Love is Evident Because of Hope
Copyright © 1997
Indian Hills Community Church
We all experience difficulties and trials in our lives even as believers. Suffering and hardship can have both a positive and negative impact upon us. All of us as God's people have experienced hard times. It's during those hard times that we sometimes become a little bit self-focused. When I have particular trials that come into my life, my first question is, "Why, Lord? Why is this happening to me? Haven't I tried to be faithful? Why am I having this difficulty?" And usually the next step is to look around at other people. If I see people who seem to be having a little easier time than me, then my next question is, "Why am I having this trouble and they 're not?" Pretty soon I'm taken up with me and the difficulties that I'm having. If I'm not careful, I become self-focused. I'll want to talk about my troubles, my problems and how hard life is for me. And even if I'm not talking about it, I'm thinking about it. Yet trials and difficulties can do just the opposite. They can cause me to take my focus off this life and place it upon the Lord. By doing that, I can appreciate more fully that He is sovereign, that He is working His purposes to use me for His honor and glory, and to prepare for the glory of His presence.
The Apostle Paul is the example of a man in whom suffering had such a positive impact. You remember when God saved Paul on the Damascus road. God reached down, took hold of Paul and turned him around. Paul bowed and believed that Jesus Christ was the Savior, and he was gloriously saved. God sent Ananias to talk to Paul, to restore the sight of Paul's eyes which had been blinded. God said to Ananias in Acts 9:15 that Paul "...is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel." Note what He then said in verse 16: "for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." Interesting. God says, "I am going to use him to accomplish My purposes, and I will show him how much he is going to have to suffer for Me." And from that point on, the Apostle Paul's life is one of trial and difficulty and suffering.
Turn to 2 Corinthians, chapter 11. Here Paul gives a summary of the kinds of things he has experienced in his service for the Lord up to this point. 2 Corinthians was written about four or five years before the letter to the Colossians was written. So we've added to the list that he gives here by the time he writes Colossians. But you get some idea of what the life of the Apostle Paul was like. The context in 2 Corinthians is that some people were challenging Paul. Did he really serve the Lord? Was he a genuine apostle?
Well, Paul says in verse 23 : "Are they servants of Christ? - I speak as if insane - I more so." In other words, he is saying that he hates to even have to talk this way, but it's necessary on this occasion. He has been "...in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number..." How would you like that? He's been beaten so many times that he's lost track of the count. "...often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes." The Old Testament law in the book of Deuteronomy said for certain crimes that a man could be given 40 lashes, but you had to be careful. If he died and you gave him 40 lashes, that was a consequence of his punishment. If you gave him 41 and he died, you were responsible, because you went beyond what was allowed. So the Jews always cut it one short, just to be sure they didn't miscount. They gave 39 lashes. But you get some idea of the severity of the punishment this would have been. Paul said, "Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods..." That was the Roman form of punishment. They used rods for their beatings. "...once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." Sounds like a fun life, doesn't it. And then Paul says, "Now that's just the external things. On top of all this I bear the concern and weight of burden for all the churches and their spiritual health." You get some idea of the life of the Apostle Paul and the suffering that he went through. Yet in all of this we never find Paul becoming self-absorbed and self-centered.
What does this have to do with the letter to the Colossians? You remember from our previous study that the book of Colossians is one of those letters called a prison epistle. It was written by Paul while he was a prisoner of Rome. By the time he wrote this letter, he had spent close to three years in prison. He was arrested in Acts 21:27 at Jerusalem. Then he was taken to Caesarea and held there before he was moved to Rome. Almost three years have gone by, and he is still a prisoner. He could have much to say about this - "Do you understand what it means to be a Roman prisoner? You understand I haven't had a moment alone for almost three years. I'm chained to a Roman guard whose with me everywhere. He never leaves me, and I mean never!" But you know what? The book of Colossians is not about the sufferings of Paul. The book of Colossians is about the supremacy of Christ, that He is absolutely wonderful, that He is above everyone and everything, and that He is worthy of our complete loyalty and devotion. I have a greater appreciation of the focus of a letter like this when I understand and appreciate the circumstances out of which it comes.
You know, we sometimes think, "Oh, I could serve the Lord so much better if He would only remove this circumstance. I could serve the Lord so much better if I only didn't have this heartache, this area of suffering and trial." Well, we don't have time to read 2 Corinthians 12 this morning, but Paul was told by the Lord, "When you're weak, then you're strong because I want to do the work through you." I fear that sometimes we may lose some of our greatest blessings and opportunities because we become self-focused in our difficulty rather than God-focused and take advantage of the unique opportunities He gives us as He molds and shapes us for His use.
