“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.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

The Christian life is a “walk” (v.6) — a matter of putting one foot in front of the other moment by moment, decision by decision in the strength of God’s Spirit.  But just what does that “walk” look like?  The Apostle Paul tells us in v.7 as he sets forth four participles, all of which qualify the imperative to “walk in him [i.e., Jesus Christ]”. 

The first comes from the horticultural world — “rooted.”  The perfect tense of the verb indicates that this is past action which results in abiding state.  The passive voice points to God as the active agent (as also in the next two participles).  When a person comes to faith in Christ, God sends that person’s roots down deep into Christ Himself.  Like a mighty redwood whose roots go down and spread out to provide a channel for nourishment from the soil and stability from the winds of adversity, so Christ is the very “soil” from which the believer draws his life and in which he finds his security and strength.

The second comes from the architectural world — “built up.”  Here to we find a passive voice–God is the builder.  Now, however, we have present tense (as in the next two participles as well)–emphasizing the ongoing, habitual nature of the action.  We are built upon the foundation of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-14).  We are ever and always being build up by God on this immovable foundation.  Having rooted us (downward), now God works to build us (upward).

The third comes from the legal world — “established.”  The word was used outside the Bible to describe that which was legally guaranteed.  There may be something of that notion here, but more likely is the derived sense of being “strenghened” or “established.”  That in which we are to be established is “in the faith.”  By “faith” it seems Paul has in mind here, not the subjective, personal trust of each believer, but the objective content of “the faith.”  It is “in” the sphere of the faith that God will strengthen and establish us.  Indeed, “… you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

The fourth rounds out the group — “abounding in thankfulness.”  Perhaps here the picture is that of a cup overflowing with excess.  The believer–regardless of his circumstances–should always brim over with expressions of gratitude to God.  The thankful heart is caught up with what it does possess, not what it does not have.  Falsehoods based upon empty promises find no hearing in the life of the truly grateful person.  There is no ground of appeal.  In fact, as we consider the false teaching threatening the Colossian church, we might say that worship–corporate and private–is both a safeguard and weapon against error. 

For fun, see Colossians 1:10-12 where Paul uses the same verb (“walk,” v.10) and then uses four participles to describe that walk, just as he does here.  Interestingly, the first and last use the same imagery as here: horticulture (“bearing fruit,” v.10b) and thanksgiving (v.12).