Dr. Barclay in his commentary on Colossians in the Daily Study Bible suggests that the following portion gives eight marks by which we may distinguish a living and faithful Church.
A. It should be a Church of courageous hearts. Paul prays that they may be encouraged in heart. It is the Greek word parakalein which is translated comfort or as exhort. Behind it there is always the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and with gallantry (bravery).
Paul wants the church to be filled with courage so that it can cope with any situation.
B. It should be a church in which the members are united in love. The worship style is of small importance. The form of government is not critical. The political structure and the worship style may change but that will not hinder the Church’s witness. But without love there can be no such thing as a Church. When the love for God and the love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is strong then the Church is strong. When love dies, the Church dies.
C. (Verse 3) The Church should be equipped with every kind of wisdom. In this passage Paul uses three words for Wisdom: 1) sunesis - understanding; 2) gnosis - knowledge; 3) sophia - a reason for the hope that a person has.
1) Sunesis:We might call this critical knowledge. It is the ability to apply relevant (fitting) principles to any given situation. A real church will have the practical knowledge of what to do whenever action is called for.
2) Gnosis is the power to grasp the truth when we see it and hear it.
3) Sophia is the power to support and to confirm the truth with wise and intelligent argument once it has been grasped. Sophia is that by which a man is enabled to give a reason for the hope that is in him.
D. (Verse 4) The true Church must have the power to resist seductive teaching (that would lead astray from the truth). It must have such a grip on the truth that it will not listen to seducing or deceiving arguments.
E. (Verse 5) The true church will have a military like discipline. The Greek word that is translated orderly means rank. Each soldier is in his place in the line ready to defend their position.
F. (Verses 6 &7) The true Church has received Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The believers must continue to live in Christ. Their whole lives must be lived in the conscious presence of Christ. They must be rooted and built in Him.
There are two pictures here. A tree grows roots down into the earth and so draws its sturdiness and nourishment from the soil. Likewise each member of the Church needs to draw his or her strength from its roots.
The word built refers to the strong and square foundation that holds up a well-built house. Christ is the sure foundation in time and for eternity.
G. The true Church holds fast to the faith which it has received. There are certain truths that can never be changed. That does not mean that the Christain faith cannot grow and develop, but not in such a manner as to be removed from its roots.
H. A distinguising mark of the true Church is overflowing thankfulness (gratitude). As Paul wrote in another letter, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess 5:18).