Gospel: Word of Truth
Copyright © 1997
Indian Hills Community Church
The Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Colossae while a prisoner in Rome. As he begins his letter, he writes a word of encouragement and thanks regarding the Colossians. This is an encouragement to them as they hear him give thanks to God for the work that He has done in their lives. This work that God has done is rooted in something unchanging, solid, reliable and true -- the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a day when any concept of something that is true and unchanging quickly evaporates. Many of the things that people believed and were confident about have now undergone a change and are no longer as they were once thought to be.
There was an article written by a New York columnist in the Omaha paper about a month or so ago on the editorial page. It was a light-hearted look at the constant change that is taking place in the world around us. The title of the article is, "One Can't Be Sure of Truth." He starts out, "Pluto may not be a planet. Can you believe it? Everything we learned in school is a lie. This Pluto business is the last straw. I haven't even recovered yet from the discovery that you should not eat a good breakfast. Always eat a good breakfast. That's what they taught us in school. They said it was good for us. Now we know a good breakfast is bad for you. Those eggs sunny-side up, that crisp bacon, that butter-soaked toast covered with jelly, bad for you. And remember the milk? Remember paying the milk money and having the milk served right there in the classroom? What kind of milk was it? Was it skim milk? Was it low fat milk? You know it wasn't. It was milk with all the evil left in. And they called that education."
It goes on later to talk about the power of advertising and the way it used to be. "Some of you remember the pictures of the medical doctor doing an exam in the office advertising a certain brand of cigarettes. Advertising is probably the most powerful educational force in the country. They taught us cigarettes were good for the T zone. You know what the T zone was - your mouth, throat and bronchial area. Well, could you be any more 180 degrees turned around that cigarettes are good for your mouth and throat and bronchial area?
"School taught us that Columbus had proved the world was round. But the Egyptians knew it thousands of years earlier. Many people become as irked as I do about the incessant need to keep up with today's wisdom by abandoning or revising yesterday's. And, of course, today's wisdom will just as inevitably have to be abandoned or revised as the future bears down upon us. The truth about knowledge seems to be that its truth is only a sometimes thing, that what we accept as truth this year will have to be abandoned or revised as the world turns."
There is humor in that. We would have to say that some of the changes we have found are for the better. They are an improvement, and we are glad for what we have discovered. But these changes also have taken place in more serious and radical areas. The concept that truth is always undergoing change, that we can be sure of nothing, that nothing is ever settled, has taken over in areas that are of great consequence. For example, there's the area of morals - the concepts of right and wrong, good and evil. People are adrift in the world today. All we have is the concept for determining what should be done, for what is right and what is not right. Even then I am left with just my emotions, my gut feeling of what is right and what should be done. But I know those emotions and feelings will be different with the passing of time. There is a sense of instability in life. Yet people will remain unstable. A life that is not anchored will not change tomorrow, will not change in my entire life time, will not change while the world exists.
1.The Gospel is a Message of Hope
The Apostle Paul addresses this subject very directly when he writes to the Colossians in Colossians chapter 1. He is writing from imprisonment in Rome. At the beginning of the letter, he is writing to express thanks to God for the greatness of His work in the lives of the Colossians. He has written about the marvelous hope in their lives that is an ongoing motivation for them to continue to place their faith in Christ and to show love for other believers. He refers to their faith in Christ in verse 4. This was not just initial faith that brought about their salvation but an ongoing trust in Jesus Christ, who is their Savior and my Lord. In addition to that faith, they have an ongoing love for fellow believers, which is characteristic of those who are God's children. This is because verse 5 says, "...of the hope laid up for you in heaven...." They have a hope that controls and shapes their lives. It is a hope laid up in heaven. It is a treasure God has prepared for those who love Him. It is a hope that centers in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. And this hope serves as an anchor for our souls and brings stability in times of turmoil.
Turn over to Hebrews, chapter 6. The writer is talking about the promise that God gave concerning His salvation, about those who through faith would inherit the very promises of God. He not only promised; He took an oath that this would be so. Verse 18: "so that by two unchangeable things..." - the word of God and the oath of God - "...in which it is impossible for God to lie..." Keep that statement in mind. It is going to come up in Colossians 1. We are dealing with a God who cannot lie. "...we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us." We are strongly encouraged to lay hold of the hope that is ours in Christ. Why? Verse 19: "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul..." You should have that marked in your Bibles. We have something that brings stability to our lives and holds us in place in times of great turmoil. It is "...a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us." Paul is fond of using nautical metaphors in the book of Hebrews. In chapter 2, he talked about the danger of drifting past the safe harbor of salvation in Christ. Here, the picture is an anchor. Remember, these are the days of the sailing ships. Storms come, and the sailors put out the anchor to keep the ship from being driven, tossed and destroyed. The anchor of our souls is described as sure and steadfast.
