Good News! There is Hope Laid Up for You in Heaven! (Col. 1:3-8)Written by admin on Mar 11, 2013 in - No Comments
As you know we will be continuing our sermon series in the book of Colossians this morning. Our passage for today’s sermon will be Colossians 1:3–8. But before we get started with this morning’s passage, let’s refresh ourselves on what we discussed last week. Last Sunday we looked at verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1 which contain Paul’s opening greeting to the recipients of this letter. And in that greeting we learned a few things.
First, we learned that the Apostle Paul was the author of this letter to the church at Colossae—a letter which he wrote while imprisoned in Rome around 62 AD. We also learned that Paul was made an Apostle, not by the choice of men, but according to the will of God and that as an Apostle he was sent with a message to proclaim to the world.
Second, we learned that recipients of this letter were the members of a young church in the small town of Colossae. We saw that these saints (or Christians) were steadfast in their faith and had first heard the gospel preached by a man named Epaphras who heard it preached by Paul.
But while the faith of the Colossians was strong and steadfast, the church was in danger because of the proliferation of a false teaching within the church that was undermining the true gospel message. As I mentioned last week, this false teaching at its core had reduced Christ from his rightful position as the supreme ruler over all creation to just one supreme ruler among many others (Thielman, Theology of the NT, 377). And, as would be expected, those who were getting caught up in this new “philosophy” were losing interest in Christ as the supreme and preeminent authority in the universe. A result of this was that the hope of many of these steadfast saints was being threatened. And so Paul seeks to point them back to the hope that was contained in the gospel originally proclaimed to them by Epaphras. Back to the hope that brings about steadfast faith and love for the saints.
And in a similar way, many Christians today live as those without hope, as those without a vibrant faith, and as those without genuine love for their brothers and sisters within the church. In many cases, the reason for this is simply that they either do not fully understand the gospel or they have not fully embraced it as absolute truth. The result is that the local church is made powerless and the spread of the gospel hindered. Not to mention that those within the church struggle to believe there is any real hope for their own futures.
Maybe you can identify with this type of struggle. If you have ever found yourself questioning your faith or struggling to have hope in this world which oftentimes drains the hope right out of us… or if you struggle to feel compelled to share the gospel with others because you are not so sure why it is really good news… then this passage should speak directly to you.
And if we are honest, at times in our Christian life we have all struggled in both of these areas. That is why it is important to hear and rehear the gospel message again and again. The gospel is not just for unbelievers. If it were, then why would Paul proclaim it over and over again in his letters to churches full of believers? Why would he proclaim it in this letter to a group of people he calls saints and faithful brothers? Well, if the gospel were only for believers, he wouldn’t. The truth is, that the gospel is for sinners, and we do not stop being sinners when we become Christians. So as sinners, Christians yes, but sinners all the same, we need to hear the gospel message again and again. And the reason we need to hear it again and again is because of the hope it contains. We are fickle people who are easily distracted and Satan loves to distract us from the hope contained in the gospel in order to render us useless as servants of our Lord.
And so, with all this in mind, look with me now at our passage for this morning from Colossians 1:3–8.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 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, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3–8 ESV)
What we see in this passage is that, when understood, the gospel produces faith, hope, and love creating both new Christians and mature Christians. And so Paul wrote this letter to exhort the Colossians to return to the gospel preached to them by Epaphras. The gospel that they had originally believed in. The gospel which acknowledges Christ as the supreme being in the universe who reigns over all things. The gospel that views Christ’s death as a sufficient offering for bringing about reconciliation between humankind and God.
My aim this morning is to get us to see that…
Because the gospel has the ability to bring about hope leading to faith in Jesus Christ and love for his saints, Christians must continue their efforts to understand God’s grace more fully and to proclaim the hope-producing gospel to others.
And the first thing I want to demonstrate from this passage is that Hope is the source of both Faith and Love. Look with me now beginning in verse 3.
Hope: The Source of Faith and Love (vv. 3–5a)
The first thing we notice about this section of Paul’s letter is that he is giving a report of his and Timothy’s thankfulness to God for the Colossian Christians. He says that every time he and Timothy pray for the Colossians that part of their prayer includes thanking God. And the English translations include the word “since” or “because” at the beginning verse 4, to show that what follows is the reason for Paul and Timothy’s thanksgiving. It shows us that they were specifically thanking God for the Colossians’ “faith in Christ Jesus” and their “love for all the saints.”
