Colossians 2:6-7 by Robert Dean
The Greco Roman culture, not unlike our own culture, had no sense of sin. Yet we are again reminded by Paul, who uses the term 164 times, that we are "in Christ." But how do we receive Christ? How do we walk in Him? In this lesson, we learn that our walk experience is how we conduct our life, dependent upon God step by step and moment by moment.

There are four keys in vs. 8 to walking in Christ. We are "rooted", we are "built up"; we are "established"; and we are "abounding". Understanding these concepts determines how your spiritual life grows and progresses.

How well do you know doctrine? How is your own spiritual life growing?
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:53 mins 9 secs

Four Keys to Walking in Christ

This is the core section of this epistle, and as Paul is addressing this congregation on Colosse—a congregation made up of people who aren't very much different than you and I, especially in terms of their thinking and the culture out of which they came—the focus is on a warning not to be sucked into the attractive, seductive, persuasive philosophies of this world that are presented in a very convincing manner. 


Paul draws a conclusion in Colossians 2:6 NASB "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him." It is said that the most significant, central part of this whole epistle are the verses 6-15 and that that is the heart of Colossians. As he states this it sort of compresses all that he wants to say in the subsequent chapters about our spiritual life. The main command in verse 6 is to "walk in Him," but it is built on an analogy with how we receive Christ. So the two questions we need to answer to understand this are, first of all, how did we receive Christ? And the second question is, how do we walk in Him? The answer we have looked at is that we receive Christ by believing the gospel message, believing that Jesus Christ died for our sins. We begin our Christian life by faith in Christ and it continues by also having faith in Christ, trusting in Him. Paul uses the phrase here that we "walk in Him." This is something that is done step by step; it is not something that is done all at once; it is a moment by moment dependency upon God.

Positional truth is an abstract phrase that a lot of people are not clear about. It is simply the truth that Scripture teaches regarding our position in Christ: that at the instant we put our faith in Christ, the Bible teaches that God the Holy Spirit is used by Jesus to identify us with His death, burial and resurrection, and by doing so we are so closely identified and united to Jesus that we are said to be "in Him." This is the essence of our position; we are identified with Christ by the baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit.

Then there is our day-to-day experience, the temporal reality, our day-to-day dependence upon God. This is expressed by a number of different phrases in Scripture. This is where we "walk in the light," or if we are disobedient and sinful we are outside and are "walking in darkness." The former is often described by the phrases "being filled by the Spirit" or "walking by the Spirit."

The instant we are saved we are in Christ. That is a legal, eternal position that we have that never changes. We begin by being filled by the Spirit but the instant we sin we are out of fellowship and in carnality. We can either walk by the Spirit or walk by the sin nature (flesh).

What does it mean to be "in Christ"? What does the Scripture teach about this? We see that this is a crucial term and concept in Scripture because the apostle Paul uses the phrase 164 times. It is somewhat unique to Paul. In the Gospel of John, John talks about being "in Me" and "abiding in Me." The way John uses the term and Jesus uses the term in those contexts isn't the same as the way Paul uses "in Christ." When Jesus said "abiding in Me," that not just a legal positional reality, it had to do with experience. So John uses that in a different way. But for Paul this is the key term for describing the believer's position in Christ.

What is interesting about this is that this is one of the key theological terms or ideas that was honed and refined by a man who lived near the beginning and middle of the 19th century by the name of John Nelson Darby. Darby was originally ordained as an Anglican. He went to Ireland where he had a ministry where he became impoverished and became quite ill. During the time that he was convalescing he was forced to spend a lot of time in the Word. When he did that he saw the solutions to a lot of things that had been troubling him. One of the things he came to understand was what we usually think of when we think of Darby, and that is dispensationalism. While Darby is well-known for his emphasis on dispensationalism and his systematic organization of those doctrines. He did not originate these doctrines but he organized and systematized an understanding of dispensations that clarified in a way that never before had been clarified. He did the same thing for this whole idea of positional truth and being in Christ. So an emphasis on positional truth and the riches that we have in Christ became characteristic of the Plymouth Brethren movement. So there was that focus on doctrines related to positional truth, especially an emphasis on the study of books like Ephesians and Colossians because both of these epistles also emphasize this doctrine—the riches that the believer has in Christ and how we are to live on the basis of those riches and come to understand that we have a spiritual bank account that has unlimited funds in it, and most of us are living like we are bouncing checks. We need to learn to live in light of the fact that we have an unlimited bank account and not one that has only two or three pennies in it. Darby was responsible for bringing this to the foreground and emphasizing it.

