Series on Colossians, I The Mystery of Christ, C The Regulation of False Teachers, 1 Warning, Text: 2:6,7, Title: Stay the Course

Introduction

The central theme to this text is “in Christ.” Kistemaker comments, “With the verbs accepted and continue to live respectively at beginning and end; and the references to Christ, namely, Christ Jesus the Lord and in him, in the center all the emphasis falls on the necessity of clinging to Christ Jesus the Lord." The Greek word order places “in Christ” at the center of everything. We see that union with Christ is the essence of our salvation. From union with Christ flows everything. We are chosen in Christ, effectually called in Christ, justified in Christ, adopted in Christ, sanctified in Christ and glorified in Christ. It is of course true that Christ clings to us, but from our perspective we must cling to Christ. This is both the warning and encouragement that Paul gives to the Colossian believers. It is a warning because there are deceivers in their midst who would circumvent the need to continue in faith because they propose a mystical experience. It is an encouragement because Paul is confident that thus far, they are continuing in what they have been taught. At the beginning of the Second World War Winston Churchill told the British people,” Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valor our only shield.  We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible. Paul could have written that to the Colossian believers.   Steve Brown related the story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Brown explained, "Then he remembered the One who had died for him -- who had endured -- who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. As a runner, when you are tired, afraid and discouraged, the best way I know to get your second wind is to strike a match in the darkness and to look on the face of Jesus Christ.” He is the One to cling to. Thus we have in our text four things that we must do in Christ.  We must start in Christ, stay in Christ, strengthen in Christ, and superabound in Christ.

I Start in Christ

We read in verse 6, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him. What Paul is saying about the Coiossian  Christians here is much more than when evangelists ask you to do in an invitation in a service when they urge you to accept Christ. The Greek term translated receive is here used in its technical sense implying that they received a transmission, even an apostolic tradition, from God to Paul, to Epaphras, to the Colossians. They received the person of Christ, of course, but they also received the teaching about Christ. Therefore they need not give heed to those teachers who would fill the gulf between men and God with a crowd of powers and rulers. They had all that their mind or heart or will could need in the human Divine Jesus, who is the Christ and the Lord for all men. They had have received Him in the all-sufficiency of His revealed nature and offices. They had Him for their very own. Hold fast that which you have, says Paul. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “The Church has had Jesus set forth as Christ and Lord. His manhood, the historical reality of His Incarnation with all its blessed issues, His Messiahship as the fulfiller of prophecy and symbol, designated and fitted by the fulness of the Spirit, to be man’s deliverer, His rule and authority over all creatures and events have been taught, and the tumults of present unsettlement made it hard and needful to keep true to that threefold belief, and to let nothing rob them of any of the elements of the full gospel which lies in the august name, Christ Jesus the Lord.” All this is implied in receiving Jesus Christ as Lord then and now. This is how we start.

II Stay in Christ

When Jesus called us he asked us to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. He called us to follow in His steps and to suffer and die if necessary. Thus this verse not only says start, it says continue, stay, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him. Some translations say “walk” in Him. This certainly means every day in every way. As the building is constructed step by step and the tree grows year after year the Christian is to stay in Christ and grow. Some Christians are like the woman Ray Stedman describes in his book, “Folk Psalms of Faith.” There was a woman who had been a school teacher for 25 years.  When she heard about a job that would mean a promotion, she applied for the position. However, someone who had been teaching for only one year was hired instead.  She went to the principal and asked why. The principal responded, "I'm sorry, but you haven't had 25 years of experience as you claim; you've had only one year's experience 25 times."  During that whole time the teacher had not improved. Empty churches at prayer meetings and preaching services certainly suggest that many Christians are concerned neither for their own growth or the growth of Christ’s kingdom. I came across this humorous story of the defunct prayer meeting. "We are sorry to announce the passing of Mrs. Prayer Meeting. She died recently at the First Neglected Church on Ho-Hum Avenue. Born many years ago in the midst of a great revival, she was strong and healthy as a child, fed largely on testimony and Bible study she grew into world-wide prominence and was one of the most influential members of the Church family. However, in recent years Sister Prayer Meeting has been failing in health, gradually wasting away until rendered helpless by stiffness of the knees, cooling of the heart, lack of spiritual sensitivity and the concern for spiritual things.  Her last whispered words were inquiring about the strange absence of her loved ones, now so busy in the market place and places of worldly amusement on Wednesday evenings! Experts, including Dr. Good Works, Dr. Socializing and Dr. Unconcerned disagree as to the fatal cause of her final illness. They all administered large doses of excuses, even ordered a last minute motivational bypass, all to no avail.  A post-mortem examination showed that a deficiency of regular spiritual food, a lack of prayer and Christian fellowship, all contributed to her untimely demise." “Continue in Him.”

III Strengthen in Christ

Verse 7 talks about being strengthened because without it we cannot hope to stay the course and finish the race. You are to be rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. The metaphors are mixed, a tree and a building, but in the original and not brought out in the translation it literally says, “having been rooted and being builded up.” The one is a past act done once for all, the effects of which are permanent; the other is a continuous resulting process which is going on now. The Christian has been rooted in Jesus Christ at the beginning of his Christian course. His faith has brought him into living contact with the Savior, who has become as the fruitful soil into which the believer sends his roots, and both feeds and anchors there. The other is the gradual continuous building up of the structure of a Christian character and is doubly expressed in this word by the present tense which points to a process, and by the prefixed preposition represented by “up,” which points to the successive laying of course of masonry upon course. My Father-in-law was a fine stone mason. He poured foundations and laid cement block, stone and brick. He built houses. I had the privilege of working with him on our Florida property numerous times. He used to tell me wonderful tales of how many block he could lay in a day and he even had races with his fellow workers. He was rightly proud of his ability. I wish all of us were as enthusiastic about building on the foundation spiritually as he was about his work. Paul had some wise things to say about building in I Corinthians 3:10-15,  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. The only building blocks many of us are familiar with are stumbling blocks.

IV Superabound in Christ


Paul concludes with the exhortation to overflow with thankfulness. The word translated overflow is a word that  means to be present in excess, to superabound. We read in John 7:37–38, On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” This is overflowing. It affects all those around us when our hearts are full of thanksgiving to God. In the Old Testament there are thirteen Hebrew roots, found in twenty-seven different words, that are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship. Hebrew religious ritual demonstrates God as the source of joy. In contrast to the rituals of other faiths of the East, Israelite worship was essentially a joyous proclamation and celebration. The good Israelite regarded the act of thanking God as the supreme joy of his life.  In Psalm 16:11 we read, Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore. "Count your blessings!" is excellent counsel, but sometimes we have to recognize them first! A man who owned a small estate wished to sell it. He asked a real estate agent, to write an advertisement describing the house and land. When the ad was ready, the agent took it to the owner and read it to him.  "Read that again," said the owner. The agent read the description of the estate once more.  "I don't think I will sell after all," said the owner.  "I have been looking for an estate like that all my life, and I did not know that I owned it!" Count your blessings -- yes, but start by asking God to open your eyes to see your possessions in Christ.  Begin by recognizing all that you have in Christ.  That will change your entire perspective and enable you to praise God for what you have. This, in turn will enable you to stay the course, be strengthened, and  advance God’s kingdom.