“… The word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing…” 1:5 + 6
So I was wrong. For so many years, I subconsciously believed that the apostle’s full preoccupation was with the divine pattern of the text. There it was all over scripture. The various forms of pattern, model, wineskin, and architecture shouted at me as I read this through the Word. Becoming an expert on ecclesiology was uppermost in my mind. My bookcase reflected this focused and intentional priority.
Then a friend messed it all up. He went and told me that the scripture’s major focus is not correct architecture but the centrality of the ‘G’ word – the Gospel. Initially irritated, then intrigued, I was on an irreversible journey of discovery. How would we do church differently if our hub was ‘the gospel’ and not ‘the model, pattern, or wineskin’?
Paul’s first and full preoccupation was with the height, depth, width and length of the gospel. To the Romans he wrote: “ I Paul, an apostle set apart for the gospel… I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Romans 1:1 + 15 – but they already had the salvation thing. What did he want to bring to them? Then Paul again mystified me with this often quoted text: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor 2:2. I had to admit that I had had many messages yet Paul says that he had but one. What did he know about this glorious gospel that I had reduced to a periodic wrap up at the end of a Sunday to get a response?
In the Colossians conversation, Paul introduces the gospel with one key thought: “Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you…” The ‘incarnational’ angle to this presented gospel, has a most wonderful edge, if it is not limited to simply ‘living…[or] being…’ the gospel. At some point in time the gospel must be ‘heard’. We are not called to extend the kingdom through being good people only engaged in the shadowlands of our cities. The gospel must be spoken so that it can be “heard”. The ‘Word of Faith’ crew do not have a solo franchise on Paul’s exhortation that “faith comes by hearing”. This is a text that should stir every heart to a call that requires the gospel being heard, not just seen or felt.
Being ‘missional’ is best understood when we launch every Christ follower into the missionary journey with a message not just a model. The call to be a ‘missional community’ makes so much sense when the gospel wrings deep and loud from our lips and our lives. ‘Be the gospel’ – Yes… but also ‘Speak the gospel’ as it is a life-changing story that needs to be heard.
The G factor is declared to be “the word of the truth” [ESV]. It is not a subset or a portion of the truth but the full embodiment of all truth. Oh the joy that truth is not a philosophy or a moral measure. It is Jesus that provides meaning, purpose, clarity, and redemption to life’s journey. Without him, how is this pilgrimage to be measured but in the murky waters of relativity. These dangerous rip currents drag humanity into uncertainty, vulnerability and self-worship.
I love the redemption meta narrative. I love the mystique of His Salvation Story. I am mystified by this glorious truth:
1. The sheer wonder and artistry of the creation,
2. The trauma of rebellion and its curse driven consequences,
3. The mystery of redemption weighted around a virgin birth,
4. The hope that captivates a human heart toward an eternal consummation.
And when this gospel is heard, things happen. What else can we expect? It cannot be limited to a white picket fence message that makes me feel good about me. Forgive my bluntness but that is nauseating. The brutality of the cross, which has rung through the ages cannot be limited to a self-centered, culture driven, myopic way of thinking. Jesus died for the whole world. The full weight of heaven is behind our preaching of the gospel. Every angel in partnership with the Holy Spirit empowers a surging faith community to let the gospel trumpet abroad, so please do not infuriate heaven by limiting this glorious gospel to a suburban world view, foreign to the call of the nations. This gospel of Paul, Epaphras and the Colossians was felt all over the world… that is where it belongs, on the international corridors of communications, business, the arts and the like. There it will thrive. There it will bear fruit. There it will grow. In the shadowlands of society as well as in the greenhouses of colleges, on the couches of urban cafes as well as in boardrooms of the corporate, that is where this glorious gospel bears fruit. And we who overshadow pulpits, should with our passion, empower and then launch our partners into this world, with this gospel, watching to see what Jesus does…