“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
Here is an exhortation directed to the Church of Colosse, which along with the Church in Laodicea were churches in Asia Minor. Neither of them had been established through the mission activity of the Apostle Paul, but most likely through the labors of Epaphras and Archippus, fellow-servants of the apostle.
Through these fellow-servants Paul had learned of the peculiar circumstances prevailing in these churches, which became the occasion for him to write the letter to Colosse, which must also be read in Laodicea.
First of all, the apostle had learned of their faith in the Lord Jesus and love which they had to all the saints. But, secondly, he had also learned how these churches had been threatened by the Jews who always were seeking to destroy the church by leading the church back into Judaism. Also he had learned of the doctrine of angels, introduced into the church along with their worship of them: their claim being that angels were present at and assisted in the work of creation, and therefore should be worshipped by the church.
Paul’s great concern for the churches is expressed in the first part of our chapter. He would have them established more perfectly in the knowledge of the mystery of God, which is the whole plan of salvation as it is realized in and through Christ. He would have them come to the full assurance of understanding. He is aware of the destructive attitudes of unbelief and doubt. If the full assurance of understanding is missing, the church will also miss her real comfort, joy in the God of her salvation, power to fulfill their calling in the world, and there will be no hope and no thanksgiving. The church must come to the full assurance of understanding to taste personally the love of God in Christ. Moreover, the apostle is also concerned that the bond of mutual love be strengthened and exercised. In the measure the church comes to the knowledge of the mystery and full assurance of understanding, also the bond of mutual love will be strengthened. When the church, as was the case here, is threatened with false doctrine, there is the tendency to pull the church apart. She must be therefore molded together and strengthened in the bond of mutual love.
In the light of this situation are we to understand the exhortation in our text.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.
They had received Christ Jesus the Lord. They received Him precisely as He had been presented to them through the preaching of the gospel. They came into contact with Him through the preaching. As they were taught (vs. 7), so they embraced the Christ of the Scriptures. As Christ was preached and they were taught, so they had received Him. The emphasis falls not so much on their activity of faith, but on the wonder and power of revelation and teaching. Christ was so presented that they actually saw Him and knew Him. So carefully were they taught that they understood Him, and accepted Him for Who and What He is.
Noteworthy here is the fullness of names whereby the Savior is described.
He is Christ, the anointed of God. Anointed was He in a two-fold sense: officially He was appointed to be their Savior, but this official appointment also includes the fact that He was qualified in every sense of the word to be their Savior. As the Christ, the anointed of God, He was able to represent them with the Father, first of all, as their Prophet, to instruct them in the things of God, and to make known to them the whole counsel of God concerning their salvation. As the Christ, the anointed of God, He was able to represent them with the Father as their Priest, to bring for them the perfect sacrifice of atonement that could satisfy the just demands of God’s justice, and intercede for them with the Father as their Paraclete, and to give them the promise of the Holy Spirit. As Christ, the anointed of God, He was able to represent them before the Father as their King. He is appointed and qualified to rule over them, and to defend and deliver them from all their enemies.
He is Jesus, which means He is Jehovah-salvation. He is that precisely as Christ. He is ordained to be their Savior from sin and death, and to give them all the blessings of salvation, eternal life, righteousness, holiness, love, grace, mercy, and peace.
He is Lord. As their Lord they had been taught to know Him through the gospel. As such also they had received Him, knowing consciously that He had made them His possession, and therefore they are His servants with body and soul, in life and in death. So it is their delight to hear and to keep His Word, and to do His will. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord,
So walk ye in Him!
The walk here, as so often in Scripture, embraces their entire active life in the world. It includes the life of the body as it is realized externally when they come into contact with the world; but it includes that life also as it is motivated and activated internally through the life of the soul, and that too in their. thinking, willing, and desiring.
Accordingly, too, that walk is their life as they live it in all the relationships of life, in the home, the church, the state. It includes their religious life, their social life, their life as they live it in relation to economics, industry, business, education, etc. In one word, their walk includes all the departments of life, nothing excluded.
