Paul’s little letter to the Colossians closes with a litany of names so large it is exceeded only by his grand epistle to the Romans. You don’t need to know these names so much as you need to learn that you should know names. Appreciate Paul’s letters, even these personal endings. Love, pray, and take interest in those who minister the word of Christ. Love the saints in other cities. Encourage them when given opportunity. Greet them as brothers and sisters in Christ.
In chapter three it is clear that life in Christ is communal. Life in Christ is life in the body of Christ. In this closing, an added element this communal life in Christ is brought out by the repeated word “fellow,” which we might call friendship or camaraderie.
Friendship, as C.S. Lewis noted in The Four Loves, is about something.
“This is why those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be ‘I see nothing and I don’t care about truth; I only want a Friend,’ no Friendship can arise—though affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even it were only an enthusiasm for dominos or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellows travelers.”
Friendship is about something, and here we see the greatest kind of something friendship could be about. Here we see friendship on the deepest level; that born out of a common love, a union with the one who said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
In this letter, Christ is all; Christ is supreme. This remains true in this closing. Jesus’ Name echoes through this litany of names. In union with Christ, we put the old to death and put on the new, and thus we are conformed to Jesus’ image. So it is that our love for the saints proves to be love for the Savior. Lewis later continues,
“We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, lovingkindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love. It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His. In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself. But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do.”