Note where this anchor goes - "...one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered..." Remember the Old Testament tabernacle and the temple. There was the veil within the holy place. And the high priest only once a year went through the veil into the very presence of God. What Paul is saying in very picturesque language is that we have an anchor of the soul, and that anchor is secured at the very throne of God. He has told us earlier in this epistle to come with boldness before the throne of grace to find help in time of need. Here he tells us that our hope is fixed upon Christ and that we anchor our souls by laying hold of that hope. That anchor is secure in the very presence of God Himself.
Back in Colossians 1:5, Paul talks about "...the hope laid up for you in heaven..." That is where Jesus Christ Himself is seated at the right hand of God, ever making intercession for us. Believers in Jesus Christ are not tossed to and fro by the storms of life. We are anchored by our God. And this hope, which is an anchor of the soul ,is centered and founded in the word of truth, the gospel. How do you have such a hope? How do you take possession of such a hope, such a salvation? Well, it is presented to you in verse 5: "...the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel." So now, in a very pointed way, Paul will unfold the beauty and marvel of God's truth, the gospel.
2.The Gospel is the Truth of God
"...of which you previously heard," Paul says. They heard this word of the gospel, this message of God's truth, from Epaphras. We will refer to Epaphras when we get down to verse 7. He was the physical messenger who had come and brought to them the truth of God. They heard this "...in the word of truth, the gospel." The word of truth, the gospel are two expressions referring to the same thing. The word of truth is the gospel. The gospel is the word of truth. Let's look at that word gospel first. We are familiar with it because of its use so abundantly in the New Testament. It is a Greek word that very simply means good news, glad tidings. The verb form of the word means to preach or proclaim good news, to tell others good news. It has its background in the Old Testament, particularly in passages like the last part of Isaiah which have to do with the Messiah and His coming.
Turn back to Isaiah, chapter 40. About 200 years before Christ, the Old Testament was translated into Greek. That Greek translation - a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek - really became the Bible that was used during New Testament times. We just read from the letter to the Hebrews, which was written to Jewish believers. All the references to the Old Testament in Hebrews are taken from the Greek translation because by New Testament times most of the Jews were no longer conversant in Hebrew. So the Greek Bible was the Bible of that day. Tradition said that the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the Old Testament - was translated by 72 scholars over a period of 72 days, and they produced 72 manuscripts that all perfectly agreed. Obviously, a lot of that tradition was just made up. But from the idea that at least the five books of Moses were translated by 72 scholars over a period of 72 days came the abbreviation for the Septuagint - LXX, the 70, which you will see when you read commentaries. Septuagint is just a word that means 70.
The use of these Greek words in the Old Testament often forms the background and basis for their use in the New Testament. That is true for the word gospel, euangelion. It was used of the good news concerning the coming Messiah. That use is picked up and carried on in the New Testament. For example, Isaiah chapter 40. I want to begin reading with verse 6 because this section will come up in a short time in our study and we won't come back to it. "A voice says, 'Call out.' Then he answered, 'What shall I call out?' All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Then he goes on in verse 9 to say, "Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news..." There is our word gospel. He continues, "...Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of - the gospel - good news. Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, 'Here is your God.' Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him..." and so on. You see the context is the coming of the Messiah. This is good news because the coming of the Messiah brings salvation for Israel in its long awaited deliverance.
Isaiah 52:7 is a verse that is quoted by Paul in Romans, chapter 10, regarding the proclamation of the gospel: "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings - the gospel - good news, Who announces peace and brings good news - the gospel - of happiness, Who announces salvation, and says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" The good news, then, is in the context that God reigns. The salvation being proclaimed is in the context of God reigning. We will just take one other passage. There are others, but Isaiah 61:1 is a verse that is quoted by Christ when He refers to Himself in Luke 4:18. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news - the gospel - to the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners." See, it is the context of the coming of Messiah. So this forms the background for its use in the New Testament. The gospel, the good news, concerns the coming of Messiah. And at the heart of the coming of the Messiah is salvation - both spiritual and physical, as the nation Israel anticipated.
