And when this letter is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans…
I. SCRIPTURE IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL READING. The two Epistles are to be read in the Churches. They are not to be reserved for the bishops, the more initiated or the more advanced Christians. All members of the two Churches, young and old, slaves and freemen, illiterate and cultured, imperfect and spiritual minded, are to hear the two Epistles. Now, these Epistles contain about the most advanced doctrine of all writings of the Bible. They approach nearest to what is analogous to the inner Gnostic doctrines of all Scripture teaching. If, therefore, any portions of Revelation should be reserved for the few, it would be these. If these are for public perusal, surely the simpler Gospels and psalms must be also public property. The Bible is a book for the people. It is free to all. No man has a right to bar access to the tree of life on the plea that the ignorant do not know how to help themselves from it and must have its knits doled out by official guardians. The greatest philosopher may find unfathomable depths in Scripture; but a little child may also read clear truths therein. If it be said that the ignorant will misunderstand, the reply is - They will gain more truth on the whole, in spite of misunderstanding, by free access to the Bible than when only led to it by others. God can take care of his own truth; the Bible was written for the people, and the people have a right to their own. No guardians of Scripture who are to measure it out to others at their discretion were ever appointed by Christ or by his apostles.
II. THE SCRIPTURE THAT IS USEFUL TO ONE CHURCH WILL BE USEFUL TO ANOTHER. The two letters were written with special regard to the peculiar circumstances of the two Churches. Yet they were to be exchanged, Much more, then, should Christians who have not had any private Epistle of their own benefit by the public Scriptures. Special wants are not primary wants. The great need of revelation is common to all. The fundamental truths of the gospel are needed by and offered to all. The highest glories of revelation are for all.
III. OUR READING OF SCRIPTURE SHOULD NOT BE CONFINED TO ISOLATED FRAGMENTS. A Church which had been honoured by receiving an apostolic Epistle written expressly for itself would be tempted to depreciate other apostolic writings, or at least to consider that for its own use its own Epistle was of paramount if not of exclusive importance. It would be in danger of making its one Epistle its own New Testament, to the disregard of all the rest. But the advice of St. Paul shows that such an action would be a mistake.
1. Our reading of Scripture should be wide and varied. We must beware of confining our attention to favourite portions. By doing so we get one-sided views of truth, and probably, even if unconsciously, select what seems to support our own notions to the neglect of what would modify them. We may most need to read those Scriptures in which we feel least interest.
2. Scripture balances and interprets Scripture. The doctrine of the Christ which is the leading theme of the Epistle to the Colossians is closely related to the doctrine of the Church which is the central subject of the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians (that, probably, referred to by St. Paul as the Epistle to the Laodiceans).
IV. THERE SHOULD BE INTERCOMMUNION BETWEEN CHRISTIAN CONGREGATIONS. There is too much corporate selfishness in the Church. We should be the better for more ecclesiastical altruism, or rather communism.
1. This is most to be looked for between neighbours. Laodicea was near to Colossae.
2. And it should be cultivated between the prominent and the obscure. Laodicea was an important city, Colossae a small town. Yet the Churches in the two places were to show brotherly sympathy on equal terms and to be mutually helpful to one another. While the strong should help the weak, the weak should beware of selfishness and do their best to serve the strong. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.