“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 church in Colossae had a problem with false teaching. Though they had received the Gospel by faith, a wave of false teachers had come in, insisting that the true path to godliness lay in specific regulations and severity to the body. It was only by these ascetic principles that one could attain to salvation. Paul, however, wrote the book of Colossians to inform the church that these teachings were heretical. True righteousness, he insisted, lay in following God by faith.
From the beginning of the letter, Paul’s focus was on bearing fruit and living according to God’s word. In his opening prayer, he told the Colossians that he constantly asked that they be filled with the knowledge of God, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10) He wanted them to keep learning about God, to keep doing the good works they were already performing. After all, they were no longer citizens of the domain of darkness; God Himself had transferred them to Jesus’ kingdom, and He expected them to live according to His laws. But it was imperative that they understand their status before Him. It wasn’t their works that kept them in Jesus’ favor. Rather, it was their faith in His power to save. They had entered the kingdom of salvation by faith, and it was that same faith that would enable them to continue to grow in righteousness. Their ascetic attempts to appear holy by denying themselves basic things actually served to undermine God’s grace. They were to walk in holiness, yes; but their good deeds were never to become a substitute for their faith.
The philosophy of denying ourselves things in order to appear holy isn’t prevalent in today’s society, but there are many other ways we try to make ourselves look better. We know that, even after we’re saved, we’re still sinners, and we hope that somehow the good things we do will placate God’s anger. But we must realize that God has saved us by grace. We accepted that by faith and faith alone; why then do we assume that our works must secure our salvation? Paul instructed the Colossians to continue in faith, the very same faith that had saved them. That is what our relationship with God is founded on. Nothing we do can increase God’s favor upon us. It’s never about what we can do for God. Instead, our faith in Him allows Him to use us as He grows us for His glory.