Colossians 1_3-14 The Gospel, its effect, its demand and its content
The Gospel of the Lord
Its effect, its demand and its content
Lord’s Day 14 January 2007, 9.00am
Moments of silent prayer
The word of God in our midst
Call to worship
“God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him? How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of His years is past finding out. (Job 36:22, 26)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)
Approach: Hymn No 327: “Lord Jesus, when your people meet”
(Tune 19 – 5 verses)
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20)
Prayer of Confession of sin
Hymn: “I vow to You my Saviour” (Screen, 4 verses)
Prayer of Adoration, Thanksgiving and the Lord’s Prayer
Hymn No 321: “Bring to the Lord a glad new song”
Tithes, offering and dedication
Prayer for others
Scripture Readings Psalm 19:1-14; Colossians 1:3-14
My dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sure most of us had the privilege to be out in the bush, camping under the stars. In my days as Patrol Padre of the Presbyterian Inland Mission I would camp where the sun sets. In the clear sky night, without the effect of street lights or other lights around me, I would look up into the sky with the stars so bright that I felt it was possible to reach out and pluck one. And yet, those stars so bright and beautiful are millions of kilometres away. Being enveloped by the darkness of the night, the stars seemed bright as they reflect the light from the sun into the darkness of the par of the earth not exposed to the sun itself.
But, how beautiful the stars might be, they have no light in themselves; they only reflect light. Furthermore, the stars are not enough to give us light to live on earth. There is a time ordained by God, every morning, when the earth turns toward the sun. The stars seem to disappear in the light of the sun. Darkness is left behind and for about twelve hours the light of the sun distinguishes the darkness of the night. Not only can we then see what is around us, but the sun is the source of live giving us energy and all other sources of vitamins and enzymes to sustain human, plant and animal life on the planet.
; The effect of the Gospel
In the first chapter of Colossians the Gospel is described in the same way. The Gospel is like the stars reflecting the glory of Christ, the Son of God’s love. The Gospel is our leading light in darkness.
Verses 3-8 describes to us the effect of the Gospel. We have to go the end of this paragraph to understand the message. It works like this: God called men to preach the Gospel to people living in darkness. They were Epaphras and the apostle Paul.
Epaphras is described as a faithful minister. ; We gather that Epaphras evangelised the cities of the Lycus valley in Phrygia under Paul’s direction during the latter’s Ephesian ministry, and founded the churches of ; Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea. Later he visited Paul during his Roman captivity, and it was his news of conditions in the churches of the Lycus valley that moved Paul to write the Epistle to the Colossians.
; When Epaphras went to Rome to visit Paul and report to him about the work of the Gospel, Paul greatly rejoiced and thanked god for His work through the Gospel. The people all over the Roman world, and indeed all over the world today where this Gospel is preached, hear and understand about God’s grace in Jesus Christ – we will come back to what the message about Jesus Christ is further into this message and more elaborately tonight as we consider verses 15-23.
Now we are in verse 6. The Gospel is presented as ; God’s grace. It is the truth about Him who is the Truth. The Gospel is not one message amongst other possibilities. As we will see tonight, when God speaks He speaks as the Creator of the universe. When God speaks He speaks about Jesus Christ, his Crown Prince through Whom He created the universe and to whom all things created, visible and invisible, belong. All other messages and gospels are not truth; it may present itself as a philosophy or theory, but in essence they are nothing more than very poor attempt to make people believe they can improve themselves into a better existence. That’s no Gospel.
When the Gospel is preached and heard in truth something happens to those who hear it. It happened on the first day of the New Testament Church, and it is still happening today. ; The apostle describes it as “bearing fruit”. And let us thank God for the wonderful effect of the Gospel. Let us pray to the Lord that he would bless the work of his ministers as they sow the seed of the Gospel. What is it that happens when people hear this message?
Those called by God to eternal life hear it and understand it. Now we are in verse 5. They hear about God’s grace and they hear about the hope. What hope? ; It is the inheritance in Jesus Christ laid up in heaven. We will hear more about that tonight, but let’s say this here: Jesus Christ, through his blood, bought us back for God. He took us out of the dominion of darkness and put us in the dominion of light, which is the kingdom of the Son of God, the Son God loves.
This is the same Gospel we preach today. I am just preaching the same truths from the Word of God today. It is the same message the servants of God preached all over the ages. It was the only Gospel Epaphras had when he was called to a part of the Greek world of his day who would, according to human standards, not respond to a message which would sound silly and did not challenge the philosophies of his day. But God blessed his faithful and devoted labour: people accepted God’s grace, their hearts were changed, and their disbelief was changed into saving faith in Jesus Christ.
So what was the effect of the Gospel on the people in Colossae? Now we are in verse 4: ; they believed in Jesus Christ. Their faith in Christ became known. Their faith was more than just an intellectual interpretation of the message of Epaphras. They understood it as the words coming from God. What happened is that they now saw themselves as part of the family of God, and their lives were changed: the usual way of sin in anyone’s life is to love himself, care for himself and protect himself. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes all of that. Instead of loving oneself, the Gospel changes one’s heart to accept the fact that we need to love one another as Christ loves us. This is precisely what happened in Colossae. ; Their love for the saints became known to all around them. Suddenly there was something new going on in Colossae: people really loved one another. God’s people made a difference. God’s people are supposed to make a difference, because the Lord said that by our love for one another people will know that we belong to God (John 13:35).
