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Lesson 10: Going on with Christ (Colossians 2:6-7)

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January 24, 2015

On January 5, 1974, I went to a dinner party where I met a young woman named Marla. My friends had told me that she was my type, but I had heard that and had been disappointed so many times that I was skeptical, at best. But as I entered the apartment and met Marla, something inside of me said, “Yeah, she does seem like my type! Maybe she could be the one!”

I was very lonely at the time and didn’t want to wait a whole week to see her again, so I asked her out for the next evening. We spent almost that entire first week together and by the end of the week, we were talking with some certainty about marriage. After three weeks, I screwed up my courage to ask her father for her hand in marriage. He took a drag on his cigarette, blew out the smoke, looked at her, shrugged, and said, “It’s your life!” I took that for his blessing! We got married on March 23, 1974, less than three months after we had met. Later, when we had children, I was afraid that they might do something similar!

We all like to hear stories of how people fell in love. But, honestly, falling in love is fairly easy. But the question is, how do you sustain that love so that it grows deeper and stronger over a lifetime? I’ve performed a lot of weddings and without exception, the couples were deeply in love with each other. But sadly, I’ve also often had couples in my office who are so angry and bitter towards each other that I wonder how, just a few years before, they ever were in love. They started out madly in love, but they failed to sustain and deepen that love.

Becoming a Christian is a lot like falling in love. When you meet Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you feel like the lame man at the temple, whom the Lord healed through Peter and John: you walk and leap and praise the Lord (Acts 3:8). Your guilt is gone. You’re at peace with God. He gives you His joy and the hope of eternal life. You’re a brand new creation in Christ and it feels wonderful, kind of like falling in love.

But those wonderful feelings will not automatically last. Trials and disappointments will come. You may suffer health problems. You pray for something, but God doesn’t answer. Doubts will creep in. Old friends cut you off and ridicule your faith. If you’re married, your spouse may be threatened by your changed life and become hostile and abusive. Your kids may not turn out as you had hoped and prayed. How do you go on with Christ over the long haul and sustain that first love for Him?

Sadly, some don’t go on. They grow bitter at God because of their trials. Some fall prey to false teachers, who offer them health and prosperity if they just have enough faith. Some get sucked in by the cults. Others settle in for routine Christianity, like a routine marriage, where they go through the motions, but they don’t enjoy the love of Jesus. They fill the void by collecting more things that promise to make them happy. Some succumb to temptation, thinking that an affair will bring happiness and fulfillment.

So the question is, “How do you go on with Christ? How do you keep that first love fresh and vital over the long haul?” In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul gives us a simple, but not simplistic, answer:

We go on with Christ in the same way we received Him.

Colossians 2:6: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” In the context, Paul is not focusing so much on the means of how you received Christ (by grace through faith), but rather on the Christ whom you received. The false teachers were trying to set aside or minimize Jesus Christ with their clever philosophies. They probably weren’t overtly denying Christ, but they were saying that to be fulfilled, you had to learn their secrets. You had to follow their manmade rules. You had to worship the angels and understand the visions that they had seen (Col. 2:18, 20-23). Christ alone was not enough.

So in chapter 1, Paul exalts Jesus Christ as all-sufficient and supreme over all. In Christ, we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). He is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15), which as Paul immediately explains, means that He created all things that exist. He also is the head of His body, the church. God’s intention is that Jesus Christ will come to have first place in everything, because He shares the fullness of God (Col. 1:16-19). Even though we were alienated from God and hostile to Him, Christ reconciled us to God through His death (Col. 1:21-22).

It was that Christ whom Paul proclaimed and in whom the Colossians had believed through Epaphras’ preaching. It was that Christ who dwelled in the Colossians, whom Paul proclaimed so that he might present every person mature in Christ (Col. 1:27-28). If they wanted to avoid the errors of the false teachers, then they needed to go on walking with this same Christ Jesus the Lord whom they had received. If we want to go on with Christ without succumbing to the many false teachers in our day, or without falling into sin, or drifting into spiritual apathy, then we must go on with this exalted, all-sufficient, Christ in the same way we received Him. Who, then, is this Christ and how did we receive Him?

