January 20, 2008
I Thank God for You
Series: Above All
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Colossians 1:3-8

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In the series Above All, Pastor Philip De Courcy highlights the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as presented in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Christ is above all powers and all things. To go beyond Christ is to leave Christianity behind. In Above All, Pastor Philip reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ is creation’s only source, man’s only Savior, and God’s only Son, and He must be understood accurately.

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Turn to the Book of Colossians. The Book of Colossians, this is one of Paul’s prison letters. He’s writing it to a church that was about a hundred miles east of Ephesus in modern Turkey today. In that day, it was in a region called Phrygia. It was part of Asia Minor.
And Paul is writing to them to share his heart as he responds to the mixed news that he hears coming out of the city of Colossi through Epaphras, their minister and their servant. The primary theme of this letter is the supremacy of Christ. And we certainly as a church want to make him preeminent in all things. And this is a letter that will encourage you and I just to do that in all that we do.
Well, this morning we’re coming to look at verses three through eight in chapter one, but let’s begin it verse one. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints band faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossi. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.
Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, has it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth. As you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is la faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
Just this past week, I’ve been reflecting upon the thought that what we give thanks for reveals a lot about us and not which we live for. If you think about it, we are most thankful for those things we treasure the most. I mean, if something isn’t that important to us, and we don’t treasure it, we don’t make an awful lot about it, and consequently, it doesn’t get onto the thank you list. And so, what you give thanks for reveals something of your passion. It tells others about yourself and it tells you about where your life is headed and what you’re living for.
It’s interesting to me as I studied Colossians chapter one verses three to eight, Paul’s expression of thanks to God reveals a lot about him. It reveals his total commitment to see people grow spiritually. It reveals the fact that his life revolves around seeing people come to faith in Christ to see them rooted and built up in Christ.
This man understood what was important and it made his thank you list. He understood the preciousness of the gospel. He understood the value and supremacy of Christ. He understood the worth of a single soul in the light of eternity. And therefore, these things meet his thank you list.
Folks, think about it. What we are most thankful for are those things we treasure the most. So, I think we need to spend some time just listening to Paul as he gives thanks to God for certain things. And to see if Paul’s passion is our passion, Paul’s values are our values.
Now, the letter to the Colossians opens in the general foreman style of all letters of that day. Greek letters usually started with a greeting, and then they were followed by an expression of thanks. And that’s what we have here. And that’s what you’ll find in most of Paul’s letters. He greets those to him. He writes and then he expresses thanks to God for them.
I’ll give you one other example, Romans chapter one and verses eight and nine, we see this. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness. And Paul repeats that pattern in most of his letters except Galatians and 2 Corinthians. And those were letters of controversy.
In fact, that Paul is very conspicuous about his thanksgiving in this letter to the Colossians. In fact, thanksgiving is one of the leading themes in the letter. Look at verse three, we give thanks to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying for you always.
In verse 12, we read again, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. Again, you’ll see it in chapter two in verses six and seven, As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. And he goes on to give thanks in verse 17 of chapter three and verse two of chapter four.
This is not a mere convention with Paul. This was a happy and a holy habit with the apostle. He liked to say amen and he loved to shout hallelujah in hearing good news about the good news. And that’s what’s going on here. You see, Paul lived for the glory of God, the glory of God reflected and transformed lives that have come to know Jesus Christ through the gospel preached and proclaimed. This was his passion.
And therefore, when he hears from Epaphras that the gospel is bearing fruit, verse six of chapter one in Colossi, Paul gives thanks to God. What are you and I most thankful for? We ought to be most thankful for God’s glory and God’s grace taking root in our lives and the lives of those we have prayed for witness to and love. Those are the things that will accolade into eternity.
And those are the things that we must be most thankful for, not the physical things, but the spiritual things. I hope you spent this week reflecting on spiritual things, the value of the Lord Jesus Christ, the preciousness of his blood, the eternal worth of your soul and the souls of others.
