By repeating the main point of the previous verse, Paul adds to its meaning and importance. The expression received Christ Jesus as Lord probably does not refer to a conversion decision. In fact, I doubt that Paul would think of conversion, much less salvation, as conditioned upon a personal declaration of Jesus' lordship. Rather, the word received (paralambano) suggests the passing of a sacred tradition from one group of believers to the next. Given Paul's earlier references to Epaphras (1:6-7) and to his own mission (1:23—2:3), this phrase probably refers to the spiritual heritage of his Colossian readers, who received their theological understanding, confessed in 1:13-23, from Paul's Gentile mission and particularly from Epaphras. This is their tradition, their sacred heritage, the religious roots that continue to mark out the boundaries of their life together in Christ. Significantly, Paul makes this point in the indicative mood—that is, what they have received from Epaphras indicates the fact of their conversion to Christianity.
In contrast, the next phrase, continue to live in him, is stated in the imperative mood, asserting the behavior that logically and necessarily must result from the theological conviction that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all things. Among aboriginal people in Australia, males go on a "walk-about" as part of their rite of passage into manhood: they travel alone across their land to become familiar with it and thus a part of it. The Greek word for live (peripateo) literally means to "walk about." According to Paul, our trust in the received gospel of God's grace through Christ results in a "walk about" in him; we become familiar with him and a part of him. The apostle often sets indicative statements about God's salvation next to imperative statements about our response to God in order to show their close, even logical relationship. To embrace the truth about God's Christ is to live in him.
Our passage into Christ transforms the way we live. The four participles that follow in verse 7 express four characteristics of the Christian's "walk about." Each is stated in the passive voice because each is given by God's grace rather than acquired by human effort. The first two, rooted and built, are metaphors of growth, envisaging the dynamic character of Christian nurture, while the second two, strengthened . . . and overflowing, are metaphors of worship, envisaging the spiritual results of devotion to God. The two couplets are naturally related, since the nurture of Christ's community is facilitated by corporate acts of worship, when it is taught the faith it has received and offers its thanksgiving to God.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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