Colossians 1:3-8: The Gospel Finds Us

January 7, 2015

3In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4for we have 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. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul’s custom is to start out a letter to a group of Christians with an affirmation. You can check this out by thumbing through the Pauline letters. “I thank God for you . . .” is a common exclamation; Paul is very encouraged by the progress of the saints! He is also writing for a particular purpose, which begins to emerge even within this greeting and the prayer to follow. He drops hints about what is to come.

In this case, Paul gives thanks to God for the faith, love, and hope that are evident in the Colossian congregation. They are one church among many “all over the world” (vs. 6), and like the others they have been bearing fruit and growing since they first embraced the truth and grace of the gospel. Their faith is focused on Christ Jesus (vs. 4). Later, Paul will come back to the topic of Jesus and affirm how right it is for them to keep him front and center.

It is interesting to the sojourner that the gospel “came to them”—it found its way into their hearing. Not only did the bearer and focal point of the gospel, Jesus himself, come to earth “the Word become flesh,” but apostles and disciples of Jesus took the message of his salvation across the Mediterranean world. I am quite sure that the gospel is able to find those who are hungry for it, including those among my readers who are without a church home. When we are fed by the gospel, it bears fruit among us. It has a relational impact; in the environment the Good News creates, good things can happen among those who share faith in Jesus Christ. This is why it is important for the de-churched to at least identify other believers in relatively close proximity with whom to practice recognizing the grace of God. The Colossians apparently had a good teacher in Epaphras, who encouraged them with the word of truth. He also became a link to the wider Christian world by sharing the Colossians’ progress with Paul.

Colossae was a relatively small town in Asia Minor (Turkey). It had its heyday, but now it was off the beaten path and its church shared a pastor with other small towns in the region. Who knows? If their experience was like many rural communities in the United States, a pastor might preach a circuit, visiting a particular congregation every other week or once a month. Sojourners, people separate from the organized church, “on the road” spiritually, might get formal exposure to the faith through preaching only rarely. What is the encouraging word to them?

  1. The spiritual dynamics brought to life by “faith, love, and hope” in this passage constitute a treasure to believers, a gift from God that cannot be taken away, regardless of proximity to a church building or formal congregation.

  2. The gospel will find us, if we are hungry for it. We are to keep our eyes open and our ears attuned to the voice of God, who is speaking in and through the Scriptures.

  3. Our possession of the gospel, by virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit, will bear fruit in our lives.

  4. Part of that fruit is “love for the saints,” which means that we are obligated to address our broken relationships with other Christians. [Jesus highlighted this theme in teaching (Matthew 5:23f) and prayer (Luke 11:4).]

Not to fear! We are taking things one step at a time in this study. But be encouraged that the way things are today (perhaps a sense of isolation, disappointment, or anger towards others) is not the way things will be later. Between now and then, may the Lord do a deep work of cleansing, clarifying, and healing so that we will be ready to re-enter Christian fellowship with joy and freedom.

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