Benediction (4:2-28)

The concluding section of each of Paul's letters contains his benediction, typically expressed as a prayer or doxology. Ancient writers usually added various greetings, specific instructions and general exhortations to their closings. Paul is no different, although he baptizes these literary conventions with the distinctive phrases of his Christian ministry. Appropriately, then, Paul's goodbye to the Colossian believers includes exhortations concerning their evangelistic work (4:2-6) and internal relations (4:7-17), before concluding with his benedictory doxology (4:18).

While this concluding passage has an eye to the situation facing his Colossian readers, it actually falls outside of the letter's main body, where Paul addresses the audience's spiritual crisis more directly and pastorally. In my opinion, then, we should not understand these verses as part of Paul's polemic against his opponents. They rather reflect his general interest in the spiritual well-being of any congregation under his care, regardless of the particular problems it might be facing. His exhortations in this letter's benediction convey a universal message, then, equally valid for any congregation. Yet this passage is also interesting because it provides us with a window into earliest Christianity and offers an intriguing model that clarifies the dynamics of congregational life.

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