“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing…”
Last night at Elevation, I was asked to meet a young couple that are working in China. A couple of Americano coffees, a tour of the Gallery and a quiet corner and we were away dreaming, updating, stirring and challenging. Their passion for the un-reached communities of China and her billion plus people was contagious and empowering. God just will not let us get away from His call to the nations. The deep-rooted seed to see the non-Jesus followers all over the world fall in love with our Jesus lies deep in our foundation. From the 70’s, God has spoken prophetically about this mandate on this church to see leaders raised up and churches planted around the world. The moment we forget that. The moment we get overly enamored by the here, the now, the us… the Father very graciously sends us someone who draws our attention back to these last of the last days and the fact that this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all nations then the end will come.
This has been one of the most exciting texts, which has been very difficult to move off. Paul’s apo affection for this fledging church is palatable. Although he had never been there, nor, it seems ever went there, his disciple Epaphras kept him current with their spiritual journey. It seems like Epaphras was from this city, was a minister / deacon / servant there. He gets hold of an imprisoned Paul with real concern about the false teaching that was threatening the purity of the plant. Paul’s response is not firstly an attack on the teaching; he, in fact, never fully communicates the threat. This has had theologians through the ages speculate what it was. Rather, it seems Paul’s preoccupation is to create an understanding of the real truth, the real currency of heaven, so that when the counterfeit comes it is easily identified and can be dismissed with due diligence.
The framework of this conversation starts out with Paul explain what a true Jesus follower looks like. For the sake of simplicity I am going to use a bullet point lay out and hereby threaten the liquid God life with such a bland visual format:
· According to Paul, a healthy church into which the Jesus follower finds God-life, is where “faith… love… and hope” find true and ongoing expression. No matter what other factors may be evident [size, power, gifts, theology…] if these foundations are absent, the church does not gain full apostolic applause,
· Grace must be operating “in all its truth”. The wonder of grace never ceases to be the sweet perfume that keeps the Jesus follower free and in God’s favor. I do find it interesting that he only speaks of grace once but being “in Christ” appears about fifteen times. It seems like he reminds these fragile believers that grace is not a destination but a journey. The true destination is our revelation of what it means to be “in Christ” – both now and then.
· The aspects of the gospel that he highlights in this key passage (1:3 – 14), are:
o Rescued us from the dominion of darkness – a great positional declaration of freedom.
o Brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves – a new king and line of liberty.
o Redemption-the choice of an economic metaphor for the gospel’s work in us is profound as he says to these young believers that they have been bought with a price and they are no longer their own – they are there for the use of the king.
o Forgiveness of sin – is that perpetual cry that keeps us free in the wonder of expiation – Jesus has forgiven us of all our sins [past, present and future, as well as the sins that others have committed against us, and he cleanses us of all our guilt- simply wow!]
· The Paul lists the ingredients of this kind of Jesus Follower that this story sees ‘bearing fruit and growing’:
o Filled with the knowledge of his will – both general as well as personal,
o All spiritual wisdom and knowledge – beyond that which we accumulate over time but that which comes by revelation from his word,
o Walk in a manner worthy of him…fully pleasing to him – both in morality and holiness but he adds the biggest lesson of it all that seek to please Jesus more than any other person,
o Bearing fruit in every good work – one of Paul’s great themes is for every Jesus person to know the good works that God has prepared for them before time began, and complete them. In fact he ends the epistle with a call to Archippus “see to it that you complete the work you have received from the Lord” 4:17
o Growing in the knowledge of God – this requires perpetual humility to seek increased revelation of that higher view of God,
o Strengthened with all power – the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in his indwelling, in filling, empowering,
o Great endurance and patience – not to be nice people but to be a robust, gutsy Christ follower who is not vulnerable to every wind of doctrine in order to chase the new thing – Alan Frow speaks of ‘radical normalcy’ which is what we need to seek,
o Joy and thanks – oh how the cynicism and need to critique has captured the western church. So many experts on what should be done, so few actually doing anything significant for the kingdom. The joy that brings strength and the thanks that brings freedom – these are the true tools to fight false teaching.
This is the kind of Jesus follower Paul was aspiring to produce. They look a little different to what is often taught – hence the vulnerability to false teaching. However, whether we study past or present churches, the body of believers in Colosae or the body of believers in our home communities, we like Paul should continue to encourage and foster a people “in Christ” who actively pursue a greater knowledge of