So, let’s spend a little time here looking at Paul’s thanksgiving. I want you to see, first of all, the form of his thanksgiving, the form of his thanksgiving. His thanksgiving comes in the form of a prayer. We give thanks to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, verse three of chapter one. Since God was the source of their faith and love and hope, he certainly was the object of Paul’s prayerful praise with regards to this church.
The adverb always can be used either to modify the mean verb, thanks, or the participle praying. In fact, if you’ve got the New King James, it will modify the participle praying. Paul was always praying. The NIV goes with tying it into the me and verb. And I think that’s the better idea. I think that’s more likely what Paul would have written. Paul is saying, “Look, when I pray, I always give thanks for you.” That makes more sense.
Homer Kent in his little commentary on Colossians said, “We always give thanks when engaged in praying for you.” That’s how Paul put it. And so, Paul expresses his thanksgiving to God for them in the form of a prayer. When he prayed, he always give thanks for them. You see that also in Ephesians chapter one in verse 16. This was a, as we say, a holy and happy habit of the apostle, Paul. Ephesians chapter one verse 16, where he says, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
Now there’s two things quickly here I want us to think about as we look at the form of this thanksgiving. When Paul prayed and give thanks for them, it says something to us with regards to how are we praise and how we pray.
When you and I are giving thanks to God, let’s direct our thanks to God. Paul didn’t give thanks to God for them. He give thanks to God for them. He wants the accent to be put upon what God has done in their life. Paul’s not flattering them. Paul’s not congratulating them. He’s simply reflecting on the fact that they’re God’s masterpiece, just as a piece of pottery reflects back on the potter, and just as a painting reflects back on the artist.
So, the change in the lives of the Colossians reflected back on God. We give thanks to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ for you. He wasn’t so much giving thanks for them and anything that they had done. He was giving thanks for them to God for what God had done, the faith that was apparent, the love that was a binding, the hope that was evident. This was the mark of a work of God. And therefore, Paul gives thanks to God.
And I think you and I need to reflect in that just for the moment because you and I are often tempted to mix celebrities out of ourselves or to mix celebrities out of others. It’s not that we shouldn’t be thankful for others. But most of all, we should be thankful to God for what he has done in and through others. The thanks is directed towards God.
We can thank God for those who minister to us, those whom God has used in our lives in a significant way. They are gifts from God, but we mustn’t pour our praise upon the gift. We must pour our praise upon the giver. And Paul shows that we give thanks to God for you. The spotlight is only on them for a brief moment. The glory is reflected back to God and you and I need to be cognizant of that.
We thank God for how he uses us in his work, but it’s just that. It’s God’s work. And without him, we can do nothing. And therefore, when he does something through us, we need to remind ourselves quickly that we did nothing. And all the prayer and all the honor and all the glory goes to God.
Paul reminds us of this when we are giving thanks to God in relation to prayer, let’s give thanks to God for what he has done in and through us. The story is told of an occasion when A.W Tozer was introduced to a congregation in glorying terms. Tozer came to the pulpit. He asked that God would forgive the man for saying such things. And that God would forgive him for enjoying them so much.
But we not only see Paul’s thanksgiving in relation to praise, it was directed towards God for what he had done that glory was all God’s. We also see Paul’s thanksgiving in relation to prayer. Paul was praying to God and as he prayed to God, he give thanks.
When he prayed, as we’ve said, he always give thanks for them. Paul’s prayers were always cradled in praise. His every supplication shot through with jubilation. In fact, Paul will pray for them as we’ll see next week in verse nine following. He will intercede on their behalf. He will ask God for them and he will ask God for certain things for them.
But before he intercedes for them, he gives thanks for them. When Paul prayed, he always praised. Before Paul petitioned God, he always thanked God and you and I need to be reminded of that. Too often in our prayers, petition outruns gratitude. Too often on our prayers, petition outruns gratitude. And what Paul models for us here in Colossians one verse three following is the fact that true prayer is not only in terms of petition, but you’d always be in the context of thanking God.
