Paul gave continual thanks to God in his prayers. It was natural that when Paul prayed for the church at Colossae, the prayer burst into an overflow of thankfulness and praise. This thankfulness was because their lives demonstrated that God was at work in them and in the church. The Gospel was bearing fruit in and through their lives.
When Paul heard of their growing faith in Christ Jesus and their love ... for all the saints and their hope of heaven he became thankful. When committed followers of Christ see God using a person they are thankful.
In this message we will see what made Paul thankful and thus learn how we too can expresses thanksgiving for God’s fruit in the lives of others. May we also allow God to use us so that we can be a cause of thanksgiving. For it is God who is at work in us to build us up in faith, love, and hope.
As we look at verses 3-8 keep in mind that this passage is one long sentence in the Greek held together by the subject of thanksgiving. Paul is overwhelmed with thankfulness- he’s thankful for the Colossians, he’s thankful for the gospel, and he’s thankful for Epaphras.
I. THANKFUL FOR THE COLOSSIANS, 1:3.
After the greeting a prayer of thanksgiving is offered for the readers beginning in verse 3.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
“We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (NAS),
Thanksgiving needs to be part of every prayer we pray. Notice that Paul says that he “always” gives thanks. This was his practice and habit.
Although Paul had never visited Colosse, what he heard about the believers there caused his heart to rejoice and to respond by praying for God’s continual blessing to be upon them. I encourage you to do the same thing. When you hear something good about someone, pray for him or her. My tendency is to pray for people who are hurting or backsliding. While that is needed, we also must pray for people who are serving God because the Enemy will inevitably launch an attack against them in order to destroy their witness and tear down their testimony. Be like Paul. When you hear or see someone doing well, thank the Lord for him and intercede on his behalf.
In the first three verses, Paul is already laying the groundwork for the major teaching of Colossians: The Supremacy of Christ. In verse 2, he uses the phrase, “in Christ.” Here in verse 3, he refers to “Our Lord Jesus Christ.” This triple name expresses the divinity, humanity, and messianic office of the Savior. The title “Lord” refers to His deity. He is God and Lord of all. The name “Jesus” speaks of His incarnation. He was born into the human race and walked on this earth. “Christ” reminds us that He came as the sacrifice for our sins as the promised Messiah.
Also notice the simple word -possessive pronoun- “our.” What they all have in common, the mutual bond they share is that Jesus Christ is their Lord. All the saved claim the same Lord as Lord of their life.
II. THANKFUL FOR THEIR SALVATION, 4.
Verses 4-8 express reasons for thanksgiving. Notice as we move through the passage Paul’s thanksgiving triad: for their faith, their love, and their hope. [These three virtues are linked together in other passages also (; ; ; )].
since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,
“since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;”
[“We”-Paul, Timothy, Silus, Luke, Demas, Onesimus, Aristachus, John Mark, Justus () in their prayer meeting times. United group prayer is powerful before the Father.] Their salvation is referred to as “your faith in Jesus Christ.” They are commended and prayed for because they had put their trust and confidence “in Christ Jesus.” It’s amazing to me that the testimony of their faith reached all the way to Paul in a Roman prison. I wonder if people in my own neighborhood would commend me for my faith?
This word “in” is interesting. If we look at we find eis, or into which is a preposition of motion, “whoever believes in-into Him-Jesus” In verse 4 it is en, a preposition of sphere [locative] or rest, “their faith is anchored or operates in Jesus Christ” It is a Christ-centered faith. Paul is thankful that they are in Jesus or have a Christ centered faith.
The church at Colosse was characterized by three qualities—their faith, their love, and their hope. It is my personal persuasion that these are the three marks of any solid church. The first mark of a mature fellowship is faith. The author of Hebrews tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Therefore, the church that gathers together without believing God is going to work will not experience renewal, revival, or blessing.
The second mark of a strong church is love, for it is love that identifies us as Jesus’ disciples (). Love is the fruit of faith and the proof of genuine faith (; ; ).
Faith in Christ leads to love. Because of what Jesus had done in their lives, they were able to express love to “all” the saints. Paul uses the article “the” in front of love to make it more definitive, more concrete. Love is not an abstract principle or even a gushy feeling. This love is agape, which has sacrifice as its key character and is displayed in actions. Love is a transforming act because it is really faith in motion. As says, “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
This church was full of love. True faith produces love. Genuine faith in Christ exhibits itself in unconditional love for the imperfect followers of Christ. It will be easy to love believers in heaven because they won’t have a capacity for sin. It’s much more difficult to love fellow Christians now because they still sin, just like we do. Love is the greatest characteristic and the greatest commandment of the Christian faith. Are you exhibiting it in your life today?
