. . . the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. ~ Colossians 1:5-6
Faith, love and hope: Paul mentions the three Christian virtues numerous times in his letters, including in Colossians 1:5; as well as in the love chapter of the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 13:13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I like to think of these virtues as connected to our past, present and our future.
Faith: Pistis in Greek: Faith links us to the past, in part because we received a faith handed down from generation to generation from the past, taught and faithfully shared decade after decade, person to person into our current time.
Hope: Elpis in Greek: Hope links us to the future, anchored in eternity as we read in Hebrews 6:19-20. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
Love: Agape in Greek: Love connects us to the present, filling us in this very moment with the self-giving love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people: Paul writes that he’s heard of the faith and love and hope of the people in the church in Colossae. Their faith is in Christ Jesus. Their love is for all God’s people. Their hope is stored up in heaven.
. . . about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you: Paul celebrates the people in Colossae who have heard the true message of the gospel, a gospel that came to Colossae previously through traveling evangelists and apostles; perhaps by Epaphras, mentioned in Col 1:7. More on Epaphras next week. In Chapter 4 of Colossians, Paul mentions numerous people that he knows, people known also by the church in Colossae. Among these names, there may be those who first brought the faith to the town of Colossae.
. . . the true message of the gospel: in Greek, the word for gospel is EU + ANGELION; literally “good message.” Our word, “angel” comes from the Greek word for message or messenger, the one who brings the message. A good message is one that comes from a good source, bringing good to those who receive it. In Paul’s time, just in our own day, there are those who present a twisted or false message of the gospel, a message that is not true to the original message of Jesus, the original message from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the true message proclaimed by Paul and other New Testament writers.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world: Paul loves to use the metaphor of an orchard or a vineyard, a fruit-bearing plant or tree. The gospel of Jesus Christ is like a healthy vine that is made to bear fruit, just as Jesus describes our lives in John 15. This fruit-bearing gospel is producing fruit and growing, two actions of God’s favor, God’s multiplication. The earliest command from God to humans is Genesis 1:28, God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth.” God made us all to be fruitful and grow in many ways, including inwardly, spiritually, relationally, and even globally, “throughout the wold world.” At the time of Paul’s writing, this phrase described the Mediterranean Sea and all the surrounding countries that border that sea. Today, we know that the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to bear fruit of new lives, new found salvation, new spiritual births, new movements of God’s amazing love into people in 195 countries, throughout the whole world.
. . . just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace: God’s message of good news keeps bearing fruit, coming to harvest, and growing around the world today, just as it did back in Paul’s time among the people of Colossae, since the day those first believers in Colossae first heard it and truly understood God’s grace.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- When did you first come to faith in Jesus Christ?
- Who showed you the love of God in Christ Jesus?
- What does it mean for you to have a hope stored up for you in heaven?
- When did you first hear the good news of Jesus?
- When did you first truly understand God’s grace?
- How is your life currently bearing fruit and growing?