Motivations for Fidelity
By the time Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae the city itself was small and it has been said that it is the least important city which received a letter from Paul.
While we don’t know when it was founded there are records from the 5th century B.C. which claim that Colossae was a large, rich, and important city.
At that time there was a trade route going right through the city and for its entire history it has been known for the wool that was made there.
Over the centuries the two cities nearby, Laodicea and Hieropolis, eventually grew in popularity over Colossae.
This, along with a change in trade routes made Colossae lose prominence and populace.
While the exact size of the city in the first century is unknown, it is agreed that is was extremely small and had virtually no importance to anyone outside the city.
Whether Paul ever visited or passed through this city is debated but it is clear that he did not plant the church there himself, it was probably started by Epaphras who Paul referred to in 1:7 as a fellow slave.
Unlike the church at Rome where Paul knew many in the church, he does not claim to know many of the believers in Colossae, except for a few, including Philemon to whom he wrote a personal letter which we have and continue to benefit from.
That Colossae was a small city out of the way and that Paul didn’t know very many people and yet wrote a letter like this gives us an insight into Paul’s ministry and God’s heart.
If we were to consider all the cities and towns that Paul visited, ministered in, and passed through, there would probably be dozens of cities that were larger, had more converts, battled stronger enemies, had deeper struggles, needed more instruction and encouragement, and yet Paul, through the Holy Spirit, wrote an inspired letter to a small house-church in a small town.
Here we are, Cornerstone Bible Church, about six years into the ministry.
By many measurements this is a small church in a small town far away from anything.
Most people 100 miles away (which is the distance Ephesus was from Colossae) barely know this city exists.
Let the existence of this letter be an encouragement to you.
Whatever importance human measurements pronounce on this place, know that as a group of faithful believers what you do here has eternal significance.
God is present and active here.
Paul had a specific purpose in writing this letter, as he did all his letters.
He had heard from Epaphras of the false teaching that was being taught in the city.
It isn’t clear whether these teachers were inside the church, or if it was simply false teaching outside the church that impacted the church nonetheless.
In this city, like many small cities, there was a mix of Jewish and pagan teaching and often it was intertwined.
Being far away from the locus of a major temple, religious beliefs often mixed together combining ideas from different philosophies to essentially create a new one.
We see this today in some Caribbean Islands there is often a mix of Catholicism and pagan practices.
Voodoo and the Virgin Mary somehow come together to form twisted beliefs and practices.
This is what was happening there.
A lack of historical records leaves us with only Paul’s letter to determine exactly what was being taught.
Let me give you a summary of the people were dealing with:
The most critical error was a false teaching of the personhood, deity, work, and sufficiency in Christ.
This is why Paul spent so much effort in giving what is now the most complete Christology we have in the New Testament in Colossians 1.
2. There was teaching that it was necessary to observe special days and dietary restrictions.
There was teaching overemphasizing the importance of angels and spirit beings and dreams.
4. Asceticism, even self-mutilations were being taught as means to a higher spiritual life.
This was a mix of Judaism, paganism, and early forms of Gnosticism.
Whether it was a lack of extensive teaching or simply persuasiveness on the part of the false teachers Paul felt it was necessary to write a letter to encourage the believers to remain steadfast in their faith and not succumb to the false teaching.
In doing this Paul gives eight motivations to maintain fidelity to the truth.
These eight motivations constitute the work of God uniting us to Christ through justification and sanctification.
Let me list them for you now and then we’ll walk through the text in detail.
As believers we:
Have been rooted in Christ (v.
2. Are being built up in Christ (v.
3. Are being established in Christ (v.
4. Have been filled (or completed) in Christ (v.
5. Circumcised in Christ (v.
6. Buried with Christ (v.
7. Raised with Christ (v.
And finally Made alive with Christ (v.
In Colossians 1 Paul begins with his typical greeting, prayers for the church, and then he lays out the clear teaching of the humanity, deity, and work of Christ.
Then he speaks of his personal ministry and responsibility to the universal church.
Chapter two begins with Paul demonstrating his love and care for people of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.
Paul then begins the heart of the letter beginning in chapter 2 verse 6.
