- Ephesians 3:14-21
- Colossians 2:6-15
Dear friends in the Lord,
Our series from Colossians goes under the heading “United with Christ.” In the very first chapter we found terms like fulness, wisdom, understanding, every way, all power, all things, everything, glorious riches, all wisdom, perfect in Christ, all energy, full riches, complete understanding, all treasures, etc. are terms driving the message of this letter. And these things point to Jesus Christ, the One perfect Saviour between God and us, and our walk in Him.
To know Christ as Lord is life-changing—eternity depends on it, but to grow in our knowledge of Him impacts on the way we live for his glory till eternity breaks trough.
Let’s spend some time in verses 6-8.
Progression in Christ is necessary
Read with me through verses 6-7.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6–7, NKJV)
Becoming a Christian begins with hearing what the Bible teaches about God, about Jesus Christ and about the Holy Sprit. The Greek word “receive” in verse 6 in the time of Paul meant to receive instructions as part of some philosophy. The Gospel of Christ is not philosophy, but it does about facts concerning the Triune God of the universe—hoe He relates to us, and how we live in relationship to Him.
Epaphras went to the Philippians and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them (1:7). The truth of this gospel (1:5) stirred them to faith in Jesus Christ (1:4). This also happened in Thessalonica. Paul writes:
… we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV)
There is a pattern.
1. Hearing and receiving
Salvation in Christ comes by the preaching of the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing the message, and message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
The Colossians heard the message, and they believed and confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. Hearing, believing and receiving Christ as Lord is the first step on the way of a Christian.
My dear friend, may I just for a little moment pause here. We may now continue to talk about necessary things for any Christian to grow, but the truth of the matter is this: if you have not been at the point of receiving and believing the teaching about Jesus Christ—and consequently receiving Him Lord, we might never agree on what follows in the Chapters which follows. I might be talking right over your head purely because you do not yet comprehend the fundamental truths of the Gospel and Jesus Christ. If this is the case, please make it your earnest desire to come to know the Bible message, and to understand what it teaches about Jesus Christ. Then, receive and worship Him as your Lord.
2. Live in union with Christ
Our translation says walk in Him. How do we walk in Christ? The best way is to translate the “in” as “in union”.
This aspect is the most important part of discipleship. When Jesus called his disciples when they were still full-time fishermen, He called them to leave behind what they were doing and follow Him. They walked with Him wherever He went. Christ did not go back to them to sit down and teach them whenever He thought it was time for another lecture on becoming fishers of men; no, He called them to follow Him. He calls his disciples not to contemplate his teachings and remember some of the things He did; He called them to walk with Him.
We can’t do the same today in a physical sense, and this surely not what Paul had in mind when he said: “walk in union with Christ”. But being a Christian is, in essence, living in union with Christ. In an objective way it means when a Christian receives Him as Lord, all that Christ has done to make it possible to be a child of God—his perfect life of righteousness, his sacrificial death, his victorious resurrection, his being at the right hand of the Father—all these things He did so marvellously perfectly on our behalf, that when we believe in Him, God looks at us as if we did it—only, we couldn’t, but Jesus did! The benefits of Christ’s work as Mediator become ours by faith. That we must believe with all our heart. But we cannot add to complement his work; we cannot add to what Christ has done. We must believe in what He did on our behalf, and worship Him as Lord. That’s the objective truth of the message of Christ.
Now, his conduct must become our conduct. This is the subjective side of our union with Christ. Having received the Gospel and worshipping Jesus Christ as Lord has an enormous effect on the way Christians must live. Paul has already said something about it in Colossians 1:10:
that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10, NKJV)
This is what the Bible refers to as sanctification. We are called to become what we are in Christ. In Him, we are already declared holy in God’s sight, but we must live holy lives. This is not to complement Christ’s righteousness with our good works; no, our good works flow from his righteousness and adorn it. Through works of holiness, we bring glory to the Name of Him who by grace made us co-heirs of Jesus Christ.