Let’s give you an example of that. Philippians four verse six puts it better than any other verse. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, listen, with thanksgiving. Let us make our requests be made known to God. And Paul models that. Paul shows that to us. Paul reminds us not just to go running into God’s presence with a shopping list. Never pausing to thank him for what he has already done. Never pausing just to thank him for who he is.
God is not some kind of gumball machine that you put your quarter in and walk away with your candy. Sometimes we go in the God’s presence with our shopping list with total disregard for the treasure that God is in himself and for the good things he has already given us.
You’ve probably seen those programs when the competition involves the fact that the contestants take a shopping cart and they’ve got so much time to go up and down the aisles of a supermarket and bang into the cart everything they can at a certain time and whatever they do, it’s theirs.
And sometimes we are like that. We go running into God’s presence with our shopping cart. “Lord, I need this. Lord I need that. Thank you for that.” And out we go, never pausing to look into our father’s praise, recognizing his heart, getting a glimpse of his glory. And Paul warns us not to do that. Praise before petition and prayer is a good thing. And I ask you just to take stock of the fact that when you pray, do you do it with thanksgiving? Does praise proceed petition? It ought to.
And I’ll tell you why it’s a good thing quickly. It reminds us to treasure God above everything, including the things that he gives. It protects us against our spirit of ingratitude in that we thank God for what we already have before we seek for another thing.
Paul will pray here in verses nine, 10, and 11, that God will increase their strength and their service, their knowledge, and their experience of him. But before he does that, he acknowledges the faith, the love and the hope that’s already present in their lives. Thanksgiving is a good thing because it causes us to treasure God and it causes us to be thankful for what he has already done before we go making some new request.
And on the other side, it rejuvenates our faith to ask him for more. When you and I give thanks to God, we are reminded that God is only too willing to bless his people. And God is great. And he does exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think. And when you and I reflect on what he has done, we are given hope and confidence for what he has yet to do. It rejuvenates our faith, it treasures God, and it does protect us against the spirit of ingratitude. But that’s the form of this thanksgiving.
Let’s move secondly to the function of this thanksgiving. This is an interesting point. I’ll try and move through as quickly as possible. This prayer of thanksgiving towards God for them is a means by which also Paul seeks to encourage them to convey his love towards them. That would also include Timothy because the plural is used here. We give thanks to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ and since Epaphras, according to verse seven and eight, has brought a report to Paul. It probably includes him.
So, here, this letter comes to the Colossians from Paul and Timothy and Epaphras. And it’s a means of conveying his love and appreciation for them. We give thanks to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ for you since we have heard of your faith and the love you have for all the saints and the hope that is working itself out in your life. I hope lay it up in heaven.
You know what’s striking about that, friends? Paul to me shows remarkable restraint and remarkable respect towards this church. They have faults and they have failures. He could have easily berated them. He could have easily brought up the things that was troubling him, abide them, but he commanded them.
I mean, they were far from perfect. In fact, this church was on the edge of a theological precipice. Christ and his supremacy and sufficiency was being undermined by this quasi naustic heresy that was in infecting the body of Christ here. We looked at it in our introduction. But he speaks to them with astonishing compassion and commendation. He doesn’t talk about what is absent and what is wrong. He talks to them about what is present and what is right.
Listen about one commentator says, “It is wholesome to be always able to discover fresh causes for the thanksgiving and saints. Largeness of heart will never allow failure to dim the eye to the work of grace and others.”
What was going on here with Paul was also to be seen in Epaphras. Look at verse eight, Epaphras comes to Rome and he declares, he tells, he communicates to Paul the love that these believers have for all the saints and this spirit. This is God spirit was at working them. There was an act of faith. There was an abundant love. There was an applied hope. There was evidences of God’s grace, amidst their failures, amidst their faults, amidst their waywardness.
