ˇ°THE WONDERS OF THE GOSPEL TRUTHˇ± By Pastor YAU
Text: Colossians 1:3-8 MARCH 2, 2014
1) Definition of the gospel: According to The Analytical Greek Lexicon, the word ˇ°gospelˇ±, euangelion, literally means ˇ°good newsˇ±, particularly the news of victory brought back to the people from the front-line of a battle. So, the gospel is the good news of victory of Jesus over Satan, sin and death. It is also our good news that we too can be triumphant forever over the power of those enemies.
2) Biblical use of the gospel: The Bible, especially in the New Testament describes ˇ°the gospelˇ± with several phrases. It is called ˇ°the gospel of the grace of God.ˇ± (Acts 20:24); ˇ°the gospel of his Sonˇ± (Romans 1:9), ˇ°the gospel of Christ,ˇ± (1 Corinth 9:12) ˇ°the gospel of God,ˇ± (Rom 15:16) ˇ°the gospel of peaceˇ±, (Eph. 6:15) and others. These descriptions have given us the common expression ˇ°the gospel truth.ˇ± The good news in Christ came to us with multidimensional contents, effects and purposes. Let us explore some of the facts of the gospel truth and its applications in our faith.
1) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND FAITH: ˇ°We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.ˇ± (1:3-4a)
Faith, pistis, means to be persuaded that something is true and to trust in it. Far more than intellectual assent, faith in the Bible involves obedience. Pistis comes from peitho that means to obey. The concept of obedience is equated with belief throughout the New Testament. So, when you believe, you obey.
Biblical faith is not ˇ°a leap in the dark.ˇ± Biblical faith is based on facts and grounded in evidence. Any definition of faith is incomplete without its object. Contrast to the contemporary baseless faith in words of sinful man, out faith has its object in Jesus Christ. Pistis is used usually with preposition eis, ˇ°inˇ± that means ˇ°to rest on a foundation.ˇ± With Jesus as the object of our faith, it is as sure as building a house on a solid foundation.
2) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND LOVE: ˇ°And the love which you have for all the saints.ˇ± (1:4b)
Genuine faith does not exist in a vacuum but will inevitably result in a change of life. One of the visible fruits of true saving faith is love for fellow believers. (John 13:34-35) John says, ˇ°If anyone says: I love God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one who doesn't love his brother whom he has seen, he cannot love God whom he has not seen.ˇ± (1 John 4:20)
A true child of God will love his fellow believers regardless of his personal preference. Faith in Christ purges us of our selfishness and gives us a new attraction to the people of God. Our love for fellow believers is a reflection of God's love for us. It is also obedience to His command to ˇ°love one another, even as I have loved you.ˇ± (John 13:34)
Paul gives thanks to God for the Colossians' love of all the saints. Their love was not selective. Apparently there were no division in this church such as those in the Corinthians church. The love of God not only drew the people in Colossae to God but also to each other.
3) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND HOPE: ˇ°Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel.ˇ± (1:5)
Hope is one component of the great triad of Christian virtues, along with faith and love: ˇ°But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest is love.ˇ± (1 Corinth. 13:13) Paul is thankful not only for the Colossians' faith and love, but also for their hope. Faith and hope are inseparably linked, when we believe, we also hope.
Paul describes that hope as ˇ°laid upˇ± for us in heaven. Laid up, apokeimai means ˇ°in storedˇ± or ˇ°reserved.ˇ± Peter speaks of ˇ°an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.ˇ± (1 Peter 1:4) Our hope is never an empty wish but supported with the inheritance God has stored up for us in heaven.
God established our hope of heavenly inheritance by making us his children. The Colossians became God's children by believing the gospel they previously heard. 1 John 3:1 says: ˇ°See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.ˇ± Hope is like the anchor chain, connecting us inseparably to the throne of God.
4) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND THE WORLD: ˇ°Which has come to you just as in all the world.ˇ± (1:6a)
The gospel truth is universal; it has come to you, just as in all the world. Christian faith is not another set of cult or religion in the Roman Empire. It was not just another religion in Colossae. This is the good news for the whole world beyond the city or the region. The gospel transcends any and all ethnic, geographic, cultural, and political boundaries. Jesus told his disciples about this: ˇ°And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to the nations, and then the end shall come.ˇ± (Matt 24:14) Again in the Great Commission, Jesus commanded us, ˇ°Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.ˇ± (Matt 28:19)
The Israelis, God's first chosen people, had failed their mission in bringing the gospel message to the whole world, let us never to fail like them. The defusing of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire foreshadowed its spread throughout the world. This is a message of hope for all people in all cultures. The true church is made up of people from all over the world.
5) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND FRUIT BEARING: ˇ°It is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it.ˇ± (1:6b) The gospel is not merely a set of stagnant system of ethics or doctrine of a new religion, it is a living, moving and growing power in the life of those who believe. The gospel energizes people to change their lives, to spread their influence and to bear fruits. (John 15:3-8)
The power of the gospel grows both in individual and on universal aspect. It grows the spiritual life of individuals to maturity. It also spreads across the world to the uttermost part as Jesus had commanded. (Acts 1:8)
The gospel produces fruit both in internal transformation of life and gives power to the grow of churches and worldwide mission endeavor. Acts 9:31 gives us a clear record of growth, ˇ°The church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up...going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.ˇ±
In the past 2,000 plus years of church history, countless records testified the power of the gospel in changing lives, building churches, bearing fruits in bringing the loss to God. Any truly born-again Christian can testify the power of the gospel in his life and the fruits of the spirit that brings others to God.
6) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND GRACE: ˇ°And understood the grace of God in truth.ˇ± (1:6c)
Grace is the very heart of the gospel. It is given to us freely by God for the forgiveness of sin and eternal life which we do not deserve and cannot earn. Christian faith contrasts sharply with all other religions, which assume man can save himself by his good work. Nothing is more clearly taught in the Bible than the truth that ˇ°by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of work, that no one should boast.ˇ± (Eph. 2:8-9)
Paul describes saving grace as ˇ°the grace of God in truth.ˇ± The phrase ˇ°in truthˇ± here carries the sense of 'genuineness.ˇ± It is truly ˇ°the grace of Godˇ± in contrast to all other claimants to the true gospel. God is free in his sovereignty, and is merciful and forgiving. No one can do anything to cause his own salvation. God saves us by his grace alone. The hymn ˇ°Jesus Paid It Allˇ± (#193 in our church hymnal) expresses that thought very well.
7) THE GOSPEL TRUTH AND ITS MESSENGER: ˇ°Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.ˇ± (1:7-8)
Yes, salvation is solely by the grace of God and no human effort may help anyone to be saved, but God uses human as channels of that grace. Jesus told his disciples that through the power of the holy spirit, they will be his witnesses. It was well said by Paul in Romans 10:14, ˇ°How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching to them.ˇ±
As we read the Bible, we know it was Epaphras first brought the good news of the gospel to the Colossian church. By referring Epaphras as fellow bond-servant, and calling him ˇ°a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,ˇ± Paul connects Epaphras' ministry of the gospel with his own. Epaphras was like a representative of Paul in Colossae, backed by Paul's authority and that of the Lord. Paul was in prison, unable to go to Colossae, Epaphras brought the gospel to them on behalf of Paul.
God gives us the wonderful privilege and sober responsibility of being his agents in proclaiming the gospel, the good news of victory, to all the people of the world. That should mean so much to all of us.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) This is the best news: With all the possible good news all humans had received or will receive, the gospel truth is by far the best. All good news in this world are relative at best. They are temporary and the valued that will fade. There is no good news that fit all the needs of all men. Above all, nothing any good news in this world may bring us may be stored in heaven.
But that is not the case with the good news of the gospel. This good news is for all the people in history, in every corner of the world, and it will never fade or lose its validity or importance. This is so because it is guaranteed by the author, God. All the good news of the world were about things of the world, but this good news is about things of God. If you are going through some bad time, don't let this good news slip through your fingers: Jesus can fix it all. Let him do it for you.
2) This is about your soul: This good news is not about striking a jet-pot or a lottery, it is not about a promotion or a raise. It isn't about a dream comes true or anything the world may offer. While all the above are not bad things, but they are never really important. This good news is about your soul, the most important part of your life. This is about your eternity, your destiny, the last place you will spend you soul.
No accumulation of wealth, no power or position, no human effort or success may help anyone to save his soul. Jesus gives us a stern warning: ˇ°What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yer forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul.ˇ± (Matthew 16:26) Do not brush aside the importance of the gospel truth because it is the only way you can find eternal life for your soul. No one has anything to lose except you and your soul if you harden your heart or close your ears to God's calling. Isaiah beseech all people, ˇ°Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thought. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.ˇ± (Isaiah 55:6-7)