In dispensationalism we recognize that there are certain things that are common and unchanging throughout all of the dispensations. For example, we believe that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. Today we know who Jesus Christ is but in the Old Testament they did not know who Christ the Messiah would be. So in the Old Testament there was simply faith in the promise of God that He would provide a solution to sin and that this would come through the Messiah. But once Jesus came and presented Himself as the Messiah, and had all of the credentials that demonstrated that He was the fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies, that He was the Messiah, then once He went to the cross as the ultimate fulfillment of all of the sacrifices pictured in the Old Testament, we no longer look forward to God's provision the savior but back to a provision of the savior, specifically Jesus of Nazareth. So we see that one thing that continues throughout the ages is that salvation is by faith alone in the Messiah—anticipated in the Old Testament; fulfilled in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament the emphasis was on Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and God worked in and through the nation of Israel, but in the New Testament God has temporarily set aside Israel and He focuses on a new people of God called the church, comprised of Jew and Gentile—all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. The church universal is also referred to as the body of Christ, and it is composed of all of those since the day of Pentecost in AD 33 who have put their faith alone in Christ alone. In the Old Testament only a few in Israel ever had any kind of relationship with God the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit imbued only a few people in Israel, those who were associated with leadership of Israel. At no time did the Holy Spirit empower individual believers of any kind in relation to their spiritual life or spiritual growth. But in the New Testament this completely changed. Every single believer from the moment of faith in Christ has a unique relationship with God the Holy Spirit that is for only church age believers. Tribulation saints will not have any ministry of the Holy Spirit in this sense. Then in the Millennial kingdom it is enhance for Israel in other ways in relation to the New covenant.

In the church age one of the unique things that we have in relation to the Holy Spirit is the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. God the Son uses God the Holy Spirit to cleanse the believer positionally at salvation and which is accomplished by identifying us with Christ's death, burial and resurrection on the cross, and then we are united with Jesus Christ in a unique way that happens at no other time in history. Paul emphasizes this. The phrase "in Christ" emphasizes our new identity. We are placed into Christ; it is related to our adoption within the royal family of God; we have a new identity, a new position; we have a new inheritance—Paul says that we are heirs of God. And so we have this new relationship because we are united with Christ. There is a unity that we have with our Lord Jesus Christ that is not something that we experience but is nevertheless more real than anything that we can ever experience, and it is unique to this church age.

We are to live in light of this and we see this emphasis that Paul has here in Colossians. For example in 2:3, speaking of Jesus as he concluded the introduction he said: "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Getting knowledge and wisdom in Greco-Roman culture at that time had something to do with the mystery religions and having some sort of mystical experience with the deity in some kind of ecstatic experience. There was always this kind of special secret knowledge that the initiate had to go through before they could advance to the secrets of knowledge and wisdom. But what Paul says here is that in Christ we have access to all knowledge and wisdom because it is His thinking that is the origin of all knowledge and wisdom, and only by being in relation to Him do we have access to real wisdom and knowledge.

