Even though Paul was not present in Colosse or Laodicea due to his house arrest in Rome, he tells the Colossians that he wants them “to know how hard I am contending for you…and for all who have not met me personally.” (Col.2:1)
The word “contending” is from the Greek word agona which is the Greek word for the athletic stadium or the sports arena. It was in the agona that the contest and struggle for the prize took place. This is the image Paul is used to describe his strenuous efforts to communicate the truth to the people in Colosse and Laodicea.
The fact that Paul was “contending” to teach is seen in the verses prior to Colossians 2:1. In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul uses a word built on the same root as agona when he says,
“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy.” Here the word “struggling” is the word agonizomenos, which is again, an athletic word used to describe the athletic struggle,
the exertion of energy and the competitive contest in the agona, or Greek athletic stadium.
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend (agonizomenos) with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” – Colossians 1:28-29
Paul had never been to Colosse, but the church had started because some of their people had heard Paul teach while he was in Ephesus. They had begun with the Word and, now, Paul is encouraging them to continue in the Word. In fact, if the Colossians and Laodiceans will continue in the Word, even while absent from Paul, they will grow in their understanding and in their faith. The same truth that saved them spiritually will also transform their daily lives:
“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” – Colossians 2:6
Paul strenuously contends in a contest of communication where he finds himself teaching the truth of Jesus as he competes against a world filled with fine-sounding arguments, false teaching and hollow philosophies presented by deceptive teachers.
“ I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments…See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. - Colossians 2:4, 8