Colossians is a letter written by the apostle Paul sometime between 60 and 62 A.D. This is one of the prison epistles which the apostle composed while he was incarcerated in Rome simply for preaching the gospel. Through Epaphras, the founder of the church in Colosse and his “son” in the gospel, Paul enjoyed such a spiritual relationship with the Colossian believers that he could freely write this letter to them. His main purpose was to warn them of an insidious and dangerous heresy that was threatening the health and life of the church. The false teaching contained elements of both Jewish legalism and pagan mysticism. Later on, this heresy became known as “Gnosticism” which, among others, taught that Jesus Christ was merely one of a series of emanations descending from God and therefore being less than God. This heresy also insisted that there was a secret, higher knowledge above Scripture which was necessary for enlightenment and salvation. To the Gnostics then, Jesus and the Scriptures were not enough. So, the apostle, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned down this letter to oppose the heresy’s encroaching into the church by emphasizing the supremacy of Christ in all things and then encouraging the believers to be “rooted and grounded in Him and to be settled in the faith as they have been taught” (Colossians 2:6,7).
Almost two thousand years after Colossians was written, the impact of the heresy upon the church has become more pronounced than ever. Paul’s challenge is as relevant now as it was then. To combat Gnosticism and other forms of heresy today, for that matter, the need is for the believer to be “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.” There are 3 metaphors that Paul uses here to reveal what it takes to be able to withstand the onslaughts of heretical doctrine.
The first one, “rooted in Christ” is taken from the discipline of agriculture. Just as the plant or tree receives nourishment from the soil through its roots, so a believer draws life-giving food and strength from Jesus Himself and not from man-made teachings or thoughts. Paul uses the perfect tense to describe a present reality which is the result of a past action. The preferable translation should therefore be, “having been rooted in Christ”. It is also interesting to note that the verb is in the passive voice which signifies that they did not plant themselves. The Holy Spirit did and no one or nothing could uproot them anymore. Believers in Christ then are neither “tumbleweeds”, blown hither and thither by any wind of doctrine, nor are they “transplants” moved from one pot of soil to another.
The second metaphor is taken from an architect’s perspective which pictures an edifice that is rising and taking shape built upon a solid and strong foundation. Grammatically, the word, “grounded” or “established”, is in the present tense which denotes a continuing process. As a structure, a believer is, in a sense, not a finished building yet. He is still being erected by the Master Builder Himself on the Rock of Ages who cannot be swayed and shaken by the storms and earthquakes of life that may come. A pastor, who was spearheading his congregation in a church building program, approached the architect and asked why they were taking so much time on the foundation. The architect replied, “Pastor, if we don’t go deep, we can’t go high.” Such must be true of the Christian, too. By the way, the verb is in the passive voice also. This means that the believer doesn’t establish himself, the Holy Spirit does.
The third metaphor is from an educational point of view. According to Paul, a believer should be a person who is settled in the faith as he has been taught. A Christian’s spiritual strength or stamina is developed by rigorous and consistent teaching from God’s Word. A believer will have the ability to “know around” the faith, which is the body of truth that he has come to accept and believe, when he allows himself to be instructed, corrected and rebuked if needed by the Spirit through the Scriptures. When a believer is taught rightly and truly, then he will no longer be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men...” (Ephesians 4:14). Not only that, but he will also be “ready to give a defense to everyone who asks him a reason for the hope that is in him, with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).
But when does this all start? Paul says that this life of being “rooted, grounded in Christ and settled in the faith” goes back to that initial transaction when one received Christ as his Saviour and then walks in Him (Colossians 2:6). The verb “received” signifies a deed done once and for all and cannot be repeated anymore. The moment a person places his faith in Christ as Savior, Jesus comes into his life, resides there and never leaves him. But to prove this reality, he must “walk in Him”. The word “walk” speaks of a Christian life that is active, dynamic and exciting. “Walk” describes one who is in motion and is making progress. His life is not stagnant or dormant but alive. The believer’s “walk” begins in Christ, is bounded by Christ and balanced in Christ.
The consequence of this life is gratefulness. Paul declares, “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7). What this simply means is that a Christian who is “rooted, grounded and settled” manifests this reality in a life of thanksgiving. A thankful life is a beautiful life. When we look into the Bible, we will learn that thankfulness will be focused on two (2) main themes: the attributes of God (who He is) and the acts of God (what He does). And when we reflect deeply on these two, we will have innumerable reasons why we Christians should lead lives that are abounding in thanksgiving.
A group of sociologists studied what comparisons can do to the attitude of people by using a man as a beggar in a strategic location in New York City. First, they wrote the words “I am blind” on a piece of cardboard and hanged it on his neck. He got a measly $4 that day. The next day, they changed the words to “It is spring and I am blind” on the cardboard and then made him do the same thing as he did in the previous day. The “beggar” earned $40. When we realize how blessed we are when we compare our lives with others, we cannot but be thankful. This was the message they were trying to present.
Can you say that you “are rooted, grounded in Christ and settled in the faith?” You can if you had already placed your faith in Christ as your Savior and are now walking in Him daily. As you do, then your life will abound in thanksgiving for all that Jesus means to you and what He does for you.