In verse 7 he says that we are rooted and built up in Him. This is foundational to our being able to walk in Christ. In verse 10 Paul says we are complete in Him. Nothing was left out, Christ is sufficient, we have been given everything. In  Ephesians 1:3 Paul says, NASB "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." Peter in 2 Peter 1:3 says, NASB "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." It is complete; we don't have to have an additional experience. There is no second work of grace, there is no getting some sort of secret to the Christian life that now we have more than we had before; it is all given to the believer at the instant of salvation by virtue of the fact that we are "in Him." Then in Colossians 2:11 NASB "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." The spiritual significance of this is that is signifies the removal of the flesh, the removal of the sin nature, the positional and absolute cleansing that we have in Christ so that all sin has been taken care of and sin isn't an issue anymore. The issue is growing in Jesus Christ. We still sin, and the solution to temporal cleansing or ongoing cleansing is 1 John 1:9, confessing our sin, but it is grounded on this positional reality that we have been legally declared righteous and just because we possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. So all of this is part olf who we are and what we have in Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:7 is going to begin to explain how we can walk in Christ. There are so many different metaphors or ways in which the walking metaphor is used—walking in truth, walking by means of love, walking by means of God the Holy Spirit—and each of those passages gives us more information and other ways in which the apostles describe how we do this. Right here we are focusing on what the apostle Paul says: NASB "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." As we read that in the English the words "rooted, built up, established, and abounding" are words that are a little bit ambiguous. They are translated that way intentionally because there is a certain amount of ambiguity in any language that is left up to the hearer, the listener, the reader to understand. We all do that naturally, and we pick up on these shades of meaning, these nuances. Typically whenever we are having a conversation with anybody or reading a book it doesn't really need to be broken down and spelled out to us. But if we are reading and working with a foreign language sometimes we don't always pick up on these kinds of nuances because they are not necessarily based on pure objective rules of grammar, they have to do with how we understand the conversation, the topic, all of the body language, things that go into communication.

One of these areas where we do have a certain amount of ambiguity in Greek has to do with the participle. A participle usually ends with "ing." We have one participle translated with "ing" here and that is "abounding," but all four of these words are participles. A participle can be used one of two ways. The English kind of messes things up here because "rooted, built up" and "established" are all translated in English by past tense verbs. They look like they are all finite verbs and they are not. These four participles all say something. They are called adverbial participles because they modify the main verb; they tell us something about how to walk in Christ. Therefore we have to properly understand these participles.

The first participle here is the Greek verb rhizoo [r(izow] which means simply to root something. So if you are planting you know the importance of something being rooted, that that is the foundation. Once something is rooted it has come to life, it is that which happens one time in the life of a plant. So in this sentence here this verb is expressed in a perfect tense participle. That is what is important in understanding the syntax here, it is a perfect middle participle but the important part is that it is a perfect tense. A perfect tense always describes the completed action, something that has happened in the past and is over with. When a perfect tense is used it is either emphasizing the fact that it was done in the past and the action is completed, with ongoing results, or it is emphasizing the present results of a past completed action. Here Paul is really emphasizing the present results. We are "rooted"; if we are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ it happened when we trusted in Him as our savior. We were "rooted" spiritually, one time, when we were identified with Christ and placed in union with Him. It is a one time thing that is completed, and Paul is talking about realizing now what we have and what took place at salvation—we were rooted in Him. It can't change, it can't be destroyed.

The next participle changes a little bit and we get a hint of this in Ephesians 3:17 where Paul says, NASB "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; {and} that you, being rooted and grounded in love." Here, too, both of the words "rooted" and "grounded" are perfect tense participles. And they are synonymous. The word there for being grounded is from a verb that means to lay a foundation, to it shifts from an agricultural metaphor to a construction metaphor. So these are two different ways of talking about the same thing: a one-time event that happened in Christ. That is over with. Now we have to live on the basis of that and so Paul is saying, "Walk in Christ because you have already been rooted," or "walk in Christ because you are now rooted." It almost brings in this causal idea. We can walk in Christ for this reason, we have already been rooted.

But then the next word "built up" that shifts from an agricultural to a construction metaphor is the Greek word epoikodomeo [e)poikodomew], a word that indicates construction. Sometimes it is translated "edification" and it has to do with building or building something up. You start construction at the base and you move up, and it has to do when applied to the Christian life with the fact that we are building something spiritually in our soul, one thing at a time. It is a metaphor for the fact that we are growing up or maturing as a Christian. This is a present participle. A perfect participle emphasizes completed action but a present participle emphasizes action that is taking place at the same time as the main verb—it is called contemporaneous action. So if "walk" is present tense then we walk by being built up. Walking and building up happen together at the same time. It is based on the fact that there is a prior foundation laid that is said here to be "rooted." Because we have already been rooted and are now being built up, being edified, being mature. The next word, "and being established," is also a present middle participle. So it happens at the same time as the main verb to "walk." 

