by Roger McCay
2 August 2020
Sermon Passage: Colossians 1:1-8
Link to Audio Version
We find that in life things go round and round in Cycles. In the family, for example, at least from a pastor’s point of view, we see children born; we baptize them; they join the church, becoming communing members; we officiate their weddings. Then they have children, who are then baptized, join the church, and are married. Then there is a solemn funeral or two for the older generation, as their descendants continue to be born, baptized, join the church, and so forth. It’s a glorious thing! Then, of course, the cycle of the seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, then Spring again. Cycles occur all through society and nature, and they even occur in the spiritual realm. For we see the gospel of Jesus Christ also has a cyclic form.
In Col. 1:1-8, the Apostle Paul refers to this cycle of the gospel as consisting of hope, faith, love, and bearing fruit, leading to hope, faith, love, and bearing fruit, and so on. There is a certain simplicity to this cycle of the gospel—a purity of form.
Yet, in our response to the gospel, do we maintain this simplicity? Unfortunately, we so often spoil the cycle, making it needlessly, vainly, complicated. It’s a common error to look towards to our own self-sufficiency: our works, rituals we participate in, and even some form of special knowledge we may acquire. We look towards such things to attempt to make ourselves “really” saved, or at least to feel that way. Yet, this misplaced confidence spoils the simplicity and purity of the gospel. For trusting in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ for salvation is outside of the cycle of the gospel, and is something else entirely, something not Christian.
So, how do we avoid this error? Well, let’s look at what Paul has to say about it.
In v. 7 of Colossians 1, Paul mentions a gentleman named Epaphras. Epaphras is described as a fellow servant with Paul, and a faithful minister of Christ. We see by his actions that he was an evangelist. He was the man who brought the gospel message to Colossae, which led to the establishment of the church in that town. Due to Epaphras’ preaching, many of the Colossians heard and understood the message of the gospel, which lead to their hope in Jesus Christ.
And so, the cycle starts, a beginning that is really just a continuation: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” From hearing comes understanding. Jesus is our only hope.
The sin of the repentant believer in Jesus Christ no longer separates the believer from God. Jesus took the punishment for the sins of all who believe upon himself, on the cross. God’s wrath, which everyone deserves due to our sin, was satisfied with Jesus’ sacrifice. So, now, whoever believes in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, is forgiven all of his or her sins—made holy—adopted as a child of God.
With such understanding, hope sprouts forth. Could this wonderful blessing be for me? And so it blooms into full faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, it is for me! I believe!
In this faith and hope, we follow the call of our Lord Jesus in denial of self, fully trusting and confident in his lead … to wherever he leads. We know that, at the end, even in death (because we are his people, saved by grace), we will find glory and resurrection when Christ comes bringing his Kingdom, receiving life eternal to be lived out in glorious paradise.
Verses 4-6 express this cycle. Take a look:
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,
Can we ever be secure in our salvation if we base our hope on whether or not we have done enough good deeds, or if we base our hope in teachings outside of the gospel of truth revealed in the Bible? No, of course not! Gal. 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
We need the right hope. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, hoping in him, it is not a wish—like what we might whisper for when we drop a coin into a fountain. Rather, true hope in Jesus Christ consists of a confident knowledge and certainty that the gospel you’ve heard and believed is true and can be relied upon.
This hope, in other words, the reality in which you’ve put your hope is, as vs. 5 says, stored up in heaven. Our salvation is in the safest place that can be/that can exist. It is not something that relies on you for security. Rather, our hope is in and with God, kept by God, and secure in God. It is he that established the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He puts his stamp and seal upon it. Nothing can ever change it or invalidate it.
So, our faith is put in a secure hope – faith in Jesus Christ. Eph. 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” It is through our faith in Christ that we are saved. Salvation does not come through religious rituals and trappings. Salvation is not achieved by living a life full of good works. And there is nothing that we can do can make us somehow “more saved.” Salvation is God’s gift to us, which we receive through faith. It is complete in Christ.
And so, the wheel turns as the cycle continues with love. Out of sheer gratitude manifested by experiencing the grace and love of God, we fall in love with Christ. As this love is a supernatural love, with Christ at its center, there is a supernatural result. We, in turn, love our brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 John 4:7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Such love identifies us as being true Christians. Jesus himself tells us this. John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Hence, Paul, here in Colossians 1:4 and v. 8, speaks of the Colossians’ “love for all the saints” and “love in the Spirit,” as an important characteristic they possess and exhibit before the world, which was described to him by Epaphras. This love was a confirmation of the reality of their experience of God’s grace—of their faith. Such love, born of God, is a gift of the Spirit. He manifests it in his people.
So, as a result of this love, we bear fruit. Colossians 1:6: “As indeed in the whole world it [the gospel] is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” Does this phrase “bearing fruit” ring any bells? Sure! Gal. 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Living the Christian life full of the fruit of the Spirit is a witness for Christ. It is a verification of the message of the gospel of truth, which we are commanded by Christ to share with others. The fruit of the Spirit in our lives, following Christ in righteousness, serves as a confirmation as to the veracity of the message of the gospel we proclaim!
And, so, as the gospel bears fruit in our lives, the cycle goes through another turn. As we proclaim it, people hear; understand; find hope, faith, and love; leading to more fruit, and so on (“bearing fruit and growing”); with more and more people continuously coming to salvation!
So, are you caught up in the cycle of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Perhaps you can remember the Epaphras, the evangelist, in your life. Or, perhaps you don’t remember. Maybe it was just too long ago. Or, you heard the gospel message from the time you were a child, and so don’t remember a time when you didn’t trust Jesus as your Savior. No matter, remembering that person or not does not make your salvation any less real. It is in Jesus Christ you have put your faith, if you are a true Christian, and not the evangelist. Although, some of you may remember that person distinctly, and I’m sure that is a blessing.
I encourage you to reflect on the cycle of the gospel in your life. Do you recognize it? For example, has your faith in Christ blossomed into the fruit of the Spirit, even as a work in progress – a work by the Spirit? Do you see expressed in your life “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?” Be honest. Perhaps, it is clear to you and others that this fruit has manifested in your life, and is a testimony to your faith in Jesus Christ. What a wonderful blessing, and praise God for that! However, the fruit of the gospel in your life may not be so evident, even plainly absent.
If you honestly don’t see the fruit of the Spirit in your life, perhaps you have put your hope and faith in something other than Jesus. If your faith is in your works, then that is surely the case. So then, perhaps you never truly entered the cycle of the gospel. It could be that you have been misled by false teachings—teachings that say, “You have to work hard doing good deeds to really be saved;” or, “You have to do this or that religious ritual to be saved;” or, You have to know something more than the simple message of salvation that is revealed to us in the Bible.” Or, maybe you just misunderstood. And so, you rely on something other than Jesus Christ for salvation, rather than fully trusting in Christ and resting on his finished work. For hope in the wrong thing really is no hope at all.
Trust in Jesus Christ. Follow Jesus Christ. He is our only hope.
The cycle of the gospel: a wheel that turns with the proclamation of the gospel, the understanding of the message, the hope that sprouts forth, the faith that blooms sure with repentance and our following after the Lord Jesus in obedience of faith, the love that characterizes our lives, with all of the fruit given to us by the Spirit; which leads to the proclamation of the gospel, and so on. The cycle so simple. Yet, in the cycle of the gospel, there is salvation and life eternal in Jesus Christ. Where are you in the cycle?
Since our only true hope is Jesus Christ, we must ensure our trust is in him.