My soon to be step son is part of a group known as Trail Life. It’s similar to the boy scouts, but with an emphasis on leading a Godly life. The motto they chose for their organization is “walk worthy”, which comes from Colossians 1:10:
“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”.
So much depth is wrapped up in the simplicity and language of this verse, and I wanted to unpack it together.
Go the Distance
I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but context and history fascinate me, especially when it comes to the Bible. If you didn’t know it already, the book of Colossians was written by the apostle Paul probably around 62 A.D. while imprisoned in Rome. In the book of Acts (19:10), during Paul’s three year ministry, a Colossian by the name Epaphras traveled to Ephesus and responded to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel.
Can we just stop and appreciate that for a second? The distance from Colossae to Ephesus was about 196 miles. That’s light years compared to the distances most of us travel to hear the Gospel preached. It might sound crazy, but I wish I could walk a mile (or 196) in the shoes of Epaphras, or Paul, or anyone of the handful of those first believers. In their world, to preach it was a crime, meant traveling for weeks for some. That kind of sacrifice requires a whole other level of belief.
Ease His Pain
At the time Paul writes Colossians, Epaphras is with him in Rome (4:12). Based on what we can see in this book, Epaphras has shared what is happening at the church.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Clearly the church’s foundation has been ravaged by false teachings. Many scholars believe that Paul isn’t condemning traditional Greek philosophers (Plato Aristotle, etc.), but rather speaking directly about this particular faction. One could also argue a pagan influence based on the us of the phrase “elemental spirits”.
Paul’s letter is filled with encouragement and instruction, including our Trail Life motto.
What does it mean to walk “in a manner worthy of the Lord”? Lucky for you Paul lays out a pretty incredible formula. First, Paul is a former rabbi. So when he uses the phrase “to walk” (Col 1:10) it’s actually a Jewish metaphor for behaving oneself. Paul is saying don’t walk according to the oral traditions of Judaism, but rather in a way that is “fully pleasing” to him (Jesus). Most of us crawl before we walk though right? Here is Pauls formula: “wisdom and understanding” (1:9) leads to changed lives. That changed life should operate in a way that is “fully pleasing” to Jesus. You will know if you’re walking correctly if you’re “bearing fruit in every good work” (think parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-9, 13-20), and “increasing in the knowledge of God”.
I want you to ask yourself a serious question, and maybe ask your pastor as well. If your pastor were thrown in jail which would they care about more; their freedom, or their flock? I know what Paul’s answer would be, because it is the central thread that runs throughout the book of Colossians, and the reason he is not afraid to die for the Gospel. The divine “fullness” (2:9) is in Christ, and believers are “filled in him” (2:10). We have everything we need in Christ. We do not need any other teaching to become like God.
I wish I had the confidence to say that every step I take is “fully pleasing to him”. I know that’s not the truth. But sanctification is a long and arduous walk.
By Myke Mottie (aka “The Beard”)