These participles—built up, established and abounding—are participles of means. In other words, this tells us how we are to walk. We walk by being built up. We walk by being established or confirmed in something. The word bibaioo [bibaiow] has to do with being established or confirmed in something, establishing something on solid ground. Once again, it takes us back to that metaphor where you lay a sound foundation, which is Jesus Christ, when we trust in Him, and then we build on that with our spiritual life. It is done one floor at a time, bit by bit, piece by piece as we grow and mature day by day, and it is something where the more we do it the more stable we become on that foundation. 

Along with this is fourth participle (the third present tense participle) "abounding in gratitude" or "overflowing in gratitude." So something that goes along with spiritual growth is an increase on our appreciation for all that God has done for us in our gratitude. How important it is to express that thankfulness, to have the mentality of gratitude to God, being thankful for all that He has done for us, given us, provided for us, they way in which we can trust in Him and rely upon Him no matter what the circumstances might be. And notice it is "in your faith." Faith here is not talking about the act of believing but when it is used in this way it is talking about what we believe. We are grounded in "the faith" which is a term that expresses all that we should believe as Christians. It is "the faith in Christ"; it is the sum total of what the Bible teaches about God and who He is and who Jesus Christ is. We don't just bring that in the simple message of the gospel, this is an ongoing process. We never get to the time in this life when we know everything there is to know about the faith. So that is no excuse for thinking somehow I have arrived and I can make it for the rest of my life, I know enough about the Word. We constantly have to learn and grow in terms of what the Bible teaches.

We want to close with the question we started with recently: How does your spiritual life grow? How is your spiritual life growing? How does it progress? How are you in terms of being built up? How are you in terms of being established or confirmed in the faith? How much have you learned about the faith? How well do you know the Scriptures? How well do you understand all of the doctrines that are taught in the Scriptures?

In anything we do in life the first thing we have to do is learn a lot of facts. Has anybody here memorized all of the Bible yet? We don't know enough facts! We have a lot of facts to learn just knowing the Scriptures. Then we have to understand what all of that means in terms of doctrine and teaching. We are a long way from that. Then we have to apply what we have learned that we should apply. And we are a long way from that. So none of us has any excuse to say that well, I'm just too busy in life to put a focus on my spiritual life. What the Scripture says is, because you are what you are as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ because you and I are in Christ, we are members of the family of God, members of the body of Christ, we are united with Him in ways that go beyond anything we can possibly imagine, the priority for us is to maximize the potential that we have because of this unity in Christ.

Two secondary questions: a) Is the growth of your spiritual life a priority? Many of us are very busy, but that doesn't mean we don't have time for our spiritual life. If we don't have time for our spiritual life we really don't have time for anything else. When all is said in done that is what informs and strengthens everything else in life. What does a strong spiritual life look like? What should that look like? What are the characteristics of the strong spiritual life? One characteristic is our prayer life, because our prayer life is our communication with God. Prayer should be a consistent reality in our life. Secondly, there should be Bible reading. Then we have memorization. Then there is the priority of Bible study—not just coming to Bible class but taking notes, reading them, reading the corollary verses. All of that is part of the foundation for our spiritual life. The spiritual life is built on knowledge of the Word. It isn't just knowledge of the Word but you can't get to the application if you don't fist know it. 

b) What is your gratitude barometer? How really thankful are you to God for everything in your life on a day-to-day basis? Our gratitude barometer tells us how grace oriented we are. Grace is God's unmerited favor, and that word "grace" is etymologically related to gratitude. Gratitude is the response to grace. If we are not grateful for what God has graciously given us then what easily slips in is the idea: Well, God has given it to me but I'm pretty deserving.

We need to be grateful, not only for the good things but also for the tough things in life because they just give us an opportunity to trust in Him.