What images come to mind when you first read the title to this post? Rooted may make you think of a tree. Built up may recall a building or construction project. Strengthened may remind you of the exercise you don’t seem to find time for. Overflowing may bring to mind a waterfall or fountain.

But did you know that all these words describe how our new life in Christ? That’s right! These are pictures of what we look like as we grow in Jesus. Continue reading to see how these words enhance our understanding of what it means to be in Christ.

This is an excerpt from the Holman Commentary Series on Colossians 2:7.

Metaphors of Growth

Paul uses four participles to describe the manner in which believers should live and grow. The first three participles are passive indicating that divine activity is predominant. Dan Wallace writes that with the passive voice, “no volition—nor even necessarily awareness of the action—is implied on the part of the subject. That is, the subject may or may not be aware, its volition may or may not be involved. But these things are not stressed when the passive is used” (Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, 431). Believers are being rooted, being built up, and being strengthened. Clearly God is the one rooting, building, and strengthening. The last participle changes to active voice, indicating the response of the believer to God’s work in his life.

Of particular interest is the fact that the first participle (“being rooted”) is a perfect participle. The other participles are present. The perfect is used when the author is describing an event which has been completed in the past and has continuing results in the present.

In summary, God has rooted the believer in Christ at the time of conversion in a completed sense, but that rooting is having continuing results in the present. At the same time God, in an ongoing process, builds up and strengthens the faith of the believer, which results in the believer’s active response in thankfulness.

Rooted

This perfect passive participle indicates a condition that results from some past action. The past action is their conversion when they received Christ (2:6). As a result of their conversion, they are firmly rooted like the foundation of a building. The word (rizao) can also be used in a horticultural context: the roots of a plant are set, providing a firm foundation for the growth of the plant itself. However, in this context as well as in Ephesians 3:17, an architectural metaphor applies. This suggests that the term might best be understood as part of an extended metaphor of building that develops with the three participles. The term is often used this way. Believers are first foundationally rooted as a result of their conversion. Then a spiritual structure is built on the foundation.

Build Up

This present passive participle indicates God’s continual activity needed for growth. The believers are continually being more and more built up. After laying the foundation, God erects the structure. This is a process which takes time, but believers are encouraged not to grow weary along the way. God is in the process of making us into a museum of divine artwork.

Strengthened

This present passive participle again focuses on the continual and progressive nature of God’s activity. The believers are being more and more strengthened. Once the foundation has been laid and the building has been erected, the building itself settles in and is made increasingly stronger. Again, the activity of God is primary, and yet the results are ours to enjoy. That is why we are finally overflowing with thankfulness.

Overflowing

This present active participle gives the natural response of the believer to the work of God in his life described in the three previous participles. As God does his work of laying the foundation, building the structure, and strengthening the entire building, the believer will—like a geyser—overflow with thanksgiving for all God has done for him.

Summary

If these metaphors are all joined together, the image is of a beautiful building, designed by a master architect, constructed by the world’s best builder, approved as worthy by the most stringent code inspector, and enhanced by a lovely fountain in front—placed there in honor of the architect, builder, and inspector who are all the same person.

The Holman OT and NT Commentary Series

This commentary series is very accessible and informative. The format contains a summary, introduction, commentary, application, prayer, deeper discoveries and more for each chapter of the Bible. Every reader will find something that will further their faith and walk with Christ.

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