*/6/*/Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, /*/7/*/ rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Paul begins by affirming that the believers have indeed received the Messiah, Jesus, as Lord.
Paul wasn’t saying that they received Him in their hearts as is often spoken of today, but merely that they accepted the message they were taught and affirmed that the man Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah and that He is at the same time Lord and Master over all things.
Paul spells out their reception at the beginning of the letter in 1:3 where he says:
/We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant./
So Paul affirms that the message they heard, namely the gospel, they received and accepted.
Not only did they receive the hope of eternal life in Christ, but it bore fruit in their lives which continually grew.
In other words the gospel made an impact in their lives and the more they grew in their understanding of truth the greater impact it had.
In the same way, Paul exhorted them to continue to walk in Christ.
The command “walk” is a present imperative which means that he assumed they were already doing so, and was commanding them to excel still more.
Walking is a common picture of the Christian life.
It pictures life as a path and you can walk on the path or walk off the path.
You can walk following the footsteps of faithful men before you or you follow the footsteps of those who have made their own way.
Here Paul exhorts them to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
Paul then gives the first three motivations in rapid-fire succession for remaining faithful to Christ.
!! #1 Rooted in Christ
The first motivation for fidelity is that we have been rooted in Christ.
This term from horticulture describes the believer as being grounded in Christ from whom all strength and nourishment is derived.
In the same way that a plant cut from the root quickly dies so the Christian apart from Christ is dead.
Paul uses the perfect passive voice to enforce the idea that as believers we do not root ourselves in Christ, but we have been rooted in Christ by God in the past and it continues to be a reality.
Therefore in the same way that we have not rooted ourselves we also cannot uproot ourselves.
This acts as a motivation because if we are indeed rooted in Christ and receive from him life and nourishment, the /natural/ response is to live as he lived.
In the same way that a fig tree does not bear thistles, the person rooted in Christ cannot live like the world.
To live like the world is to deny the very one who gives us life!
!! #2 We are being built up in Christ
The second motivation is that we are being built of in Christ.
Whereas being rooted was a single act with ongoing results, building up is an ongoing continual process.
Paul uses a word-picture here from the architectural industry.
The Christian life is like a building that after the foundation is laid there is a long process of constructing beginning with the frame, the roof, and so on.
Paul is here affirming what he said to the Philippians that /“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” *(Phil 1:6).*
/This is why we have trials in our lives as Paul says in *Romans 5:3*, /“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”/
And not only trials but according to *Romans 8:28-30* everything that happens to us is involved in the process of God building us up into the image of Christ.
So not only has God rooted us in Christ which is a picture of justification, but he is continually building us into Christ which is a picture of sanctification.
Sanctification is the very definition is walking with Christ, so therefore Paul is saying that the spiritual reality of God working in sanctification should be matched by their living that out as they walk in Christ.
!! #3 We are being established in Christ
The third motivation for fidelity is that we are being established in Christ.
It says here that we are being “/established in the faith/”.
Faith is not the source or direction of this establishment, but rather it is the very thing which is being established.
In other words this could read, “/rooted and built up in him and having our faith established./”
Here again Paul uses the passive voice which emphasizes God’s initiative in establishing us, not us establishing ourselves.
First Paul used a term from horticulture, then from architecture, now he uses a legal term.
To “establish” is a legal term which means to confirm a fact, to prove to be true, to establish something as beyond doubt.
Therefore God is continually confirming the veracity or truthfulness of our faith.
The more a Christian grows in spiritual maturity the more they are convinced of the truth of Scripture.
If you find a Christian who over time has grown more suspicious of their faith and continually questions the truth of Scripture in a skeptical way, you have found someone who is not exhibiting the work of God in their lives.
Today we have people who profess to be Christians and yet abound in doubt and skepticism.
In his book /A Generous Orthodoxy/ Brian McLaren, one of the outspoken leaders of the emergent church, wrote this: Christians "must be open to the perpetual possibility that our received understandings of the gospel may be faulty, imbalanced, poorly nuanced, or downright warped and twisted . . .
[and must] continually expect to rediscover the gospel" (Ibid., 261).