3. Becoming like trees and a building
The Gospel describes the procession from being born as a baby in faith to grow to maturity in union with Christ as being like a tree and like a building.
rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:7, NKJV)
A healthy tree has a healthy root system. Roots not only anchor a tree to stand against strong winds, but it also seeks and carries nutrition for the growth of the tree. It is absolutely amazing how deep the roots of a tree go down to draw water. For those of us who know something about the outback will know how long a tree sometimes can survive without rain, purely because the roots go deep.
Further, trees are heavy, and the leaves add to resistance in winds. A fully grown blue gum can weigh up to 9 metric tons, leaves excluded. Include the weight of 200,000 leaves, as well as their wind resistance, and you know why it needs strong roots.
Psalm 1 describes the Christian as a tree.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3, NKJV)
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in God’s law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2, NKJV)
My friend, grow like this tree. Grow strong, Your roots must be deep to extract the nutrients, your roots must be strong to withstand the storms of life. Grow in the knowledge of the Lord!
TV programs about building some of the highest buildings in the world teach us that one of the main concerns for the architects and engineers lies in the planning and construction of the foundation. From that foundation grows the building, in some cases up to hundred stories high. The rest of the structure needs something to stand upon to withstand strong winds, earthquakes or other natural disasters.
Our foundation is Christ. In Him and from Him we are built up; He is the cornerstone.
Dear family in the Lord, feed on the Word of God as much as you can and don’t be a spiritual anorexic, or a bonsai Christian. Don’t be satisfied with the sound bites of lose verses here and there, or with memes with a few Bible verses printed over it. Read good Christian books, but never, ever neglect reading the Word of God earnestly and diligently. Get a full diet of the Word on a daily basis. Keep delving as deep as you can. Why? The Bible tells us in our text: we need to be strengthened in our faith. Like the deep roots of the tree and the strong foundations of the building are good for further growth, so Christians need to become strong in faith, and it only happens when we find our delight in the reading and study of the Word of God, and doing the bidding of Christ our Lord.
What happens if we don’t grow in our knowledge of Christ
Verse 8 spells out the devastation of a poor understanding of the Gospel. It pictures the result of a church where people are in no position to defend the Gospel. Let’s read:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
The language of this verse is very openly that of a struggle or battle. This side is the truth, the other side is a false gospel. One is about Christ, the other is about the devil. One is about light, the other is about darkness. On one side the forces of the Gospel are gathered; on the other side the forces of darkness. The fight is between two kingdoms: the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love, the Crown Prince of the living God, against the kingdom of darkness, rules by the destroyer of souls.
Those gathered under the banner of Jesus Christ look at the cross where He defeated the powers of darkness. His victory is their victory. Under his banner, they march forth. He is the head of every power and authority. When they were baptised, they were baptised in Him; through faith, they received all that belongs to Him sealed and signified in the sacrament. Spiritually they rose with Christ from the dead by the power of God. They believe in God who raised Christ from the dead.
We should always be aware of the battle for our mind. We are constantly bombarded with all sorts of teachings, and in most cases, they don’t come with big banners to announce their origins. In the normal scheme of things our enemy is subtle and patience. Little by little the paradigm shifts, and over some time we might find ourselves contending for the opposites of what we believed in originally.
You have heard the cries to be progressive, and that we cannot be stuck in the past. Be careful, progress might be a good thing, but progressives constantly move the goalposts. There is also a big difference between being traditional and being conservative. Traditionalists don’t want to change things, purely because they like what they do without asking questions. Progressives want to change without asking why, as long as it is some new. Conservatives are happy to chance if they know it is for the right reasons and following the right principles.
As Christians, we need to tackle our new world bravely, but we need to know our roots and our foundations in Jesus Christ. Without knowing Him, and growing in our knowledge of Him, we will be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies which depends on human teaching and principles of this world, and not Christ.
My dear friend, it all starts with hearing the Gospel, believing it, and receiving and serving Jesus Christ as Lord. But we cannot remain children in the faith. We need to grow in our unity with Christ, grow in sanctification, grow deep roots like those big trees, and being built up to a strong building standing firm on the foundation of Christ.
It surely is time for Christianity to rise from its ignorance and spiritual illiteracy. I trust you are growing in your knowledge of Christ.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 September 2018