So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (verses 6-7)
This is a wild mix of word pictures! Paul piles them up together, one butted up against another, like some outlandish collage put together by an overactive pre-schooler.
But the pile-up communicates.
Paul begins by affirming that the Colossians had received teaching about Jesus that was true and clear and fully adequate. Epaphras, Paul’s dear friend, “a faithful minister of Christ” (Colossians 1:17), was the one who taught them. Through his teaching, the Colossians had originally come to know Christ Jesus as Lord. Don’t move away from that solid beginning, Paul says. Indeed, press into it more firmly!
It’s then that the wild array of word pictures begins to roll. Paul starts with his familiar image of walking. The NIV translates it as “continue to live in him” – but literally what Paul writes is: “in him walk.” This is so powerful and straightforward in its simplicity. Not the heroics of a marathon, nor the competitive edge of the 100-meter dash, but rather one step after another, moving forward with solid footing. “In him.” That’s how it happens. We “have been given fullness in Christ”(Colossians 2:10). Enveloped in him – indeed embraced, empowered, enlivened – we walk, step by step. Always moving forward.
But the next image immediately shifts gears. We’re no longer moving, but rather solidly planted in one place. “Rooted.” That’s what Paul has in mind. Roots have penetrated down into dark soil and the plant itself has become solid and stable, firmly anchored. Yet, the image is entirely organic, pulsing with life. You can almost see the leafy stocks and smell the moist richness of the soil. There’s a perfect combination here of stability and life. That’s what Paul wants to see in us.
And then he piles on another image, completely different, this time from the construction site. “Built.” Here we see the hands of a craftsman, laying foundations, cutting stone, fitting one upon another, squaring walls, building a structure which rises solid and sure. The image communicates clear planning and design – the mind of the craftsman is being expressed. But it also implies solid structure that becomes ever more secure as it grows toward completion. This is what we are meant to experience in Jesus – built up in him.
“Strengthened” shifts slightly, carrying the idea of being confirmed and established. Proven genuine. Sealed with a guarantee. Firmly nailed down. That’s how we’re to be – anchored in that foundational teaching about Jesus himself.
And then the final image shifts once more, bursting forth in an “overflowing”fountain of thanksgiving. I think of the water feature our neighbours recently installed in their backyard – a mini-waterfall that spills down over rocks and earth to collect in a small pond at the bottom, only to be pumped back to its source, overflowing from the top once more. Our thankfulness in Jesus is to be just like that. Overflowing. Constantly.
What a wild mix of images in short space! But piled together they capture the dynamic of life and growth, rootedness and thanksgiving the Lord is wanting to work in us. May it be. Bring it on.
O Lord, bring this about in me. Don’t stop till you’re done. Live your life in me, as I live my life in you.
Reflect: Pick one of these images and live into it today. Look for opportunities to press into it more fully. Ask the Lord to bring it into clearer focus.
Photo by S. Tsuchiya on Unsplash