III Thankful for THEIR SURE HOPE OF HEAVEN, 5a.
We find hope, the last of the great triad, in the first part of verse 5.
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, (of which you previously heard in the Word of Truth, the Gospel.)”
“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, (of which you previously heard in the Word of Truth, the Gospel.)”
[Why have faith in Christ if there is no hope for a glorious future? Why love others if it doesn’t matter in the end? Hope makes all the difference because we have a confident expectation that everything God says in His Word is true today, or will come true in the future. Hope is stored up for us like a treasure.]
Heaven was real to these faithful believers. They knew this world was not their home.
They longed for and lived for heaven. They thus were laying up their treasures in heaven not on earth.
The hope of people today is that they hope they will win the lottery, or they hope it will not rain. Many people have no hope. Without it, we end up without any anchor for our life. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone grieve because they have no hope.
Christian hope is not mere well-wishing. It was an assured faith, demonstrated by the words “hope” and “laid up” like a treasure. The NT word “hope” signifies the assurance of the thing hoped for. It is a fervent yearning, a confident expectation and assurance that God’s promises will be realized. This hope of glory is so assured because of the hope we have already received (, ; ) when we received the Spirit of Hope.
“Laid up” translates in Greek indicates savings deposits. [In it is translated “appointed”. See ]. It could also mean stored up or reserved. The reference is to the glorious reward, that is the future heavenly blessing of the people of God [Curtis Vaughan. The Expositor’s Bible Com. Vol 11. Colossians. Zondervan. 1979. P 175]. Our hope is not simply for this life but for and in eternal life ().
[A solid fellowship will have hope in its heart. As the absolute expectation of coming good, hope says, “Sure it’s tough down here, but this is the worst it will ever be. The coming of Jesus Christ is nigh. Life is short. We’re going to heaven!”
I firmly believe that a church, a family, or an individual who is focused on faith, love, and hope will be stable, solid, and sure.]
IV. THANKFUL FOR THE GOSPEL, 5b-6a.
Paul was thankful for the faith, love, and hope of the Colossians. How did they receive this faith, hope and love? From the Word of Truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In verses 5b-6 we see that he is grateful for the Gospel itself. These verses reveal four key elements about the gospel. “...of which you previously heard in the Word of Truth, the Gospel”
The Gospel is the truth of God. The last part of verse 5 helps us see that our hope is based solidly upon the “Word of Truth, the Gospel that has come to you.” The Word of Truth and the Gospel are the same thing. “Gospel” simply means “good news.” The verb form means to “preach or proclaim good news.” The gospel is to be shared with others because it is the Word of Truth. There is no other truth that will bring eternal salvation to people.
People are saved because someone shared the gospel with them. God’s good news for you today is that if you are not resting in Christ, you can.
Verse 6 begins by referencing the extensive progress the gospel was making. “which has come to you, just as in all the world”
The Gospel is for the whole world. Paul is rejoicing because this gospel is going “all over the world.” The gospel that has come to the city of Colossae is the same gospel going around the globe. God has one message of good news, one Word of Truth for everyone. That’s why we support missionaries and organizations that are committed to proclaim the good news of the gospel. We’re not just focused on our community but are called to impact the continents as well. That’s what we’re called to do as a church.
It is sad that the best we seem to do is tell the world come and hear. We have been command to go and tell the Gospel to others, all the way to the remotest parts of the world.
We will learn in the next part of verse 6 that it bears fruit if we will share it with others.
V. THANKFUL FOR THEIR GROWTH, 6b.
The Gospel produces life and growth. Look at verse 6 again:
which 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 grammar here indicates that there is an innate energy [built into] in the message of the gospel. The gospel is alive, growing, spreading, bearing fruit, and spreading some more. When the gospel is heard and believed, lives change radically. I can personally attest to this in my own life. According to , the gospel is the power of God. This word “power” comes from the word “dunamis,” or dynamite. The gospel message is the dynamite of God, to break through hard hearts and sinful habits so that the Fruit of the Spirit can grow and ripen to maturity.
The grammar here indicates that there is an innate energy [built into] in the message of the gospel. The gospel is alive, growing, spreading, bearing fruit, and spreading some more. When the gospel is heard and believed, lives change radically. I can personally attest to this in my own life. [This month I celebrate 35 years serving the Lord Jesus!] According to , the gospel is the power of God. This word “power” comes from the word “dunamis,” or dynamite. The gospel message is the dynamite of God, to break through hard hearts and sinful habits so that the Fruit of the Spirit can grow and ripen to maturity.