1. God's Work Inspires Thanks
The section we're going to talk about today is not about suffering. We pick up in verse 3, and where do you think Paul starts out? Remember all the suffering that he has experienced. Remember that he has been a prisoner of Rome for 3 years about. Does he moan about that? No, he begins with an extended expression of thanksgiving to God for what He's done in the lives of the Colossians. As Paul starts his letter, you get the sense that what is overwhelming him, filling his heart and mind, is the thanks he has to God for what God does. What a terrific focus of life! But, boy, Paul, all you've been through. Think how much you've been beaten up, and now you've lost your freedom. You've been in prison for going on three years, and the first thing on your mind is an extended expression of thanks to God for the way He's worked in the lives of these believers that you've never met. What a good way to remind us how our lives are to be lived.
Verses 3 to 8 of chapter 1 are one extended sentence in the Greek text, and we have it that way in the New American Standard Bible. Some of the English versions have broken it down into smaller sentences to make it a little easier to read, but it is one extended sentence. It is built around the subject of thanksgiving. That first statement in verse 3 governs everything else that will be said through verse 8: "We give thanks to God..." Now he elaborates on that thanks, and what motivates him is the thanks that he is offering to God on this occasion. It will focus on the marvelous work of God in salvation in the lives of these Colossians - not just the initial salvation when they were born again, but that ongoing evidence of God's work in their lives that confirms they truly belong to the living God. Paul's practice in all of his letters except one - the letter to the Galatians - is to begin with an expression of thanks for God's work in the lives of the people to whom he is writing.
You'll note in verse 3 that the thanks is not expressed to the Colossians. There's a place to thank other people, but attention first must be given to God. He is the One above all to be thanked. Whatever good and positive has taken place in the lives of the Colossians is a testimony to the work of God's grace. It is fitting, then, that he begins, "We give thanks to God..." who is further identified as "...the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
2.Salvation is Through a Unique Christ
Remember that the letter to the Colossians is being written to deal with some specific errors and false doctrine that is being promoted at Colossae. That will come up when we get into chapters 2 and 3. But what Paul writes in the introductory and opening portion of the letter will prepare the way for what he will address. One of the errors that must be addressed is a failure to appreciate the supremacy of Christ, that He is above all and in Him alone do we have a complete and final salvation. So when Paul writes, "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...," he draws attention to Jesus Christ in His incarnation, in His humanity. He was born into the human race, walked this earth and was crucified on the cross. Look over in chapter 2, verse 9. We are told, "For in Him..." - in Christ - "...all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." That means Jesus Christ was completely God as well as completely man, and He was completely God in that human body as He walked this earth. Back up to chapter 1, verse 19: "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." That statement flows from verse 15 where Paul says Christ "...is the image of the invisible God..." and the exalted position He has as "...the first-born from the dead..." in verse 18. And it's the Father's good pleasure. It was the plan of God the Father that all the fullness dwell in Christ, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross. The relationship of Jesus Christ to God the Father is unique. The first born, or the only begotten are words that stress His uniqueness. He is the only one of a kind, so He is the only one who can truly enable us to come to God. That is why Paul identifies God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. See, we have come into a relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord through salvation, and through Him we come to the Father.
Back up to John just to note the connection here. Sometimes we wonder, "Why would he say the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?" Understand that the Spirit had a specific purpose in directing Paul to write it this way, which will prepare the way for what will be developed later on in this letter. John 1:18: "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." He has declared Him. He has made Him known. So you see, since no one has seen God, Jesus Christ has come to make God known in His fullness.
When you come to John, chapter 5, he will talk about Christ's relationship to God as His Father. In verses 19-21, Jesus Christ is doing what He has observed His Father doing. And the Father, in verse 22, not only has revealed Himself fully through the Son, but, verses 22-23, "...He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." The stress is on this unique relationship that Jesus has with God as His Father. Over in John 8:19, the Jewish religious leaders "...were saying to Him, 'Where is your father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." Jump down to verse 36: "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." That's talking about freedom from sin, the bondage to sin, the defilement of sin, the judgment for sin. True freedom comes through the Son, and only the Son knows the Father. So this is the unique relationship among members of the Trinity, with the second person of the Triune God having become man, and so is the only one through whom God can be known. Over in John 14:6, Jesus says in a very familiar verse, "...I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." There again we see His unique relationship to God as His Father. It is not possible to come to God except through the Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation is only found in Christ. So when we read back in Colossians 1:3, "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ..." Paul is stressing at the beginning of this letter something that will be unfolded later - the uniqueness of the relationship that Jesus had in His incarnation with God. He is the only One through whom we can know God and the only One in whom salvation is to be found.
