameless. And this salvation is ours by faith, not by observation of the law! This is Christ in us, the hope of glory. Paul is eager that his readers know this, that they be encouraged, that they be assured it is true, and that they hold one another up in these truths as loving brothers and sisters.
Paul makes arguments to defend himself. He gives reasons. But he knows that logical arguments will not take the day. Truth is on his side, as “all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ. But what will keep his readers strong in the faith and what will win others over is love. Others—those present, even, to the Colossians—may try to delude them with plausible arguments but Paul, even though absent, will be more persuasive because of the love he has demonstrated for them by suffering on their behalf, and because he gives thanks to God for them and rejoices over their faith.
We would do well to follow Paul’s example. Whether we are sharing the gospel with a neighbor or discipling our children or with whomever the Lord may place under our care, we are to demonstrate the gospel as much as we teach it, loving as we have been loved in Christ.