Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col. 2:6-7)

This is classic Pauline practical theology, and not just Paul’s theology but that which was inspired of God’s Spirit for all believers in Christ to grasp, understand, and live by. We continue in the Christian life as we began.

Alexander MacLaren wrote in his exposition of Colossians:

It is characteristic of Paul that he should here use three figures incongruous with each other to express the same idea, the figures of walking, being rooted, and built up. They, however, have in common that they all suggest an initial act by which we are brought into connection with Christ, and a subsequent process flowing from and following on it. Receiving Christ, being rooted in Him, being founded on Him, stand for the first; walking in Him, growing up from the root in Him, being built up on Him as foundation, stand for the second.

It is a typical human reaction to imagine the Christian life as some sort of display of our own abilities. It is as though in our minds the grace of God got us “through the door” and into the party of God, but once we are admitted by grace and on the inside we set about trying to prove that we could have paid our own way and gotten in on our own if God would have only given us half a chance to do so.  And this type of thinking is all wrong, completely wrong.

By grace are we saved, and this means that by grace we were saved, by grace we are currently being saved, and by grace we will be saved for eternity. And it means that there is a process of grace to mature us and strengthen us. We continue the journey of faith as we began it, by grace through faith. The weakness and helplessness that brought us to Christ in the first place, that led us to plead our guilt and claim His grace, is still the attitude in the Christian life.

Is there nothing for us to do?

Grace through faith removes the capacity for our boasting (Eph. 2:9). But the argument against grace is that it is contrary to our better natures, that it leaves us with nothing to do except to receive. Is there nothing that we could or should do to show our gratitude, to prove our character, or to obey the Lord? Does grace simply make us infantile and irresponsible? Where does our character show itself in the Christian life?

Here is another misunderstanding of the Christian life, for to continually live in grace is to continually live by faith. And we can and will reveal our character by our faith (Heb. 11:6), and we will reveal our faith by our actions (James 2:17-18). There is in this system of grace much character to reveal, but it is at the end of the matter not our own character but the character and nature of Christ Jesus, the redeemed and perfect nature that we are recreated in Christ to have and to show (Eph. 4:24).

There is still the sense in the Christian life of achievement, of hearing the Lord say to us in our hearts, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” But it is obedience born out of our need and out of the work of God in us and through us.

Paul had just stated, by the way of an example, how much he was struggling and laboring for the Colossian believers, though he was quick to add that it was God who worked in him powerfully, who supplied his strength and power in ministry. But I believe there was in that statement honesty and a sense of appropriate pride for his actions – the good sense of pride we all feel when we have fulfilled a responsibility well. Paul wrote in Galatians:

Each one should test his own work. Then he will have reason to boast in himself alone, and not in someone else. For each one should carry his own load. (Gal. 6:4-5)

When we are weak in ourselves but strong in our faith in Christ, then God is able to empower us. And in that sense the Christian life is not you or me showing the world how much we did not need grace in the first place. No. It is just the opposite, to reveal how great grace is at work in us. We who were His enemies have now become His projects of grace: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Eph. 2:10 NIV).

Affirmed and Commended by the Lord

Believers long to be affirmed and commended by God. And the Lord is also longing to do so. There are rewards promised us in heaven for faithful service. There is a seeming conflict here, and I have heard some Christians stumble through these matters with very poor theology. Where as the Lord ultimately receives all the credit, He does affirm us when we submit our hearts to Him and our wills to Him and obey Him in our lives.

Let’s clarify somethings again for our own proper understanding of this matter. And of first importance is that if we are competent in our service to Christ and in our obedience to Christ, then we are only competent because of the work of Christ in us. Apparently this was a real problem to the Corinthian church, which had many conflicts within it, with different leaders claiming that they were better than others. Paul wrote clarifying that this competitiveness was entirely wrong. God was not in conflict with Himself and it was He who makes us competent:

Such confidence before God is ours through Christ. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim that anything comes from us, but our competence comes from God. And He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

The servant of Christ, whether he preaches and teaches, or lives his life as a businessman, a housewife, or a student, is to realize that God is at work in him “to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). And we are to daily and constantly lean upon God for His strength and His transforming work in our hearts, and for His glory.

As a matter of second importance, we must keep our role in perspective. We are like the “best man” at the wedding of his friend, and Christ is the “bridegroom.”  The worst thing a best man can do at a wedding, or a maid of honor, is to detract from the couple getting married themselves. A wedding is all about the couple and everyone should work to make it so. This was exactly the example that John the Baptist used to explain his own ministry:

You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease. (John 3:28-30)

Our joy and our “boasting” is found only as we let Christ receive the praise and the glory and the honor.

But as a matter of third importance, we should expect for God to affirm and commend us in our hearts, and in eternity, when we act in this spirit. When our service is empowered by Christ, and when our motive is for His glory, then we should hear the Spirit say in our hearts, “Well done!” Again, to the conflicted Corinthians, Paul wrote:

Rather, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor. 10:17-18)

It is true that in heaven we will act as the twenty-four elders seated around the throne, as they took off their crowns and casted them before the One seated on the throne, saying:

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created. (Rev. 4:11 ESV)

But the Lord is a gracious Master and He knows full well how we need encouragement.

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14 ESV)

Elsewhere Christ taught us not to expect reward when we have merely done our duty (Luke 17:10).  But He also said that the one who does the simplest act of kindness to His disciples, “Will not lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). So even the attitude that does not expect a reward for doing one’s duty, is also rewarded and affirmed inwardly by God.

So the Christian should experience often the commendation of God. If our hearts are humble before Him, if we believe that He rewards those who seek Him, if we seek His glory and not our own, if we seek to accomplish things His way and not our own, if we do our Christian duty out of a simple sense of obedience and not to call attention to ourselves, if we seek to be accepted only through Christ and only by our faith, if we seek to build upon His foundation using “gold, silver, and costly stones” (1 Cor. 3:12), then we should expect to hear the Lord speaking to our hearts, “Well done!”

And I believe this is one of the most satisfying feelings we may have, to hear the affirmation of the “Bridegroom” as speaking to the “best man,” good job. This affirmation of the Spirit assures us that we are on the right track, that we are following Christ as He commanded us to. This is the longing of every Christian’s heart, to know that God has smiled upon his life and upon his service, that God has “established the work of his hands” (Psalm 90:17).

This is the deep soul satisfaction that God’s grace has won out over the sin and brokenness of the world in our lives.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.