In all these relationships of life the church is exhorted to walk in the sphere of Christ. That is, their inmost life must be motivated by Christ as they had received Him by His Spirit; while their outward life must be governed by His Word of truth as it had been set forth in the preaching. Christ they had received; and as they had been taught, so they are to live in the midst of the world. Christ must be seen in them as they enter into the world in all its departments, That is the meaning of the exhortation itself.
Shall the church be able to walk in Christ’s sphere, it is absolutely indispensable that the believing church be rooted and built up in Him.
Here the apostle speaks in figurative terms. Being rooted in Christ reminds us of a tree that is firmly planted in the soil out of which it draws to itself all the life-giving energy which the soil possesses. So believers are rooted in and can never be separated from Christ. The grammar used here suggests this idea. They are not exhorted to be rooted in Christ, but the text speaks the fact that they are rooted in Him. However, before their deepest consciousness they must also sense this if they are to walk as believers in the world. The having been rooted in Christ also denotes that the source of all their life is Christ. As the tree draws its life-sap from the soil, so believers by a living faith draw all their spiritual life and blessings out of Christ. Without Him they are nothing, and can do nothing.
To this the apostle adds, being built up in Him. Believers in Scripture are often set forth as a building, established on the ,foundation which is Christ, or the doctrine concerning Christ. Also here the apostle uses figurative language. The figure changes from that of a tree into that of a building. Not only must the church be rooted in Christ, but also built up in Him. The foundation as laid by the preaching is Christ alone, the truths set forth in the preaching of Epaphras and Archippus. The apostle Peter speaks of the believers as living stones which make up the edifice of the house of God. Here the apostle Paul does not view them so much as the material of which the house of God is built, but he stresses the point that the believers as they are rooted in Christ must also develop and be built up in the knowledge of the truth as set forth in the preaching. They grow and are built up as they increase in the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ.
And to this the apostle adds, “and established by the faith.”
Not in the faith, as the translation has it, but by the faith. As the translation would have it, the faith is the sphere in which the believers are established. But the apostle already indicated that Christ is that sphere, not faith. Faith, rather, is the instrument by which they are established. They must be stablished, lest they be driven to and fro by all kinds of winds of doctrine and false philosophy. They had been taught that they are rooted and built up and stablished by the faith of Christ. Shall they be established, it is most important therefore to give heed to what they are taught.
These three, rooted, built up, and established by faith in Christ, are indispensable requisites for walking in the sphere of Christ. Again, we emphasize, the apostle does not exhort the church to be rooted, built up in Christ, and to be established by faith; but he informs the church that this is what has happened to her. So also she had received the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ. On this grounds must she also understand her calling to walk in Christ’s sphere.
The last part of the text describes the manifestation of their walk.
Abounding in thanksgiving!
From the principle of gratitude in their hearts they must conduct their whole life in the world.
This is not only the fruit of their salvation in Christ, but also the end purpose. God has not only saved us from our sins in Christ so that we have the right to enter heaven, but He saved us in Christ that eternally we might express our gratitude to Him for that salvation. Make no mistake about it—where no gratitude is, there is also no experience of the saving grace of God. Being rooted and built up in Christ must produce this fruit in our lives.
In thanksgiving abounding!
And that means that we are so full of gratitude that it runs over, it cannot be suppressed.
The Heidelberg Catechism sensed the importance of this when it asks the question: What is necessary for us to know that we may enjoy the only comfort in life and in death? The answer is: Three things: that I may know how great my sins and miseries are, that I may know how I am delivered from all my sins and miseries, that I may know how I shall show my gratitude for such deliverance.
So also here the apostle stresses the point. If you have received Christ Jesus the Lord as you have been taught through the preaching of the gospel, that is, you have received Him as your Lord and Savior Who was appointed and qualified to redeem you; if you are rooted and built up in Him and stablished by your faith; then it must follow that you walk in His sphere, and your whole life in the world will be one great expression of thanksgiving to God.
And how shall this thanksgiving be expressed?
Merely with a volume of words? O, to be sure, the mouth cannot refrain from speaking of that which fills the heart.
But there is more. Thanksgiving is not merely a matter of the movement of our lips; it is evidenced in the entire walk which is rendered in service to and praise of the God of our salvation.
As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, always abounding in thanksgiving!