(Note: if you have read the other Bible studies in this series and remember what Paul taught the Colossians and Laodiceans, you can skip this section and go to the section titled, “The Walk.”
The people of Colossae and Laodicea lived in a mixed bag of cultures, philosophical thoughts, and religions. They lived in a region called Asia Minor, specifically the Lycus River valley, where a major highway traversed from east to west. The Babylonians, Romans, Jews, and Greeks influenced the lives of the people. To these people in the 1st century AD, Paul wrote while imprisoned. About the Christians in Colossae and Laodicea, he received good news and understood things about which he needed to teach and correct them. (see Background of Paul's Letter to the Church at Colossae)
Several cultures, belief systems, and philosophical thoughts influenced the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea. The second Bible study in this series taught us about Paul’s greeting and introduction of himself and Timothy to the Christians. In this greeting, Paul identified himself and Timothy with Jesus and the believers in Colossae and Laodicea. (see Identification)
In the third Bible study of this Colossian series, Paul prayed, offering thanks to God for the growth of the Christians in the churches of Colossae and Laodicea as shown by their love for God and the saints. He continued to thank God because these Christians constantly bore fruit and matured. Paul identified Epaphras, the founding pastor of these churches, as a “beloved fellow bond-servant,” one who willingly submitted to Christ as Paul taught him. (see Thanksgiving in Colossians)
Paul continued praying over the Colossian Christians to Christ in supplication for them. In these verses, Colossians 1:9-12, he told them he prayed for them daily that they would grow in Christ so they would be well-pleasing to God. Paul prayed for God to fill them with the knowledge of His will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding so they would please Him by bearing fruit in good works. He asked for God to increase their knowledge of Him, strengthen the Colossian Christians with all power, and give them steadfastness and patience. Paul ended this intense prayer by asking that they joyously give thanks to God, who qualified them to inherit eternal life with the saints and the Son in His kingdom. (see Glorious Might)
In verses thirteen and fourteen, Paul explained who this Father is of whom he spoke in verse twelve. He explained the Father is the One who will give the Christians the gifts for which he prayed for them. The Father is the one who rescued the believers, who trust in Jesus for salvation. Paul explained the Father rescues and transfers those who trust in Jesus as the Son of God from Satan’s grip and transfers them to the Son’s kingdom. These two verses told the Colossians what the Father wants to do. With the end of verse fourteen, Paul segued to who the Son is. (see Snatched and Delivered)
The Bible study of Colossians 1:15-20 told what Paul taught about who Jesus is. He told the Colossians that Jesus is the exact embodiment of God. Jesus and the Father are of the same mind. Paul explained Jesus is preeminent over all created things. Jesus always existed and created all things with the Father and Spirit ex nihilo, out of nothing. Because of this, He is greater than all created things, including angels, whom the Gnostics proclaimed were greater than Him. Jesus created all things and, in His wisdom, knowledge, and strength, holds all things together. Paul wrote that Jesus is the head of the body, the Church. He explained Jesus is more than these; He is the firstborn of the dead. Jesus came back to life and still exists. He will be first among all things, alive and dead, visible and invisible. The Father, with pleasure, shared His fullness (His superabundance) with His Son. He enabled the reconciliation of people to Him through Christ Jesus. Paul explained how holy God reconciled sinful people to Himself. For the reconciliation of every person, Jesus gave His life as the sacrifice for the death penalty each one deserves because of their sins. Anyone who trusts Jesus is the Son of God and confesses his or her sins, He will save from their sins and death. By doing this, Jesus made peace with God possible. (see Superabundant Peace)
The Bible study of Colossians 1:21-23 shows Paul used a common teaching/writing technique, conditional clauses. He stated who the Colossian Christians were before they trusted in Jesus, then told them what He wants to do for them. That “then” clause is the apodosis clause. It explains what will happen if someone does something. The “if” clause, the protasis clause, tells what must occur to get the certain reward. In these three verses, Paul told the Colossian believers, if people will trust in Jesus as the Son of God and repent of their sins (protasis, the if), then Jesus will save them from their sins (apodosis, the “then”). The Father rescues people who want Him to save them and transfers them to His Son. His Son redeems and reconciles them to God. Nothing else need happen for people to receive salvation from their sins and gain eternal life with God. The Gnostics taught otherwise. (see Attaining Hope)
