If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (Colossians 1:23 NASB)
The "if" of Colossians 1:23! What does it mean? What is it talking about? Who or what continues in the faith and how? All of these questions can be answered in the same person, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith and without Jesus Christ, there is no foundation upon which to build faith of any lasting value or a faith that will actually indeed last.
The "if" is not questioning if the Colossian believers can do it and it is not saying that continuing in the faith is a condition of our justification or our reconciliation before God which I have discussed previously. No, it is saying that because of what Christ has done in reconciling us back to the Father and now that we are justified before God, we will continue in the faith as a result of that.
The "if" here in English is a conditional conjunction that when followed by any verb expresses a condition thought of as real or assumed as factual. It is viewed as a factual condition. So, this means that those who have been reconciled, those who have been regenerated, those who have been justified, will, in fact, continue in the faith.
Some say you should then translate it "since" and that would express it more clearly. This is not the case for if you were to translate it "since" you would create a situation where the condition of (continuing in the faith) would be the basis upon which what preceded it was true. So, our reconciliation, our being presented before God as righteous would be due to our continuing in the faith.
No, what it is saying is that in light of what God has done it can be assumed as a fact that you will continue in the faith based on the foundation and the origin of where our faith comes from and it is from God. There are zero Christians that have truly been born again that will fail to continue in the faith. There are always those that want to come up when you talk about this and say things like, "Oh, well you're saying that we have to somehow live perfect and not sin or we are not saved." Well, no, that is not what either I or Paul is saying. What Paul has said is that the reconciled person, the justified person continues in the faith as a matter of fact.
1. What faith are we continuing in?
The faith! The Christian faith! The faith that all Christians have in Christ, meaning zero people who have truly been born again will fall away or lose faith in Christ. Since faith is a supernatural work and since Christ can't fail, that means that anyone who possesses this supernatural, saving faith will not fail in their faith. However, it must be noted that the faith that is not failing does not originate in the believer but is a gift of God and from God. We are given a faith in Christ that we will persist in. It is assumed as factual because of its origins which is from God.
2. What does this continuing in the faith look like in a believer?
It is firm in its foundation and is steadfast. The word established means "to lay a foundation" and it is a Greek verb in the perfect tense which means that it is a foundation that has already been laid. A perfect tense verb means that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing in full effect. It is both the continuation and present state of a completed past action. So, in the case of our continuing in the faith, being firmly established we can look to the book of 1 Corinthians for an understanding of what our foundation in this faith is.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 NASB)
We continue in the faith because Jesus Christ laid the foundation for our faith. Our continuing in the faith is not dependent on us for if it were, we would fail and fall away. Our continuing in the faith is completely dependent on the One in whom our faith is in and that is Jesus Christ. We continue in the faith because Christ is our foundation. He is our life. You see, we died and the life that we now live is Christ in us. That is why we continue in the faith.
Our faith that we are to continue in is also steadfast. Steadfast means to be seated, firm, immovable, not given to fluctuation or moving off course. So, this verse could be translated in this way: We continue in the faith firmly steadfast in the foundation of our faith.
3. What are the results of continuing in the faith?
The believer who is firmly steadfast in the foundation of their faith, Jesus Christ, will not be moved away from the hope of the gospel that saved them. The verb translated "moved away" is a present tense verb indicating ongoing, continuous action. This means that this place where we are firmly seated and steadfast, this foundation we are established in, we will continually remain there and never moved from it.