Is this how we should think of the gospel? If we do, we will be making a grave, grave mistake. Fruit comes from the gospel. Fruit, not just in terms of salvation, but fruit in all aspects of the Christian life and maturity. We see this in Paul’s letters. For example, Galatians talks about the fruit of the Spirit. The entire book of Galatians is about the true gospel versus the false gospel of Jewish legalism and tradition. Then, Galatians ends with a comparison between a false gospel and the true gospel. The false gospel results in the works of the flesh while the true gospel produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. What is the Spirit’s role? The Spirit’s role is to point us back to the gospel so that you and I can fall more in love with Jesus and give thanks to Jesus always because of His death on our behalf. And as the Spirit guides us to return to this gospel over and over, we will bear spiritual fruit.
In Ephesians, again, Paul spends 3 chapters talking about the gospel. Then, in the second half of the letter, chapters 4-6, he talks about the implications of how we are to walk practically in a manner worthy of the gospel. Specifically, Eph 4 talks about fruitfulness or maturity in the Christian life in terms of being built up into a mature fellowship where we display corporately Christ’s fullness. And how are we to get there? We are to continuously speak the truth in love to achieve corporate, Christian maturity. And what is the truth? The truth is in Jesus, the truth is Jesus, the truth is the gospel, the person and work of Jesus. And as we preach the gospel over and over again to one another in the body of Christ, we are built up, we mature, we bear fruit. We speak the truth of Christ in love, we speak the gospel in love to one another and as we do this, we will become increasingly like Jesus.
It’s like in our home, I’m from Philly and I am a die hard Philly sports fan. I talk about the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Philadelphia 76ers and Jeremy Lin, and guess what, my kids talk about the Eagles, Sixers and Jeremy Lin. I talk about my love for these teams and players enough times and now the fruit of love for these same teams and players has been born in my kids.
Same with Jesus. How do we become more like Jesus? We talk about Jesus, we talk about our love for Jesus, how we trust Jesus, we express to others our gratitude for what Jesus did for us, we preach the gospel to one another, we testify to our freedom in Christ, how He carries my burdens at present, and the future hope that we will be with Him eternally. And as a listener, you hear this and you are built up in your faith. You say, yeah, that’s right. Your affection for Christ is stirred. And as you fix your eyes on Jesus, the things of this world grow strangely dim. Now the love for Jesus has spread to another. And when you have an entire church doing this, we will be built up together into a mature body of Christ reflecting the fullness of Christ to the world.
Throughout the New Testament, the gospel is preached at places like Corinth, at Ephesus, at Galatia, at Colossae, then as a result of the gospel being preached, fruit is born in each of these cities where there is a gospel-centered church and it’s Paul’s testimony from Col 1:6 and it is still true to this day that the gospel is bearing fruit all over the world.
When we say that Hill Community Church strives to be a gospel-centered church, we don’t mean that we simply want to see people saved. When we say that we want to be gospel-centered as a church, we are saying that we want the Person and work of Jesus, the gospel, to remain at the center of who we are and what we are about. Because the gospel not only saves us but the gospel is the source of our growth and maturity.
It is not surprising, then, that Satan’s chief strategy to slow down and stop the gospel from bearing fruit is to introduce false teachers who will distort the pure gospel. As with most of Paul’s letters, here in Colossae, Paul starts with the gospel. Chapters 1 and 2 are principles about the message of truth, the gospel, what we are to believe and Paul warns against false teachers who are trying to distort the gospel. Chapters 3 and 4 are practice, how we are to live in light of correct principles outlined in chapters 1 and 2.
Colossians 2, which we will cover in a couple of weeks, is a warning against false teachers because if a false gospel infiltrates the church like it did among the Colossians and it continues to fester, fruit will stop and true salvations will cease and born again believers will be led astray because the members of the church will no longer be responding to Jesus, but they will be responding to a false teacher or a false religious system or a false ideology, and ultimately to Satan himself.
If you think about it, we are talking about churches that Paul himself planted in the first century. At a time when the apostles were still alive and they actually lived with Jesus. Jesus was their roommate, they ate together, they shared life together in the flesh. They were eyewitnesses to his death and resurrection. This was a time when the Holy Spirit rained down on them in fire to birth the church in the Upper Room as recorded in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit was very active to help preserve the faith of the early church when the Roman Empire was persecuting and killing followers of Christ.
God was active and Satan was equally active. Just as disciples of Christ were being sent out by God empowered by the Holy Spirit, false teachers were being sent out by Satan. This is all in chapter 2. It’s sobering to think, if Paul had to deal with this recurring problem of false teachers spreading a false gospel among God’s churches, do we think Satan is no longer hard at work in our day and age? If Paul had to deal with this problem of gospel distortion, how much more we ought to be on guard so that the gospel we have currently will not be corrupted and diluted and twisted by the forces of evil around us.
Who’s the audience of this letter? v2 – he’s writing to all the saints in Christ at Colossae. Meaning, all of the believers assembled at that local church. And to this local gathering of saints, v3 – Paul always gives thanks because of two things. One, v4, he heard of their faith. And two, he heard of their love for all the saints.
Whose faith? When it says, Paul is thankful for YOUR faith, whose faith is he thankful for? And when Paul is thankful for your love, whose love is he speaking about? In both cases, the word “you” is plural. In the English language, you singular and you plural is often just written as “you.” To be more accurate, it should be “you all” or if you’re from the south, “y’all.” Y’lls faith. YOUR faith, you plural. The faith of all the Colossian saints. And the love YOU plural have for all the saints. The love that all the Colossian saints had for one another. Paul is not singling out a leader or a particular believer in Colossae. It is not an individual’s faith nor an individual’s love, rather, he is speaking about Colossae as a whole.
I think this switch from a “you singular” mentality to a “you plural” mentality provides a helpful corrective for our modern, Western, rugged individualism. We think in terms of me, myself and I. What will I get from church? How will God or church meet my needs? I like this church because I get what I want. Or this church isn’t for me so let me hop around. What is God will for ME, for MY life? Instead, if you are a believer and you are a committed member of this church, making you a saint at the Hill, the question should be, what is God’s will for us?
Now I want to address the Christians for a moment, in particular the saints here at the Hill, those who have faith in Christ and have committed themselves to this church. I want to ask a basic question. Do you have love for the saints? Do you have love for your fellow brothers or sisters? Paul is underscoring the point that you can’t have true faith in Christ without that faith becoming manifest in your love for the other saints. Church is not a seminary. This is not abstract theology. If you want to learn abstract principles, you can attend Fuller down the street. Do you have love for the saints? We are talking about the brother or sister, the saint who sits next to you, do you love him, do you love her? If you claim to love God but fail to love your brother or sister in Christ, the Bible says, you’re a liar. Your love for God is not real unless it is expressed in a love for the saints.