Established in Christ

Continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  Col. 1:23

Spirituality is not something we accumulate.  Nor is it a matter for which any language of acquisition is really appropriate.  It is always a fallacy to think in terms of quantifiable spiritual growth in an economy that is based solely on God’s grace.  Since we do not own or possess whatever spiritual life we have, we should always be wary whenever we find ourselves thinking in terms of loss or gain with regards to our relationship with God.

As humans, we tend to assess all things, including ourselves, in terms of progress—that we are getting better in this area, or regressing in that area of our lives.  Because we are temporal we think sequentially.  But God is beyond space and time, and a different vocabulary is necessary when we speak of maturity in this relationship.  Rather than talk about “spiritual growth” as if we were accumulating a yield, we should perhaps consider the preferred expression that both Peter and Paul use when they describe the mature spiritual life as one that is “established” (or “made stable”) in Christ.

In his letter to the Colossians, for instance, Paul describes those who are mature in their faith as “established and firm” (Col. 1:23).   The Greek word we translate as “established” in this verse is hedraios, which carries the sense of something that is immovable and steadfast.  Far from describing something progressive, the word refers to something sedentary.  It is the image of a person sitting securely in one place—one not easily moved from their hope.

Being established in faith then has less to do with growth than with being settled in relationship to the foundation of our lives.  The word Peter uses to describe those who are “established in the truth” (2Pet. 1:12) is sterizo, which speaks of something that is firmly set in place, like concrete or a rule of law.  As applied to our faith it defines a state of soul that is confirmed and constant in its bearings.

Since the Trinity is an established and ontological fact, there is no question of our gaining any more of this relationship than that which already exists.  The New Testament hope for our lives is that we be more firmly and consistently established upon this truth.  As Col. 4:12 prescribes, faith is a matter of our “standing firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”  The only progression we can then speak of is that of our growing capacity to recognize when we have moved away from this foundation, and knowing how to return without delay.

The spiritual life then is more of a deepening disposition than a quantifiable asset.  It is an attitude of greater freedom in relationship to the movement of God’s will and of giving God increasing access to our lives as a forum for His will.  Even our capacity for prayer should not be thought of in terms of an accumulating skill, but more as an opportunity to grow in familiarity, attentiveness and appreciation of the already-existing foundation of Christ upon which, at every moment, we are invited to firmly establish our faith.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing  with thankfulness.

Col. 2:6