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The gospel of the Lord - its content and its effect

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The Gospel of the Lord

Its content and its effect

Morning Worship, Lord’s Day 31 August 2008, 9.30 am

© Rev D Rudi Schwartz[1]

Bible Readings

Old Testament:                     Psalm 19:1-14

New Testament:                   Colossians 1:1-14


                1.  Approach:                        “Lord Jesus, when your people meet”

                2.  Forgiveness of sins:        “Take my life and let it be”

                3.  Thanksgiving:                   “When morning guilds the skies”

                4.  Response:                        “Church of God, elect and glorious”

Main Points

1.       Introduction
2.       The content of the Gospel
3.       The messengers of the Gospel
4.       The grace of the Gospel
5.       The hope of the Gospel
6.       The faith of the Gospel


1.     Introduction

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 the clear sky night, without the effect of street lights or other lights around one, you would look up into the sky with the stars, planets and satellites so bright that you feel it is 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 satellites and planets seemed bright as they reflect the light from the sun into the darkness of the part of the earth not exposed to the sun itself.

But, how beautiful the planets 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.

2.     The content of the Gospel

For a moment, let’s jump to verses 12 and 13.

[T]he Father … has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (Colossians 1:12-13)

We need to read verse 13 first to understand what is going on here.  First of all our standing as sinners is described:  because of the fact that we are born sinful, we find ourselves living under in a kingdom.  This kingdom is described as a kingdom of darkness. 

To be in this kingdom literally means to be in outer darkness, the place of punishment, the place of future exclusion from the kingdom of God.  It is to live in the realm where there is no moral standard; where there is spiritual renewal possible, because there is naturally a lack of understanding concerning the will of God.  The Lord called Paul from this kingdom and made him an apostle against this kingdom.

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:17-18)

This kingdom of darkness is the domain under the authority of the devil and demons realm of evil.  The authority mentioned here in this verse speaks of power, sphere of power, dominion – to be in the grip of this dominion.

The verse says:  “God has qualified you”.  We who served like people in the stranglehold of Satan without hope in the darkness of the cell like Samson in the dungeon of the Philistines with his eyes gouged out, bound in shackles, walking around like a slave donkey to grind wheat, - we are the ones of God’s favour.  By grace He qualified us to be citizens of his Kingdom.

What a good thing it is that God does not call the qualified, but qualify those whom He called! The word used for qualified carries the idea of sufficient, adequate, worthy.  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 standing or status by grace of the believer in Christ is here in view, as opposed to his character. The Father qualified believers to partake of the inheritance of the saints by placing them in Christ, in whom they enjoy a standing which makes them the objects of God’s grace.

The word “brought” in verse has in mind to transpose, transfer, to remove from one place to another.  The NKJV translates “convey”.  This means to bring someone out of severe and acute danger.

I remember as a child growing up in rural South Africa when it was time for the harvest.  They didn’t use big harvesters with headers on it then.  The corn was picked, put in bags and then brought to the threshing floor.  It was then put on a conveyer belt, and up it went into the harvester.  Everyone used the word “conveyer”; even Afrikaans speaking farmers, because the harvesters were made in England and the parts were known by their English names.  I never understood what “conveyer” meant, but I knew that the cobs of corn went unto the conveyer belt and into the machine, and after much noise and dust, corn kernels came out into the bags.  And that was what harvesting was about:  one has to get the chaff and the kernels separated.

 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.  This by faith we receive and we are conveyed from darkness into light.  This is the message of the Gospel.

3.     The messengers of the Gospel

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 and those proclaiming the Gospel have no light in themselves, but they reflect the light of the One they preach about.  Their message is described as beautiful:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Verses 3-8 describe 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 elaborate as we consider verses 15-23.

4.     The grace of the Gospel

Now we are in verse 6. 

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Colossians 1:6)

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 later in this series, 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.  Any 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?  The Westminster Confession of Faith puts beautifully:

All those whom God has predestined to life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, to call effectually by His word and Spirit out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; [He] enlightens their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ:  yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

5.     The hope of the Gospel

Those called by God to eternal life hear it and understand it. Now we are in verse 5. 

… the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel (Colossians 1:5)

They heard about God’s grace and they heard about the hope.  What hope?   It is the inheritance in Jesus Christ laid up in heaven.  We have already heard about it will hear more about that next time:  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 that Paul wrote about ministers preached about through the centuries from the Word of God today.  It is the same message the servants of God rediscovered in the 16th century when the Reformation took place which turned the world upside down and steered the cause of history away from medieval darkness.  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.

6.     The faith of the Gospel

So what was the effect of the Gospel on the people in Colossae?  Now we are in verse 4:   they believed in Jesus Christ. 

… because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— (Colossians 1:4)

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.


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.



[1]  Feel free to duplicate this file or quote from it.  The Name of the Lord be glorified!

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