What would you think if a classical pianist abandoned her training and contented herself with playing a two-fingered version of Chopsticks? What about an artist who stopped painting masterpieces and instead painted sketches for paint-by-the-numbers kits? What would you conclude about a world-class marathon runner who walked off the course and never finished the race? Chances are you would conclude these individuals were wasting their potential.
If you could give them one word of advice, it might be, “Continue.” As they were instructed to play the piano, they should continue to practice. As they were trained to paint, they should continue to choose color palettes and brushes. As they were coached to run, they should pursue the finish line.
In Colossians 2:6-7, the apostle Paul uses that same argument when it comes to spiritual growth.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
On one hand, when we became a Christ follower, we “received Christ Jesus the Lord.” On another hand, the word Paul uses for “receive” means more than merely accepting Christ or believing in him. It means to receive the tradition and teaching about Christ.
In chapter 1, Paul explained to the Colossians that Jesus is the image of God, the ruler of creation, and the leader of the church. He is fully God and fully man. His death is sufficient for our salvation. Jesus is the Lord, preeminent in all things.
Having demonstrated that Jesus is the Lord, not some lesser god or divine hero, Paul encourages his readers and us as well to walk in him or to continue to live in him. Paul’s argument is that behavior should follow belief. What we claim to believe about Jesus should change how we live. Paul uses four parallel words to explain what this life of faith should look like—rooted, built up, established, and thankful.
Rather than tumbleweeds with a narrow root that withers in the heat, we are to be more like trees who sink their roots down deep into the soil. At the time of our salvation, we put our roots into Christ. Now we need to draw our life and sustenance from him.
Paul shifts his metaphors from agriculture to architecture. While we were rooted in Christ in the past, we are being built up in the present. The Christian life is not a swift accomplishment, but rather a lifelong building project. The passive voice, “being built up,” indicates that we are dependent on Christ to do the building.
Not only are we being built up, we are strengthened in the faith. It is not enough to place brick upon brick in a wall of support. The bricks must be properly anchored and cemented to each other to provide inner strength. In a sense, “the faith we were taught” is the cement that holds our lives together.
Being rooted, built up, and strengthened should result in a change of attitude. We are to overflow with thanksgiving. Like a river overflowing its banks, so our lives should not be able to contain our sense of gratitude for what God has done.
When we are rooted and built up in Christ, and growing stronger in our faith, we can give thanks even in the midst of difficult situations.
The Message sums up these ideas well as it paraphrases verses 6-7.
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
This message was preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 13, 2013. It was part of a series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. To download a copy of the sermon notes, please click on the link.