To continue in verse 3, Paul says: "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." The focal point is that Paul gave thanks when he prayed. As Paul wrote it, that word always in the Greek text can be connected either to giving thanks or to prayer. So you could translate it, We give thanks always, praying for you, or We give thanks, praying always for you. The point of it is the same. Every time the Apostle Paul remembered the Colossians in his prayers, he thanked God for them and God's work in their lives. It was his practice to be thankful for what God did in their lives when he prayed for the Colossians.
3. Christians Must Pray for Each Other
That's a good reminder for us all. That's a good place to start. We should be praying for one another as a regular part of our prayer lives. A good place to start is to be thinking of those things we have to be thankful for that God has done in the life of that person. That makes a difference in the way we see one another It makes a difference in the way we relate to one another. Stop and think about your marriage relationship. You think about your husband or wife and you start dwelling upon what irritates you about them, what you don't like, what they haven't done, what they should have done, how they should have been more thoughtful. When you start thinking like that, pretty soon you don't like them very much. You love them, but you don't like them very much. Just think how all that changes when you sit back and think about what God has done in their lives. Pretty soon you start think, "How did I get such a wonderful partner." You know, that's a good way for us to function in the body of Christ. Let's start out by being thankful. What has God done in your life? If you are a believer, God has done a mighty work in your life. If I can't express thanks to God for what He's done in your life, my problem is not with you. My problem is with God because I fail to appreciate the majesty of His work in a fallen, hell-deserving sinner. I need to start thinking, "What has God done in this person's life that I should at least thank Him for doing before I move on to ask Him to change him completely." So Paul said, "It's my practice to always thank God when I pray for you."
Now Paul had never met the Colossians. He had never been to Colossae. He is writing after he heard certain things. So verse 4 says, "since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints." Paul could give thanks in his prayers for the Colossians because of what he had heard about them. Now he's going to talk about what he heard about them. What he heard demonstrates that they truly had been born again; they truly had become the children of God. This is the result of the dynamic power of the gospel at work in their lives. That's the substance of his thanks down through verse 8. Note he says, "We give thanks to God...praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus..."
The first area of thanks deals with having heard of their faith in Christ Jesus. Paul heard this from Epaphras, who first brought the message to the Colossians. Many of them responded and became believers in Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important than this starting point - having faith in Jesus Christ. This is the dynamic evidence of God's transforming power at work in their lives, and it comes through faith. For the Colossians to have believed, they first had to hear. Epaphras was the messenger who brought them the message of salvation. Romans 10:17 says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." So when we talk about faith - saving faith - we are talking about a specific kind of faith that responds to the message of the word of God. That faith saves and transforms a life. No other faith does. Faith in this church cannot save. Faith in being baptized in this church cannot save. Faith in being confirmed or taking communion or doing good works - none of those things can save. It has to be faith that is centered in Jesus Christ.
4. Saving Faith is a Great Truth
It's important that we keep ever fresh in our mind these great truths. One of the greatest of the truths is that God's work in salvation is accomplished by faith alone. In Romans, chapter 3, Paul has just come out of a section where he established that every single person is a sinner condemned before God. There is no such thing as a person who is not a sinner. There is no such thing as a person who is not guilty before God. There is no such thing as a person who is not under the condemnation of God. Then, beginning with verse 21, he begins to develop a section that explains how we can experience forgiveness of sins, be free from condemnation, become the children of God and have a heavenly destiny.
Paul says in verse 21, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets." We need to say something important here. When we talk about this issue of salvation we must start at the right place, and the place we start is with God. He is the One; what He says is the standard. So we talk about God and His righteousness. If we don't start here we're in danger of getting confused. People began to say, "I'm just as good as you are. My church is just as good as your church is. I have my beliefs, and you have your beliefs." All of that is true; it's just irrelevant. What does matter is that there is a God, this God has spoken and this is what this God has said about my condition. This is what this God has said about a relationship with Him. Now, what about the righteousness of God? How can I be righteous before God? How can I have the righteousness that only God can give so that I am acceptable in His sight? Well, note in verse 22 that it's "...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe..."
