Thanking God for the Fruit of the Gospel

Colossians 1:3-8

August 27, 2023

Lead Pastor Dr. Timothy Melton

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Have you ever been around a grandparent who was burdened or even broken by the present direction of a grandchild’s life. Or maybe you remember listening to a grandparent who was so excited for how well a grandchild is doing that they can’t stop talking about it. There is something special about the heart of a grandparent.

As we read the book of Colossians we see this similar love and compassion in the Apostle Paul as he wrote to his spiritual grandchildren. 

At this time Paul is in prison in Rome. A man named Epaphras had traveled all the way from Colossae to bring a report on how this young church is doing. Paul, very likely, had discipled Epaphras, who had then started the church in Colossae. Paul had never actually met the people of this church, but he writes with compassion, gives advice and expresses gratitude for all that God had done in their lives. Following in the line of so many grandparents, his heart seems to overflow with love for this young church. 

This book of Colossians is Paul’s letter back to the church in Colossae.

Join me as we turn our attention to Colossians 1:3-8. 

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 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, 


6 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, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Let us start with Colossians 3:1-3  

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. 

The salvation of those in Colossae was such a monumental event that it continually kept Paul in a place of Thanksgiving. Maybe you have someone in your life like this as well. You prayed for them. You cared for them and even shared with them, for years, until one day the light of Christ dawned on their lives and they believed in Jesus. And now every time it comes to mind your heart is overcome with awe and thanksgiving. 

Paul was doing the same thing. He was thanking God because that is where the credit was due. As we read in Romans, none of us are good. None of us seek God on our own. We each were spiritually dead, wicked, blind, rebellious slaves to sin. The only way that the Christians in Colossae were saved is because of the death and resurrection of Christ.  God drew them to Himself, the Spirit convicted them of sin and God granted them faith. Their conversion, like ours, was the work of God and because of that all thanks and glory could only go to God.

Paul mentioned the Lord Jesus Christ. That was a dangerous phrase in the days of the Roman Empire when only Caesar was to be lord. But yet that was the proclamation of the Christians. Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings. 

As we read in Philippians 2:9-11, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

As believers we confessed Jesus as Lord. We surrendered all our rights and gave Him full ownership and dominion over every part of who we are. He now has every right to work in our lives as He makes us like Christ. We were bought with a price and we are His. That is the factual position of Christ as Lord of our lives. At the same time there are still areas which we struggle to submit to Him. 

It is similar to the stories of the Knights Templar during the Crusades. Legend has it that they would be baptized with their swords raised above the water, as if to say, “Christ is Lord over all of my life, except what I will do with my sword.”

That seems quite superficial to us as first, but are we that different. Might our version of this be, “Christ you are Lord over all things, except my phone or my money or my dealings with the other gender or how I talk about others or what I post or follow on Facebook and TikTok.”

This is the process through which every believer must pass. Once we put our faith in Jesus Christ He becomes our Lord and Savior. It is in the following years, one day at a time that God grows our maturity in Him and more and more areas of our lives are brought under the functional lordship of Christ. This may be through the study of His word or through the difficulties of life. One way or another He takes responsibility for growing us in our faith.  

It would be like one who buys a struggling business. As soon as he pays the money and signs the deed the business is his. He is now the owner, the “lord,” over the business. Factually the business is his, but it will take weeks and months until it is truly in the condition that shows he is “lord” over the entire business.

At salvation Christ is factually our Lord. As we mature in Christ He functionally becomes Lord over more and more areas of our lives.

Paul gave thanks in prayer because of what he had heard was happening in the church in Colossae.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Paul had not been there when the church began but word had spread about what God was doing in their midst. 

Paul heard of their faith. How do we hear one´s faith? Can you actually hear faith? Faith is like the wind. You can´t actually see it, but you can see the results of it. Paul was thanking God for their faith that was being confirmed by the love that they had for other believers. 

It reminds us of the scriptures that talk of recognizing a good tree because of its good fruit or true faith by the good works that is bears. A heart changed will result in a life changed. When people are truly changed it will become evident to others. Paul had heard of their faith and the love that they had for all the saints and he rejoiced. 

The Colossians were commended for their love for all the saints. When we see God’s definition of love it should guide our understanding. God’s love is not based on who we are it is based on who He is. The same should be true for us. We love because God’s love has been placed in our hearts. We are to love others as He has loved us. We are to do more than just love those who are lovable. We are to love each other as God enables us. It is this unconditional love that bears testimony that we are His.

