Thanks, I Needed That (2:6-7)
I desperately need the encouragement of this passage. My guess is that a lot of you do too. I need it because of what it tells me about my past and my present. Earlier in Colossians we noted how Paul emphasized our future, or the hope we have in Christ of inheriting and experiencing eternal and unchanging glory (see Col. 1:5,21-23,27). But here in Colossians 2:6-7 it is the past and present that concerns us.
In order to see this we need to take note of how this passage is translated in both the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version. Although I typically use the former, the latter provides us with a more accurate and literal rendering of Paul's words. Here is the ESV translation of vv. 6-7 - "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."
Compare that with the NASV - "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 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."
Did you see the difference? According to the NASV, we "have been" firmly rooted in Christ and are "now being" built up in him. I won't go into the technical distinction between the perfect passive participle and the present passive participle in the original Greek text, but I think you can see it for yourself from this English translation.
I HAVE BEEN rooted in Christ! So, too, have you if you believe in him for life and salvation. I AM BEING built up in Christ! So, too, are you if you believe in him for life and salvation. And that's why I'm so profoundly encouraged by this text. Let me explain.
This world can be pretty brutal at times; in fact, most of the time. People disappoint us. We disappoint them. The flesh gets the upper hand. Satan is relentless in his assault, whether by accusation or temptation or taunting. Circumstances get out of hand and dreams are shattered. Society as a whole just seems to unravel before our eyes. And worst of all, I begin to wonder if my life is going anywhere or producing anything of value.
That's why I'm so wonderfully encouraged by Paul's choice of words (and verb tenses) in Colossians 2:6-7. No matter how tenuous and free-floating life sometimes seems, I "have been rooted" in Jesus Christ! God has graciously seeded my soul into the soil of Christ's unchanging and unconquerable grace. My life is rooted in him. My hope is grounded in his goodness. This is my identity. This is my security. This is my strength when I feel like I'm wandering aimlessly and hopelessly through one disappointment after another. Whatever I may encounter, whether good or bad, of this I may be certain: I have been rooted in Christ!
But what about those times when so little spiritual progress is being made? Again, it feels like I'm stuck in concrete, immobile, immovable, unchangeable. That's when I remind myself once more of Paul's words: Not only have I been rooted in Christ in the past, I am being built up in Christ even now, in the present. I may not always see it or feel it or be aware of major developments. In fact, there are times when I feel like I'm regressing rather than progressing. If I'm moving at all, it must be backwards!
No! Paul assures us that however imperceptible it may be, we are being built up in Christ. We are ever and always under on-going construction. A brick here, a board there, but always and persistently being built up by divine grace. Yes, every so often we dismantle what God has done, tearing down his handiwork and experiencing momentary, though painful, disintegration. But God will not give up on us. What he began by grace, he'll finish by grace. The building will be completed. Our souls will grow in conformity to Christ and one day we will be like him for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-3).
I don't know about you, but it helps for me to know that. I desperately need to be reassured that my life, body, soul, and spirit are rooted in Christ and what he has done for me. Being rooted and grounded in my own good intentions or the promises of other people or whatever worldly and financial success I might attain doesn't do much when life stinks and my soul sinks. I need to know that I'm rooted in him.
I desperately need to know that he's still at work in me, slowly but surely building up what I've torn down, conforming and shaping my soul to look like his. Often times our spiritual and moral failures look massive and seem to dwarf our achievements. But I'm assured of this: nothing will lead him to forsake his work in me.
In fact, Paul goes on to say that we are also "being established" in the faith. The word here was often used to describe the practice of guaranteeing legal contracts. God has bound himself to me. He has formally pledged himself to my growth in grace in his Son. He has sealed the document of ownership. I am his and he is mine and he will continue to confirm and solidify me in the experience and knowledge of all that he has made known of himself and his purposes for me in Christ.
There's only one appropriate response to such breathtaking realities: thanksgiving! No wonder Paul's final phrase in v. 7 reminds us of the importance of "abounding in thanksgiving" (ESV) or "overflowing with gratitude" (NASV).
O.K. Thanks God (and Paul). I needed that!
Rejoicing that I'm rooted in him,