Rooted, Built, Established
Series on Colossians #4
In 19th-century England, debtors’ prisons housed people who could not pay their bills. Prisoners were held in what were called “chummages,” which were prison dormitories.
Since the people in each chummage were there because they were broke, rather than having committed violent crimes, a spirit of camaraderie often developed. The prisoners played games together and otherwise enjoyed each other’s company.
In time, prisoners in debtors’ prisons began to refer to each other as “chums.” Later, the word caught on outside prison walls and took on the meaning of a cordial friend. Chums watched out for each other. They celebrated good times together, especially as more than one at a time gained freedom. They helped each other in difficult times, both in and out of prison.
Guess what. Christians need chums, too. Christians should be willing to be chums. To celebrate the spiritual freedom that comes from accepting Jesus. Celebrating together. And helping each other in difficult times.
In fact, I think it can be said the apostle Paul was a chum to the Christians in the city of Colossae. Evidence of that can be found in the Book of Colossians, which is a letter Paul wrote to the Christians in that city.
Early on, Paul complimented the Christians in Colossae. He celebrated their spiritual successes and they enjoyed hearing good things.
Later in the letter, including in the section we will think about in this message, Paul attempted to help the Christians by pointing out the danger they were in from false teachers who had worked their way into the congregation.
Since we should be chums - Christian chums - let’s spend our time in this message considering the warning the apostle Paul gave almost 2000 years ago. A warning we can share with each other. A warning about false teachings.
The warning is valid even now. Not because I plan to share false doctrine, but because there are many examples of false doctrine all around us. We, too, need to beware so we are not fooled by any teaching that more than Jesus is needed for full spiritual maturity.
We are in the midst of a series of messages on the Book of Colossians. In three earlier messages we have concentrated on the first chapter and a few verses at the start of chapter 2. Most recently, one of the points Paul made was that he worked very hard in his ministry. “Toiling” and “striving” were words he used.
Today’s passage begins with Paul’s explanation of why he worked so hard. The explanation is in verse 4 of Colossians 2.
Paul wrote, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with beguiling speech.”
To delude means to deceive, fool, mislead.
Beguiling speech means to speak for the purpose of deceiving someone for the purpose of spoiling them or slaying them - killing them - in this case, spiritually.
Paul is about to give examples of beguiling speech, but let me add here the necessity we have to listen to and think about whatever is said, testing everything by what the Bible teaches.
A moment ago I stated I have no plan to speak false doctrine. That always has been and always will be the case. However, what happens if I get some mental disease? That could cause me to say strange things.
If that happens, I am sure there will be lots of people ready and willing to drag me away, even if it is kicking and screaming. But the point is that everything that is said, including here, needs to be tested against the Bible. It is the Bible, not any speaker, that is the absolute gauge of what is truth.
I think testing is especially relevant when a speaker is especially mesmerizing. That is certainly not me, but I remember the time my parents shared something they had heard on TV on one of the late night news shows on a few decades ago.
There had been an incident in a Southeast Asian nation. An American had been arrested by that country’s military for having a radio, which was illegal.
One of two people interviewed for the story about the incident was a mercenary who was trying to go to that country to try to fight the arrested man to freedom. The other one interviewed was a representative of the U.S. State Department, which was trying to achieve a diplomatic release.
The State Department guy was quiet in how he answered questions on that show. I suspect there were some things he could not say because of state secrets.
The other guy - the mercenary - was loud and boisterous. He strongly condemned the U.S. government for not doing more to help the captured American.
What my parents reported to me was this. They knew the loud, boisterous one was telling the truth. They could tell by his manner of speaking. The manner of the State Department man, they said, proved he was lying.
The manners of speaking - the styles - were the basis of who my parents believed.
Actually, I have no idea which of the men told the truth. Maybe both of them. Maybe neither of them. And this is shared, not to criticize my parents. It is just that I was and am amazed by how much style, rather than the words spoken, can influence people, which is exactly what we need to beware when listening to spiritual speakers. That was a warning for the Colossian Christians. That is a warning even now. For us, we must listen to and think about whatever is said by anyone, testing it against the Bible.