1. Christ Jesus the Lord is the one whom we received.

The order of the name, Christ Jesus the Lord is significant (the exact Greek sequence of names and articles is unique here in the New Testament; cf. Douglas Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 178).

A. We received Him as the Christ.

The One we received is first of all the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One (“Christ” is the Greek and “Messiah” is the Hebrew for “Anointed One”). He is the one prophesied of in the Hebrew Scriptures, written centuries before He was born. He is God’s anointed King, Prophet, and Priest.

As God’s anointed King, Jesus is appointed to reign as the sovereign of the universe. God has put His Son on the throne at His right hand and will give Him the nations as His inheritance and the very ends of the earth as His possession (Ps. 2:6-8; Ps. 110:1). One day every enemy will bow before Him as King of kings and Lord of lords (Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 19:16). He will throw the devil and all who follow him into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). No power in heaven or earth can stand against Him (Eph. 1:20-22). He is God’s anointed King!

As God’s anointed Prophet, Jesus speaks for God as the prophet, par excellence. Being one with the Father from all eternity and sent by the Father to do His will, Jesus is uniquely qualified to reveal the Father to us (John 10:30; 1:18; 8:38; 14:9). He spoke with authority about heaven and hell, about eternal life and about every aspect of this life. Being God in human flesh (John 1:14), He is omniscient and without sin, so that all that He speaks is both true and authoritative. He is God’s anointed Prophet.

As God’s anointed Priest, Jesus mediates between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). He offers the blood sacrifice which the holiness of God demands as the means of approaching Him. But unlike the Old Testament priests, who offered the blood of animals and who had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, Jesus offered His own blood for the sins of the world (John 1:29; Heb. 7:26-28). As a priest after the order of Melchizedek, Jesus’ priesthood replaces and supersedes the Levitical priests. They offered repeated sacrifices year after year, which could never make perfect those who draw near. But Jesus offered Himself once for all, providing complete forgiveness for all who trust in Him (Heb. 10:1-18).

This Christ, the anointed King, Prophet, and Priest, as revealed in the Scriptures, is the one whom the Colossians had received. Paul is arguing that they must not—we must not—turn aside to any other so-called “Christ” or human philosophy. Christ provides a full and complete salvation for all who believe in Him.

B. We received Him as Jesus.

Jesus is His human name. When the angel announced to Joseph Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit, he said (Matt. 1:21), “You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua,” which means, “Yahweh saves.” Jesus said (Luke 19:10), “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

As I’ve often said, although we toss around the word “salvation” as a common term, we need to remember that it is a radical word. Good people who just need a little advice or guidance do not need salvation. People who are functioning pretty well on their own do not need to be saved. Self-righteousness blinds us to our need for Jesus to save us from our sins. But sinners who are lost and alienated from the holy God, unable to do anything to be reconciled to Him, know that they need to be rescued or saved from God’s righteous wrath against their sin.

The Bible says that while God is a personal God, at the same time He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He is so holy that when the godly prophet Isaiah saw Him on His throne, he cried out (Isa. 6:5),

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

So the question is, how can we know and be close to such a holy God? The good news is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Pet. 2:24). If you know that you’re a sinner, cry out to Jesus to save you from God’s judgment. The Bible promises (Rom. 10:13), “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Christ Jesus is the only Savior God has provided for helplessly lost sinners.

C. We received Him as the Lord.

The Colossians received Him as Christ Jesus, but also as “the Lord.” “Lord” refers to His deity. In the Old Testament it is the personal covenant name of God. It focuses on His absolute sovereignty as the Creator of the universe, the ruler over all that exists. It means that what He commands we must obey. He made us and knows everything about us. His commands are not burdensome, to plague us. Rather, they are perfect, right, and for our good (Ps. 19:7-11; Rom. 7:12; 1 John 5:3).