With the conclusion of Colossians 1, Paul told, in verses twenty-four through twenty-nine, of his calling by Jesus and his stewardship of God upon which he felt compelled to proclaim. His calling was to serve Christ and His church clearly by proclaiming the Gospel. Within the act of clearly proclaiming, Paul said God told him to teach and admonish. He was to preach the “word of God, the mystery which God had hidden from past ages and generations.” The mystery God hid until that time is that Jesus made salvation available for each person, Jew and Greek, slave and free, men and woman. Paul explained the blessing of this mystery is salvation and the indwelling of each believer by Jesus’ Spirit, the hope of glory. Jesus Christ made all things, redeems those who trust in Him, and indwells each believer. Finally, Paul said in verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine, Jesus called him to admonish with God’s gentle persuasion. This persuasion would tell of His love for each person and the salvation Jesus offers. It would convince and convict each person to turn away from their sins and accept the salvation Jesus provides. By doing this, God rescues and transfers people who act upon the faith He gives. He transfers them to the kingdom of His Son by their trust in Jesus as their Savior for salvation. The Gnostics taught against this point. They strove to prove it to anyone who would listen to them about their philosophical thought on advanced religion. The Gnostics said Jesus was only a man and His death did not give salvation. Paul taught otherwise. (see God's Power and Gentle Persuasion)
As we began our study of Colossians 2 with verses one through five, Paul’s pastoral care for the Colossians and Laodiceans, both of whom he had never met, showed in his writing. Just as in Colossians 1:29, where Paul said he strove for the church, in Colossians 2:1, Paul struggled for the church. He did this because of the love Jesus put in his heart when He called him in Acts to proclaim the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles. Paul concerned himself with ensuring the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea would feel encouraged and unified in love, so they would attain to “all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, Jesus Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 [NASB]) He taught this so the false teachers could not trick the Christians with persuasive arguments. Paul, as a Christian and a pastoral leader for Christian churches, rejoiced because of the two churches’ “good discipline and the stability of their faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5 [NASB]) He said they were like well-trained soldiers aligned in battle array. These believers heard the Gospel and its truth. They had grown in their faith and matured in it so their love for God and Christ showed in their attitudes, actions, and words. Paul encouraged them with his words of commendation because he cared for them and did not want the Gnostics to delude them from the surety of their salvation and hope of glory. (see Rejoicing During Trials)
“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7 [NASB])
With these two verses, Paul returned to his opening prayer for the Colossians and Laodiceans. Paul used the word “therefore” to point us to what immediately preceded the sentence. The preceding sentences of Colossians 2:1-5 were of Paul’s pastoral concern, encouragement of the churches, and rejoicing over them. In essence, Paul said, “Therefore, because you have been encouraged and united in love, and are attaining to the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, which results in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, rejoice. Rejoice because of these and because you have received Christ.”
Paul used several verbs denoting progression in these two verses. When he said, “As you have received,” he spoke to their receiving formal instruction by an ongoing traditional teaching about “Jesus Christ the Lord.” These Christians did not receive just one teaching about Jesus. They learned of Him, trusted in Him, and then kept learning about Him through the teaching of Epaphras and the Holy Spirit living within them. The Christians of Colossae and Laodicea were like sponges. They kept absorbing and growing in their faith in Christ.
Paul’s confession of faith format, “Jesus Christ the Lord,” is an early confession of faith. The Gnostics could not make this confession. They believed Jesus was just a man. The Gnostics did not trust Jesus is the Son of God and that people were to emulate His life. They considered themselves better than the Jesus-followers because they advanced themselves with higher thoughts, not by following a man who they considered as dead.
