Colossians 1:1-8 | Gospel Growth
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
- Paul is an apostle not by his own will but by the will of God
- Paul is writing to the saints and faithful brothers at Colossae, which are not two groups but one. The word saints means to be holy and set apart and so reveals God’s grace to them, God has made them holy. The word faithful means reliable and believing and so reveals the faithful perseverance of the church in their faith
3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
- Here we see Paul’s use of faith, love and hope again as used in other epistles
- What is of primary importance to Paul is knowing that people have faith in Christ Jesus, the faith that saves the sinner
- What stems from a sincere faith in Christ Jesus is a love for all the saints, loving those who have received God’s grace just as we have
- Our faith comes from the hope laid up in heaven for us. We have faith that Jesus died for our sins, was raised to life and has won for us eternal life with God. This is the hope laid up for us in heaven which we have faith that Jesus has accomplished for us.
- These are the things that Paul thanks God for in prayer; faith, love and hope. We often give thanks for trivial and material things in life (and rightly so for we should be thankful for all things) but how much greater is it to thank God for spiritual blessings such as these: faith, love and hope.
Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
- The hope which is laid up for us, is the very thing the Colossians have heard before in the word of truth; the gospel. The gospel is a message of hope, requires faith and results in love.
- ‘word of truth’ – the gospel is not simply something which is true, but is sort of THE message of truth. For the gospel in entirety is not simply how man can get to heaven but God’s solution to sin and even his purpose behind creation – indeed the truth of the universe.
- ‘which has come to you’ – the gospel is not something which we discover ourselves through our own merit but ‘presented’ and given by the grace of God
- The gospel is bearing fruit and increasing through the whole world, as it is also doing amongst these believers. What is the fruit of the gospel? Faith, hope and love. More people placing their faith in Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation, for this faith and hope to become more certain and steadfast and to produce a love inside the believer. The evidence of faith, love and hope in these believers is proof that the gospel is growing amongst them.
- So the gospel must also grow in us individually, becoming a larger and larger influence on our life.
- ‘understand the grace of God in truth’ – this would be more easily understood as ‘truly understand the grace of God’. All mankind has experienced the grace of God in part, even without knowing it. Life itself and its many blessings are due to the grace of God, but God’s grace is most fully and truthfully articulated in the message of the gospel. To receive the gospel is to truly understand God’s grace.
7just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
- The gospel which ‘came’ to these believers came from God but via human hands and mouths. The gospel grows throughout the whole world through the hands and mouths of people as we spread around this divine message.
- The believers ‘learned’ this and came to ‘understand’ the message of the gospel. Paul’s language here is not that we simply believe the gospel but that we learn and understand it. God is shrouded in mystery yet it is faith which makes things clear and understood. The root word for ‘learned’ is the same as that for ‘maths’.
- ‘on your behalf’ – Epaphras is a faithful minister on behalf of the Colossians for they are the beneficiaries of his ministry, with the gospel of truth being passed from him to them. Just as Paul would say that other believers are his glory and joy, there is a great and invaluable bond between those who share Christ and those who receive him. We must remember that others were ministers to us on our behalf and we (at least partly) owe our faith to them.
- ‘love in the spirit’ – despite us needing to learn and understand the message of the gospel it is not a dry and mindful experience but one which should be accompanied by a ‘love in the spirit’. Epaphras sees a clear evidence of spirit empowered love in these believers. So growing in the gospel is both learning in truth and loving in the spirit.