Though he was in chains under house arrest, Paul was able to send letters encouraging and guiding people as they sought to live out their new lives as Jesus’ people. Given the slow and expensive mode of communication available to Paul, it’s likely that he chose his words carefully, wanting us to forever know that God’s subversive kingdom is fulfilled through people empowered by grace.
Paul made his greeting personal with his own autograph. Before the time of email and texts, people hand wrote letters to each other. Paul’s handwritten autograph showed people that he was a real human being, just like they were, whose teaching was informed by a real experience of the living God.
Paul chose a single image of himself to leave with the Colossians — “Remember my chains.” In a time of slow and expensive communication, why would Paul choose that image? If you had only three little words to describe yourself, which three words would you choose? Why was this image so important for Paul to give them?
Perhaps it is the image that demonstrates one of Paul’s most consistent themes throughout all of his letters — Grace. How could Paul share the gospel while under arrest? How could people come to know Jesus in a contrary dominant culture? How is the message of unconditional grace and mercy in Jesus supposed to permeate today’s often cynical and sometimes even hostile culture? Not by rules or laws. Not by wealth or prestige. And most definitely not by earthy power. But in the same way as it always has. In the words of the prophet Zechariah: “‘Not by might nor power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6)
- God works through people. Have you ever had an experience of God through another person? What if God is calling you to be that experience for someone else?
- If you had only three words to describe yourself, which three would you choose, and why?
- What kinds of restraints (“chains”) are you experiencing today? What about someone you know? God’s grace transcended Paul’s restraints … do you believe it can transcend yours?