Paul warned the Christians in Colossae to not be deluded by beguiling speech. That is in verse 4. In verse 5 he again complimented those to whom he wrote. He had done that earlier in the letter. Here he did so again.
This time he complimented them for their “good order and the firmness” of their Christian faith.
Both those phrases allude to discipline exercised by soldiers.
“Order” means rank or arrangement. There is good order when every soldier is in his or her appointed place, ready and willing to obey the word of command.
Spiritually, that means every Christian in a church - the Colossian church then, our church now - is to be ready and willing to use his or her Spirit-given gift when Jesus commands. That is needed for the cause of Christ to be most effective.
That is the way Paul described the church in Colossae. “Firmness” means being immovable. It describes a body of soldiers in an unbreakable formation, unshaken by the shock of an enemy’s charge.
That, too, is how Paul described the church in Colossae, his point being that their order and firmness made them capable of resisting the beguiling speech of the false teachers who had entered that congregation.
Paul wrote in verse 6, “You received Christ Jesus the Lord.” As just mentioned, they were following good order and spiritual firmness. “So,” Paul added, “live in Jesus.” Live in Him. Walk in His ways. Conform to the Lord’s principles.
Do we notice the word “in”? Do not just build your life on Jesus. That is important enough, but live in Him.
As verse 7 has it, “Be rooted in Him,” the idea being deep roots, for needed nourishment and for stability. The deeper the roots, the more nourishment is available. The deeper the roots, the less likely the winds and storms of life will cause a tree to fall. Less likely spiritually that we will be damaged or ruined in our faith.
Be rooted in Christ Jesus the Lord. “Be built up in Him,” which brings to mind a building. It is of course important for a building to rest on a strong foundation, but how much better when the building and the foundation are connected through rods or nails or screws. That is what it means spiritually to be built up in Christ Jesus the Lord. There needs to be a connection. Connection was needed to Jesus for the Colossian Christians to remain strong. Connection is needed to Jesus for us to remain strong.
As we are rooted and built up in Christ Jesus our Lord, we will be “established” in our faith.
“Established” means we will be able to remember and act according to the teachings of Jesus, including that He came, that He taught in word and by deed, that He died as the perfect sacrifice for sins, and that all who believe in Him will have everlasting life.
As the Colossian Christians were rooted and built up and established in Christ Jesus, so are we to be those things. And notice what is supposed to happen with that. We are to “abound in thanksgiving,” giving thanks for everything all the time. Even the difficult things of life. Difficult times we can survive as we are rooted, built up, and established in Jesus, for which we are to be thankful.
As mentioned, in verse 5, Paul complimented the Colossian Christians. Let me pause for a moment to share this. When we receive compliments, it gives us a warm feeling, does it not? At times it can be embarrassing to enjoy a compliment, but, one devotional writer shared, by finding pleasure in being commended, we allow others to exercise their gift of encouragement.
In addition, we can show that pride has not gained the upper hand in our lives when we praise others.
So it is OK to accept pats on the back and give the same to others. It is OK as long as we do what Paul did for the Colossian Christians, which was to guide them to greater and greater spiritual maturity. May we, as Christian chums, do that together.
In verse 5, Paul complimented the Colossian Christians. In verses 6 and 7, he followed his kind words with the challenge that they live in Jesus, being strong in Him. With both those positive things, Paul then, beginning in verse 8, once again warned about the false teachers among them who were trying to deceive them.
What were the deceptions being tried?
As mentioned earlier in the Book of Colossians, some were trying to push rules, stating that in addition to Jesus, rules - often Jewish rules - had to be followed.
Others were pushing the importance of knowledge. They taught that faith was fine, but that the way to total salvation was through knowledge.
Still others taught that not only Jesus, but also angels are needed for salvation.
None of those teachings is true. Each one is a deception. So, too, as they are worded in verse 8, “philosophy” and “human tradition.” “Philosophy” meaning we can explain and reason our way into Heaven. “Human tradition” means there are things we can do to work our way into Heaven. Traditions including, in verse 11, circumcision and, in verse 12, baptism, both of which were and are very important, but not for the purpose of earning salvation. It is the heart that needs to be circumcised, which is a process that starts when accepting Jesus as Savior. And baptism is a display to the world that you have already died and been buried to your old self, that symbolized by being immersed into the water, and being reborn, symbolized by coming back out of the baptismal water.
