Deepening Your Roots

Colossians 2:6-15

November 4, 2001 | Brian Bill

Do you know what a mixed metaphor is?  A mixed metaphor combines two or more images that don’t seem to make sense.  Here are some examples:

  • You’ve buttered your bread…now lie in it
  • Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box…of worms
  • Burning the midnight oil… at both ends
  • Marching to the beat… of a dead horse
  • It’s time to step up to the plate… and cut the mustard
  • Robbing Peter… to pay the Piper

In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul mixes several metaphors in order to describe the process of spiritual growth: “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.”  Many commentators believe that this is the theme of the entire book, sort of like the hinge point of Colossians.  

On the faith side, the Colossians had received Christ Jesus as Lord and had been taught the faith.  On the practice side, they needed to continue to live in Him and be built up in Him, becoming strengthened in their faith and overflowing with thankfulness.

Paul uses 6 word pictures of spiritual progress.  

1. Soldier. 

We’re not to battle against each other, but to do battle with each other as we serve side-by-side

This first picture is a review from verse 5: “…to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” As we learned last week, as members of God’s army we are to be solidly united against the enemy, as each of us practice discipline and strive to obey our Supreme Commanding Officer.  We’re not to battle against each other, but to do battle with each other as we serve side-by-side.

2. Power Walker. 

The Christian life must be lived out.  It’s to go from our head, to our heart, to our hands, and then to our feet.  When Paul says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him,” he’s reminding his readers that since they received Jesus by faith, so too they must walk by faith in His power.  That’s the only way to make spiritual progress.  The verb indicates continuous action – we are to continue to live in Him.  The past event of receiving Christ should be a present reality in our lives.  Our conduct must be consistent with His lordship.  Our worship should affect our walk and our practice must conform to our principles.

The Colossians had not merely received the doctrines of Christ; they had received Christ Himself.  The title, “Christ Jesus as Lord” is unique, occurring only here in Paul’s letters.  As Christ, He is identified as the Messiah, or “anointed one,” promised to Adam, Abraham, and Moses and prophesied about by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah.  Jesus was his human name given at His birth and means Savior.  Lord indicates that He is supreme and sovereign.  He has no rivals and we must bow before His preeminence. 

3. Tree. 

In this agricultural metaphor, just as a tree is “rooted,” we are to be grounded in the soil of God’s Word.  The tense of the Greek word means, “once and for all having been rooted.”  Those who have received Christ are rooted in Him.  A tree puts down deep roots in order to find nutrition and to provide stability.  Likewise, we must go deep with Christ in order to find the fuel we need to flourish, and in order to withstand the storms of life.

This image most likely comes from the beautiful picture in Jeremiah 17:8: “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  When we are rooted in a relationship with Christ, we will have everything we need for life and for godliness as 2 Peter 1:3 declares.  Just as a tree cannot thrive without any roots, so too, we cannot grow if we have not been grounded in “His glory and goodness.”.

4. Building.

Paul next moves to a construction image to show that as our foundation is built on Christ, we must continue to add on so that we’re “being built up in him.”  Ephesians 2:20 tells us that at conversion we were “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”  A cornerstone was a big stone placed at the intersecting angle, where two walls of a building came together.  In biblical times, buildings were often made of cut rock.  By uniting two intersecting walls, a cornerstone helped align the whole structure and tie it together.  In the same way, as the chief cornerstone, Jesus holds everything together and provides alignment to our lives.

5. Student. 

The next metaphor is found in the phrase, “strengthened in the faith as you were taught.”  We’re to be students in God’s graduate school so that our faith can be strengthened, or established.  By the way, Colossians 2:7 is where the 2:7 Discipleship Course gets its name.  As students, we must be taught the Word of God in order to grow in our faith.  That’s why we you hear us talk so much about the importance of every believer plugging into a small group.  We don’t want to just be a church that has small groups; we are a church that is made up of small groups.  Since a disciple must always be learning, make sure you are putting yourself in an environment where you can study and be strengthened on a regular basis.

6. River. 

This word picture of a river bursting over its banks is based on the phrase, “overflowing with thankfulness.”  As we receive instruction in biblical truth it should produce inner joy.  The more we understand grace, the more gratitude we will have.  Kent Hughes writes, “A thankless spirit betrays a life which is no longer focusing on the greatness of Christ.”  If you don’t feel very thankful today, it’s probably because you’ve taken your eyes off of Jesus and put them on your problems. 

Live It Out

These two verses challenge us to…

  • Grow downward by being “ rooted”
  • Grow upward by being “built up”
  • Grow inward so that we can be “strengthened in the faith”
  • Grow outward as we “overflow with thankfulness”
Our task is to live surrendered to His supremacy and to abound in the giving of thanks for what God has done for us in Christ

As Paul mixes up his metaphors, he also changes his verb tenses in order to show what has happened to us, and what we are responsible for.   In this list of 6 word pictures, there are only two active verbs: to live in Him and to be thankful.  Our living should lead to thanksgiving.  Our task is to live surrendered to His supremacy and to abound in the giving of thanks for what God has done for us in Christ.  

Be On Guard

Drop down to verse 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  

The false teachers used seductive tactics so the believers had to “see to it” that they didn’t let down their guard and be captured by philosophy that was contrary to Christ. 

What could be wrong with philosophy since it simply means “the love of wisdom”?  

First, it’s “hollow.”  Many of the philosophies we hear of today when compared with the reality of human existence are far off the mark because they are empty.

The second characteristic is that this philosophy is “deceptive.”  It may sound good but it is designed to lead people astray.   

The third reason we are to be on guard is that these empty and deceptive philosophies “depend on human tradition.”  They arise out of the thinking of men, find a foothold in society, and then are passed along from generation to generation so as to appear popular and widely supported.  Hardly anyone dares question them because it seems like everybody believes them.  One obvious example today is the theory of evolution.  

Fourthly, this philosophy depends on “the basic principles of this world.”  This refers to  “things in a row,” and became associated with the alphabet.  These basic principles refer to the elementary stages of religious idolatry, or even the worship of fallen angels.

No man-made religion can lead to truth, for truth can be found only in Christ.  As something hollow, philosophy cannot fill anyone except with more emptiness.  By contrast, Colossian 1:25 says that we have received the Word of God in “its fullness” and Colossian 2:2 reminds us that because we know Christ, we have the “full riches of complete understanding.”

If we put these three verses together we can conclude by saying that a grounded, growing and grateful believer will not be led astray.  You don’t have to worry about being spiritually kidnapped if you are a soldier, a power walker, a tree, a building, a student, and an overflowing river.

I want to close this morning with a simple question.  Imagine that you were arrested for being a Christian and the authorities brought charges against you.  Would they find enough evidence to convict you?  

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?