You're going to find in these verses there is repetition for emphasis. It's the same basic Greek word, faith and belief. So to get the idea in English, he is stressing the point that it is through faith in Christ for all those who have faith. He is driving home the point because he has been belaboring the fact that you could not be righteous before God by your works, no matter how good you think you are, because the standard is God and His perfection. You receive the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is for all who have faith. So everyone who will believe in Jesus Christ can experience this righteousness, and everyone needs it in Christ because there is no distinction.
You say, "What do you mean there's no distinction?" Verse 23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." There's no distinction. Preachers are sinners just like non-preachers. People who go to church are sinners just like people who don't go to church. Roman Catholics are sinners just like Protestants are sinners. Muslims are sinners just like Hindus are sinners. God has spoken. All have sinned and fall short of His glory, His perfection. Verse 24 continues, "being justified..." Justified is a legal term that means to be declared righteous. So we have been declared righteous "...as a gift by His grace..." There's another redundancy - being declared righteous as a gift. What is a gift? Is it something you work for? No. Suppose someone says, "You cut the lawn, weed the garden and I'll give you a gift for your birthday. You say, "No. If I cut the lawn and weed the garden, you will pay me for my birthday." That wouldn't be a gift, because a gift is something that is free. It can't be earned. So Paul says, "being justified..." - or being declared righteous - "...as a gift by His grace..." Grace is something that is unearned, undeserved, not worked for. It is something that God just does because He freely does it. So there's another repetition. This righteousness is a gift that God gives out of His own grace.
To conclude verse 24: "...through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." You'll note that redemption, the paying of the price to set us free from our sin, is found only in Christ, "whom God displayed publicly..." - through His public crucifixion - "...as a propitiation..." - the word simply means satisfaction; Christ was the only one who could satisfy the demands of a righteous and holy God - "...in His blood through faith..." His blood is His death. Now you see the picture. Note this word faith back in verse 22: "...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe..." or have faith. Then verse 25, "...a propitiation in His blood through faith..." Salvation is by faith.
Drop down to the end of verse 26, which is referring to God the Father: "...so that He would be just and the justifier..." In providing salvation for sinful human beings, God first has to be just. He has to be righteous. People say, "Well, can't God just say we're all forgiven? Can't He say, 'You did your best; come to heaven?'" Well, suppose that I was a judge, and two people came before me. One says, "I only killed four people, but here's a person who killed 50 people." And I say, "You only killed four? Let's forget it. But you over there. You killed 50. I won't forget it." Another person sitting in the courtroom isn't happy that I'm going to let the first man go. He says, "Wait a minute. Those four were members of my family. You can't just forget it. That wouldn't be just." But that's what we do. I think, "Hey, I'm better than you are." Someone else thinks he is better than me. Will God just forget it? No. He has to be just. He has to maintain His perfect righteousness and yet be the justifier in order to provide His righteousness for sinful people.
How does He do it? He can do it for the one who has faith in Jesus Christ. Why? First, Jesus Christ has paid the penalty. When you place your faith in Jesus Christ, then God can declare the penalty paid. When Christ died on the cross, He was taking my place. He was paying the penalty for my sins. When I place my faith in Him, I recognize that I am a sinner. I turn from my sin and place my faith, my whole trust, in Christ as the One who died for me. He can justly declare my penalty paid in full. I am forgiven. So, verse 28 says: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." You are not saved by trying to keep the works of the Law. That includes trying to keep the 10 commandments. Ask people how they are going to get to heaven and they'll say, "I am going to keep the 10 commandments." Well, God has already said that you can't be saved that way. The 10 commandments are just a summary of 613 commandments of the law. So the argument of Paul in Romans is that no one is saved that way. Salvation can't be earned by works. It is by faith.
Come back to Colossians chapter 1. Paul says, "We give thanks since we heard of your faith in Christ
Jesus." This faith is a remarkable thing. It has resulted in the forgiveness of their sins. They have
been declared righteous by God. This certainly is a reason for Paul to be overwhelmed with
Wretched, vile sinners have turned from their sin and now believe in the Savior. By wretched, vile sinners, I mean some people who would have been religious and morally outstanding, like Paul, himself, had been. You remember that Paul once was a Pharisee of the Pharisees regarding the law. He considered himself blameless, yet he was on way to an eternal hell. It's remarkable that sinful people are saved by God through faith. That is a cause of overwhelming thanksgiving.
