The Church in Colosse: Colossians 2:1
The city of Colosse was located in the Roman province of Asia in a region called Phrygia. It lay in the Lycus Valley a bit to the east of the larger and more popular city of Laodicea. Colossae was relatively small. And by the political and economic standards of the day, it was certainly the least important city to receive any of Paul’s canonical letters. Paul had never actually visited the church in Colosse, but he cared deeply for them nonetheless. Consider his words in Colossians 2:1:
I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. (Colossians 2:1)
Now, Paul had traveled through Phrygia during his second and third missionary journeys, but for some reason he had not visited the Colossian church. Possibly, he had been to Colosse prior to the establishment of the church there. Or, perhaps he had visited the city but not had the opportunity to meet the church. It is also possible that he had never even visited the city of Colosse. Whatever the case, Paul did not know most of these believers personally.
Nevertheless, we are able to learn some things about Paul’s relationship with the Colossians from the details in Paul’s letter to them as well as from his letter to Philemon, who lived in Colosse. For one thing, we read that Paul had an indirect relationship with the Colossians through representatives, such as his Colossian friends Epaphras, Philemon, and Onesimus, and his messenger Tychicus.
Second, although they had not met face to face, Paul and the Colossians corresponded with each other. For instance, Epaphras had brought reports of the Colossians to Paul. And Paul sent at least one letter to the church in Colosse, namely the New Testament epistle to the Colossians.
Third, Paul and the Colossians ministered to each other. For instance, besides struggling in prison on their behalf, Paul prayed specifically for the Colossians. As he wrote in Colossians 1:9:
Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9).
Paul regularly prayed specifically for the Colossians, asking for the blessings he knew would most benefit them.
Fourth, the Colossians ministered to Paul as well. We learn from Paul’s letters to the Colossians and to Philemon that the Colossian men Epaphras and Onesimus visited Paul in prison. And since the Colossian church sent messengers to Paul, it is reasonable to assume that they prayed for him too.
In short, even though Paul had not personally met most of the Colossian believers, they shared affection and affinity for one another, making their relationship real and substantial.