And I think this is a tremendous lesson for all of us to learn. There’s a practical and a pastoral application here as we look at the function of this thanksgiving. Before Paul addresses the problem, before Paul talks about what is absent, he gives thanks for what is present, what is right about them.
This is how pastors ought to view their people. This is how members ought to talk about their church. And this is how we ought to love one another. We ought to talk up what’s good and what is evidently the grace of God in each of our lives. Every church has problems. Every believer is imperfect. Every pastor is not the whole package. But when you and I talk about each other, you and I are to display some grace, some love like Paul here. We ought to give thanks for what’s present regardless what’s absent. We ought to give thanks about what’s right and not just talk about what’s wrong.
Do you ever meet Christians and all they ever talk about what’s wrong with the church? What’s at fault in that brother? What’s missing in that pastor? Not Paul, not Paul about the Colossians. We give thanks to God. Every time we pray for you, we give thanks always, because I see faith, I see love, and I see hope. Paul will get to the issues in a few moments, but not before he has indeed commanded them.
We must not allow failure to dim the eye of the work of grace and others. We must see the good before the bad in a church or in a Christian. You know what? First Corinthians 13 verse seven says, “Love bears all things, love believes all things.” And that love ought to mark us.
The word bear in 1 Christians 13:7 carries the idea of a covering to protect. In fact, the Greek word is used of a roof. And the whole point there is that love hides, love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person. Love likes to minimize the faults of others.
Epaphras goes to Rome and he certainly gets running to telling Paul, “Hey, Paul, there’s an heresy effect in this church. Our people are buying into this idea that Jesus is an ammunition from God, that he’s not God, that Jesus was created. He’s not the creator. That Jesus is only one of many intermediaries between man and God. He’s not the one reconciler by means of the cross. Paul, we’ve got to do something.” He will get to that.
But if you read Paul’s opening here, the thing that impresses Paul about the Colossians was their love. It seems that Epaphras talked up their love. He minimized their faults and he accentuated that, which was evident work of God’s grace in their lives.
The word “believe” in 1 Corinthians 13:7 carries the idea of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, believing the best about everybody, not being overly suspicious or scrupulous, grace and love, look past what a person is or has become and anticipates what a person can become anew by God’s grace. It’s slow to forget the good and the presence of the bad.
Listen to these words from Donald McCullough in his book on Grace, he says, “Grace alone grants the courage to face wrong. Doing grace alone grants the ability to keep things in perspective, to see failure as only one thread in the larger tapestry of life. Grace alone grants the strength to rise up with confidence and face a new future.”
And he goes on to tell the story a friend shared with him who was doing some research in South Africa. And she came across a tribe that had an unusual way of administrating justice. The Bemba Tribe did this. When a person had acted irresponsibly and done something wrong, they were set in the center of the village alone an unfettered.
And then shortly after that, all work ceased and all the women and men and children of the tribe gathered around that person in a larger circle. Then each person one by one would speak of all the good things that that person had done in his lifetime. Yes, the good things. They would spend time rehearsing all those good things. They weren’t allowed to exaggerate. They weren’t allowed to fabricate, but they recited them carefully and at length.
And this ceremony would go on for not just hours, for days. And then at a certain point, when everybody had been dreamed of all the good things that they could say about that person, the circle broke, and the person was received back in the village life.
I don’t know much about the Bemba Tribe, but it seems to me that that action’s not far from what Jesus calls the kingdom of God, where love bears all things and believes all things, where love is slow to forget the good and the presence of the bad, where love talks up what is present, not what is absent.
Let me say this by way of further application. We’ll move on to the last thought. When you and I see a brother or a sister falling behind, it’s easy to forget how far they have already traveled. It’s easy to forget how hard they fought not to fall. And it’s easy to overlook what the grace of God can yet nick them once again. Grace is a marvelous thing. And Paul here gives thanks to God for an evidence of his grace in their lives. And that grace give him a perspective on this church.
