2018-6-03 Thanks to God for Gospel Increase

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          June 3, 2018

“Thanks to God for Gospel Increase”
Colossians 1:3-8

We continue this week in our sermon series through Colossians.  Last week we examine what at first glance appeared to be the preliminaries—but we found quickly that we had no mere preliminaries before us.  On the contrary, those first words formed God’s benediction to us—and how His blessing indeed blessed our souls.  Rest assured that more blessing remains as we continue through this letter, yet we still have not reached the heart of the matter.  We, however, do find once again highly profitable material before our eyes.  Let us hear God speak to us, through Paul’s Spirit-led pen, in this brief passage of thanksgiving.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

We noted earlier that today’s is Paul thanks to God for the Colossian Christians.  Let’s look more closely now at that which moves Paul to thank God for them.  First, we see faith.  Faith, as noted in prior sermons here over the years, involves two facets.  We both concur, by the use of our minds, with Gospel facts, and we trust, with our wills, in Jesus’ Person, work, and promises.  Next, we see love.  In Christ, we have and show love for all people due to our common bearing of the imago Dei—the image of God.  Yet also in Christ we have and show love especially unto the household of faith, our fellow Christian, because of our joint love for Jesus.  This we do both in priority and in degree.  We love our fellow believer first and more ardently, even as we have great heart for others outside the fold of faith and entertain great hope for their conversion to Christ.[1]

Note that Paul, led by the Spirit, grounds faith and love, for which he thanks God, in hope.  The substance of our hope, the thing for which we long in our better moments in Christ, is our eternal inheritance in and with Him.  We have the earnest, or guarantee (so the English Standard Version) of our inheritance now, the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14), but we await confidently the fullness of all that shall be ours in Christ.  If we, like those of the spiritual hall of fame listed in Hebrews 11, long for a better country, then that longing fuels our faith in our triune God and our love for others.

Now we turn to examine the message that engenders faith, hope, and love—to wit, the Gospel.  Our English word gospel comes from the Anglo-Saxon godspell, which means good news.  The Good News simply, is the Person and work of Jesus—both Who He is and what He did on our behalf.  The Gospel declares Him our Atoner—the One Who bears the stain, the guilt, and the penalty for sin in our steads.  The Gospel also declares Jesus our Reconciler—the One Who demolishes the division and estrangement between God and us than sin occasioned.

This Gospel, Paul rightly declares here, bears fruit and increases—both everywhere and in Colosse.  This is the unvarying testimony of the Spirit through Luke in Acts; the Word of God continue to spread and to claim adherents.  This growth and fruit-bearing brings to minds Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32).  The mustard seed is small, with little apparent promise for future size or production.  Yet comparatively great size and production occurs.  Similarly, the band of Christ-followers was quite small at the first, but that band grew and grew and grew—unto over two billion souls on Earth today.

This Gospel, increasing and bearing fruit everywhere, came to Colosse through the preaching of Epaphras.  Epaphras likely received instruction from Paul (if not in fact himself converted) during Paul’s Ephesian ministry, declared the Gospel to the Colossians.  This same Epaphras—not to be confused with the Ephaphroditus mentioned in Philippians as the bearer of the Philippian church’s gift to Paul—reports to positive fruit of Gospel in Colosse to Paul.  We’ll note more concerning Epaphras later in this sermon series.

The Gospel, as we see, increases and bears fruit everywhere.  May it do so here today in our little blue church on the hill—and wherever these words may gain a reading or a hearing.  Indeed, may the Gospel increase in our little flock—and may He increase our little flock soon as a result.  May the fruits of the Gospel here listed today—faith, hope, and love—increase in us directly from His hand as occasion demands or as He decrees by His mercy.  May these fruits increase indirectly as well via His sanctifying work in our souls.

Remember that the Lord often increases faith by placing us in situations where we must trust Him for the best outcome—for we then have no tools to attempt to effect that best outcome ourselves.  Remember also that the Lord often increases our capacity to love by helping us to love when either we don’t feel like loving or the people we are called to love seem less than lovable in our eyes.  Remember furthermore that the Lord often increases hope by making eternity sweeter to our souls as we endure providential difficulties here.  Remember that it is only in sanctification—among all the steps of the ordo salutis, or order of salvation—that we participate.  Sometimes, as God sets us apart for His glory and purposes, we must exert ourselves—and, just like in the gym, in those exertions God grows His graces within us.

As a result, then, of the Gospel’s increase in us each and in us all, may others, out of the overflow of our lives in Christ Jesus, taste and see that He is good (cf. Psalm 34:8)—and may they too be eternally glad as a result.

AMEN.

[1] For the insights here related concerning love for the world and love for fellow Christians, I am indebted to John Calvin’s Commentary on today’s text.

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