Verse 13. “Take advantage of what the Lord Jesus has done in making you alive with Him.” A new life made possible because of His forgiveness of our trespasses.
Verse 14. For those of us who have been forgiven, Jesus has “canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands.” This “He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Listen. Back in Paul’s day, when a law was cancelled, it was fastened to a board, held in place by a nail driven through it.
Remember what happened to Jesus. What He allowed to happen. He was fastened to a cross, held in place by three nails. On the cross, Jesus took on all our sins. The symbolism Paul brings to today’s passage is that our sins were cancelled - nailed to the wood of the cross of Jesus - never again to be held against us. What a wonderful picture that is for those of us who are Christians.
And verse 15. By Jesus’ death on the cross, “He disarmed the principalities and powers [that refers to degrees or levels of angels] and made a public example of them, triumphing over them.” “Disarmed” refers to conquering and disabling their ability to cause harm. “Making a public example” refers to exposing them to public shame.
In Paul’s day, it was common for victorious generals to lead a procession. Behind the victorious general and his army came the vanquished. Those who had been defeated. That was a very shameful thing for them.
When Jesus became the sacrifice for sins, He won the battle between good and evil. By coming back to life, He shamed anything and everything and anyone and everyone else who might want to claim to be needed for salvation.
Here is a story. In November 2005, three Mexican fishermen left Mexico's Pacific Coast fishing village of San Blas on a routine shark fishing trip in their 25-foot, two-engine boat.
Unfortunately, one of the engines broke down early in the trip. The second engine ran out of fuel sometime after that. Without power, currents pulled the boat farther and farther west, away from shore.
The three fishermen did not have cellphones with them or radios onboard, so they were all alone, drifting farther and farther into the Pacific Ocean.
The three ate raw fish, ducks, and seagulls. They took down any bird that landed on their boat and ate it raw.
In August 2006, nine months after their fishing trip had started, sailors on a fishing trawler from Taiwan spotted the boat. Taiwanese fishermen found the three Mexicans. They were naked, burned, emaciated, and more than 5000 miles away from San Blas, but still alive.
Listen to what the Mexican fishermen said following their rescue. They said they had kept their faith by taking turns reading from one of their last remaining possessions - a battered Bible. And, said one, “We never lost hope because there is a God up there.”
God is up there. He is also down here through the Holy Spirit. He is in the Bible in all the pages that tell of Jesus. Like Paul told the Colossian Christians, so we are told. Believe in Jesus and Jesus alone. Believe in Jesus because He is enough. No one and nothing else is needed. Not rules or knowledge or angels or philosophy or traditions.
Believe in Him. Be rooted in Him. Be built up in Him. Be established in Him. Let’s be chums. Let’s help each other to believe, keeping this in mind.
One day a teenager witnessed a car accident. It was a shocking experience for him, especially since he was the only witness to the incident, which resulted in him spending several months telling a series of lawyers and insurance adjustors what he had seen.
As he described it, he was never expected to explain the physics of the wreck or the details of the medical trauma. He was asked to tell only what he had seen.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be witnesses of what He has done in us and for us, doing that to help others avoid spiritual accidents. Like it was with the accident reporting, we may not be able to explain every theological issue or answer every question. All we need to do is explain what we have witnessed in our own lives that Jesus has done and is doing.
As that relates to today’s passage from the Book of Colossians, we can tell what sins we have had that have been nailed to Jesus’ cross. We can tell what beguiling speech - what spiritual deceptions - we have overcome. We can share with others how the Lord has helped us be rooted and built up and established in Him. We can share with others our love for Jesus.
Today’s closing song is My Jesus, I Love Thee. We will sing verses 1 and 3.
My Jesus, I love Thee , I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
There is beguiling speech going on in our day and age, but we can survive it by being rooted and built up and established in Jesus. We can then come to fulness of life in the Lord.
How good it is to grow in Jesus. To be Christian chums and grow together. How wonderful to have the Lord’s strength to avoid spiritual deception. How wonderful to know the reward for staying true to Jesus is blessings now and Heaven later. Amen.