Faith in Christ Jesus
Now it is important to note here that Paul is not thankful to God for just any kind of faith, but a specific kind of faith—Faith in Christ Jesus. And that distinction is important. It was important in Paul’s day, and it is still important in our day. It is very popular today for people to speak of their “faith.” This is very popular among politicians at election time and by athletes after a big win. But if you listen closely to their talks about “their faith” you are often left wondering what exactly they have faith in. What is the object of their faith? So often today it seems that people have faith in nothing more than faith alone. Well, that is no real faith, that is just wishful thinking. The type of faith we are called to as Christians is faith in something real. Faith in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross and its effectiveness at reconciling sinners to God.
Friends, I don’t want you to just have faith. I want you to have “faith in Christ Jesus.” That is the only kind of faith worth having, anything else is going to let you down in the end. Your faith needs to have an object. And that object is Jesus Christ. Reject the popular notion that any faith is a good faith. Friend any faith that is not based on Jesus Christ will prove useless in the end.
So Paul and Timothy are thankful that they have heard of the Colossians’ faith in Christ Jesus. And we also see in verse 4 that they are thankful for the love the Colossian Christians have for all the saints.
Love for all the Saints
And one of the reasons Paul and Timothy are thankful for this has to be that love “for all the saints” is evidence of genuine faith in Jesus Christ. It is evidence that, because of our faith, we have been incorporated into the family of God through our adoption as sons and daughters. Jesus said that the world will know we are his disciples when they see our love for one another (John 13:35). And evidentially the Colossians were demonstrating a genuine love for one another and for all the other Christians in the world. And so when Paul and Timothy pray for the Colossians, they always make it a point to thank God for this.
In our culture today, on television and in music, love is presented as a deep, emotional feeling that overcomes you and leads you on to eternal bliss. I believe that it is this twisted portrayal of love that causes so many problems today in marriages. Because love is more than an emotion or feeling. Love is a decision. Love is an action. It is an action that is commanded by God. That is how the Bible presents it. “This is my commandment that you love one another that your joy may be full.”
The type of love Jesus requires of us is the type of love that loves those whom we would naturally not love. Remember “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is the example of love Christ gives us and that is the kind of love Christ requires of us. Love in the Bible is not about emotions and feelings, it is about actions. And this type of love can only be brought about in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And Paul knows this and when he sees love in the lives of the Colossians, he gives thanks to God because he knows that their faith is real and that they are genuine believers.
And so faith and love go together. Love being evidence of faith. But now I want to demonstrate to you that the root of this kind of faith and love is nothing other than a gospel-centered Hope.
Hope Laid Up for You in Heaven
You will notice the word “because” or something like it at the beginning of verse 5. The point is that the faith the Colossians have in Christ Jesus and the love that they have for all the saints is “because” of the the hope laid up for them in heaven. The NIV reads, “the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven.” The point is that the source of the faith and love described here is hope.
Now, like the word “love,” we have also destroyed the word “hope” in our English language. When we say “hope” today it is nothing more than making a wish. “Oh I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend.” Or, “I hope we win the game.” But when the Bible uses the word hope, it is not that kind of hope. It is an assured, expectant hope. A hope that has assurance of the outcome. As Christians we hope in the solid and certain facts about our future as presented to us in the Bible. Biblical hope is a confident assurance of the glorious future that Christ has purchased for us as Christians.
And the fact that it is laid up for us in heaven, as we see here, means that it is secure. No one can take it away. That is our hope. And according to Paul, this is the basis of our faith in Christ Jesus and our love for the saints. And this is the reason why we must heed Paul’s advice in chapter 3 of this book and “set [our] minds on things above.” Doing so not only strengthens our faith, but it also strengthens our love for one another. It frees us to not be so consumed with pleasing ourselves in the present that we are unable to love others the way Christ has commanded us.
But as I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, the sad reality is that many Christians today live as those without hope, as those without a vibrant faith, and as those without genuine love for their brothers and sisters within the church. And I went on to say that, in many cases, the reason for this is that they either do not fully understand the gospel or they have not fully embraced it as absolute truth. And here I am just talking about Christians. What about those who have zero understanding of the gospel? Friends, what I want to demonstrate now is that the Gospel is the Source of Hope. Look with me now beginning in the second half of verse 5 which reads “of this” or “of this hope you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.”
The Gospel: The Source of Hope (vv. 5b–6)
The Gospel. The Good News. That is what brings us hope.
You see friends, God created men and women in his image and to live in relationship with him. But we cut ourselves off from him by sinning. But God did not abandon us. Or give up on us. Remember, love is action, and in his great love, God came to earth, being born as a man, with real flesh and blood just like ours. Though he was tempted in every way that we are, he lived a perfect life and went to the cross as an innocent man in order to take the punishment that we deserve. And he calls us now, from the pages of the Bible and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit to turn away from our sins. To turn to Christ as the only means of reconciliation with God. And when we do so, the Bible tells us we are born again, into an eternal life in the presence of God.
