COLOSSIANS - Christ in you, the hope of glory!
Studies in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians
Part 2 - The Recognition of the Mystery of Christ Guards Against False Teaching (Colossians 2:1-23)
9. We are Rooted in Christ (Colossians 2:4-7)
4 Now this I say that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving.
Paul wrote his challenging confession of faith, stating that all wisdom and knowledge of heaven and earth are to be found in Jesus, so that the new believers in the hinterland of Ephesus would not fall pray to enticing speech. The apostle knew that deceivers, using skilful and persuasive speech, can often deceive, tempt and lead astray credulous believers with their supposed wisdom and amazing knowledge. Therefore, the apostle wrote: “Test all things; hold fast what is good!” (1 Thes. 5:21; Rom. 12:2). Do not be deceived by delusive words or grand wonders, for even the false prophet of the antichrist will at some time “perform great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men; and he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs” (Rev. 13:13-15).
When a person recognizes the redeeming majesty and merciful wisdom of God in Jesus Christ, he dies to all philosophies and party programs. He lives from the grace of the Crucified One alone.
Paul assured those being assailed that he would neither forget nor neglect them. In his thoughts and prayers, he was always with them, so that they were not left alone in their critical questions of faith and doubt. Furthermore, the apostle assured both churches that he rejoiced to hear from one of their elders that a vigorous and spiritual order was present in their assemblies and ministrations. Together as one closed battle formation, they were trusting in Christ, their Saviour and Lord, while courageously defending Him from all of their evil seducers.
Paul went on to remind the followers of Christ in Colosse and Laodicea of the beginning of their faith. They had not received the message of the crucified and risen One as simply a foundation for endless discussion, but instead, had personally experienced how it cleansed their consciences. They had experienced power to believe and joyfully practiced it in a fellowship of happy and blessed people. They had recognized God as their Father, Jesus as His Son, and the Holy Spirit as their Comforter and Leader. They had received Jesus as their Saviour because He had already accepted and redeemed them. Their own decision had not marked the beginning of their faith; rather, the love of God had paved the way for their salvation, brought it down to them, and caused it to be realized in them. The grace of God was the mystery of their faith, and not their achievement or own personal merit. They resembled lost travellers stumbling around at night in a dark and forlorn valley. In the distance they had suddenly recognized a shimmer of light and rushed toward it. As they proceeded the glow of light became stronger and stronger, until at last they stood in the complete glow of grace. These called and justified ones accepted “Him” as their Light and Saviour. Without much intellectual thought, they had been overwhelmed by His grace.
The apostle summoned those who had become thoroughly perplexed by the lovers of philosophy and confused proponents of the law to continue living as they had when they first came to faith. The free grace of God´s love, as seen in the sacrificial death of Christ, was to remain their motto and the source of power for their faith. The result would be their continual cleansing in Christ through grace as they stood and lived before God. Not their good works or their philosophical wisdom, not even the 613 commands of Moses, was to constitute the compass of their life. The resurrected Lord Jesus alone, in all of His glorious splendour, who had drawn them into His safekeeping, was to lead them onward. They lived in Him, like movable appendages of a body. He was their head, they His physical body. All other garrulous babble and so-called enlightened intellectual proofs had become to them nothing more than short-sighted and transitory worthlessness, having received so much more in their beloved Redeemer.
The apostle knew that emotions can often soon cool down and die. Therefore, he challenged the churches to study Jesus, to get to know Him better, to experience Him, to hold fast to Him, and to be transformed and shaped by His greatness, love and power. They needed to resemble trees planted by an underground water cistern, so that they could suck up the life-giving water and bring forth much fruit. This principle, however, was not to be followed because of faith in the Law of Moses, but through life-giving connection to Jesus Christ (Psalm 1:3; Matt. 5:17-20). Paul recommended that the church members be wise builders, who did not build their houses on some steep, sandy cliff. Instead, they were to recognize the solid rock of Jesus, and build upon Him (Matt. 7:24-27). Their faith needed to be tested, strengthened, and deeply anchored in their hearts.
The apostle attached great importance to seeing that not everyone be permitted to contrive his or her faith - as he or she pleased. Rather, they were to humbly and gratefully heed the words of experienced elders, whose faith had been refined through suffering and opposition. Blessed is the follower of Christ who does not live alone, but attends uplifting Bible studies, hears relevant sermons and listens to abundant messages on tape and CD. He can then compare what he has heard with the written word of God and take these matters to his Lord in prayer.
Paul, who had often been sincerely overwhelmed by the goodness, abundance and glory of Christ, closed his instruction with the words: “abounding with thanksgiving!” While evaluation and discussion of things is at times necessary, offering of thanksgiving is what truly opens the way to the throne of the Lord! “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” (Ps. 50:23). Herein rests one of the most distressing needs in all of Christianity! When it comes to asking, we are truly wealthy, but when it comes to thanking, we are terribly stingy. As a result, we become tired in spirit, half-blind spiritually and unable to see Jesus clearly in all His glory. He, however, has given us spiritual life, righteousness and the courage to believe and serve. Without Him we are unable to do what is right. Where then is our gratitude for His love, His patience, His Self-sacrifice in our place as well as for the power of His Spirit and the hope of glory? Blessed is the person who repents and is practiced in the offering up of thanksgiving. Happy is the man who richly thanks the Father in heaven through Jesus, the Lord of lords.
Prayer: Father in heaven, we praise You and thank You. The Apostle Paul admonishes us to be rooted in Jesus alone, so that we are not taken in by followers of pious sects. Rather, we are to be built up on Your Son, to keep and practice His word, and to thank Him. Bless especially those Christians who are living lonely in their faith. Strengthen them through the power of Your Spirit, Your care, and Your power. Amen.
Question 32: How did Paul strengthen the churches against the influence of sectarians?