Let’s turn to the book of Colossians. We’re going to read the couple verses that you could call the hinge of the letter of Colossians. These 2 verses are based on all the words of assurance to the Colossian Christians that came before in the letter about the truthfulness of the gospel they heard, who the Lord Jesus is, the fact of their good relationship with the Lord and their salvation. And these 2 verses begin the practical application part of the letter. They give the big overarching exhortation that summarizes all the more specific commands that follow in the letter. Let’s read it, Colossians 2:6-7. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 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.”
Several years ago there was a young couple who came to me, just because I’m a preacher, and asked me to perform a wedding ceremony for them. They didn’t attend any church. They were already living together. I thought it may be a good opportunity to build a relationship with them in which I may be able to influence them spiritually. So I agreed to do that for them. At the wedding rehearsal I overheard the groom talking with a friend about what he was going to do at the wedding reception, how he was going to get just totally “smashed.” I asked them about their relationship with the Lord and they said, “Oh, it’s good. We both got saved a few years ago.” Hmm, sleeping together before marriage and planning to get totally smashed tomorrow, but your relationship with the Lord is good because you “got saved” a few years ago? I hear that language a lot today, “I got saved.” Or people tell me about their church and they say “Yeah, every Sunday there are people getting saved.” Well, what is this getting saved? Are people really getting saved? How do you get saved, according to the Bible? And once you get saved, is that a settled, irreversible, no-matter-what, condition?
In the book of Colossians one of the things that Paul has made clear to these Christians in Colossae is that they did in fact “get saved”. In the first part of this letter Paul has been assuring them that they heard and believed and did the right things that got them saved. He addressed them as “saints and faithful brethren in Christ” (1:2). He told them the message they heard from Epaphras, the guy who taught them the gospel, was the word of truth (1:5-7). They’ve got good stuff laid up for them in heaven (1:5). They have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints (1:12). They have been rescued from domain of darkness, and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, in whom they have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (1:13-14). Though they were enemies of God, Christ has reconciled them to God in His fleshly body through death (1:21-22). They “got saved.”
The first thing that Paul does in our text (2:6-7) is remind the Colossian Christians of what they did to get saved, what they did that brought them into this blessed saved relationship with God in which they are. Let’s notice how Paul describes…
How to “get saved”
He uses the language that people often use today when they speak of how one gets saved. They say it’s by receiving Christ, accepting Christ. Paul would say the same. He reminds the Colossian Christians of how they got saved when says, “as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord“. By receiving Christ Jesus the Lord the way that the Colossian Christians received Him we get saved. But what does that mean? How did the Colossians receive the Lord?
Did you know….
There are different kinds of reception you can give someone.
You can find the language of receiving someone often in the Bible. It refers to giving someone a certain place in your heart and life. In Matthew 1:24 it says Joseph “received” (same word in the Greek text) Mary as his wife. He gave Mary that place in his heart and life as his wife. It means he decided to go through with the wedding, unite his life with hers, share his home and bed with her, protect and provide her and live as one with her. Paul in Galatians 4:14 spoke of the kind of reception the Galatians gave him when he came to them with the gospel. He wrote, “you received me as an angel of light.” Meaning they gave him the place in their heart and life as a messenger of God, like an angel, so they trusted his words as truth from God and gave him great respect and hospitality. Now, that’s different than the way Joseph received Mary. Joseph wasn’t going to take everything Mary said as God’s word. And the Galatians weren’t going to marry Paul. So you can receive someone as your wife and that means one thing, or you can receive someone as a spokesman for God and that means another thing, or you can receive someone as friend and that means something different, or you can receive someone as your attorney and that’s different, or as your taxi driver and that’s different. There are different kinds of reception you can give to someone.
There are different kinds of reception people give to Jesus.
Many today try to receive Him…
Simply as their personal savior
The place they open up for Christ in their heart and life is the place of their savior. Assuming He’s willing to save them just how they are without any change or commitment on their part if they just invite Him to do so, they invite Him to be their savior. This is usually done by means of prayer. People pray a heartfelt prayer to Jesus expressing that that they know their sinfulness and need for saving and that they cannot save themselves without Him, and that they believe He died for their sins, paid their debt, and they ask Him to erase all their sin and make them right with God. And people feel good when they do that, believing that Jesus did just as they asked Him. I think that’s how the young couple I did a wedding for several years ago tried to receive Jesus. They invited Him to be their savior. And they thought that was all that was necessary in order to get saved.
Some go a little bit further than that, and they try to receive Jesus…
Not just as savior, but also as consultant or adviser
They not only ask Jesus to save them, but they decide that they will let Jesus be one whose opinion they will hear and consider. So the place they open up for Christ is like a seat among the various influences and voices that impact their decisions, next to their friends and parents and counselor and professors. They add Jesus to the committee with whom they consult for life decisions. So Jesus gets a vote in how they will live. But really self still gets the final say in all decisions. If self doesn’t like what Jesus says about a matter, if Jesus’ teaching doesn’t jive with their way of thinking about it, then Jesus’ teaching in the matter is disregarded. The person who gives Jesus this kind of reception will follow some of Jesus’ example and teachings. This person may get baptized as Jesus commands, and attend church and earn an honest living for themselves and pay their taxes and try to stop cursing so much. But self may overrule what Jesus says about how we should use our money when we have more than enough and others around us don’t have enough, or about how we should keep our eyes on just our own spouse, or about how we should forgive those who wrong us even in big ways, or what Jesus says about other matters.
