The Supremacy of Christ in the Message of Colossians


“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.” (Col 2:6–7)

I love the book of Colossians. It is one of my favorite New Testament books (among 26 others). I’m guessing that you love the book as well. The truths of the gospel expressed in God’s forgiveness of our sin and our transfer into Christ’s kingdom are glorious (Col 1:13–14, 21–23). The portrayal of Christ as fully supreme over all of creation and all of redemption reorients our hearts from existential despair to ultimate, satisfying purpose and hope (Col 1:15–20). The amazing claims of Christ’s divinity and humanity are central to our faith (Col 1:15, 19; 2:9). Paul’s call to guard against false doctrine continues to be particularly relevant for our day (Col 3:8–23). Many have cherished how the book lifts our eyes from our present circumstances and sin to the future hope of resurrection with Jesus forever (Col 3:1–5). Many weddings have sermons centered on Col 3:12–14 with its call to holiness and practical implications for marriage (let alone all of life). We find clarity for our everyday lives in an age of confusion as we read Paul’s description of the dynamics of the household (Col 3:18–4:1).

But have you ever considered what ties this book together? If you could summarize the message of this book in one sentence, how would you summarize it? What is Paul’s ultimate aim in writing this letter?

Colossians 2:6–7 gives us that aim. Paul emphasizes that his primary goal in writing Colossians is that the Colossian church (and we also) would walk in Christ. That is, that we would live our lives in Christ in the same way that we received Jesus as our Lord and savior. Let’s take these two verses in three parts.

First, Paul’s primary command is to “walk in him.” It is the first command in the whole book. It is also introduced by “therefore” suggesting that the first half of the book grounds this command. To walk “in him” means that the entirety of the Christian life is defined by our union with Jesus. If Jesus is sovereign over everything (Col 1:15–20), then there isn’t anything about our lives which isn’t centered on him, defined by him, or encapsulated by who he is. The centrality of this command can be further seen by the fact that Paul begins and ends his letter using this same concept.

Notice how Paul emphasizes similar themes with Col 2:6–7. The goal of Paul’s prayer is their growth in knowledge of God’s will “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” This work is described using similar gardening, empowerment, and thanksgiving language like Col 2:7 describes walking. Paul recognizes that the knowledge he prays for is also something that the Colossian church is being “taught” (Col 2:7).

Likewise, Paul ends his book with similar emphasis, calling them to prayer “with thanksgiving.” He longs to declare the knowledge of “the mystery of Christ.” His final command is to “walk in wisdom” towards unbelievers as they spread the good news of Jesus. Paul is not just concerned with thinking the right things, but that this way of thinking would be lived out in their lives. The second half of the book, then, could be summarized as a description of how Christians ought to “walk in him.” But what about the first half of the book?

Second, this walking is done in a certain way: as you received Christ Jesus the Lord. This statement doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Paul has just spent two chapters describing who this Jesus is. He is sovereign over all of creation (Col 1:15–17). He is sovereign over all of redemption (Col 1:18–20). He is the standard of Paul’s gospel ministry that Paul himself emulates and proclaims (Col 1:24–29). He’s the source of “all wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2–3). The first half of the book is focused primarily on who this Jesus is and how he defines everything. So, it is no surprise then that Paul considers this doctrine of Jesus as the basis for his command (hence the “therefore”) and their reception of him as the manner (hence the “as”) of his primary command in the book: to walk in him.

Third, Paul emphasizes in his description of this walking in Col 2:7 the nature of this walking. Notice how each of verbs emphasize “receiving.” The first three are all passive. God is “rooting” the Colossian church. God gives growth to plants and roots them in the ground. So too his people. Like buildings, God’s people don’t “build” themselves—God must build them. The church cannot “establish” itself in the faith, God uses others to teach them. The only active verb in Col 2:7 is to “abound in thanksgiving” which by its very nature emphasizes that you’ve received something as a gift that you are thankful for. In other words, Paul emphasizes that the Christian life is lived out by faith based on God’s grace.

So, the rest of the book emphasizes avoiding false teaching that diminishes Christ’s glory and does not align with who he is and what he taught (Col 2:8). He reminds them to not turn back to the Mosaic covenant since it has been fulfilled in Jesus (Col 2:17). He emphasizes our union with Christ when we engage with God’s creation (Col 2:20–23). Holiness in our lives and our defeat of sin is controlled by fixing our eyes on Christ and what he will accomplish for us (Col 3:1–4), not by categories of people but by the reality that “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). Everything we do must be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17). The role of members of the household is defined in relationship to the Lord (Col 3:18–4:1).

Paul’s purpose is clear. If I summarized the meaning of Paul’s letter to the Colossians in one sentence, it would be this: Because Jesus is supreme over and is the standard of all things, live in the same way you first received him, guarding against false teaching and living godly lives in accordance with him.

We long for this reality to be exhibited in our students, faculty, and staff. As the Director of Evening Programs, I’m particularly jealous that our evening students grow in this kind of discipleship at Bethlehem College and Seminary. If you know of anyone who may be interested in taking evening classes, completing an undergraduate degree in theology, or earning a master’s degree in exegesis and theology, consider sending them this prayer letter and encourage them to register and attend our upcoming evening preview night on June 28 and learn more about our evening programs.

May the supremacy of Christ in all things be seen in who we are and how we live.

Lance Kramer
Director of Evening Programs

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that the supremacy of Christ in all things would shape our students, faculty, and staff as they rest and prepare for next school year.
  2. Pray that the Lord would equip students in our evening programs this summer and Fall to be exhibit Christ in their lives and live in such a way that he is made known.
  3. Pray that the Lord would guide you or others to consider taking classes at Bethlehem College and Seminary, especially in our evening programs.
  4. Pray for the full funding of the Serious Joy Scholarships yet needed before June 30.