Brings us finally to the features of his thanksgiving. At the heart of these verses, as Paul’s gratitude and excitement to God in hearing of the spread of the gospel to Colossi and the spiritual fruit that had been yielded in the lives of the believers.
He’s thankful for three things as I see it. First of all, he’s thankful for the harvest of the gospel. This is one of the features of his thanksgiving. He’s thankful for the harvest of the gospel. He acknowledges their faith, their love, their hope, which all springs from the fact that they once heard, verse five, the word of the truth of the gospel. Epaphras had brought it to them according to verse seven. And in verse six, we’re told that it was bearing fruit in them as it was also bearing fruit in all the world.
And Paul is so thankful for that. He’s thankful for what’s going on there. And as he thinks about this report that Epaphras has brought, he’s thankful for what is going on elsewhere. The gospel is spreading. This church is part of a bigger and broader harvest that was sweeping the world.
Now, let me tell you this. There’s an evident piece of hyperbole here. I mean, the gospel hadn’t reached the whole world, and that is the known world. Paul is saying that wherever the gospel has gone, it’s making an impact across the world. You see his passion and his excitement here in the hyperbole. Wherever the gospel was increasingly to be fined, it was burying a great harvest.
And what they needed to recognize in this was that the good news was for the whole world. This was a gospel that transcended all ethnic, geographic, cultural and political boundaries. Look at Colossians three verse 11, concerning those who’d come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
The gospel was universal in its appeal and application. It required no special cultural receptivity. It was for the masses, not for some elite group. The gospel linked all people to one person, Jesus Christ, supreme in all and above all.
In fact, I think this notation by Paul here is a way of reminding them of the supremacy of Christ. The universality of the gospel reminds us of the supremacy of Christ. The Lord of all creation is the savior of all men. This is a gospel for the world. Every culture, every continent, every country ought to be touched with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is not a western phenomenon. This is a gospel for north, south, east and west. And Paul is receiving news even during his imprisonment that the gospel is impacting Colossi. It’s impacting of Ephesus. It’s impacting Philippi. The gospel is marching off the map.
And I think there’s a dig here. Remember they are being troubled by this elite group who have special knowledge for special people. And Paul is saying, “Hey, are you actually going to trade the gospel in for some local knockoff? You heard the gospel Epaphras brought it first to you. It’s the word of truth. It’s the grace of God and truth. It’s a gospel centered upon a person who unites all people. Around the cross, the Lord of all creation is the savior of all man.”
And so, he’s taking a dig at this heresy that’s elitist and local. And does not have a message for all men. There is a universal problem, it’s sin. And there’s a universal solution, it’s Christ. And you and I are commissioned to take this message of this wonderful savior to all men. And Paul’s rejoicing in that fact.
By the way, I want you to note that the harvest was the result of the lifegiving seed of the gospel of God’s grace. You see this participle of this verb in verse six, that the gospel was bringing forth fruit in all the world as it also was among them since the day they heard it. This is in the middle voice. And not to get too technical, all you need to understand about the middle voice in the Greek is that this participle in the middle voice is telling us that it was bearing fruit in and off itself. It had reproductive energy in and off itself.
What’s Paul saying? He’s saying this, that the gospel has power to save, sow the seed and the harvest will come, plant it, water it, and God will give the increase. There’s an inherent power and fruit bearing capacity in the seed of the gospel.
What did Paul say to the Romans? Romans one verse 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power. This message was going throughout the world. And as the gospel was sown and watered, it was reaping a great harvest. This was church growth centered upon the word of the truth of the gospel verse five, preached and proclaimed across the world.
And folks, I just want to make a quick but unnecessary application. It’s a good reminder in our day when church growth strategies, marginalized preaching as a winning strategy to remind ourselves that God’s method is preaching God’s message to all men. The gospel has power.