But the Colossian Christians went further than that in receiving Jesus. They received Jesus…
As their Lord, their master, their owner, the one whom they must listen to and obey. Rightfully so, for He is Lord of all creation (Acts 10:36), all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matt 28:18), He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). Often in the NT in relation to Jesus we are pictured as slaves.
So Colossian Christians immediately did some things that Jesus commands, because they received Him as Lord. As you see in every example of conversion in the book of Acts, in repentance and commitment to do the will of Jesus in their lives, they were baptized in His name (Acts 2:38-41; 8:12-13, 36-38; 10:47-48; 16:15, 32-33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16). Colossians 2:11-12 describes that moment, “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” As physical circumcision was a requirement to be the old covenant relationship with God, here is the parallel in the new covenant. It involves on our part “faith in the working of God who raised Christ from the dead,” trusting that God really did raise Jesus from the dead and He will raise us from our spiritual death in the bondage of sin as we commit ourselves to the Lord and are baptized. It involves a laying aside with Christ’s help of “the body of the flesh,” the body that’s ruled by the fleshly nature, “the old self with its evil practices,” as it’s called in 3:9, in other words, repentance. And it involves being united with Christ in baptism. Repentance and baptism are part of receiving Jesus as Lord, because Jesus commands it (Acts 2:38; Matt 28:18-20; Lk 13:3-5, etc.). To not do as Jesus commands means you have received Him only as a consultant or a buddy or something else less than Lord.
And this is how we must receive Jesus. Scripture teaches that…
We cannot have Jesus as our Savior unless we also take Him as our Lord.
Listen to these words from Jesus, Matthew 10:37-39, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. [Unless we’re willing to please Jesus even when it will displease our family members, we can’t have a relationship with Jesus.] 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” He’s saying unless you lose your life by surrendering it to Him, you can’t have Him as your personal Savior. You cannot have Jesus as your Savior without also having Him as your Master.
In the apostle Peter’s preaching he would apply the prophetic words of Deuteronomy 18 about the coming prophet like Moses to Jesus and say, “to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22-23). As Lord we must give heed to all He says, we must obey Him, or it will not go well for us.
Now, once we’ve gotten saved by receiving Christ as Lord, we have to keep Him as our Lord and there’s a path of life we must follow if we’re to stay saved. Paul said this to the Colossians in 1:22-23. He said, “Christ has reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard…” Notice that word at the beginning of v23, “if”. “If” means there’s a condition. Christ will present you before God holy and blameless on the condition that you continue in the faith. Well, let’s notice in our text how Paul describes that saved way of life.
How to stay saved
“as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”
When you receive Christ Jesus as Lord it sort of puts a circle around your life, it sets up parameters or boundaries. Inside the circle is everything that is in keeping with the will of Jesus; it is all the Lord approves of, all that is pleasing and acceptable to Him. Outside the circle is all that is against His will, all that He disapproves of. And this sphere in which you are to walk about, in which you are to live, Paul calls Christ, because when you stay in the circle it’s like you’re a part of Christ, it’s like you’re a member of His body. You are carrying out His will like hands and feet carry out the will of the mind to whom they’re connected.
So there are places that other people go that you cannot go, because it would be to go outside the boundaries of Christ. There are things that people say to one another, there are things that people watch, there are things that people do for fun, that you cannot say and watch and do because it lies outside the boundaries of the Lord. You can walk about and enjoy whatever you like inside the circle, but you must not go outside. There are worshipful things and compassionate things that many people do not do, but that you must do because neglecting them is going outside the will of the Lord.
Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” Every spiritual blessing, forgiveness of sins, adoption as God’s children, the Holy Spirit, the eternal inheritance, all the blessings are found in Christ, in the circle. So you have walk about, live, there.
Now, Paul follows that in v7 with 4 descriptions of how to stay in Christ and not be drawn out by temptation or persecution or deception or whatever Satan may use to pull us out. #1 in v7 he says you need to…
Get firmly rooted.
If the sphere in which we need to live is like ground and we’re like trees, we need to sink deep roots into that ground. Roots are things that provide a tree with 2 things, nourishment and stability. If we’re firmly rooted we’re being well nourished and we cannot be pulled out. How do you make it where you’re being well nourished and nothing is going to pull you out of the parameters where you need to live? How do you sink your roots in this ground Paul calls Christ?
Well, I think for one thing definitely you fill your mind with His word. You’re not going to pull me out of Christ, because of what I know. I know too much about right and wrong, truth and error, what I have in Christ, where I would be outside of Him. And I’m not going to be intimidated by people who want to make me feel foolish for my beliefs, because I know why what I believe is right. I’m prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in me. Knowledge makes you stable and enables you to grow. You’re sinking your roots as you study and mediate on the word.