Paul uses the word saints here. Now the word "saint" is not a word reserved only for martyrs, “super-Christians” or those who have done miracles. Paul was using the word saints for all who have been made righteous in Christ. All who have turned from their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ. It is in this great exchange that Christ took upon Himself the sin of man and we received the righteousness of God. Because of our daily sin it is hard to believe, but that is what has happened. When God now looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ. Because of this the Colossians and we are saints.

That is one of the main purposes of this letter from Paul to those in the church in Colossae. We must get our identity right if we are going to live rightly. That is the only way we will be able to live holy lives consistently. The fact is that we are now righteous in Christ. We are treasured children of God. We are new creatures with a new nature, but we have such ingrained identity stories that we have a hard time living out the new life we have in Christ. If we are not diligent to cast off our old life and nurture the new, we will continue to struggle with sin and fallen identity and not take hold of the lordship of Christ that is already ours.

As we think about Paul’s mentioning the word saints, we must not overlook the word “all.” Their faith had resulted in a love for all the saints. Not just the saints who were like them. Not just the saints who were easy to get along with. Not just the saints who could later care for them in return. Their faith resulted in a love for all the saints. 

We need to take note of this. Take some time to evaluate this in our own lives. Has our faith in God resulted in a selfless love for others or only in a selfish, convenient love that in some way will benefit us in return. A true love of God will result in a selfless love for “all” the saints. As Christians this is one of the ways that the world will know that we belong to Christ. 

As we read in John 13:34b-35, “As I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It says that the reason for their love for all the saints was because of the hope laid up for them in heaven. 

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. 

They saw each other from an eternal perspective, as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. They no longer identified each other as master or slave, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile. In Christ they found the resources to love each other as He had loved them. They realized that all other relationships would eventually pass away, but those who were in Christ would commune together for eternity. They were not perfect in their relationships, but they knew that there would finally be a day, where sin would pass away and they would rejoice in the presence of Christ, together, forever. In the present one might have struggled with their identity. Another with insecurity. Another with a habitual sin or pride or an unbridled tongue or a controlling attitude, but in the midst of their imperfections they knew that they were eternal brothers and sisters who would one day, in heaven, see clearly, love perfectly and would be without sin. With this in mind they loved their fellow saints because of the hope laid up for them in heaven. 

How many times do we lack the love for our fellow saints because we are not thinking with eternity in mind? We live in the present and lose perspective of eternity and what really matters. We forget how the story ends and begin to turn inward and focus more on self and less on others. We covet, compare and compete. We hoard material things that will not last and seek recognition that does not matter. We forget the gracious love that we have received and cease to love others as Christ has loved us. The problem comes when we turn to the world to provide what we already have been give in Christ. 

They had heard this truth of the hope of heaven in the gospel, and as they fixed their eyes on heaven they were drawn to give and not hoard, sacrifice and not defend, serve and not lord over, for they now saw the true reality of God, where the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. This was the gospel taking effect in their lives.

Living for eternity brings much-needed perspective to life.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.”[1]

For the church in Colossae, their hope was laid up in heaven. For the Christians in Colossae their hope was definitely not in the government where Caesar was lord. Or amidst their society which sought after materialism, pleasure and pagan gods. They were the minority. The precious few. Their hope was in the conviction of things not yet seen, the promises that were still yet to come.

We see this eternal hope lived out in the Old Testament in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they fearlessly refused to worship the statue of the king and were thrown into the fiery furnace. We see this eternal hope as Queen Esther risked her life by entering the throne room of the king without an invitation. We see this eternal hope in the book of Acts as Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father, as he was being stoned to death for preaching the gospel to the religious leaders of his day. We even see this eternal hope in Jesus “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

In Christ we have an eternal hope that upholds us in the midst of trials and tribulation.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, 

 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Where is your hope? Who do you trust in?  When all else fails to whom do you cry? I recently heard a story from one of our church families. They were shopping in one of these big superstores. Their very young son got lost. Mom thought he was with Dad and Dad thought he was with Mom. For the child it was quite traumatic. Surrounded by huge rows of shelves you can picture this small boy frantically looking for his parents.  Eventually the son found his way and came running back to his mom and dad. When asked about what happened the little son told how he had prayed to God. As parents we dread these moments when our children are separated from us, but it is precious to hear a little one who is already learning to put his hope in God. May we, too,  have a childlike faith and turn quickly to God as our hope in our time of need.

Speaking of eternal life Paul then continued in Colossians 1:5-6,

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—

The word “hear” in Paul’s day was more than just the mechanics of receiving sound vibrations in one’s eardrum. To hear meant to listen and then to do. If you did not do then you did not really hear.