Look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. At the heart of the salvation that God would provide in the coming of the Messiah is the payment for sin, which is death. Isaiah 53 beautifully unfolds the coming of the Messiah, who was the servant of the Lord to pay the penalty for sin. And in I Corinthians, chapter 15, Paul talks about the gospel that he preached. "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel - good news - which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you..." - that ongoing faith that we saw in Colossians chapter 1 in Christ - "...unless you believed in vain." What is the gospel that he preached to them? "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures..." - Christ's death and my sins - "...and that He was buried... - that's the proof that He died - "... and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..." and that He was seen by many witnesses. That is proof that He was raised. The death of Christ as payment for sins, the resurrection of Christ in victory - that is the gospel. The gospel is the message concerning Christ. And at the heart of the message concerning Christ is the message of salvation that God has provided in His son. By the death and resurrection of the Son, God has made it possible for all who will believe in Him to be forgiven, cleansed and made new. That is good news. You can be forgiven; you can be cleansed. It doesn't matter what you have done or how wretchedly sinful you are. You can be clean before God. You can be born again. You can become a child of God. That is good news. And this salvation tells of the hope that is laid up in heaven. Jesus Christ is my hope, and in Him I have a heavenly inheritance. The gospel tells me about that.
Come back to Colossians, chapter 1. When Paul talks about the gospel, he is talking about good news that was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, has been realized in the coming of Christ and will have an ultimate climax with the experiencing of the fullness of His glory in heaven itself. This gospel is called the word of truth. It is the word of truth, the gospel. That is crucial. You know, I could get up and tell you a wonderful story about all that God has for you. But if it wasn't true, it would be meaningless. We have stories, fairy tales, that our children love to hear again and again. That's fine, but you don't want them to build their lives on a fairy tale. The gospel is the word of truth. This is crucial. It is the word of truth because it is rooted in the character of God, who Himself is truth.
We have to turn to another passage - Titus, chapter 1. This is crucial. The world has lost any concept of ultimate truth, what Francis Schaffer called true truth. Because the concept of truth has been so weakened, he emphasized it by calling it true truth, just like we talk about born-again Christians. Well, there is only one kind of Christian, a born-again Christian. But the word Christian has become so diluted that we add the word born-again to it. The world has lost any concept of truth in a final, ultimate sense, and we sometimes are frustrated with this. The real problem the world has with truth is that it has lost any concept of a God who in His very character is truth. By rejecting any concept of a God who is truth in His very being, we have cut ourselves off from any connection to truth that transcends our transitory experiences. If there is not God, or if there is a God but He has not revealed Himself to us in an understandable way, then do you recognize there is not truth beyond your own experience? How do you know what is true and what is false? How do you know what is right and what is wrong?
There have been some remarkable changes in my lifetime. When I was in school, they taught us that pre-marital sex was wrong. Anyone who engaged in that was looked down upon. Now they give out condoms in the school and applaud the young people for practicing safe sex. That is a total reversal of what was right and what was wrong not too many years ago. It wasn't too many years ago that homosexuality was viewed as sinful and wrong, and those who condoned it or promoted it were viewed as vile and sinful. Now if you oppose homosexuality you are narrow and bigoted and guilty of homophobia. Right has become wrong, and wrong has become right. And on we go. What is the problem? There is no standard of truth, no standard of right and wrong outside of our own feelings. These frail, fragile standards come and go.
This is frightening because we easily move again to a time when through advertising, through dynamic speakers and through power, people are brought to the conviction that it is right to murder the Jews or other ethnic groups. We read the news of Bosnia taking place, and we say, "How can people do this?" The concept of right and wrong has changed for them. We get so self-righteous and say, "Oh, that is terrible and disgusting." We establish our moral framework on the same shifting sand - how we feel about it at the time. And let's face it. Our feelings are shaped and conditioned by what is going on around us.
You could have walked through the university campus not too many years ago carrying a sign, "Immorality is Wrong," and been applauded. Now you may be stoned. I used to go to the university to speak to students in their classes. I would say, "I have to start out with a concept of truth because I can't talk to you about right and wrong unless there is a God." They would often disagree with that, but I was amazed that never once did I speak to a class that came up with a concept of right and wrong outside of their own personal convictions once they cut themselves off from God. I say all this because we as believers have to understand the inseparable connection there is between truth and God.
