Sermon on Colossians 1:3-8
Text: We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world — just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
The parents’ eyes roll. They look and have to laugh at another growth spurt out of their child. The shirts become tighter, and the pants become shorter. It a good thing it’s summer, so shorts will work for now. However, the parent knows that, when the school year rolls around, it will mean a trip to the store for a new wardrobe. Growing is a part of life. We speak about growing in height, growing intellectually, growing financially, and even sometimes growing in a way that we don’t want to: around the waist. Are we concerned about growth? This morning, we’re not going to talk about growing physically or intellectually. Rather, we are going to talk about growing spiritually. This growth will never stop this side of heaven. OUR LIFE OF FAITH GROWS 1. Built Upon Christ, 2. Bearing Fruit Through Us, and 3. Based On A Promise.
Paul begins this section of his letter with a word of thanks. However, Paul is not thanking the Colossians for something that they had done for him. Instead, we read, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” (Verse 3) When Paul thought about the Colossians, the first thing that he did was thank God for them. What a wonderful example for us to follow. When we think of our fellow believers, our brothers and sisters is Christ, it is so easy for our sinful nature to pick out all their faults or the ways that they might have hurt us. Rather, let us follow Paul’s example, and thank God for them. They have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God, just as we have been. They are our family.
Paul thanked God for the special gift that had been given to the Colossians. He writes in verse 4. “Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.” This is what gave Paul such a thankful heart. The gospel message that had been proclaimed to them had taken root. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, faith had been created in their hearts. It wasn’t faith in something out there. It was faith in Christ Jesus. It was a trust that Jesus Christ had come into the world to save all sinners. More than that, Paul noted “the love you have for all of God’s people.” (Verse 4) The Colossians put their faith into action.
By God’s grace, this faith has been worked in our hearts, as well. This faith, first of all, is a realization that we have failed to live as God demands that we live. We made mention of one of these times earlier. We have uncharitable thoughts in our hearts about people, to put it mildly. God says that we are to love all people. For this sin, as well as the multitude of others that we commit every day, we deserve to be eternally separated from God’s love. However, God showed his grace and mercy to us in sending his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus lived a perfect life for us. He showed love to all people, even to those who were unkind to him. Then, he offered that perfect life on the cross to pay for all our sins. He suffered the punishment that we deserved. When he rose again on Easter, Jesus showed us that all was forgiven. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, we have this saving faith planted in our hearts. We pray that, what was said of the Colossians would be evident in our lives, as well: “the love you have for all of God’s people.”
Paul knew where this faith had come from. He writes: “The faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.” (Verses 5&6) Their faith, their certainty, did not come from the efforts of Epaphras or others sent out at the direction of the apostles. Their certainty came from the gospel. It was the message of Christ and him crucified that brought faith to the hearts of the Colossians.
It is that same, simple message that creates and sustains faith today. Do we forget that, sometimes? We look for some magical formula or a new program to change a person’s heart. There needs to be some kind of experience to bring a sinner to a saint.
The fact is that it is only the gospel message that can change a person’s heart. The Word of God is enough. We proclaim Jesus and his work. That is how we were changed. Someone taught us about our Savior. It might have been our parents or grandparents. It might have been a pastor or a teacher or a friend. In the end, it really didn’t make a difference whom it was that taught us. It was the sweet message of the gospel that creates the faith in the heart and brings about the change in the life. We need to remember this. The gospel alone changes hearts because it is based on Christ. Our faith, which grows daily, bases itself on Christ and no other. As we remember this, we also see how God uses that faith to bear fruit in our lives.
Paul encouraged the Colossians to continue in their life of faith. Paul had heard of that wonderful faith in action. He noted “the love you have for all of God’s people.” (Verse 4) Paul encouraged them to continue to bear fruit in verse 6, “In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world — just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.” Paul didn’t want the Colossians to just be impressed with their own faith. He wanted them to lift their eyes to the four corners of the earth. The gospel worked! Paul himself had seen so many people brought to faith, so many people’s lives that had been changed through the gospel message. The Colossians could rejoice at the gospel bearing fruit in their lives and in the lives of others.
The Colossians could also remember the one from whom they heard the gospel, “You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” (Verses 7&8) Epaphras had taught them about Jesus Christ. He was deeply concerned about their spiritual welfare. When he noted a false teaching starting to rear its head, Epaphras went to Paul to share that concern and how to help the Colossian congregation. He wanted the faith that had been planted in their hearts to keep growing.
It is important for us to constantly be reminded that our life of faith cannot stand still. We can never reach a position of comfort in our faith to think that we have learned enough. The devil wants us to have those thoughts. As we do, the devil waits. Soon, that person takes their life of faith for granted. Their faith weakens. They fall away from the church and Jesus.
We want our faith to grow. This can only happen when we are in contact with the gospel message. We need more than just our one hour a week in church. We are at a time in the year, when we don’t have our Bible classes, Sunday School, or Confirmation Class. What can you do to be in his Word? There are personal and family devotions. There is simply sitting down every day, opening your Bible, and reading. With technology, there are many opportunities to hear a section of God’s Word or listen to a devotion. As we read, hear, and study God’s Word our faith will grow. As our faith grows, so will the evidence of it, namely, our fruits of faith.
Paul would also have us lift our eyes and see that the gospel message continues to change people’s lives in all the corners of the world. We thank him for his wondrous love that he is showing to those people. We can look for ways to support this gospel ministry through our offerings so that gospel proclaimers may be sent where we ourselves cannot go. We, also, remember them in our prayers. We pray that the gospel message continues to be proclaimed. May God also open our eyes to see the opportunities he places in front of us to share the gospel message to others. We continue to do this work because we know what is already ours.
Paul speaks of “the hope stored up for you in heaven.” (Verse 5) This is the reason that the Colossians has their faith and fruits of faith in action. They knew what was theirs. The gospel message hadn’t come to them with empty promises. It wasn’t “Do this and maybe then.” The gospel spoke words of certainty that heaven was theirs. With hearts that were filled with thanksgiving, they would go out and bear fruit.
So many times, people need a reason to do something. They ask, “What’s in it for me?” Money speaks volumes. People will do many things for a few bucks. A threat of punishment will keep people for doing something.
This asks the wrong question in our life of faith. It turns everything around. We don’t ask, “What’s in it for me?” but “What’s been done for me?” Christ has done everything for me. He set me free from sin, death, and the devil. Heaven has been given to me as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I desire that my faith is increased all the time. As we do this, we know what is waiting for us: Heaven. God promises that to his believers. We want to grow in our faith until we reach our heavenly home.
Grow! That is a word we need to hear a lot in our life. We need to grow in our life of faith. We can never be satisfied with where we are. Grow! We grow based on Christ. We grow bearing fruit. We grow built on the promise of heaven. Our life of faith grows. Amen.
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