It is in Christ alone that we are to root our faith. And it is on Christ alone that we are to “build” our faith.
Well, we are at the heart of something profoundly important here with this passage. But we cannot really understand what that importance is if we encounter this passage out of context. We know that it does not stand alone because of the first two words in verse 6, “So then.” These words relate directly to the verses that come before it. And verses 6 and 7 are then followed up with an admonition that is directly related to what Paul says preceding verses 4 and 5. Why is it important to always understand the context of a given verse? Because, if we do not, we open ourselves up to the danger of misunderstanding the fullest meaning of the verse, or worse, misinterpreting it, or worst of all, using it in a way that is not consistent with the teaching that has come to us through the Holy Spirit in the scriptures.
Why is Paul saying to the Colossians, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lived in him rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing in thankfulness?” The, “So then,” at the beginning of verse 6 is an important key to our understanding here. It points us back to verses 4 and 5, which say: “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” Paul has already seen what false prophets and teachers have done to other nascent Christian communities elsewhere and he is admonishing the Colossians to adhere to the Gospel as it was first taught to them. He is further admonishing them to recognize and to reject religious teachings that originate from other sources than the gospel. Why? Because it is in and through Christ alone that we can have a full knowledge of, or a true access to God. He is telling them (and us) that the gospel that they have been taught gives them all that they need to know about God and about the virtues that they need to develop in order to live the life of a true follower of Christ in the world, then and now.
Paul furthers his admonition to the Colossians (and us) when he says immediately following our verses for today’s devotion: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (verse 8) It is with this very admonition in mind that I say the following prayer before I begin my writing of this devotional every day: “Lord, I need that understanding of the truths about yourself which may prepare me for all your other truths—or at least may save me from conjecturing wrongly about them. I need the mind of the Spirit, which is the mind…of the Church, by which I may not only say on definite points, but think what [it thinks]; in all I need to be saved from an originality of thought, which is not true if it leads away from you. Give me the gift of discriminating between true and false in all discourse of mind.” (John Henry Newman)
We are, then, as Paul admonishes us, to continue to live our lives in Christ in the manner in which we have been taught. After all, Christ is the cornerstone of the Church. It is in Christ alone that we are to root our faith. And it is on Christ alone that we are to “build” our faith. If we do this, by his grace, we will be “strengthened” in the faith and our hearts will truly “overflow with thanksgiving.”
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they find rest in you.” (St. Augustine) Lord, draw our hearts to you alone. Help us to build upon and to remain rooted in the faith we have been taught, for we know that it is by this alone that our hearts will find rest in you and overflow with thanksgiving. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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