5.Faith Must Continue to Flourish
This idea of saving faith can be made more clearly. Paul says in verse 3, "...we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus..." There are different prepositions in Greek just like we have in English. He could have said, "your faith into Christ Jesus," even though we often translate it in. Literally it is into, and that would stress your initial faith - that time when you heard and believed the message of Christ. But to speak about faith in Christ Jesus has an ongoing characteristic. It refers to the sphere or realm in which you now dwell. For instance, we are in this room together. By virtue of being in this room together, it presupposes our actual act of entering into it. So faith in Christ would include their initial faith, that first time when they believed that Jesus Christ was the Savior who died for them. But saving faith is not a one-time event. It begins at a point in time, but it becomes the ongoing characteristic of the life. Paul has that in view here. He is not just talking about faith they had at one time. He's talking about their faith in Jesus Christ that continues to grow and develop.
6.Love for Saints is a Characteristic
The second area that motivates Paul's thanks is "...the love which you have for all the saints." This is what identifies their faith as genuine, saving faith. They have a true, God-given love for all the saints. We talked about the word saints in our previous study. The same Greek work is translated saints, sanctified and holy in the English Bible. All come from the same basic Greek word that means to be set apart. So Christians - those who have believed in Christ - have been set apart by God from sin for Himself. It's like an adoption has taken place. This child originally didn't belong to you and was not part of your family. But you went through the process, and that child became part of your family. He is now set apart from all other families and belongs to your family. That is what happened when God made us saints. Saints aren't a particular class of people among Christians. Saints are Christians. That's why Paul writes to the saints at Colossae those who have been set apart by God for Himself. They are the Christians, the believers.
Paul now says these people have a love for all the saints. The word love here is the Greek word agape. We are pretty familiar with it and often refer in English to agape or the verb agapao. The key ingredient in this type of love is its sacrificial character. It is not a love of emotion. It is not a love of response for something that you do to me or for me. We often characterize it as a love of action. Turn back to John chapter 13. This is among the chapters which take place on Jesus' last night on earth before his betrayal by Judas and his crucifixion the next day. In preparing His disciples, Jesus tells them in verse 33 that He is only going to be with them a little longer, then He is leaving and they can't follow at this time. Then He says in verse 34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." You know the commandment to love is not new. I mean, they were instructed to love in the Old Testament. They were to love their neighbor as themselves. What is new in this commandment is that love is placed in a totally new dimension. Christ says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you..." He says this on the brink of going to the cross for them. This love that He has for them is a love that knows no limits or bounds. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends," Jesus told the disciples on this same night, John 15:13. Then he says in John 13:35: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." This becomes an identifying characteristic of one who is truly a believer. He loves other believers.
John elaborates in 1 John on what this commandment means when Christ told the disciples to love one another even as He loved them, and by doing so all men will know that they are His disciples. In this first epistle, John is showing us how we can look at our lives and see if we've truly believed in Christ. If you've truly believed in Christ, the power of God works in you to make you a new person. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17: "...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature..." - a new creation - "the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Paul said in Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." Salvation occurs when the power of God impacts your heart and mind. It so changes you on the inside that you are never the same again.
John tells us the ways we are different. He starts out by saying in 1 John 1:5 that "...God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." In 1 John 2:9, he says: "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother, is in the darkness until now." So if you claim to know God and walk in the darkness, you are a liar. You don't know God. Light is the character of God. It is consistent with God and His character. We are the children of God. We manifest His character when we're born into His family. So the one who says he is in the light - and, according to chapter 1, that means he claims to know God, to have a relationship with God - yet he hates his brother, a fellow Christian, he is in the darkness until now. Verses 10-11: "The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." He has never left the darkness. He is just self-deluded and self-deceived.
I meet people from time to time who claim to be Christians, and I ask where they go to church. "Well, I don't go, but I don't need to go to church to be a Christian." No, you don't need to go to church to be a Christian, but if you are a Christian, you will desire to be with other Christians. Don't you like to be with the people you love? Of course you do. But there are persons who says, "Oh, yes, I am a Christian, but I don't like to go to church. They're hypocrites." Well, some of them may be. But a Christian loves other Christians. And you can't love them if you don't want to be with them. The same is true of a person who claims to be a Christian, but he goes to a church where most of them aren't Christians. What are you doing there? "What do you mean, what am I doing there? That's where I go to church." Don't you love God's people? "Yes." Then you desire to be with them. The church is to be a fellowship of believers.
