God’s Word for You
Colossians 4:15-16 Read the letter
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, December 7, 2019
15 Greet the brothers at Laodicea, and Nympha and the church in her house.
Along with verse 13 we notice that Laodicea was not far from Colosse and on the same side of a river, with Hierapolis a little to the north. The church that met in the house of Nympha was probably the Hierapolitan congregation.
“Nympha” is more of a problem than meets the eye in our English translations. We don’t really know whether the correct spelling is Νύμϕαν (Nympha, feminine) or Νυμϕᾶν (Nymphas, masculine), since the earliest manuscript copies were written without accent markings. The pronoun “her” before “house” is mixed in the copies of the text, some masculine, some feminine, and some even plural. Latin and Syriac translations do not help since the pronouns in those languages express number but not gender.
Churches met in houses just like early Jewish synagogues did, but sometime during the second century, after the Roman persecutions, this changed, so that by the third century Origen, Minucius Felix and Tertullian of Carthage could all talk about Christian churches as separate, dedicated buildings. In the early fourth century (300 AD) a writer named Optatus said that Rome had more than forty large Christians churches.
16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans, and see to it that you in turn read the letter to the Laodiceans.
It should not bother us that a letter like this is mentioned in the Bible but has not come down to us. I think that this letter to the Laodiceans was very similar to the letter before us for the Colossians, warning them about the same dangers of falling back into Judaism by falling away from Christ, the head of the Church. Had the letter been considerably different, the way Galatians and 1-2 Thessalonians are so different, the letter would almost certainly have come down to us. As it is, the two documents, Colossians and the lost Laodicean letter were probably very similar, and the ancient church did not think it necessary to retain both of them in the canon.
What this verse teaches us is the importance of reading the Holy Scriptures in worship. The letters of Paul were taken to be on the same level with “the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Regarding Scripture and the Biblical doctrine of Holy Scripture, we remember these points:
1, Holy Scripture is the only source of knowledge for religion, theology, and dogmatics, is nothing other than the word of God, which was set down in writing by the prophets, evangelists, and apostles by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that sinners may obtain from it knowledge for eternal life.
2, The holy writers were prompted to write by God himself and have written by divine commission.
3, Each and every thing contained in the Holy Scriptures is inspired by God.
4, Even the words of the holy writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
5, All those subvert Holy Scripture who deny that the holy writers wrote at the prompting of the Holy Spirit and that all the content of Scripture, even every word in it, is inspired.
6, Since Holy Scripture as the Word inspired by God is the only principle of knowledge, it also has divine esteem and divine authority, which means that from Scripture alone all theological truths must be derived and according to Scripture alone must all teachers and teachings be tested.
7, Since Scripture says of itself that it can impart to a person the knowledge necessary for salvation, we attribute to it the characteristic of clarity (perspicuity).
8, Since we declare on the basis of Scripture that it is clear and discloses its meaning to a person without external help, we also declare that Holy Scripture is its own interpreter and that only in that way, when we let Scripture interpret itself for us, can the one, true meaning of Scripture become obvious to us.
9, Since Scripture can and should instruct us for salvation, God obliges all people to read Holy Scripture diligently and to contemplate it devoutly.
10, All the books of the Old and New Testaments, which in content and words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, which God entrusted to the church, and which were received by the church, we call canonical books; all other books that do not have these characteristics, we call apocryphal books; and we do not equate them with the canonical books, which alone are the source and guide for doctrine and life.
See to it that you read the Scriptures, and that you bring the people in your family to hear them read and explained in regular, weekly worship. Through the reading and preaching of God’s Word, we learn God’s will for us, his compassion and favor on us, and the forgiveness he has given through Jesus Christ his Son. “These words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
The ten points about Scriptures are taken from Hoenecke, Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics Vol. I, pages 405-511.
Pastor Timothy Smith