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Colossians 2:4-6 by Robert Dean
In the classic nursery rhyme, there is a line that says, "how does your garden grow?" As we begin to phase out of Paul's introductory section of Colossians, we begin to learn of the imperatives used to guide believers in the basic structure of the Christian life. In this lesson, we learn that order, organization, and self-discipline are keys to a good spiritual "garden". Are you including in your own daily structure reading God's Word, prayer time, and Bible study? If Paul were mentioning twenty-first century believers in his greeting as he was the Colossians, would he be thankful for our own orderly, organized, and self-disciplined spiritual life?

How does your (spiritual) garden grow?
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:53 mins 21 secs

How Does Your Spiritual Garden Grow? Colossians 2:4-6

From Colossians 1:3 to 2:5 is introduction. The next section, the actual body of the epistle begins in 2:6; 2:4, 5 end the introduction, and 2:6, 7 open the main body. Verse 6 is the first of a series of imperatives. Up to this point the verbs have all been indicatives (one exception), meaning he has been mostly talking about his prayers for them, a focus upon who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for the church. But starting in v. 6 down through chapter three we have imperatives, and this is the structure of the Christian life. It is not something that is random of haphazard, there is a structure in the spiritual life and there should be a structure and an order in our approach to the spiritual life.

But Paul says as we get down into 2:7 that walking in Him is on the basis of being rooted in Him and now being built up in Christ. These words that he uses are words that come out of gardening, an agricultural metaphor.

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?" As Christians, how does our garden grow? In Colossians 1:6 Paul is praying for the Colossians and is thankful because the gospel came to them and is bringing them fruit and is increasing. Again is verse 10 is the prayer that "you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." These words are those which come out of an agricultural background, a metaphor for growth and fruitfulness within an orchard, a garden, something of that nature. This is the focal point of Paul's message to the Colossians. His focus is not on how to become a Christian, how to become justified, but on the fact that now that they are justified how do they grow?

 As Paul concludes his introduction he says, Colossians 2:4 NASB "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument." We know that there are, especially compared to the first century, thousands of philosophies and worldviews, ideas an opinions about how to live life and what truth is today. They appear on the surface to be well argued and very convincing. That is what Paul refers to by "persuasive argument." It is easy to deceive even believers, because they don't know enough not to be deceived. They have to know not only what the truth is but a really good counterfeit can deceive even experts, because it imitates the original so well. And Satan is the master counterfeiter who goes around as an angel of light and has had thousands of years to refine his religious and philosophical systems, rationales and justifications for worldly thinking so that Christians are often taken in by the latest trend, the latest fad in spiritual things. And these are dressed up in biblical terminology so that it is hard for the person who doesn't know much truth to be able to identify that.

Even people who know a lot of truth have been seen to be easily seduced by false ideas for several reasons. We all have sin natures which have a propensity towards anything that promotes self-sufficiency and anything that allows us to maybe find success and stability without just trusting in Christ for everything, without relying on the sufficiency of God's grace and God's Word for everything. We have a mindset, a default position with our sin nature to be attracted to these things unless we are really focused on applying the Word.   

Colossians 2:5 NASB "For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ." Then he shifts to the main body of the epistle: [6] "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him." So we are to walk in Him (2:5) and worthy of the Lord (1:10).

Then (and understanding the grammar is really important) we have participles. The first is a perfect participle. It means something is already accomplished, it is the present reality of a past completed action. Colossians 2:7 NASB "having [already] been firmly rooted …" That is what happens at salvation. "… {and now} being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, {and} overflowing with gratitude." Then verse 8 begins, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception…" He starts getting a little specific about those deceptive words he mentions in 2:4. So there is this transition now into the main part of the epistle where the focus is on what we need to do as believers. The imperative moods, the commands, the prohibitions, are all addressed to our volition. It is what we are responsible to do on our part if we are going to grow and mature spiritually.

Wrapping up the introduction: Colossians 2:5 NASB "For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ." The verse starts with a first class condition in the Greek (if, and it is true); it is stating this opening phrase as a reality, and that is that Paul is absent in the flesh, physically absent. He is saying, "I am with you in spirit," i.e. I am thinking about you, my mind is on you and I'm thinking about what is going on there. "rejoicing to see" might be translated "rejoicing and seeing," but in this kind of construction is called a hendiadys where two words are brought together to express a single concept, and many times one of them really functions as a sort of adjective for another. For example, if someone says, "I heard a musician the other day and I was impressed by his passion and his singing." What they are saying is, they are impressed by his passionate singing. Really you can express it in two words but this is a figure of speech that pulls the two together. So here when Paul what Paul said means "I am rejoicing to see." He is not seeing physically; seeing is a metaphorical way of talking about mental perception, understanding or grasping an idea. Paul is rejoicing because he has been informed about the spiritual life of those in Colosse.

He summarizes it here with two words. The first is taxis [tacij] from which we get our English word "taxonomy" which is a study of the order or organization of things. The word has two basic meanings: a) an arrangement of things in sequence or in order; b) a state of order or proper procedure. It is also a word that was used in a military context to refer to discipline, well-disciplined troops. But the idea here is that Paul is saying that in praising the spiritual life of the Colossian believers he is praising them because they have a good self-discipline, a good organizational order in their approach to their spiritual life and growth. This also reminds us of 1 Corinthians 14:33 NASB "for God is not {a God} of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints…. [40] But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner." So we should think about the structure of our spiritual life and our approach to our spiritual life. The Colossians have understood that if they are going to grow spiritually they have to have an approach to their spiritual, life that is going to be based on order, organization and self-discipline. The word "stability" is stereoma [sterewma] which refers to stability, firmness and steadfastness. So it is emphasizing that they have an approach to the spiritual life that is based on discipline and organization, and secondly it is based on stability; it is a solid approach. Paul's joy is a circumstantially based joy. He has heard great news.

