“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.” —Colossians 2:6–7 (ESV)
““This paragraph… is the heart of Colossians. In these two verses Paul succinctly summarizes the basic response he wants from his readers.” —Douglas Moo
Paul’s central point is clear, succinct, and powerful, but we bring a danger to it. It’s a danger those who have grown up in the evangelical bubble are prone to. The danger is created when Biblical language is removed from its context and used to describe something basically true, but alien to the original context. We then return to the Bible reading the alien definition back into the text. This is what we call eisegesis, rather than exegesis. Exegesis seeks to draw out, where eisegesis puts in. Exegesis draws the author’s meaning out. Eisegesis puts the reader’s meaning in. This is bad, even if the things you are reading into the Bible are true and good things.
When you try to walk the walk of this text in this way, it’s like waking up in the middle of the night in a new home, thinking you are in the old home. Wham! You’ve got the right walk but in the wrong home. When you try to walk according to your evangelical church house map in the Bible, you go bump.
“As you received Christ… .”
What do these words bring to mind? Perhaps you’re thinking of a so-called man-ufactured event like a scheduled “revival.” Or maybe, a crusade, church camp, or simply the church invitation that goes on and on, all pleading for someone to “receive Jesus into their heart.” In theological shorthand, you think about conversion—being saved.
This use of language simply isn’t faithful to the Scriptures. When the gospel is preached, the proper response is repentance and faith. When Jesus is heralded, the proper response isn’t an invitation to an invitation. “We want to invite you to invite Jesus.” The gospel is good news to be believed. It is not good news about how desperate Jesus is to receive an invitation to your heart-house and bring the party. “Want a party of joy and significance in your heart-house? Invite Jesus!”
Still, taken in the best sense, one could think this passage meant something like, “You began by belief in Jesus, continue that way.” This is so very true, and close, but walking close to the door still means running into the wall.
What is meant by “receive?” Paul has just elaborated on the mystery, the revelation of Jesus Christ entrusted to him for the sake of the church. This is what they’ve received, the revelation of Jesus Christ. The church receives what Paul received. Listen to how this language of receiving is used and how it relates to what Paul delivered.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” —1 Corinthians 15:1–3
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” —1 Corinthians 11:23
“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. … For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. —Galatians 1:9, 11–12
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” —1 Thessalonians 4:1–2
What Paul received is identical to what we receive, the revelation of the mystery of Jesus Christ. Paul is admonishing the Colossians to walk in this Christ, the true Christ, the Christ of the Scriptures. Consider all that Christ is shown to be in the Scriptures, all that His apostles have revealed Him to be, and walk as one in union with Him.
All the fullness of God dwells in Him bodily, and you have bee filled in Him (2:10). In Him, you’re circumcised (2:11). When Christ died, you died, when He rose you rose (2:13). You’ve been raised with Christ, so seek the things that are above (3:1). Your life is hidden with Christ in God (3:4).
In our walk, this turns our eyes outward. Instead of looking within trying to reproduce the same kind of faith and experience we had at conversion, we look to Christ. It’s always better to walk looking up than looking within. We’re thinking about our sneakers, and God is concerned about the One who is the Way. We’re concerned about our cool stride of faith; God tells us to keep our eyes on the road. When we’re looking within, we run into stuff. Keep your eyes on Christ, and walk as one in union with Him.