Look over in 1 John 3:10. "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God..." If your conduct is unrighteous, you don't do righteousness. You don't manifest the character of God in your life. You don't belong to God. Continuing verse 10: "...nor the one who does not love his brother." If you don't love a fellow Christian, a brother, you don't know God. In the gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus said the world would hate His followers because the world hates Him. 1 John 3:13-14: "Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren..." You see, there is a natural, in-bred, inherent hatred of God and His people in fallen humanity. That is why the truth of the word of God antagonizes people. Your testimony as a child of God antagonizes and grates on people because they hate your Savior, they hate your God, and they hate you as a follower of God. But a remarkable transition occurs when a person is truly born again by faith in Jesus Christ. He loves the people he once hated. "You will never get me into that church." And now he can't wait to get there. "You will never get me in a Bible study with those people." And now he is the first one there in the evening. He now loves those whom he hated. That's the point of the contrast here. Don't be surprised the world hates you.
An identifying mark as a Christian is the transformation that occurs in the heart. That's what has happened so often here. You bump into someone in the hall, and the first thing out of your mouth is, "What are you doing here?" I mean, this is the last person you expected to see here. "What do you mean what am I doing here? I am coming here to study the word." What? You must have gotten saved. "Yeah." That explains the difference, doesn't it. That's what John is talking about. All right, we have to move along. There's too much good stuff. We are not studying John. But since you're already in the third chapter of 1 John, look at verse 16. "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." See, John picked up on what Jesus told him in the gospel of John, chapter 13, on that last night. We must have that kind of love for one another. So if you see, in verses 17 and 18, a fellow Christian who has a need, you just don't close your heart to it. You don't close your mind and say, "Well, you know, I got my own problems." That's not love! Love reaches out to meet that need. We don't want to love with just our words; we want to love with our action.
Now keep in mind that John is not telling you how to get saved here. The world picks up this concept and doesn't understand the Biblical message, so we have churches emphasizing love. "Yeah, that's what we need; we need love!" That's not the message the Bible proclaims. The message is that we need salvation, that God is holy and we are not, that we are sinners under condemnation on the way to hell and there is only one way of salvation. Acts 4:12: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Jesus said in John 8:24: "...unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." That's the message the world needs to hear. When we respond to that message of salvation and are born again, we constantly need to be reminded that we must manifest the character of our heavenly Father. A key element of that character of our Father is that He loves His children, so His children are to love one another.
Come back to Colossians 1:4, where Paul says he heard about "...the love which you have for all the saints." That love would be an expressed love. When Epaphras came back, he told Paul, "You know, they not only believe in Jesus Christ and are trusting Him, but they display it! They are giving of themselves for one another. They're willing to be inconvenienced. They're willing to go out of their way. Why? Because they love one another. Why do those people share their goods like they do? Why do they inconvenience themselves and give their time and drive their distance and do whatever they do? They love one another." That's what Paul heard when Epaphras came. I don't know that he heard about driving, but he heard about their inconveniencing. Why? All the saints loved one another.
7. Hope Nourishes Faith
Now there's a third point in verse 5 which is foundational. Why do they have such faith? Why do they have such love? It's "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven..." The foundation of what he has said is because of the hope. That's why I said that it's important to recognize that the faith Paul mentioned in verse 4 is just not initial saving faith in Christ, but it's an ongoing faith. They didn't have this hope in Christ until they believed in Him initially, but now this hope becomes an ongoing source that feeds that faith. Now that faith continues to grow and develop. The gospel is dynamic. It continues its work. You have this ongoing faith and ongoing love because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. The word hope is used subjectively and objectively in scripture. Subjectively is what I have in my heart and mind. Objectively is that which God has reserved for me in His presence. The word hope here is used for the reward and the glory that God has reserved for me - "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven..."
Turn over to 1 Peter 1:3-4: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." What hope is Peter talking about? It's my inheritance. God has reserved it in heaven for me, and it's imperishable, undefiled. It will not fade away. It's a sure thing. God has stored up a heavenly treasure for those who have been born again through Jesus Christ. We have a living hope, and it is an ongoing motivation in my life. It has caused my faith to grow deeper and stronger over the years that I've walked with the Lord. It causes my love for fellow believers to grow deeper and stronger with the passing of time. Why? Because everything is fixed on that hope, that heavenly treasure that He has kept for me.