So Titus begins, verse 1: "Paul, a bond servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God..." - note this - "...and the knowledge of the truth." That is what he is talking about, the knowledge of the truth. And you note truth "...is according to godliness." It always is because it is according to the character of God "in the hope of eternal life..." You see the same concepts that we have in Colossians - hope and truth - "...which God, who cannot lie..." We saw this same thing in Hebrews 6:18: "...it is impossible for God to lie..." How do you know this is truth? How do you know it won't change in the future? Because God cannot lie. It is rooted in His character; and He is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So truth is unchanging. You see the inseparable connection between truth and our God. That is why truth is focused in the word of truth, the Scripture. Here we have revealed the mind of God. He has spoken. This is truth. People say, "You are narrow. You are bigoted. You don't allow for other people's ideas." Well, where this word has spoken, that is it. Everything agrees with it or disagrees with it. This is the standard of measurement. You say, "Sex outside of marriage is acceptable." I say, "No, it is sin. It is wrong." You say, "Everybody is doing it." I say, "Then everybody is sinful. Everybody is wrong." We live in a day where young people take over, and we ought to free them from parental bondage. Wrong. Sin. And on we go with moral issues. They say, "You are bigoted. You are narrow." We are. God has spoken.
Suppose you needed major surgery, so you went to a surgeon. And he said, "Wow! Yeah, you do. And this is serious. Let's go to your neighborhood and take a poll. I would like to find out how your neighbors think we ought to proceed." I say, "You do the poll. I'm going to look for another surgeon." Why? I don't want to go to a surgeon who is going to do my surgery on the basis of a public opinion poll. "You know, you need spinal surgery. I have some ideas on how you ought to do it." Do you want your surgeon coming and getting my ideas? But somehow God is supposed to sit on His throne and wait for me to give Him my opinion. And many people believe it would be wrong for Him to hold an opinion that is not a common opinion. What kind of God would that be? We are seeing what kind of world we live in with that kind of thinking. It is a disintegrating world. God does not lie; therefore, what God says is truth.
Now this truth, since it is rooted in the character of God, is unchanging. Let's look at a few more verses. David said in 2 Samuel 7:28, "Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth..." That is a inseparable connection. Psalm 119:151: "You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth." Everything God says is truth. Psalm 119:160: "The sum of Your word is truth..." I could say, "Turn in the truth to Colossians, chapter 1." Or I could say, "Turn in your Bibles to Colossians, chapter 1. There is no difference because the sum of God's word is truth. Jesus said in John 17:17, "...Your word is truth." That's it. God's word is truth. Thus, it is a message which is absolutely reliable and unchanging. Psalm 119 verse 89 says, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven." His word stands firm in heaven.
Now we down here on earth are thinking, "Well, the majority of the people in our society have come to the conclusion that this is now right." But you understand that what God says is still right. Even if 100 percent of the people in this country disagree, God's word is settled in heaven. It is done. We read in Isaiah 40:8: " ...the word of our God stands forever." Matthew 5:18: "...not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." In 1 Peter 1:23-25, Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:8 that "All flesh is like grass..." But we have been born again "...through the living and enduring word of God." We are anchored in God's truth.
Now believers acknowledge this, but I am concerned that there is an erosion, a watering down and a washing out of this commitment to God's truth as truth. I received a mailing from an evangelical ministerial this past month. They were talking about the wonderful prayer meeting they had where Roman Catholics, Baptists and Lutherans all set aside their theological differences to come together and pray. That sounds so nice. But what we are saying is that we all set aside truth so we can pray. Is there not something wrong with that? Do we ever set aside truth? Is there something more important than truth? Is our unity more important than truth? We are talking about the character of God, what He is. That is not something to dabble with. This is truth. It must hold us. We must hold it. And I cannot go beyond it. This is truth. I am narrow. I don't want to be any narrower than the word of God, but I can be no broader than the word of God. This is truth.
3.The Gospel is Universal
Look how Paul goes on in Colossians 1:6: "which has come to you..." - the word of truth, the gospel, has come to you - "...just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing..." This gospel which has come to the city of Colossae is the same gospel going around the world. The gospel is universal in character. God has one message of good news for everyone wherever they are in the world. It is one message of salvation. That doesn't mean that every person in the world had heard it at this time. But Paul is in the city of Rome. He is writing back to the city of Colossae in Asia Minor. Wherever in the world, it is one gospel, and this one gospel is being carried everywhere. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." 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." Note that. There is no other name under heaven. The only salvation is in Jesus Christ. Wherever anyone is saved or ever will be saved, it will be because of this one gospel that has been proclaimed to them.
