[Col 2:6-7 ESV] 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
This passage is a favorite for those who teach a works-oriented approach to walking with the Lord. I was one of those, and I was good at it.
The emphasis was on “just as you were taught,” which shone the spotlight on the teachers (me), though that was not my intent, nor was I aware of it at the time. The intent was to encourage being “rooted and built up.”
Being rooted, built up and established is the aim of the five-fold ministry for the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). I find it interesting that after 2,000 years, we are still struggling to make that happen.
It appears that the Church is weaker now than at any other time in history—more divided (40k denominations), without faith (running for cover from COVID), unable to contend with government (“yessir, we will lock our churches, as you said, sir”).
Thankfully, the Lord is bringing to light a grace-filled understanding of Paul’s teachings on grace.
(While we may criticize our former understanding of the apostle’s teaching, we must also realize that nothing can be accomplished without the light of the Holy Spirit shining into our mind. Paul taught against the law, rules, regulations and rituals by emphasizing grace. Yet, it is only now that a majority understanding of grace is beginning to take place.)
The passage quoted above is one that is taking on new meaning and understanding as the grace of God takes the center stage of teaching.
Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage.
One of the first rules of interpretation is—whenever you see a ‘therefore’, find out what it’s there for. The word is used to draw attention to a conclusion.
In this case, Paul is directing his readers to think about what he has just written and to understand how they are to live.
In the previous verses (2:1-5), he wanted them to know how he longed for them “to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (v. 2) even though he had not personally visited them.
Having not visited them, he had not taught them; but he was concerned about those who might be teaching (v. 4). He was once again battling the possibility of those who would teach a legalistic form of faith by using a logically reasonable understanding.
As You Received Christ Jesus the Lord
(Therefore) Paul appeals to their beginning faith walk.
This is not a statement of fact, but an appeal to recall how they received the Lord.
Therefore, the question is—how did they receive the Lord?
The answer is found in the opening lines of this letter (Col. 1:5b-7). Epaphras preached the gospel of grace to them, and they had been walking in that understanding ever since.
We can see, then, that they received Jesus through the ‘hearing of faith’ (Rom. 10:17). They did not receive Him through any kind of law or works (Gal. 3:2).
So Walk In Him
Since they did not receive Christ through any kind of work or law, but through faith, Paul encourages them to continue in like manner. Their growth in grace in the Lord is to be by faith, not by any kind of rule or rigor.
Rooted and Built Up in Him
This speaks of both the beginning and the continuing process. Both are in Christ.
It’s not that we begin with faith and grow by law (Gal. 3:3). No. It is all by the Spirit.
Established in the Faith
The word translated ‘established’ is often translated ‘confirm’. When something is confirmed for us, we tend to become ‘established’ in that area.
The idea is that once established, there is a firm foundation—in this case, a firm foundation of understanding.
All of this comes BEFORE “just as you were taught.”
Just as You Were Taught
We need to see and understand Paul’s logical progression in this passage. He did not begin with the idea of being taught—which is what I formerly emphasized.
He is re-iterating the fact that they were taught about the faith with which they received the Lord.
How did that occur?
We have already seen that it was through the preaching of grace by Epaphras. And, Paul mentions elsewhere that it is grace which teaches us (Tit. 2:11-12).
Abounding in Thanksgiving
Paul tells them they should express their gratitude for the grace of God in a manner that far exceeds a simple ‘thank you.’
The word ‘abounding’ carries with it the idea of being immeasurable, more than enough, but not nearly too much.
Why should there be this abundance of thanksgiving?
Because the grace of God towards us is immeasurable, more than enough, but not nearly too much.
None of this is to say that we do not need teachers, for we do. They are a gift from God for the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).
It is the manner, method and material which they teach that can be a problem. This is what Paul, Peter, John and Jesus cautioned us about.
Teachers help us to be able to hear with faith if the message is clear. ‘Do’ or ‘don’t do’ are seldom clear messages, for there is always an exception, a caveat to that which is presented.
Not so with grace. It is far bigger than we can comprehend or contain.
A teacher, a pastor, or an evangelist must be willing to trust the Lord with the lives of those to whom they minister. The ‘razor’s edge’ for these ministers of truth is to recognize and allow that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
That means that as a minister, I might not be able to ‘accept’ what someone may be doing, but I must trust that the Lord will make a way—either for their betterment or for my understanding.
Ultimately, though, if we can learn to abound with thanksgiving for the grace of God in our life and the lives of others, everything will work out for our good (Rom. 8:28).