Also, when you develop family like relationships with other Christians. That’s another reason you’re not going to pull me out of Christ. It’s because of my relationships with other Christians. The thought of disappointing them or losing the fellowship we have keeps me in this sphere in which I need to live. And through my relationships with other Christians I’m also constantly nourished, through their words of wisdom and encouragement and correction sometimes. When I see Christlike character and attitudes in them it inspires me to more like Christ myself. You’re sinking your roots in the ground you need to be in as you build relationships with other Christians.
And certainly you’re stinking your roots when you pray. Prayer has a way of clarifying in your mind what’s important and what’s not, and it brings God to your aid. It’s sinking your roots deeper.
And we could add other root stinking activities – singing to one another, serving, giving.
Storms will come to tear you out of Christ, the Scriptures say. Acts 14:22 says that Paul went around to the churches in Lystra and Iconium and Antioch and was telling them, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” There will be tribulations. There will be winds to pull you out of Christ. I Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you“. The winds are to be expected and unless you’ve sunk in roots, unless you’ve been in the word and in prayer and built relationship Christians, unless you’re firmly rooted, it won’t take much wind to relocate you outside of Christ.
The next 2 descriptions Paul gives on how we stay in Christ are what results when we’ve sunk in deep roots.
Be built up in Him.
Grow in your knowledge and character into His image. You’re going to be built up in Him, through the same means that you sink your roots, through the word, prayer, fellowship, singing, giving, serving.
Get established in the faith.
Through diligent study and devoted prayer and putting what you believe into action see for yourself that what you believe is indeed the truth.
Then Paul adds one more thing about how we stay in Christ. He says…
Be overflowing with gratitude.
You might find it interesting that he throws that in there. He was just speaking in general terms about the successful Christian life. “Walk in Christ, firmly rooted, being built up and established in the faith.” Those are very general instructions. “Overflowing with gratitude” seems like a more specific instruction compared to those. But it makes good sense. The attitude of gratitude is fundamental and crucial to staying in Christ. Whenever God puts a restriction on our lives, whenever he sets boundaries for us, Satan wants to lure us up to the edge of the fence and get us looking over at what’s outside that we’re missing. He wants us thinking, “Boy, the pastures sure look green over there. Those people look happy. They look like they’re having fun.” As soon as God put Adam and Eve in the Garden and said “You can eat of any of the trees you want, just don’t eat of that one,” Satan got them looking at that one and how beautiful and tasty it looked and how it would be to their advantage to eat it, and he got them to cross the boundary. “Overflowing with gratitude” has to do with not looking at what’s outside the fence, at what the people of the world have and can do. It has to do with looking at the abundance we have inside the fence, at how blessed we are to be in the fence. Yes, there are restrictions. Yes, there’s a fence. There are places we can’t go. But turn around and look at all that is inside the fence.
The Hebrew writer tried to paint us a bit of a picture of it in Hebrews 12:22-24. If you look through the eyes of faith at what you have in Christ, these are things that you are going to see. Hebrews 12:22, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” That’s our city (11:10, 16; 13:14). He goes on in 12:22 and says we’re looking at “myriads of angels, the general assembly” or NIV has “thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” Hebrews 1:14 says angels “are all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” God has thousands upon thousands of angels ready to be sent out on our behalf to help in whatever way we need or to protect us, to be sent out to accomplish answers to our prayers. We have all that great power in Christ. And then we’re looking at the “church of the firstborn [plural] who are enrolled in heaven.” In Christ, in the church, we are the firstborn out of all humanity. The firstborn in ancient families were the ones who were exalted and privileged and honored over the other siblings. They were given a double share of the inheritance and became the leaders of the family. It means we are the most blessed privileged people in all the world. And our names are enrolled in the registry of the citizens of heaven. The people on the other side of the fence, their names are not in the book. We’re looking at “God, the Judge of all” In Christ we are right with the judge; we have His approval. We’re looking at “the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” That’s talking about the righteous of past ages who finished out their lives faithful. We get to live with them. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, the prophets, John the Baptist, Paul… they’re all going to be our neighbors, we’re going sit with at the great banquet table. We’re looking at “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant“. In Christ, Jesus has established this new covenant between us and God. We have this wonderful deal with God where He treats us like we’ve never sinned before. And we’re looking at “the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” Remember when Cain slew his brother Abel in Genesis 4 and God said to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” It was crying out for vengeance and justice and punishment. But in Christ we have the blood that speaks better. We have the blood of Christ that cries out for mercy and forgiveness and grace. Let’s be overflowing with gratitude over what we have in Christ, never envying the people of the world and what they have and what they do.
So this is the path of salvation. This is the narrow road of which Jesus spoke that leads to eternal life that few find. Receive Christ as Lord. If you do that, it’s going to have you obey His commands to lay aside the old self with its evil practices in baptism for a new self that’s developing into His image. Then you must live in Him to the end of your days. So get firmly rooted and built up and established and be overflowing with gratitude.
– James Williams