In fact, if we’re to believe the strategists of church growth, there is an embargo on preaching. Preaching is a method we’re told it’s too archaic. Preaching is a medium that’s too confrontational. But we forget certain things. The culture does not determine the church’s method. God does. And his word determines the method. And it is the word, preaching is God’s way. And the word of God has power to create its own audience. The spirit of God who wrote the word will use it. He has, he will and he does.
And we have got to stop trying to be salesman and get back to being postman. If you look at a lot of churches and pastors, they’re busy trying to market the gospel, package it in a way that will make it palatable. They’re trying to be salesmen. Friends, we are not salesmen, we’re farmers, we’re postmen, there’s a seed, there’s a message. Sow the seed, post the message and that will in and off itself bring a harvest. It will reach the heart.
We don’t need to be ashamed of the gospel. We’ve got to preach it in all its fullness. The word of God can create its own audience. Listen to this quote, we’ll move on. The word itself creates its own hearing as it once created its own world. Do you get that? The implication of that statement when there was nothing. According to the book of Psalms, God spoke a word and the world was created. Into the emptiness God spoke and there came fullness. Into the darkness, God spoke and there came light.
My task and your task is to be faithful to the word of God. The preaching of God’s word, not music, not mine, but the preaching of the word of God verbally is the means by which, and only the means by which the harvest will come. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God, but how can they hear without what? A preacher. We need to preach and proclaim God’s word. It’s the means to the harvest.
But Paul’s not only thankful for the harvest of the gospel. He’s thankful for the hope of the gospel. The hope of the gospel had reached Colossi without a question. In fact, when you read about faith, love and hope in many of the New Testament letters, that triad of virtues is shorthand for genuine Christianity. Where faith love and hope is to be find, authentic Christianity is to be find.
And as Paul hears from Epaphras that there’s faith and there’s love and there’s hope at Colossi, he rejoices. The gospel has taken root. It is bearing fruit in the lives of those that have come receive it. And so, he gives thanks for the harvest and the hope of the gospel.
Let’s take five minutes and just look quickly at what you will find in a man who is found in Christ. What will you find in a man who’s found in Christ? Well, according to Paul, you’ll find faith. We give thanks to God since we heard verse four of your faith in Christ Jesus. You will find faith in Christ, in a man who’s fined in Christ.
There has to come a time when a man or woman or child rests their complete confidence regarding their future and their forgiveness upon Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. If they’re ever to become a Christian, if you and I are ever to conclude that they’re a Christian, if you and I are ever to give, thanks for them, we’ve got to see faith in Christ. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings peace with God according to Romans five verse one.
And this faith was not inward, it was outward. It was not indistinct, it was definite. It had an object, a person, a defined person who had truth written about him. It seems to me in our culture, the whole idea of faith has become just another way of talking about wishful thinking. People will say, “It’s my faith that got me through the illness.”
What do they mean by that? The average American means by that the faith they had in themselves, the faith they had on some impersonal day to day. They do not know pray to or obey on a daily basis. They were looking to themselves in any kind of inward resources that they might have. That’s an inward faith. It’s an indistinct faith. It’s not biblical faith.
It’s almost troubled me that the polls tell us on the one hand that a majority of Americans believe in God. They have faith in God. And yet the polls tell us of those same Americans that they don’t believe there’s absolute truth. They don’t believe that people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ go to hell.
Now, the Bible’s definition of faith is confidence in a person, who has declared himself to be absolute reality and complete truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life. No one comes to the father but by me.” You want to find a man who’s in Christ, you’ll find a man who’s got faith in Christ.
Do you have faith in Christ this morning? Has there come a point in your life where you heard the gospel faithfully proclaimed, and then you set aside any hope of heaven with regards to your righteousness, your giving, your living and put it completely in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for your sin. There wasn’t only faith, there was love.
One of the visible fruits of saving faith is love for fellow believers. Paul says, “We’ve heard of your faith and of your love. You’re going to get that.” Do you want to know of a man’s in Christ? Well, he’ll tell you there was a time in his life when he came and put his complete confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. And his life by God’s grace was united to Christ by the miracle of a new birth and his life was transformed. And you’ll find him loving people, who before his conversion, he wouldn’t have been seen dead with.
