Last week I had some reflections on “faith” in Colossians 1: perhaps the defining aspect of Christian faith is that this faith that exists in Christ. In the opening, thanksgiving section of the letter the triad of faith, hope, and love, as it is embodied by the Colossian church(es), is Paul’s source of celebration.
He then moves into his prayer for them: that they’ll be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that they can lead lives worthy of the the Lord. Please God; bear fruit; grow in knowledge; endure with patience; give thanks.
Protestantism has created some odd heresies. One of these is an elaboration of justification as by “faith alone” that renders the works, i.e., the everyday life of a Christian, inconsequential. For the Pauline letters in the NT, nothing could be further from the case. Paul’s missionary goal is to bring about, not faith alone, nor even faith in Christ per se, but “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1). Paul celebrates the Thessalonians’ work of faith (1 Thess 1).
The reality into which Christians enter is not merely a different set of heart thoughts (I now believe in Jesus) but a whole new sphere of life.
The paragraph ends with Paul’s affirmation that God has freed us–we are now in the kingdom of the beloved son. Not merely freed from condemnation, we are now freed to learn, to grow in the knowledge of God. Not merely free to learn, we are free to act in accordance with what we know.
To be one who exists in Christ is to have a life defined by a certain kind of actions. This is not merely the repetition of “belief” in Christ, but a whole life lived so as to please our God and Father.