These Christians did more than hear and believe. They made what they had received a part of their lives. Paul told the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea how to walk. He commended them for how they had already walked in Christ. Paul told them not to let the false teaching of the Gnostics mislead them. He encouraged them to keep walking in “Christ Jesus the Lord.” Because you are a Christian, “walk in Him.” He told them to keep continuing to live completely a life wholly given to Jesus. To hear and believe are not enough. A true Christian is one who follows Jesus, grows to be more like Him, and obeys Him in all things because of love for God. Matthew wrote in Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” John recorded Jesus’ teaching in John 15:14 when he wrote, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Other writers recorded these same types of teachings. John spoke of love for God in 1 John 5:3-5 when he said,
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [NASB]
John spoke of loving God in John 14:15. Jesus said in this passage, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Further in this chapter, Jesus said, “Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to Him.” (John 14:21 [NASB]) Each of these verses teach that being a Christian is not a static experience, but a daily growing in relationship with God, in likeness to Christ, and in obedience to and love of God. These things are about what Paul speaks in Colossians 2:6-7.
What does this “walking in Christ” require? Paul explained it for them and rejoiced over them because of their walk, just as in chapter one and in 2:5. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:7 walking in Christ includes four verbs-firmly rooted, being built up, established, and overflowing. Each of these verbs connotes ideas of building a building, with one having a double connotation of planting like a farmer.
“Having been rooted” points to what happened and what is coming. Another way to say this phrase is, “Because you have been rooted.” So, because the Colossian and Laodicean Christians “have been rooted” in their faith in “Christ Jesus as Lord,” they can grow in their spiritual journey. They have a firm foundation on which to do the other three verbs. Now that Christ rooted them in conjunction with the person’s active faith, they can go forward and grow more in Christ.
To live a life as a Christian is more than being saved at a point in time. It requires growth. Just as when a farmer plants a seed he expects it to mature into a plant from which he can reap food, Christ, when He saves each person expects him or her to grow into the full image of Him by following Him in obedience. That growth requires “being built up in Him.” This verb is a present continuous verb. It marks something happened in the past and continues into the future. This being built up connotes a plant growing with nutrition like fertilizer, water, and sun. It connotes the building of a building, too. Upon the strong and secure foundation, a builder will spend his time and money to keep building. If the builder just poured a slab of concrete, then did nothing else, people would wonder then laugh at him or her for wasting his or her money. Likewise, Christians must continue being built up in Christ. This building up is a constant increasing in Christian knowledge, which is “hidden in Christ” (Col. 2:2-3). The building up leads to a life conformed by Christ, made in the mold to which the builder laid. If the foundation is immovable and straight, what a person builds upon it will be sure and secure. The Gnostics had no security. They strove of their own limited will to think themselves into being spiritual. Humans are sinful and cannot of their own accord save themselves. Because of this, people need Jesus for their salvation and foundation. As a person roots him or herself in Christ and builds up his or her life and faith in Him, he or she grows stronger so he or she can withstand false teachers.
A true Christian who lives his or her faith shows the meaning of being established in one’s faith. Like being built up, being established is a present continuous verb. It speaks of something that began in the past and continues into the indefinite future. This part of building is making sure the beams, bricks, and stones do not cause the building to lean or sway towards other buildings or with the winds and rains. A disaster could occur from its falling because of its instability or to any natural phenomenon. As a Christ-follower, being established means to make sure and secure your belief by growing in the knowledge and wisdom of God. It gives you have a sure understanding, so teachings and thoughts of other people, like the Gnostic false teachers, do not lead you astray. Remember, in Colossians 1, Paul taught that Jesus has within Himself the knowledge and wisdom of God, so your growing in Christ grows your knowledge and wisdom and vice versa.