That’s what’s going on at Colossi. They have faith in God. And what do you hear Paul, Epaphras is speaking. They love all the saints. They’re loving each other. It’s a radical love, Paul. They’re loving everybody who professes to Lord Jesus Christ. While we are saved by faith alone, saving faith is never alone. Just as a branch is in union with a vine bears fruit. So, those who have come into vital relationship with Jesus Christ, take on his likeness. If you are not a loving person, you are not a Christian. You don’t have faith in Jesus Christ because when a man has faith in Christ, he will love all the saints.
And that was evident at Colossi. There was a special and supernatural love. Idolators had become lovers of the triune God and Jesus Christ and racist and elitists had become indiscriminate lovers. That’s a challenge, isn’t it? C.W. Smith at Master’s College once said to me, he’s the professor of New Testament, “Too many churches are nothing more than a group of disgruntled, disconnected people brought together by custom and held together by a common car lot.”
What brings us together here? Folks, I trust I’m sure as I see it in many of your lives, it is faith in Christ and it’s love for all the saints, amen. This is the evidence of the gospel. And the last evidence is hope. You want to know what you’ll find in a man who’s finding Christ hope?
In fact, this is by the way, the most dominating evidence. Look at verse five, since we heard of your faith in Christ and of your love for all of saints, because of the hope, which is led up for you in heaven. The NIV, I think puts it because of the love and faith that springs from your hope. They had come to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They had come to understand that Christ was coming back for them.
They had laid hold of the hope of the resurrection. They believed that in obedience and service to God in this life, there were rewards in the next. They believed that at any moment, Jesus Christ could come back for his church. All these things they laid hold of and these things laid hold of them. The coming and the certainties of the next life informed and transformed their present attitudes and actions. Their lives were marked by hope, a hope that was laid up or treasured or hidden somewhere else to be enjoyed someday.
Folks, as we close, your life in my life need to be marked by that hope. I mean, isn’t this what Paul gets out in 1 Corinthians 15 verse 12 when he says, “Look, if Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, we are of all man, most miserable.”
What does he mean by that? What he means by that, if there’s no judgment after death and if there’s no resurrection at the point after death, and if there’s no eternity beyond time, then it doesn’t matter how you live and it doesn’t matter who you love. You can be hateful. You can be selfish. You can be spiteful because there is no accountability. You eat, you drink. Tomorrow, you die. That’s what happens if there’s no hope, if there’s no gospel, if there’s no resurrection, if there’s no judgment, if there’s no eternity.
But these folks believe there was a judgment. They believed there was a resurrection. They believed there were rewards beyond this life. They believed there was an eternity that engulfed this globe and this capsule of time. And it affected how they lived and it affected how they loved.
And that must mark you in me that we evidence that kind of hope, are we driven by that kind of theology because that’s what you ought to find in a man who’s found in Christ. Some Christians get more excited about a trip to the Magic Kingdom in Florida than the thought of going to heaven for all eternity, but not those at Colossi. And you and I need to be marked by the thought of Jesus return.
Let me quote to you the words of Lord Shaftesbury, a great social reformer in England in the 19th century. He brought new labor laws. He cut down the working hours of women and children. He stopped women and children working in the coal mines. He brought laws in to protect those who were insane and mentally handicapped. This was a social warrior.
What drove him? What motivated him hope in the gospel? Here’s what he says about all those years of reforming, “I do not think that in the last 40 years, I have lived one conscious hour that has not been influenced by the thought of the Lord’s return.”
You want to find a man who’s in Christ? You’ll find in that man, confidence in Christ, a life lived by faith in Christ. You’ll find in that woman love for all the saints. You’ll find in that young man, that child, a hope that lies beyond this life and a hope that affects every waking hour and every living day that one lives.