The apostle Paul wrote these words to the saints at Colossae:
For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:5 ESV)
J. B. Lightfoot suggested that the term stereoma [firmness] was a military metaphor. He says that Paul’s companionship with soldiers of the praetorian guard (Philippians 1:13) might have suggested the image.
I always enjoy William Barclay’s comments on words. He makes the following comments on order and firmness.
These two words present a vivid picture, for they are both military words. The word translated order is taxis, which means a rank or an ordered arrangement. The Church should be like an ordered army, with every man in his appointed place, ready and willing to obey the word of command. The word translated firmness is stereoma, which means a solid bulwark, an immovable phalanx. It describes an army set out in an unbreakable square, solidly immovable against the shock of the enemy’s charge. Within the Church there should be disciplined order and strong steadiness, like the order and steadiness of a trained and disciplined body of troops.
These soldiers from the Roman Army and Chariot Experience at Jerash, Jordan, demonstrate what is meant by the term firmness (stereoma).
Soldiers in formation as a solid bulwark. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Thursday our ship docked at Heraklion, Crete. Crete is associated with Paul’s voyage to Rome. The biblical account is found in Acts 27:7-15. Note verses 7 and 8.
When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
The ship sailed under the shelter of Crete and came to Kali Limenes (Fair Havens) near the city of Lasea. Because Fair Havens was not a suitable harbor for wintering, the pilot and captain of the ship decided to sail on in hopes of reaching “Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest,” and spend the winter there. Because of a severe wind, called Euraquilo, which came down from the land, they were driven by the wind and eventually wrecked on the island of Malta.
Fair Havens was not a stop on our tour because the ship was docked at Heraklion for only five hours. The distance would make it impossible to take a group on a coach (bus) to Fair Havens. I have wanted to return since my first visit in 1984, and determined that I would try it this time even if it meant taking some other transportation to catch the ship. But, I figured that we could do it in four hours by taxi. One gospel preacher and his wife asked me earlier if it could be arranged. I also invited the other three preachers on the tour to join us. We took two taxis and made our way across the mountains to the south side of Crete. The drive itself was rewarding. There were some small patches of snow still on the highest mountain of the country. The beautiful mountain sides and valleys were filled with vineyards, and olive and fruit groves.
Paul showed you Fair Havens?, you are asking. Yes, my taxi driver was named Paul!
Here is one of the photos I made of the harbor at Fair Havens.