The gospel was bearing fruit in and through their lives. The word bearing fruit [karpofooroumenon] is in the middle voice, denoting that the fruit is not being bore by anyone, but rather it is the fruit which is causing itself to be born. In other words Christians who are not growing in the “Word of Truth” will not be “constantly increasing and bearing fruit.” If you’re not experiencing fruit and you’re not growing, I can guarantee you that there’s nothing wrong with the power source
I like the word “growing” or increasing in this verse. It reminds me that we’re all in process. Spiritual growth should be normal and ordinary for every Christian, not something that seems extraordinary.
Christians who are growing and healthy will bear fruit. Paul was thankful for the fruit of this church because it was evidence that they were healthy growing Christians.
The Gospel brings the grace and truth of God. The last part of verse 6 states “understood the grace of God in truth.”
They understood and accepted the gospel. Then they expressed that understanding by growing in their understanding of the Word of Truth. The message of God’s truth is a message of grace. You and I cannot earn acceptance before God. Salvation and sanctification are by grace through faith. You don’t have to jump through certain hoops or follow some man-made regulations. [One of the false teachings in the church of Colossae was legalism and so Paul establishes that the gospel is the good news of grace.] We receive what we don’t deserve, not because we’re good enough, but when we recognize that we’re bad enough to be disqualified from it. Of all the world religions, Christianity alone offers salvation without demands for pious works. The gospel of grace is truly good news. It brings faith, love, hope, and a desire to share it with others.
The faith, hope, and love of the Colossian believers led not only to maturity and stability, but to fruitfulness as others were drawn into their midst.
VI. [He was] THANKFUL FOR THEIR LEADER & THEIR LOVE, 7-8.
Verse 7 expresses gratefulness for Epaphras and his work. “just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,”
Epaphras was a dear fellow servant and a “faithful minister of Christ.” He faithfully took the message of grace to the Colossians and as a result he could be trusted. Epaphras both evangelized Colosse and edified the believers through his teaching. The verb “learned” is the basis of the word “disciple.”
God’s plan has always been to use human instruments to bring forth the gospel to a dying world. Epaphras was faithful in spreading the seed. He wants us to be faithful to Him and to the gospel of grace. Are you? Am I?
I like Epaphras. He goes around speaking good things. I want to be like Epaphras—talking about how great someone is behind his or her back, for not only does this please the Lord, but it also has an impact on me as well. How? People become to you who think and say are when they’re not around. If when you leave church on your way home you talk about someone you will see them that way the next time you meet. Talk negatively about him or her and, even if those things are not totally true, that’s what he or she will become in your sight.
On the other hand, if you speak well of a person behind his or her back, that is the way you will tend to view him or her. The next time you see him, you will approach him with an entirely different mind-set than if you had come down on him. The power of words is awesome. For that reason, we must be very careful. Talk people up, that’s what Paul and Epaphras did. [Courson, Jon: Courson’s Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 1304]
In verse 8 we’re informed that the love of the Holy Spirit was flowing through them. “and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.”
The Colossian church was known for its love. Paul mentions it here twice (1:4). The kind of love mentioned here is the unconditional agapae love, the same love that Jesus declares will set apart his disciples.
The world has a flawed view of love… If you love me, I will love you.
As long as you love me, I will love you.
As long as you do not act unloving to me, I will love you.
As long as I do not decide not to love another, I will love you.
However the agapae love says, I will love you, because God loved me. As Max Anders said, “Love is not a feeling, it is an attitude and action.” I.E. we decide to love.
Agapae love is not reactive, but proactive. It is not based on what others do to you, but what God has done for you.
Their love for all the saints” stemmed from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Believers are in the Spirit and the Spirit is in them ().
CONCLUSION / CALL TO ACTION
So Colosians introduces us to God’s trilogy of virtue—faith, love, and hope. Faith is the soul looking upward to God; love looks outward to others; hope looks forward to the future. Faith rests on the past work of Christ; love works in the present; and hope anticipates the future. Beloved that’s what the church of the Living God should be: a body of believers known for our great faith, our great love and our great hope.
In many ways BCSDBC embodies this Church at Colossae, but we haven’t completely arrived yet. There are still many who need to be touched by seeing our faith at work. There are still many who need to be experience the love of this body. There are still many who no nothing of the hope of heaven that we have.
So be concerned with your Christian growth, examine your fruit. The fruit is what one produces, and what one produces tells what they are. Allow God to use you to bear fruit. When you understand the truth of God and receive the grace of God it is a natural occurrence.
Allow the love of God to be evident in your life, and reach out to others. Do not be reactive in your love, but be proactive. Allow your love to be an expression of who and whose you are.
How is your growth? Do you need to begin your growth by accepting Christ? Do you need to further your growth by asking God to produce more fruit in your life? Maybe you need to ask Him to make you love proactive and not reactive. If so, would you, in His strength, make any decisions that need to be made?