Friends, that is what we mean when we say, The Gospel. That is what brings genuine hope and lasting hope and biblical hope that is more than wishing things are going to turn out ok. The gospel is what gives us the hope we need to withstand the onslaught of evil that comes at us in this world. Death, sickness, broken relationships, lost jobs, injustice. As Christians we have a hope that something better is coming and that is how we make it through.
And that is why I said earlier, that it is important to hear and rehear the gospel message again and again. Because the gospel is what gives us hope. We are so often like the man pleading with Jesus to heal his son, who cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Friends sometimes we just need help believing what we already know and believe. And the best way to do that is to be reminded of the gospel. We must never move on from the gospel.
When we find ourselves doubting that there is really any hope in our particular situation. Or when we find ourselves questioning whether or not our faith is for real, we need to be reminded of the gospel message. We need to be reminded that there is hope laid up for us in heaven. Friends, I pray that you will be reminded of that this morning and that in being reminded of this you will be strengthened in your faith in Jesus Christ and in your love for his saints.
As opposed to the false teaching Paul will address later in this book, we see here that the gospel is the “word of truth.” And as we see in verse 6, when heard and understood it bears fruit and increases. One commentator compared it to kudzu. It takes root and begins to grow and their is nothing you can do to stop it.
And in verses 7 and 8, Paul explains for us how this takes place.
The Preacher: The Source of this Good News (vv. 7–8)
We saw in verse 6 that the gospel bears fruit and increases when it is heard and understood. Elsewhere in, Romans 10:14, Paul asks the question:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14 ESV)
Friends for people to hear the gospel and understand it, someone has to proclaim it to them. In verses 7 and 8 of Colossians 1, that person was the man named Epaphras we spoke about last week. Remember he first heard the message preached by Paul in Ephesus. He heard it and understood it and it took root in his heart. Then it bore fruit because he took it back to his hometown of Colossae. It bore fruit and increased there as the Colossians learned it from Epaphras. And that is the pattern that has been taking place for over two thousand years.
Epaphras had faithfully taught the true gospel message to the people of Colossae and in this letter Paul is going to point them back to that. Epaphras had instructed them in the “word of truth” and the Colossians had understood the “grace of God in truth.” And this produced hope, which led to faith in Christ Jesus and a love for all the saints. But this hope is being threatened because of the false teaching that Epaphras reports to Paul. And so Paul will spend a great deal of time in this letter directing them back to the hope they was contained in the gospel originally proclaimed to them by Epaphras. Back to the hope that brings about steadfast faith in Christ Jesus and a love for his saints.
And brothers and sisters we probably need to stop and ask ourselves: “What am I doing to help people hear and understand the gospel? What are we doing as a church to help people hear and understand the gospel? Is it growing like kudzu in our lives and out the doors of this church? What are we doing to give hope to those around us who so desperately need it?”
Well this morning I am going to help you with that. We have received a box full of New Testaments from the North American Mission Board. And in the opening pages of these little Bibles, the editors included the following questions that many of our friends and neighbors are asking:
Where do I find hope? Does my life have purpose and significance? Is there any peace in these troubled times? What’s this life all about? Is this all there is?
Then they provide the following answer:
Many of us go through life unfulfilled, searching for these answers. We live in uncertain times, but within the pages of this book you can find a hope that can change your life.
Friends, that is because what is contained in these pages is the gospel. The gospel that contains hope for the future.
I have placed these Bibles on a table outside the sanctuary. I hope (you see how we use that word) that each of you will grab one or more and take it with you for the purpose of giving it to someone else. Maybe your neighbor. Maybe a coworker. Maybe a stranger at the grocery store. Be a part of the kudzu growing out of this church. This is an easy way. The Bible contains the gospel which is full of hope. Do your part in sharing that hope with others.
Or, maybe you are sitting here this morning, looking at me wondering how you can share hope when you are personally feeling so hopeless. Friend, if that is you, I want to point you to the gospel. Whether you are a Christian who is having a hard time believing what you already believe. Or whether you are sitting here this morning having heard my words and understood the gospel for the first time. I want to point you to the gospel.
And so over the next few months as you are getting used to my preaching, don’t wonder, “Does he think we are not Christians? Why does he keep preaching the gospel to us?” The reason I do that is because you need to hear it, I need to hear it, over and over again.
We really are living in a world that drains the hope right out of us. But the gospel, my friends, is a bottomless pit of hope. Drink deeply from it this week. Remind yourself of the wonder of it all. Believe it again and again.