4.The Gospel is Alive and Powerful
So there is a universality about the gospel. It is God's plan. This gospel is a message of hope. This gospel is truth. This gospel is universal. This gospel is alive and dynamic. It is constantly bearing fruit and increasing. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active..." It is a picture that Jesus used in the parable of the soils - Mark, chapter 4 - where the sower went forth to sow seed. Jesus explained that the seed was the word of God. This seed is cast out into hearts. It has life in it. It is dynamic and supernatural. It transforms and changes as it takes root in a heart. It amazes me. We take this book and we read it. We share its truth, and a marvelous spiritual thing occurs when persons believes. They are transformed and made totally new on the inside. That change will radically affect them in every way. That's amazing. I don't understand. It's different than any other book. The greatest literature ever written is nothing compared to this. This is the only book anywhere that has life and power in it. So it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing.
Turn back to Isaiah 55:10-11: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater..." - here is the comparison - "...so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." Note that God's word has His power in it. It always accomplishes God's purposes. Now that does not mean everyone who hears it is saved. But you understand every time you give forth the word of God, every time you share God's truth with a friend, a family member, a co-worker or you teach it in a class, it is effective in accomplishing God's purposes. This is remarkable. There is a dynamic in this word. Remember Paul said in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel - the good news - for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." This word is remarkable. It is amazing.
5.The Gospel Produces Life and Growth
Back in Colossians 1:6, Paul says this word "...is constantly bearing fruit and increasing..." It is not like a plant that bears fruit and dies, but it is bearing fruit and it continues to grow. It is not just qualitative growth; it is quantitative growth. It is bearing fruit, which I take to be the fruit of righteousness. He will talk about this in verse 10: "...bearing fruit in every good work..." The fruit of the Spirit which Paul talks about in Galatians, chapter 5, is a supernatural work. It is also drawing others, resulting in their salvation by the grace of God. As the word of God is shared, the spirit of God convicts hearts. People realize they are sinners. They turn from their sin and trust the Savior. And they are added to the family of God. This is constantly growing and increasing and producing fruit. There is a dynamic quality about the word of God that nothing else has. That's why everything we do as a church is built around the word of God. This is God's power.
We understand our goal is not to build big crowds. Our goal is to transform lives, and only the gospel can do that. The world has many techniques for building crowds, but God only has one plan for changing lives. That is the gospel. I have to be careful. I think God's goal for me is to get a crowd. No, God's goal for me is to proclaim His truth so that lives can be changed. You can get a crowd at a football game. You can get a crowd at a church. I am not saying there is anything wrong with crowds. I am glad for this crowd. But you know it is only the word of God that can do anything of importance and significance in our lives. You can watch a movie and be moved, but you can't be transformed by anything but the word of God.
And His word works the same wherever it goes. You will note it is constantly in all the world "...bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it..." This is a process, not just a point. It begins at your salvation the day you heard it, understood it and believed it, but it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing in our lives "...since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." This growth has been continual since their conversion.
6.The Gospel is Truly the Grace of God
Note that we have another expression for the gospel here. It was called the word of truth at the end of verse 5. Here it is called the grace of God in truth. The message of God's salvation is a message of grace. You know what it says? You cannot earn acceptance before God. There is nothing you can do to make yourself pleasing to God. Romans 3:20: "...by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified..." Even our best efforts fall woefully short. Isaiah 64:6: "...all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment..." Salvation is by grace, and the true grace of God is found in the gospel, the word of truth. God has provided salvation in the death and resurrection of His Son. That salvation comes to your heart and life when you hear this message and believe it. It is supernatural. It is the grace of God in truth. This is the true grace of God. There is common grace, but the salvation found in the gospel is the only grace of God.
We are losing our grip on this as the church. There are churches today that we call liberal churches because they do not preach the word of God in its purity. They do not preach salvation by faith in Christ alone. They didn't start out that way. They at one time held onto the truth under their founders - men like Wesley, Calvin, Luther and so on. Over time they gradually loosened their hold on the truth. They held the truth more lightly. They allowed the truth to be watered little by little until they were left without the truth, the grace of God in truth. Now people sit in those churches week after week and never hear the life-changing word of God. What a travesty.