Paul then told the Colossian and Laodicean Christians to “be firmly rooted… just as you were instructed.” In the beginning of this letter, Paul told the Christians they could be sure of and secure in what Epaphras taught them because Paul taught him. He taught Epaphras what God taught him. These things of God Epaphras proclaimed to the Colossians and Laodiceans. Paul told the believers this so they would remember what Epaphras taught them and could withstand the teaching of the Gnostics. What the Christians of these two cities heard and learned from Epaphras and believed is the truth. Nothing any person says or thinks of his or her volition adds to it to make salvation more complete. Jesus’ sacrifice makes salvation complete, secure and sure. “Christ Jesus is Lord” was and should be their profession, just as Paul said in Colossians 2:6.
The final verb Paul used in this small passage of his letter is “overflowing.” He said, “Just as you received Jesus, so walk in Him… having been firmly rooted in Him… and overflowing with gratitude.” (Col. 2:6-7) A Christian who is walking in Jesus overflows with gratitude. This overflowing comes from a person’s heart. Its original source is God’s storehouses. This reminds us of the “fullness of God.” We learned in Colossians 1 the “fullness of God” means the superabundance of God given to Christ because He is the image of the invisible God. God’s storehouses overflow with every good thing because it comes from the character of God who is good and made everything good. Each person who trusts in Christ Jesus as Lord has this overflowing of gratitude because the Spirit of Christ lives in him or her. Christ’s Spirit dwells in each Christian and makes available His overflowing storehouses from His character and might. A Christian does not have to burdened because, amid the circumstances in which he or she finds him or herself, things like gratitude flow from God’s superabundant storehouses. Each believer can rejoice in all things. Because of God’s storehouses of gratitude and other godly characteristics, a Christian can “look for the silver lining” while going through hard times or “make lemonade from lemons.” Paul said Jesus made it possible for the Colossian and Laodicean Christians to overflow with gratitude as they walk with Christ. Though false teachers or the storms of life pummel believers, they can rest in the truth and overflow with the gratitude Christ gives them during trials. Expressing overwhelming gratitude reminds them of His strength, power, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and reminds them of their hope of glory. These characteristics of God help Christians get through difficult times. These believers could know what God told Isaiah in Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper.” [NASB]
As long as the Christians in Colossae and Laodicea believed beyond the moment of their salvation and grew by being firmly rooted and built up in Him and established in their faith, they would overflow with gratitude. It would enable them to stand strong against whatever came against them. The Gnostics taught against what they believed, but with a growing relationship in Christ, they could grow in Him and withstand the false teaching. Just as Paul taught these Christians, each person who trusts in Christ Jesus the Lord for his or her salvation can become surer of and stronger in his or her faith if he or she grows in these four ways–by being firmly rooted in Christ, built upon what Christ laid in their hearts, spirits, minds, and lives, established in their faith, and overflowing with gratitude because of their walk and growth in Him. None of these is a static action. Christ Jesus makes each believer complete and perfect when he or she arrives in heaven. Until then, each Christian’s journey is about growing to know God in a more intimate way each day.
As you consider what Paul told the Christians in Colossae and Laodicea, have you considered where you are in your relationship with Christ? To be a Christian is more than saying, “I believe.” It requires a person’s daily attention to his or her relationship with God. God wants each person who trusts in Jesus as the Messiah to walk with Him. This requires more than saying, “I do,” like a growing relationship in a marriage requires more than saying, “I do.” It requires growing on the foundation upon which your relationship with God Christ laid in your heart when you said those two words. People may call this work, but most people, those who truly seek God, call it love. Each believer should want to grow in his or her relationship with God because of his or her love and gratitude for Him sending Jesus to live, die, and resurrect to pay the penalty of his or her sins. If someone leapt in front of a car to push you out of the way, you would be grateful for a long time. Jesus did this on a much bigger scale. He leapt in front of Satan’s plan for your life and saved you from eternal death. Because of that, each believer should want to love Him more each day. To love God more each day requires being firmly rooted in, built up, and established in Him, and overwhelming with gratitude. The latter comes because of your deeper understanding of what Christ Jesus did for him or her and of what comes from God’s storehouses because a person lives closer with the Holy Spirit within him or her each day. The questions below should help you learn and grow in your walk with God.
For next week’s Bible study, read Colossians 2, particularly focus on verses 8-15.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 [NASB])