If you think that you can receive Jesus as your Savior and wait until later to consider the option of receiving Him as Lord, you may not have received Him at all. To receive Him as Savior means receiving Him for who He is; and He is the rightful Lord of all. All history revolves around Him and will be consummated in Him for His glory (Eph. 1:10-11; Col. 1:16-20). When He comes again in power and glory, He will conquer all His enemies and bring salvation for His saints (Rev. 19:1-21).

The Colossians (and we) have received Christ Jesus the Lord. Paul is saying that they (and we) must not trade this sovereign Lord for a false substitute, a “Christ” of man’s vain philosophizing. We received Christ Jesus the Lord. We must continue with Him alone, as He is revealed in His Word.

D. We received Him.

The word “received” means “to receive as transmitted” from their teachers. Paul received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12). He passed it on to others, such as Epaphras, who took it to the Colossians. They received the testimony of Epaphras by trusting in Christ Jesus the Lord, whom he proclaimed. The point is, the gospel is not a human philosophy, based on the speculations of religious wise men. Rather, it was transmitted to us from Jesus Christ through His chosen apostles, recorded in the New Testament. It is the testimony about a unique person, Jesus Christ the Lord. When we believe the gospel, we don’t just believe a body of doctrines, although that is true. We receive Christ Jesus the Lord personally. We recognize who He is and we welcome Him into our lives as our Savior from sin and as our rightful Lord.

Of course, the Christian life is a process of growing deeper in the knowledge of who Jesus is and how we can live in a way that is pleasing to Him (Col. 1:10). But as imperfect as our initial understanding may be, we must receive Jesus Christ as Lord. Saving faith is more than just intellectual assent, where you add Him into your life as a nice accessory to have on hand when you need a little help. No, you must receive Christ Jesus the Lord, in all that that means. He owns you because He bought you with His blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20). He is the one you must go on with as a Christian. But how?

2. We go on walking with Him as Christ Jesus the Lord.

Colossians 2:6: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him ….” “Walk” is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing process. It’s a frequent word for describing the Christian life (Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). Walking isn’t as impressive or quick as running, galloping, or flying. But if you keep walking in a deliberate direction, eventually you’ll get there. It implies a daily, steady, step-by-step effort and progress toward a goal. We are to walk “in Him,” that is, in all that Jesus is for us as we are in Him.

In verse 7, Paul uses four participles to elaborate on what this walk in Christ looks like: “…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.” The first participle is in the perfect tense, indicating a past action with continuing results: you were and still are rooted in Him. The other three participles are present tense, indicating an ongoing process: you are being built up in Him; you are being established in the faith; and you are overflowing with gratitude. The first three participles are in the passive voice, emphasizing that God is working these things in us. The final participle is active, pointing to our responsibility to be thankful. Or, it may look at thankfulness as the result of the first three actions.

Note that Paul uses a variety of metaphors: walking on a path; being rooted like a tree; being built up like a building under construction; and overflowing like a flooding river. There isn’t a logical connection. Rather, Paul is showing us from different angles what it means to go on walking with Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way we received Him. Let’s look briefly at each of them:

A. To walk with Christ Jesus the Lord means being rooted in Him.

This pictures a tree, firmly rooted so that it gets the water and nutrients from the soil to grow and be healthy. It can withstand the storms that blow against it and endure times of drought because of its roots. The roots are hidden from view, but they are absolutely essential. Without those deep roots, the tree will fall over in a storm or die during a drought.