As we've seen, Paul is experiencing physical deterioration because of the hardships of life he has encountered while serving the Lord. Yet he says in 2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." This physical body is on its way down, but you know what? I am being made new on the inside every day, and I'm getting stronger in the new man that I am in Christ. Verse 17: "For momentary, light affliction..." - and whatever the afflictions and sufferings of this life are, for us as believers they're momentary, they're passing, they're light because they are producing hope for us. Affliction in the life of God's child produces for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond comprehension. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comprehension, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Look around. The things we see are temporal; they're passing. The things we don't see are eternal. I don't see what God has stored up for me as a heavenly inheritance, but it will endure for eternity. It's real. I just don't see it. What happens if I get absorbed with the things of this life? Then I get distracted. You know what happens when I'm no longer focused on my hope, my heavenly hope? My faith begins to waver. We say, "Oh, I wish I had a stronger faith. I wish I had a faith like so and so has." Well, you know, if my attention gets diverted to the things around me, then I find that my faith seems weak and shallow. My love for other believers? I'm constantly irritated by what they do or don't do, how they act or don't act, how they treat me or don't treat me. Why? Because I get focused on what is seen rather then what is not seen. When I begin to feel that my faith is weak and shallower than it should be, my love for other believers is not what it ought to be. That's when I need to back up and refocus my life. It is out of focus. I need to get it focused on my heavenly inheritance, what is laid up in heaven for me. I am to live this life in light of what I don't see, on what God has promised. That begins to strengthen my faith again. That deepens my love again.
This is why Paul could write in Romans 8:18: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Paul is going to get into this in Colossians chapter 3, where in verse 2 he'll tell them to "Set your mind on the things above, not on things that are on the earth." So you see he is preparing the way in Colossians 1:5 by reminding them of the hope they have laid up for them in heaven.
You should note that three qualities or virtues are mentioned here and that they reappear repeatedly in Scripture. They are faith and love in verse 4 and hope in verse 5. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:13, "...faith, hope, charity..." as the King James has it. Faith, hope and love are identifying virtues or qualities of a true child of God. They were abundantly evident in the lives of the Colossians. And Paul was filled with thanksgiving to God for the manifestation of God's work in their lives. Those three qualities are evident in every person's life who has truly been born again by the power of God. There is an ongoing faith in Christ. It began at salvation, but it continues to grow. There is an ongoing and growing love for fellow believers, a desire to be involved with other believers. We sometimes see people whose desire to be around other believers seems to wane. The mark of a true believer is that love will grow and deepen. I desire not to be with them less but more. That desire is stimulated and that growth is promoted because of the hope that I have laid up in heaven. That hope is what God has promised for me as one who has been redeemed by His grace through faith in Christ.
This came to the Colossians when they heard the word of truth, the gospel, Paul says at the end of verse 5. That's where we will pick up for our next consideration - the word of truth, the gospel and it's dynamic power, the truth of God in Christ. We are sinners. All have sinned. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Savior. This salvation is for all who will believe in Him. Is your life characterized by an ongoing, growing faith in Christ? Is there an ongoing love for fellow believers? Is yours a life that is rooted and fixed in the hope you have in heaven? If you have truly trusted in Jesus Christ and placed your faith in Him, those qualities will be evident for you to see and for others to observe as well. Let's pray together.
Thank You, Lord, for the richness of Your work in the lives of your people. We are trophies of Your grace. We have nothing to boast about in ourselves, nothing to exalt self for. Lord, we are humbled as we consider that the salvation we have is a free gift. It has been given by Your grace that is freely bestowed upon all who believe in Jesus Christ, the One who satisfied the righteous requirements of a holy God by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Jesus Christ is the one who was raised in glorious victory because that penalty had been paid in full. Father, indeed our hearts are filled with thanks, and our prayer is that any who are here who have not yet entered in to the wonder of this salvation might even this very day receive by faith the free gift of forgiveness and life in Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.
This file was converted from Adobe PDF format to HTML by Tony Capoccia of Bible Bulletin Board (BBB). Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the conversion and the posting on BBB. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for a church that preaches/teaches messages that are bold and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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