Now that we have understood the idea of Christ’s preeminence and His sufficiency, Paul is going to dig further into this and add a few commands that we need to follow. These commands are there to help us live out our Christian lives in the fullness of Christ in us. These commands are directly related to how we should respond to Christ’s sufficiency.
(As a point of clarification, I will be talking about the sufficiency aspect of Christ’s preeminence from here on. Colossians specifically and overwhelmingly talk of Christ’s preeminence, but for this study I want to focus on His sufficiency, which is part of His preeminence. Christ’s sufficiency is what allows us to correct extra-Biblical ideas and resist its temptations.)
6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
Now that we’ve discussed Christ’s sufficiency, Paul is going to command us to walk in him. The word “Therefore” is pointing us back to all that Paul has just talked about, that is Christ’s sufficiency. Now that we have received Christ Jesus the Lord we are to walk in him. There’s a lot to unpack in this sentence.
First, the idea of receiving Christ Jesus the Lord. Notice that Paul uses the full title of Jesus: “Jesus Christ the Lord”. These three titles describe Jesus fully. He is our messiah, He is our saviour, He is God, and He is Lord over us. This title signifies the complete Jesus. And just as we received the complete Jesus we are commanded to walk in Him (the verb “walk” is an active imperative indicating a command we are responsible to do).
But there’s also this word “receive” that I took time to examine. At first, I thought that this word was pointing to the time at which we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, becoming a child of God. But upon closer examination (and reading a whole lot of other Christian’s commentaries on this word) it seems that this word “receive” is tied directly to the teachings of Christ that we receive after the believer’s conversion.
A couple of reasons why I believe this:
The Biblical definition of this Greek word for “receive” is as follows: Can convey receiving information or receiving of someone or something into a subject’s jurisdiction or care.11 Derek Leigh Davis, “Learning,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
The word “Therefore” links this verse back to the previous verses concerning Christ’s preeminence/sufficiency. This teaching is coming from Paul to the maturing believers at Colossae.
Verse 7, that follows, talks of growing, maturing, and being instructed in the things of Christ. This verse is the second half of verse 6.
Based on the Biblical definition of this word, which carries the sense of a transfer of knowledge and these other facts, I conclude that this word is talking about receiving instruction in our Lord as opposed to receiving the Spirit at conversion.
To be sure, some commentaries define “receive” as receiving the Spirit at the time of conversion; however, they do not explicitly explain why they think this is so.
Now to look at the command of this verse “walk in Him”, where have we seen this before? We discussed this idea of walking in Christ in the book of Ephesians that we just studied. Colossians and Ephesians were written very close to each other. Some think that Colossians was written first and the Ephesians was written afterward with the idea of diving deeper into the ideas in Colossians, especially the idea of “walking in Him”.
Since we have already studied Ephesians we know a little about how to walk in Him. You can go back to the Ephesians studies here to refresh your memory:
In a nutshell, walking in Him is how we behave and handle ourselves in this fallen world. Since we have been rooted, built up, and established in Him we can also walk in Him. Walking in Him is our outward response to the true knowledge we have received of Jesus Christ the Lord.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
Here in verse 8 we have our second command, “See to it…”. We are to be vigilant in watching for extra-Biblical ideas creeping into our church and into our own thoughts. These extra-Biblical ideas typically come through philosophy and empty deception, which are rooted or dependent on human traditions.
Human philosophies and empty deception (i.e., devoid of any real benefits) are difficult to defend against. They are packaged up with some truths (usually), which makes them so much more difficult to identify and refute. However, Paul does not recommend studying these deceptive influences in order to refute and correct; rather, Paul focuses on the sufficiency of Christ. When we focus on Christ’s sufficiency we see no other need for things/ideas that will “help” us be better Christians, which are outside of Christ’s teachings. Like the Bereans, we need to scour the scripture to determine what is true (what is according to Christ) and what is false (what is according to the elementary principles of the world, that is, the basic or rudimentary principles of the world).
In verse 9 we begin to answer the question, “why should we watch that we are not taken captive by these things?” The answer is simple and it reflects what we’ve already read in Colossians 1:15–20:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 1 6For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
In verse 9 we can reflect on Jesus’ preeminence and sufficiency in all things. The details of this are back in verses 1:15-20. If Jesus is all we need then we no longer need to seek out or listen to human philosophies and empty deception that is extra-Biblical. To supplant Christ with extra-Biblical ideas is to deny that Christ is all sufficient. And from this we must repent.
But Paul is not done explaining the “why”. He goes on in verse 10 to say that we have been made complete. That is, our salvation that comes from only Christ (who is our sufficiency) makes us complete. We need no other extra-Biblical ideas to add to this completeness. In fact this word “completeness” gives us the sense of being bountifully filled or supplied by Christ to the point of needing nothing else.
The other thing Paul says in verse 10 is that Jesus is the head over all rule and authority. In other words, He is preeminent. If He was not over all rule and authority then He could not be sufficient for us. Those peddling these extra-Biblical ideas must have been denying Christ’s preeminence in order for Paul to specifically state this here. Since Christ is head over all we can logically infer that He is sufficient in all. Preeminence and sufficiency go hand-in-hand. One without the other would weaken Christ’s lordship. And a weakening of His lordship leads us to stumble in our faith. This is what they wanted, for the believers at Colossae to stumble and deny Christ. Today, this is what they want for truly God fearing churches, to stumble and deny Christ. May this never happen. May we all be praying for the strengthening of our church and those churches around us!
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
Paul is not done. In verse 11 he adds one more item to this list. That of the circumcision made without hands. This circumcision has already been performed on the believers through Christ. There is no need to undergo this circumcision once again through human hands. The Jews that were steeped in OT tradition would have considered circumcision by human hands a type of prerequisite for becoming a member of the family of God. Paul is saying otherwise. Christ has removed our old sinful self so that we may live as Christians. This is only possible through Christ who is sufficient in all things, even to remove our sinful nature so that our new self may walk in a manner worthy of God. Circumcision with human hands can never cause this inward change.
To explain this circumcision made without hands deeper Paul moves into baptism. Baptism is the outward expression of our inward hope, a hope that can only exist once Christ has removed our sinful nature. In baptism we are buried along with Christ expressing that we die with Christ to sin. But baptism also shows our confession of faith as we are raised to new life in Christ. We are one in Christ and one in His church. This is the outward sign of the inward working of God.
In verse 13-14 again Paul states that He (God) made us alive with Him. God forgave us our sins…all of our sins. God canceled out our debt that was given to us by the law. You see, the law only served to expose our sin and unrighteousness. Then Jesus died on the cross fulfilling the law and prophets. Removing the law and its hostility towards us.
Finally, in verse 15 Paul ends this section with the full and utter victory of God through Christ. Through Christ’s work on the cross the rulers and authorities have been stripped of everything and put on public display. This is something that a victorious king would do to the defeated enemy in ancient times.
(Note that the “rulers and authorities” Paul mentioned here are most likely to be understood as enemies of God although there is quite a lot of interesting discussion on this.)