When we genuinely trust in Christ, God roots us in Him, but we need to continually sink down more roots into Him. This is the hidden part of your walk with Christ that others don’t see. It refers to your heart before God and your time alone with Him. Some go to church and act like Christians. Outwardly, it seems that they are Christians. But in the hidden person of their heart, they have never truly trusted in Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They never spend time alone with Him, seeking Him in His Word and in prayer. Then a storm comes up and they crash. They weren’t rooted in Christ. Are you sinking down roots in Him?

B. To walk with Christ Jesus the Lord means being built up in Him.

This pictures a building under construction. The present participle indicates steady progress toward completion. If you’ve watched a building under construction, sometimes the progress is evident: the frame goes up or the roof goes on. At other times, you wonder, “What did they do there this week?” They were inside working on things you couldn’t see, like the wiring or plumbing. But they are essential for the finished building to function properly.

When you walk with the Lord, sometimes there are obvious changes that others can easily see. More often, the Lord is steadily at work on areas that aren’t as dramatic, but are just as necessary. We learn to trust and obey Him on little, daily matters. We judge our grumbling spirit. We put to death the lusts of the flesh. We speak kindly to others, even when they are mean towards us. We’re gradually being built up in Him.

C. To walk with Christ Jesus the Lord means being established in the faith.

“In the faith” could be translated “in your faith,” but in light of the context of false teachers and the next phrase, “just as you were instructed,” I think Paul means being established in the Christian faith, that is, in sound doctrine. The word “establish” was sometimes used as a legal term meaning, “to confirm, guarantee, or make irrevocable.” Here, Paul may be looking at the growing assurance that we gain as we grow to understand the irrevocable truths of God’s Word. You learn the guaranteed promises that God has given to us in Christ. Your growing knowledge of sound doctrine protects you against the many winds of false teaching that blow others off course. To go on with Christ, you must make a deliberate effort to be established in the faith.

D. To walk with Christ Jesus the Lord means overflowing with gratitude.

The picture here is a river overflowing its banks. There is just too much water to stay in the normal flow, so it floods out over the surrounding land. Our gratitude to God for all that He’s done for us in Christ should flood out onto those around us.

Over the years, I’ve had to fight constantly against grumbling. I think I’ve made progress, but I’m still prone to grumble when things don’t go as I want them to go. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, instead of thanking God for delivering me from bondage to sin and providing me with all the blessings of His salvation, I complain about the little things. But as I think about my salvation and all that God has done for me, I should be overflowing with gratitude to Him for His abundant grace.

In Colossians, Paul repeatedly emphasizes thankfulness. As we saw (Col. 1:12), we should be “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saint in Light.” (See, also, Col. 1:3; 3:15, 16; 4:2.) The application is that grumblers will be more susceptible to the lure of false teaching. In my marriage, if I’m thankful for Marla and delight in her, I’m less susceptible to the temptations of another woman. With the Lord, a grateful heart that is satisfied daily with His abundant blessings won’t be attracted by false teaching.

Conclusion

This March, Marla and I will celebrate 42 years of marriage. What began so wonderfully all those years ago has continued and gotten even better. How has that happened? Well, we’ve gone on in the same way we started: I’m hopelessly infatuated with her and she tolerates me!

Are you going on with Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way you received Him? Don’t lose your first love for the wonderful, exalted Savior who loves you and gave Himself for you! If your love for Him has cooled and you’re just in routine Christianity, take the time to sit again at His feet. Think about how it was when you first received Him. Meditate on His beauty and grace. Ask Him to make this a year of unprecedented growth in Him! And, if you’ve never received Christ Jesus the Lord, why not do that right now?

Application Questions

  1. How would you counsel a Christian who has lost his first love for Christ? How can he rekindle it? (See Rev. 2:1-7.)
  2. Why is understanding who Jesus is and growing in that understanding essential for the Christian life (Matt. 16:13-17).
  3. Those who argue against what they call “lordship salvation” say that to require submission to Christ at the point of salvation is adding works to faith. How would you refute this?
  4. How can you develop gratitude when you suffer or are treated unfairly?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2016, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life

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