I’ve recently taken up cycling and I enjoy it. I love being outside to begin with, and there’s something special for me when I’m on my bike with the wind at my back and the bright sun beaming down on my face. It’s refreshing. Of course it doesn’t always work out quite like that. There are often times when I’m dodging potholes, praying I don’t hit the squirrel that darted out in front of me and fighting incredibly strong gusts of wind. There was one time when the surface became uneven and I was certain of my doom. Thankfully, I’ve had enough training to know how to handle the bike. My foundation was strong and though I could have fallen, I was prepared for that change in the road. That highlights my goal in cycling: if the ground shifts, maintain a strong foundation.
This idea of maintaining a strong foundation is at the core of the first few chapters of Colossians. There’s a problem in Colossae. People are teaching false doctrine and these false teachings have infiltrated the church. After Paul praises Christ’s superiority and awesomeness, he issues warnings. He wants the church to be equipped in knowledge and remain steadfast in faith so that the Colossian Christians are not taken captive by “philosophy and empty deceit, according the human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). The false teachings they faced were likely many and varied, but from the examples given in verse 16, Paul is likely referring primarily to Jewish law and traditions.
Paul’s warning wasn’t just for the ancient church in Colossae. Timothy was given a similar warning: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and traditions of what is vastly called knowledge, for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Tim 6:20). You and I have the same warning. The Pharisees loved to preach a works-based gospel and (all these centuries later) we are still likely to live as though we are still under the law. We also must fight against the world and the cultural narratives that whisper lies about who God is. If our foundation isn’t strong—we will surely falter.
So, how do we maintain a strong foundation in the midst of shifting situations and others swerving from the faith? Paul tells us in verse 6, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” We want to be rooted—deeply in Christ. We need roots like the wild fig trees in South Africa that reach 400 feet deep into the foundation of the earth. We want roots that are deep in truth—ultimately in the truth of the gospel and what it means to be alive to Christ. We need to be built-up in him—like a building with a core that reaches deep into the earth, we must be strong in the knowledge of Christ and what it means to be his in order to fight the good fight of faith.
We remember that we have been circumcised with Christ. The old flesh is gone and we are now a new creation. We are new and must live in this reality both intellectually and bodily—abiding in Christ. This is the reality—we are indeed new (2:11). We have been buried and raised as Christ was buried and raised. Sin’s reign and power has died, and we now have power to resist sin’s alluring call on our life. Christ died and defeated death—miraculously we share in this resurrection. We were spiritually dead and have been spiritually raised. We were dead in our sin—dead and without the power to resist. We are now alive with Christ (2: 12-13). Christ made a way for us to be with him and His father in glory. We are now forgiven. The debt was paid and the debt wasn’t paid in part. God doesn’t put our sin on layaway. Jesus paid it all. All the legal demands are gone—abolished, nailed to the cross (2:14). And we remember that we have an adversary. The accuser wants to whisper lies to you about who you are in Christ. He whispers lies about who God is.
But the cross disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (2:15).
Our firm foundation is not only in Christ; it is Christ Jesus. The ground may shake and we may stumble around from time to time but for those of us in Christ nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8: 35-39). Remember your testimony, remember when the Lord first brought you to Himself. Rehearse the gospel to yourself. When the ground shifts beneath know that you will not be overcome as you are established in the faith.
*A version of this first appeared in Tabletalk Magazine