Rooted and Built Up in Christ

Rooted and built in him.Col. 2:7a

THE AMAZING RICHES of Jesus Christ, that seems to be the main thought of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

There were, no doubt, several reasons for stressing this important truth. Over against the Judaizers, who maintained that Christians in some sense still needed the Old Testament rituals, Paul emphasizes the sufficiency of Christ. All work-righteousness is condemned. In the first chapter the writer tells us that our Savior is the very Son of God, that He also created the world, also is the image of the invisible God. In Him all fulness dwells. Christians must now walk in Him, this great Christ, even as they have received Him. Their internal and external life must be dominated by the Spirit of Christ and the standards of the Word of God. This rich, all-sufficient Christ must be. their life.

How can this be? How can a child of God walk in Christ as he has received Him? That answer is found in the text before us. He must be rooted and built up in Christ.

Very interesting it is that the Bible employs so many examples and comparisons taken right out of our daily, earthly life and God’s own creation. And the purpose of all these examples is to make plain to us the rich truths of the kingdom of heaven. The Scriptures speak of birds, for example, such as the raven, crow, eagle, dove, cock, sparrow, swallow and others. It speaks of animals: the donkey, horse, snake, lion, sheep, dog, bear, leopard and many more. Think also of the plant world and even the various parts of the plant that are used to make plain the things of the spiritual kingdom: roots, branches, vine, leaves, fruit and the trunk.

We meet two illustrations in the text, that of a plant and that of a building. Regarding the former we are pointed to the roots which illustrate one aspect, a Christian’s development.

First of all Christians must be rooted in Christ Jesus. This in itself is a beautiful thought. There is also a progressive element in the text, we must constantly become more rooted in Christ. The roots must continually grow deeper.

When a seed sprouts a root goes down, then shoots go up and appear above the surface of the soil. So the Christian before he reveals fruits of the Spirit in his life, is first rooted in Christ. First the root always goes down. All Christian life begins by being rooted in Christ Jesus. What for? Why do plants have roots, or, what is the purpose of roots? There are at least two answers to this question. First of all, through the roots the plant draws moisture and food out of the soil. Plants therefore usually have deep roots. Often, we are told, the roots go down into the ground as far as the plant itself grows above the ground. It is said that a large plant of corn can have a mile of roots, counting all of them, large and small. The giant redwood trees in California have roots extending into an area of three acres around the trunk of the tree. All these roots are “searching” for moisture and food. But there is another purpose. By so extending the roots deep into the ground the plant itself a1so becomes firmly established. A tree, for example, has thousands and even millions of little “fingers” that take a firm hold of the ground. And where the soil is rather heavy it simply becomes impossible to fully uproot a tree. Such trees can be cut down, the stumps can be removed by breaking off the roots. But such trees simply cannot be uprooted. What a beautiful metaphor of the child of God, being rooted in Christ Jesus. In this Christ is all His salvation and strength. And Christ is so exceedingly rich in spiritual blessings. As a tree needs food from the roots which go down into the ground, so the Christian becomes rooted in Christ for food for His soul and life. But at the same time and in the same process he becomes firmly established in Christ. Through seeking and praying and trusting in Christ the believer becomes firmly implanted in Him. And nothing in the whole world, nor any power of the devil can ever uproot Him.

We are told that trees, at least some of them, never become full grown. They just continue to “dig” deeper with the roots, so that a tree that is fifty years old has much deeper roots than a young tree. Isn’t this also true of God’s people? Usually they are born again when still young. Then the roots begin to take hold. But as we live our lives in a world of change, of adversities and disappointments, of a variety of experience in time, we learn to look more away from self, from man, and look to Christ for our strength and courage. Healthy Christians when they get old are deeply rooted in Christ. And they can never be uprooted. Paul would say, Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

Hasnt everyone seen a young tree in a violent storm? Although the wind may seem too strong for it, but because of the storm the roots “dig” down deeper into the ground and by means of them it “hangs on” for its very existence. So too, through chastisement and trials God causes the Christian’s roots to grow deeper in Christ. Often these experiences are extremely painful for the flesh. But we must become deeply rooted in Christ. That’s what God wants us to do and to be! Become therefore evermore rooted in this exceedingly rich Christ.

Paul, however, also speaks of being built up in Christ. In this he refers naturally to a building. Man; times the Bible speaks about God‘s people being a building, a spiritual temple. But that thought is not what Paul here apparently has in mind. Rather he refers to the process of building. The same though! we find in Jude 20, “But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith . . . .” The example of the roots refers to becoming firmly established in Christ, and living wholly out of Him. The example of the building appears to refer to the progress that is made above the ground. Presently a new building is rising along the road that I take into town. From day to day I notice the progress being made in the construction of this building. This is Paul’s illustration. We must constantly become built up in Christ. We must become “bigger” Christians. Always there must be more evidence of the fruits of His Spirit in us, more love, patience, peace, humility and godliness.

Naturally we are built up in Him as we are rooted in Him. These two processes always go together. You don’t find in God’s creation a tiny tree with roots. Neither on the other hand, do you expect to find a giant oak tree with only a few shallow roots. As the roots go down the tree grows up. As we are rooted in Him, and seek to become more deeply rooted, we will also be built up more in Him.

Paul is saying to the Colossians and to us, “Be therefore rooted in Christ Jesus.” Turn to Christ as the roots ‘dig’ down and become also more firmly established. Seek in Christ what you need for the soul, and do not seek it in the things of the world. Trust only in His righteousness and His promises. Let your faith be like roots so that you cling firmly to His faithfulness and unchanging mercies.” With that faith you will also become mature, “big” Christians. At the same time you will be humble saints, boasting only in Christ and showing that you love Him.

And you will begin to appreciate what Paul teaches us in this epistle to the Colossians, about the inexhaustible riches of our Lord Jesus Christ.


John Blankespoor is pastor of the Pine Creek Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.