by John UpChurch, Senior Editor, BibleStudyTools.com
If you grew up in America, you probably heard somewhere along the line that sentences should never end with prepositions, infinitives should never be split, passive voice is taboo, and metaphors should never be mixed. We have those rules, for the most part, to preserve clarity as writers learn the craft. But sometimes grammar rules need to be broken, just as Paul does here by cramming metaphors right up against each other—and for good reason.
So walk in Him: It all begins with a walk. Jesus put splinters in His back to stumble up a hill, and He expects no less of us (Matthew 16:24). We sometimes struggle over the rocky ground, and obstacles define the journey as much as the path itself (Psalm 37:24). But God laid out the lines (Psalm 16:11), emblazoned the roadway with clear markers (Psalm 119:35), and provided a Helper to go alongside us (John 16:13). To get to the goal, we have to shake off the things that wrap around our legs and hold us back (Hebrews 12:1).
Rooted [in Him]: All the while, we’re connected to the True Vine (John 15:1). He sends the sustenance we need to not only survive, but thrive in a barren world (John 10:10). God wants us to be fruitful—to the point that He actually prepared fruit beforehand for us (Ephesians 2:10). Sometimes He has to prune us a bit but that’s only so we’ll break forth in more fruit later (John 15:2).
Built up in Him and established in faith: But we need structure to make all this happen, a steady trellis. Christians—walking, fruitful Christians—rely on a sure foundation (Isaiah 33:6), a rock-solid Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), and the living walls of fellow believers (1 Peter 2:5). Apart, we’re just a piece of drywall, but, together, we’re an impressive, if imperfect, house (Hebrews 3:6).
So, in one sentence, Paul makes us out to be walkers on a journey, plants with deep roots, and a living building. He would never have passed a modern writing course, but he gets the point across just the same: We move and grow and have our being in Christ (see Acts 17:28).
Intersecting Faith & Life: Word pictures in the Bible are imperfect physical descriptions of spiritual realities. Sometimes, you just need a bunch of them to get to the deeper truth—many broad strokes of the brush to nail down what’s meant (see what I did there?). When you come to them, stop and try to imagine the picture being painted. You’ll be amazed how much God can teach us through mixed metaphors.
For Further Reading