Hearing was not just hearing with your ears, it was hearing with your heart. It is like when a parent says to a child, "Did you hear me?" They are not really asking about hearing, they are asking for obedience. In biblical times when it talks of those who had ears to hear it is referring to those who heard, understood, submitted and obeyed.

Jesus said “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Hearing always including obeying. If you didn’t obey you hadn’t really heard.

Those in the church in Colossae had heard the gospel, not just with their ears, not just with their minds, but with their hearts. . . and believed. But what is the gospel? If you were asked what is the gospel what would you say? Some might say it is doing good things for others. Some would answer that it is trying to be a good person. Some might say that it is praying and reading your Bible. Some might say that the gospel means being spiritual and loving others. None of those are correct. If we are going to be lights of the world and salt of the earth we must be able to answer this question. 

The word “gospel,” means good news. So, what is the good news. To appreciate the good news we must first understand the bad news. We all have rebelled and sinned against a holy God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin we are separated from God in both the present and for eternity in hell, a place of forever torment and suffering. But now the good news. . . Seeing our desperate need, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. Jesus took on the form of a man, did not sin and willingly gave His holy life to die in our place, to pay for our sin. On the third day he rose from the dead, proving that the penalty for our sin had been fully paid. So that now, whoever will turn from their sin and believe in Jesus Christ will be reconciled to God and will live forever with Him in heaven.

Our sin separated us from God. Christ’s death paid for our sin. All who will repent and believe will be forgiven and reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, John 3:16) They had heard the gospel. . . Paul then continued talking of the gospel. The gospel has come to you.

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—

The gospel had come to them. In this we are reminded, God always initiates. God moves towards us and enables us to move towards Him. He draws us to Himself when we could not come near to Him. He grants faith so we can believe. He convicts us of sin so that we may repent. He brings us to the ends of ourselves so we might more fully trust in Him. Through Epaphras and others God had brought the gospel to those in Colossae and God continues to do the same today. 

It must have been an encouragement to hear that the gospel was increasing in the whole world. The church in Colossae was not alone. They surely felt like the minority. They were greatly outnumbered and maybe even had experienced different forms of persecution. Maybe they were the only Christians in their family or the only Christian where they worked, but Paul reassured them that this gospel that had transformed their lives was doing the same in lives all around the world. 

The gospel was spreading, bearing fruit and increasing. It was not owned by one group or culture. Faith in Christ was not just for the Jews.  Jesus had come to save people of all nations. It is not an American religion, or British religion, or Nigerian religion or Spanish religion. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ that has been made available by the Creator of all nations to the people of all nations. That is the powerful result of the preached gospel. Some people groups may be more resistant than others, but the gospel has the power to reach people of every nation, tribe, and tongue. It continued bearing fruit in the lives of those in the church in Colossae but surely they were encouraged when they heard that they were not alone. Christ was bearing fruit in churches and lives around the world... And it was increasing. 

That is the encouragement we gain when we come together. Maybe you know of no other Christians in your school. Maybe you know of no other Christian at your work. Maybe you are the only Christian in your home or in your neighborhood. As we come together each Sunday and sit with other believers we are reminded that we are not alone. As we hear the prayers and the testimonies of God´s people we are strengthened to go out into the world once again and be salt and light. As we participate in one of the Bible studies we are strengthened by the faith of others. 

The gospel has come and not only to us in Houston. The wind of the Spirit is blowing across countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal and other places in the world. Indeed in the whole world the gospel is bearing fruit and increasing. Paul then continued.

as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

The gospel continued to bear fruit in their lives as well. It was not something whose effect stopped at salvation. The gospel continued to work in them and through them as they grew in faith in Jesus Christ. Since the first day when they had heard it from Epaphras until now Paul continued to hear good things about them and their love in the Spirit.

Epaphras had preached the gospel, the Father had revealed the grace of God in truth, and they had believed. The Spirit of Christ who now lived in them was birthing in them a love for which only God could be given the credit for. This was and is the truest fruit of the gospel in our lives. And as we see it we can only be left with a heart of gratitude for all that the Lord Jesus has done and will do in our lives. 

As we think back through these verses may we be called to the gratitude for the fruit that the gospel has worked in our lives. May we have a love for all that saints. May our hope be in heaven. May we truly hear the gospel. May we be encouraged by the gospel’s advance around the world. May the gospel continue bearing fruit in our lives that leads to a true love in the Spirit. 

[1] C.S. Lewis, quoted in Francis Chan, Crazy Love (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008), 75.