While finishing a quick read of the book of Colossians, my eyes lingered on Paul’s last verse of chapter four, which states, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” Why does Paul tell people to remember his chains?
I can picture Paul dragging his shackled hand across the parchment and scribbling his name at the end of the letter. Signing the document reminded him of the personal sacrifice he endured to preach the gospel to them. To Paul, the chains were an act of love. They were proof of the struggle he endured to further the gospel of Christ and help believers grow in sanctification.
We see this in Philippians 1:7 when he says, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
Paul is saying we are all in this together. We all play a role in spreading the gospel. Sometimes that call comes with ease; other times, it comes with chains. But Paul isn’t the only one who lived by faith and suffered the consequences of that decision. The chapter on faith, seen in Hebrews 11:36-38, says, “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawn in two, and killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and dens and caves of the earth.”
We often forget the men and women who suffered for their faith in biblical times. As eras move further away from the original writings of Scripture, the people whom God motivated to establish the church and imitate the character of faith seem to fade.
The author of Hebrews 11 describes heroes of the faith as people who acted on God’s word despite the consequences. For example, it tells of Daniel’s willingness to enter the lion’s den, Noah’s building an ark for rain even though he had never experienced a rainstorm, and Abram’s obedience to prepare his son as a sacrifice, etc.
I always find renewed strength and admiration from those who went before us.
Hebrews says in chapter 12, “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The MacArthur Study Bible says, “The deceased people of [Hebrews] chapter 11 give witness to the value and blessing of living by faith. Motivation for running ‘the race’ is not in the possibility of receiving praise from observing heavenly saints. Rather, the runner is inspired by the godly examples those saints set during their lives. The great crowd is not comprised of spectators but rather is comprised of ones whose past life of faith encourages others to live that way.”
So, what legacy are you leaving behind? Will people have stories to tell of your belief in Christ, or will they say, “I didn’t know he/she believed in God?”
Let Paul’s chains remind us to pursue the ministry, share the gospel, and live in faith, despite the ever-changing world around us.