Colossians 2:6–7: Life in Christ Produces Life for Christ

January 29, 2015

Almost forty years ago, my husband Andy and I agreed to receive each other as husband and wife. We made some commitments then that have, thankfully, stood the test of time. We were young; I had just turned 22 and Andy was not far behind at 21.8 years of age. But our vows were uttered with great confidence and joy. I’ve never been more sure of a decision in my life than that one.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the exchange of wedding vows was a defining moment for both of us. We were just starting out life as adults, and with marriage we understood that our lives would be lived together as a team. We knew full well that we were not perfect individuals, but ours was a good match and our faith in each other (not to mention God) was strong.

We had been taught well by the good examples of both our sets of parents. Our Christian community had provided marvelous resources, and even more role models, to help us visualize a good marriage that could withstand the rigors and pressures of everyday life. It was clear from the outset that this was to be a new lifestyle rooted in each other. That meant that our primary friend and top priority in time and attention would be our spouse. We shared each other’s problems, tackled homebuilding and childrearing as a couple, and defined life around an intimate union. We built something together: a relationship, a home, a family.

Over the years and decades, we have met various challenges and encouraged one another “for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.” We have both changed a lot, and yet because we have been so joined in spirit and in hope through the years, we have changed together. And for the most part, that change has been growth and maturity, as we became better able to handle the new challenges of a fifth decade together.

I share this not only to give thanks for the wonderful grace God has poured out on me through my husband, but also to use the illustration that the Apostle Paul did in describing the church. Not in Colossians, but most notably in Ephesians (a closely related letter), Paul likens the relationship between Christ and the Church to marriage (Ephesians 5:21ff).

So imagine, as Paul gives the following exhortation to the Colossians, that he is calling his readers to the life-defining relationship with Jesus, whom he has extolled in the previous chapter.

6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,
continue to live your lives in him,
7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith,
just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

By receiving Christ, Paul means here that the young Christians in Colossae have taken hold of something (actually Someone) that was given, or transmitted to them, and they embraced the Lord as their own. The Christ Jesus he is talking about is the One who is God’s image, God’s wisdom, and God’s mystery (cf. N.T. Wright’s commentary)—the very one! If we are in union with this Christ, then, Paul says, continue to live “in him.” He is still alive—the Risen Lord—and by the pouring out and indwelling of his Spirit, we are joined to him in faith.

To live in Christ simply means that we align our lives with him, find our life’s encouragement and emotional stability in him, learn what we need to know from him, and draw upon the Spirit’s power to do this.

Paul is saying that if we have received Christ, then we are to live a new way, with a new set of habits and behaviors that are consistent with Christ’s way of life. [Later in the book, Paul will contrast the old life with the new.] This new life is possible because we have been “rooted and built up in him.” We have been planted in the rich soil of the Spirit’s life, where living water and spiritual nourishment sustain us. We have been matured under his guidance, in his light, and with his power. We have been taught the faith (and yes, I think this means the content of the Christian faith, centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ the Lord), so that we might know the difference between truth and falsehood.

As stewards of this treasure, life’s way is accompanied by gratitude. It is important for the saints (that’s us) to remember what it was like to “receive” Jesus and the difference he has made since that day or season to mature us. Our basic stance before the Living God is awe and thanksgiving.

Sojourners, in your desire to be done with the church (at least for now), please do not forget what God has done for you and how the Body of Christ, his Bride, has nurtured your understanding of God and established you in the faith. You got the gospel somehow, and you responded to it. Chances are, it was Christians who led you into an understanding of the Savior and his work, and who helped you align your life around him. It is also likely that you grew in faith because you were part of a learning community with faith as its subject. It is time to give thanks for that and to consider how your life can put into action the intent of their teaching and Christ’s call.

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