Grace For The Journey
Can people really change? What effect does the biblical gospel actually have? One place we can go to study these questions is found in Colossians 1:3-8. These verses show us how blessed Paul was for how the Lord’s grace at work in their lives.
1) The Blessing of Gratitude.
After Paul’s general introduction in the opening verses we examined in the two previous post, we look now at what he is led by the Holy Spirit to write specifically in verse 3: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”
Paul is expressing his gratitude to God for what he hears about the Colossians. We note that truth in the following verse: “since we hear of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the saints…” Paul is thanking God for what he hears about the church at Colossae. He is expressing his gratefulness to God for what is happening in and through the Colossians. He hears about these Christians and it causes him to say, “Thank you, God!” What he learns about them leads to his gratitude to God. And that gratitude to God leads to his praying for them: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”
What happens when you think of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you grateful for your church? Do you thank God for your church family? More personally, how do you suppose others think of you? Does your name evoke a sense of gratitude to God? Someone hears of you and it causes them to say, “Thank God” – and it’s for a good reason! It is not, “Thank God he’s gone!” but, “Thank You God, for ______.”
2) The Blessing of the Gospel.
Paul writes in verses 4 and 5, “We’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel …”
Careful observers will have picked up on that beautiful triad he mentions here: “faith in Christ Jesus” … “love for the saints” … “hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” Faith, hope, and love. Paul likes these three terms a lot! Many are familiar with his mentioning them in 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called “love chapter” of the Bible. Paul concludes that chapter with: “And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three…” And there are other places in the New Testament where Paul strings together these three virtues.
Here, in Colossians 1, Paul is using “faith, hope, and love” in their relation to the gospel.
Faith is a popular word, but there is a faith that is empty. That’s how many people use the word today. There’s no object of their faith. It’s just “faith” as in, “I have faith; I am optimistic that everything will be okay.” Well . . .
That is not Christian faith.
Christian faith has an object
And the object is Jesus Christ:
“I have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.”
- Simply acknowledging there is a higher power does not save a person.
- Scoring a touchdown and pointing to the sky does not make one a Christian.
- Saying at a major awards ceremony that you wish to thank God does not in and of itself mean that one is a true believer.
We are saved only by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus.
Then Paul writes of love. He says, “We thank God and we pray for you” … since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.” The gospel makes possible a love for all believers. By the way, remember that all Christians are called “saints” in the Bible. You do not have to wait a hundred years after you have died and some committee forms and reviews your life and votes on whether you can be called a saint!
Paul says that the Gospel makes possible our love for all the saints, all the saints, including the ones easy to love and not-so-easy to love, people just like you and me. Christians are to love all the saints in their own church and all the saints in every other church; all the saints in Croatia, Iran, Korea, the Sudan, and in Syria. All the saints. We have a Christian family all over the world, a family that comprises every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9).
Faith, love, and also hope. Paul says he thanks God “… because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…” In the Bible, hope is not so much an action as it is an object. It is not like the popular English word we use today in our conversation. When we use the word “hope” in everyday conversation, it nearly always contains an element of uncertainty: “I hope the weather is nice” or, “I hope the car starts” or, “I hope the teacher forgets about the assignment.” There is an element of uncertainty involved in that kind of hope.
But . . .
When the Bible speaks of hope,
It is not an action, it is an object.
And the hope of the Christian
Is not an uncertainty, but
An absolute, guaranteed fact.
For example, in 1 Peter 1:3-4 Peter writes of the Christian’s, “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” he says a hope defined as, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…”
Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that this hope is a hope you heard about when you heard the gospel. If you want to grow in your understanding of the truth of heaven and your inheritance and all that awaits you, read the God’s Word. The Colossians had heard the Word. They listened to the Word; they studied the word; and they lived by the word.
3) The Blessing of Growth.
Writing of the gospel, Paul says in verse 6, the gospel “which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit.”
The gospel causes growth.
- It is not church marketing that causes growth.
- It is the gospel that causes growth.
- It is not a special kind of worship service that causes growth.
- It is the gospel that causes growth – true growth.
A growth of the church Paul describes in verse 6 as, “bringing forth fruit.” And that growth is seen not just in an individual person, but in an among various people of the world. Paul says in verse 6 that this gospel, “has come to you, as it has also in all the world.” He’s talking about all kinds of people wherever the gospel is preached, wherever the gospel is shared. He’s talking about the work of evangelism and missions. He’s talking about our obedience to the Lord’s commission to share the gospel across the street and around the world; from our neighborhood to all the nations.
Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that these Colossian believers had heard and learned the word from a missionary named, “Epaphras.” Epaphras is the short form of the name, “Epaphroditus.” Epaphras is mentioned again in the closing of Paul’s letter in chapter 4, verse 12, where Paul describes him as, “one of you.” Epaphras was from Colossae. So Epaphras had heard and learned the gospel – probably from Paul in Ephesus – and then went back to Colossae and shared the gospel with others; a true missionary!
From This Study We Need To Remember Two Truths:
The Gospel Changes Your Future Destination – What happens in death.
This is a truth most people acknowledge but few actually embrace. Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The gospel has the power to change your future destination. The gospel has the power to grant you the joy and privilege and blessing of heaven.
Paul describes that future reality in verse 5 as, “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” The Christian’s eternal inheritance in heaven is a fact, an assurance, a certainty. Remember:
Christian hope is not an action;
Christian hope is an object.
If you have turned from your sin in repentance,
And have turned to Christ in faith,
You may be assured of that wonderful hope.
The Gospel Changes Your Present Situation – What happens in life.
The truth of the gospel has . . .
The power not only to change your future destination,
But also the power to change your present situation.
The gospel is not only about what happens at death;
The gospel is about what happens in life.
The gospel has the power to change our perspective. It changes the way we think about things, how we spend our time, what we value, and so on. Paul will show us this application more pointedly in the second half of the letter but, as a foreshadow of what’s to come, consider again what he says at the beginning of chapter 3, verses 1-4, “If then (or since then) you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
What happens when you “set your mind on things above” and “not on things on the earth?”
It changes the way you look at things.
It changes the way you live in the present.
A heavenly perspective changes your present situation:
- You become more loving, more caring, more generous, more at peace.
- You become less irritable, less worldly, less prideful, less jerky.
- You become more forgiving, more outward-focused. You become less selfish, less self-centered.
Why? Because you are setting your mind on things above.
The writer of Hebrews also writes about this in Hebrews 10.
He says when you consider
What you have in heaven,
It makes you a more
Thoughtful person here.
The Bible says in Hebrews 10:34, “For you had compassion on the prisoners in chains [you visited those who were imprisoned], and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods [you didn’t mind if people stole your possessions], knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”
If you set your mind on things above and not on the things of earth, you can accept the plundering of your goods – why – because you know the all-satisfying Christ and you know you have a better and enduring possession in heaven!
And if you set your mind on things above and not on the things of earth and you can also endure suffering. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
The Gospel changes everything!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”