I wonder what people outside of the Christian community say about St Andrews. Do they know us as a loving community of God’s family? It is our love for one another in the Lord Jesus Christ that distinguishes us as God’s disciples? It is our love for a broken world and our care for them that sets us apart as God’s people? Or is it so that we have become so used to the fact that we worship on Sundays, that we almost see it as our right to be here, rather than grace in Jesus Christ that really binds us together? Further, is it perhaps so that we are so much focussed on our need as a congregation that we have forgotten about the rest still living in darkness? Let Epaphras be our example: he took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dark world because he loved them in Christ.
; The demand of the Gospel
I think what the Bible wants us to understand about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what we just said: to ; hear it and accept is not enough.
Paul continues his letter to the Colossians in verse 9 with “For this reason I pray for you”. What did he pray for?
; Knowledge of God
Firstly, that God would fill them with knowledge of his will by giving them spiritual wisdom and understanding. They were already saved in the Lord. They had already accepted the message of truth; they already had faith in Christ and they already began to love one another as family in the Lord. But that’s not enough: they had to be filled. It is almost as if he said, “You have become a church of God. Now that’s great! But there is so much more you need to learn and become. I pray that God will continue to fill you up with the necessary things so that you can become a real body of believers.”
It is as if Paul prays that God who began the filling up process when He called them will continue to do more and more in them so that they will know Him better. Knowledge of God will not only serve them well as they worship and serve Him in obedience, it will serves as their guide and guard against attacks from those who want to destroy the work of God in them.
How true is it for our day! How many Christians are too satisfied to hear the message of Jesus Christ! But there is no growth in the knowledge of the Lord. They cannot stand against the onslaught of the devil and they cannot defend their faith. There is no knowledge of the content of what they believe. Too many churches have much to say about the psychological needs of people, while they hardly attempt to nurture the people with knowledge of God. The result is an illiterate Church who only know the words of sentimental choruses and songs without theological content.
The Gospel demands that we grow in our knowledge of God by studying the Word and gaining wisdom and understanding of what really is important in the life of the church and our spiritual lives.
; A life worthy of the Lord
The Greek word in verse 10 describes Christian conduct as a way of life. The live a worthy of the Lord is to live a life which displays the Person of Christ. We are of Him, saved by Him, called by Him. He is our Head, we are the members of the body. Once we were living in darkness, but by His grace, we are now called, we are qualified by Him to share in the inheritance of God. we are led by the Spirit of Holiness.
This is what Paul now prays for the people: become what you are in Christ. Live holy lives worthy of Christ. It does not mean that we must do certain things so that our works are worthy for Christ to accept; it’s the other way round: Christ’s life is worthy before God and those who love Christ must conduct their lives so that it displays His holiness and righteousness.
The way in which this life in Christ is worthy before God is spelled out in the rest of the verse: Bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God. This is like exercise for the soul: it strengthens us to become spiritually fit, healthy and able to do God’s will.
Verse 11 continues to talk about the Christian life as a race of endurance. A worthy Christian life, bearing fruit to the glory of God can stand the difficulties of the race; it does not run out of breath because it is spiritually unfit. Too many Christians just can’t stand the strains and intensity of the race. They give up and never complete the race.
They lack the patience, which is a state of emotional quietness in the face of unfavourable circumstances. There is no resoluteness and determination to complete the battle. The smallest hindrance leads to giving up; when someone says something about them, they hang up their boots and resign from the battle. I remember those days in the army when the corporal kept driving us to teach us there is more in us; when you think you can’t do more, he was there to show you a bot more is possible, even if it meant more blisters on your feet, cuts on your elbows and a burning chest and panting lounges. O, do we need more Christians who have endurance and determination not to be thrown off course by unfavourable circumstances.
; Joyful gratitude
Our calling is to love God and to enjoy Him forever. This is and must be true even in the face of adversary. Let’s face it, the Christian life is not easy. Look at examples in the Scripture itself: Abraham faced problems with the people of the land. So did David, the prophets of the Lord, Job, the disciples, the apostle Paul. All of them knew the reality of hardship. As a matter of fact, those who want to live a fruitful life in the Lord will be persecuted. And remember, the Lord chastens those whom He loves. If we are not disciplined we are illegitimate children.
Does that mean that we should fall in a heap when persecution comes? No! Rather, there should be joy in our hearts. Why? God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of Jesus Christ.
; The content of the Gospel
What a good thing it is that ; God does not call the qualified, but qualify those whom He called! To be qualified in the sight of God is to meet the standards God Himself has set. But we cannot attain that qualification based on our own achievements. That’s why the Bible says He qualified us. How is that done? ; Through Christ He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and He brought us into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The word “brought” in verse has in mind to transpose, transfer, to remove from one place to another. The NKJV translates “convey”. Christ qualified us to be children of God, firstly by saving us; then He conveys us from darkness into light. How does it happen? His cross is our redemption because He bought us with his blood. And now our sins are forgiven.
Remember how we talked about the darkness and the bright stars in the beginning? Remember how we talked about the arrival of the sun to make it day? So is it with the person who is saved by the grace of God. He came out of darkness, his sins are forgiven and he now runs the race, engages in the battle, grows in knowledge of God, runs the battle with steadfastness and makes his life an exercise of thanksgiving to God who qualified those whom He called into his Kingdom.
Hymn No 296: “Church of God, elect and glorious”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)