The only way that we accomplish anything in life is if we make a plan, set out that plan and follow that plan. We have to understand that we don't lower our goals and objectives just because we find things to be a little difficult. We have to learn to stick it out, to be mentally tough; not just because we are reaching down and pulling ourselves up by our own spiritual boot straps but because we realize that our strength is in Christ. That is what Paul is saying at the end of Philippians: "I have learned to have great abundance and I have learned to do without." It is the doing without that we have trouble learning about. Why? Because "I can do all things." What are the "all things" there? It is learning to pass the prosperity test and learning to pass the adversity test. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Again it is the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, what we have in Christ in terms of those riches that are talked about in Colossians 2:2—"to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, {resulting} in a true knowledge of God's mystery, {that is,} Christ {Himself}."

So he says here that he rejoices in their good order or their discipline and their steadfastness and stability of their faith in Christ. This isn't talking simply about that beginning point where we trust in Christ for our salvation, it is talking about the totality of what we believe in, in terms of Christ and all that Jesus is and all that He has done. He is not talking here in context about getting saved or becoming justified, he is talking about the process of growth from that position of initial regeneration. So it is the development, the growth of that faith in Christ. Jesus referred to all that was needed was faith like a mustard seed. Mustard seed is one of the tiniest of all seeds and when we first trust in Christ it is compared to that, but yet it is planted and nourished and it grows into a large tree. That is the comparison to the Christian life.

What exactly does this mean in terms of our own spiritual life? If Paul was writing this letter to us personally would he say something like that? Would he say, as I have come to understand your [add our name] spiritual life I am really thankful that you have a well organized, structured, stabilized approach to spiritual growth? At lot of people don't really ask that question and so we ought to go to another level and ask what is it that makes a spiritual life orderly and organized?

We need to recognize that this idea of being self-disciplined is an extremely important value. Anyone in their own natural ability can learn to exercise self-discipline. Look at the athletes who achieve incredible things. Look at successful businessmen. Much can be done in our own natural power, but the Scripture says that part of the fruit, the spiritual character that the Holy Spirit produces in us is self-control. This is the Greek word enkrateia [e)gkrteia] which has to do with the restraint of our sin nature and our self-centered desires. It is used in 2 Peter 1:5, 6 NASB "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in {your} moral excellence, knowledge, and in {your} knowledge, self-control, and in {your} self-control [enkrateia], perseverance, and in {your} perseverance, godliness." All of these must be produced by the Holy Spirit.

So Paul is saying in Colossians 2:5 that, "even though I am not with you I have heard about you, and what I rejoice over in you is a disciplined, stable approach to spiritual growth." So what makes our spiritual life orderly and organized is the element of self-discipline. We have to define what we want. Different people are satisfied with different things. Many of us at the very beginning set out maybe an unstated and unrefined goal: If I reach this level of proficiency I will be happy. The problem with that is when you translate that kind of thinking over to the spiritual life what we should be saying is: What level of proficiency does God want me to reach? And only when I reach that level of proficiency will I be satisfied. So we need to define what our target goal is and then we need to define the mechanics are or what the stages are to get there.

This also involves just basic skills like time management. How do I manage the disposable time of my week so that I can spend a certain amount of time reading the Bible, a certain amount of time in prayer, and a certain amount of time in Bible study? All three of those are fundamental; they are foundational to anything in the Christian life. We need to have a set, focused time in prayer—every day; a time for Bible reading. Every believer should be reading their Bible on a daily basis. It is important to be reading a chapter, two chapters, three chapters a day just for our general fund of knowledge of what the Bible says. One of the reasons for only teaching three times a week is because we should be taking the notes from one Bible class one night, and the next night we should be studying them. We have to have time to think and reflect upon what we have been taught.

Then Paul says in Colossians 2:6 NASB "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him." This is introducing the thrust of the next two chapters—how we maintain that walk in Him without going out of bounds. That is what the imperatives do, they set the boundaries for staying in fellowship and walking in Him. Walking in Him is comparable to all of the other walk type passages that we have in the New Testament: walking by means of God the Holy Spirit, walking in the light and not in the darkness. He will give us the manner and means in verse 7 based on the fact that we have already been rooted in Him (at salvation), and we are never uprooted, and now are being built up and established in the faith. How does that happen? Colossians 2:7 NASB "having been firmly rooted {and now} being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed [as you have been taught], {and} overflowing with gratitude." Notice "as you have been taught." It comes from teaching, the teaching of those who are gifted within the body of Christ to teach. And "overflowing with gratitude," being thankful that we are being taught the Word. And that is so rare today, even among evangelicals who have so lowered the bar in terms of their expectations of teaching and expectations of spiritual growth that they don't live any differently from the rest of the world. We are to be taught well and to be thankful for what we have. This also leads to understanding enough so that we have the defensive walls up and be protected from the counterfeits that are camouflaged to seduce us into thinking we are living the spiritual life and we are not.

The focal point here is on this whole issue of having an orderly, organized spiritual life. Go back and look through Colossians chapter one. Think about it—what Paul prays for, what he is thankful for in the life of the Colossian believers, what he prays for them. These are the spiritual priorities we should have in our own life. Then the oast part of that section from verse 13 down through 2:5 focuses on who Jesus Christ is. When we understand who He is that is supposed to change how we think and how we live. So the question we should all ask in terms of application: If Jesus is X, as Paul says here, how should that changed the way I think and the way I live? That is our application. If Jesus is the creator of all things, how does that change the way I think and how I live? If I have forgiveness and redemption in Jesus, how should that change the way I think and how I respond to that? That is application; that's where we need to sit down in the process of thinking about the application of Scripture.