7.The Gospel is Given by Faithful Servants
Colossians 1:7: "just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf." It is a gospel of grace. It is all of God's doing, but in God's sovereign grace He has determined to use human instruments in the giving forth of the seed of the word of God. It is disseminated so that men, women and young people might hear and believe and be changed for eternity. The Colossians had learned it from Epaphras. Epaphras is described as "...our beloved fellow bond-servant..." In the letter to Philemon - Philemon 1:23 - Paul referred to Epaphras as a fellow prisoner. He had done prison time with the Apostle Paul on occasion, perhaps at Ephesus; we don't know.
It is God's plan to use human instruments in giving forth the gospel. That is why Romans 10:15 quotes from that passage in Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news - the gospel - of good things." 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "But we have this treasure..." - the treasure of the gospel - "...in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." So understand this: We have God who has provided salvation in His Son. He has spoken and given forth His truth concerning that salvation which is contained in this book, the Scripture. Then He has entrusted this message to you and I as human servants to give it forth to others so that they might hear and by God's grace believe and be saved. How important it is that we be faithful servants of Christ.
What a testimony to Epaphras, whom Paul said was a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf. When Paul was at Ephesus, others such as Epaphras went out with the gospel that had been entrusted to Paul and carried that same gospel to cities like Colossae. And God used His gospel in the same way to bring about a marvelous salvation in the lives of the Colossian people. Epaphras was a faithful servant. You know what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2: "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. And you know what he says about a steward? The number one requirement of a steward is that he "...be found trustworthy..." Not innovative, not creative, not dynamic, not a great leader, but trustworthy, faithful. Why? Because you have been entrusted with God's word. You are to pass it along in its purity. Be faithful. You're a steward. You are not to alter it. You are not to improve upon it. You are not to come up with the Readers Digest version of it. You are simply to be faithful and give it out in its truth as it was given by God.
8.The Gospel will Produce Love for Fellow Believers
Paul further says concerning Epaphras that he brought a message. When Epaphras came to visit Paul - Epaphras came from Colossae and visited Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome - he brought the message, verse 8, that the Colossians had a Spirit-produced love. This was another evidence of the Spirit's work in their lives. Galatians 5:22: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love..."
Let me go back over the gospel in this account just to highlight several truths about the gospel that we have seen here.
1- The gospel is a message of hope. People say, "I don't want to hear that message, that negative message of sin and hell and damnation." But you understand the gospel is a message of hope because sin is a reality. That is truth from God. You are a sinner. Hell is a reality. That is truth from God. There is an eternal hell. But the gospel is a message of hope because you can be delivered. You can have eternal blessings in the presence of God.
2- The gospel is the truth of God. It is the only message of salvation. We cannot be satisfied with reformation of lives. It takes regeneration. You must be born again. Nothing else will do. Nothing else has eternal staying power. The gospel is the message of truth, the only message of salvation.
3- The gospel is universal. I was impressed by that when I was in China. I visited with believers pastors there, and they were preaching and teaching the same word of God. And it was doing the same thing. It was changing lives. It was producing fruit and increasing in those lives. So wherever God sends you, you don't have to wonder, "Well, I have different people here. I wonder what I should share with them." Share with them the gospel. It is universal. It is God's provision for the whole world.
4- The gospel is alive and powerful. You know what you have to do. You have to get the seed out. We talk about a lot of things, and we do a lot of things. That's fine. But salvation cannot occur apart from the gospel. Romans 10:17: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." A person must hear the word of God to be saved. Now just because they hear the word of God does not mean they will be saved, but there is no chance of salvation apart from the hearing of the word of God. The word of God is alive and powerful. Let it do its work. We become manipulators. I am not called to come up with clever ways to trick people. I am called to present to them a gospel message, the truth of God which is alive and powerful.
5- The gospel produces life and growth in those who hear and believe. And this is an ongoing process. The gospel produces fruit, life and growth in those who hear and believe.
6- The gospel is truly the grace of God. You don't understand the gospel until you understand that it is a gospel of grace. Grace means it is unmerited and undeserved. You contribute nothing. Most of what goes on in the Protestant and Roman Catholic world is a combination of preaching God's grace and man's works, and together we will get it done. But Paul has already dealt with that in Galatians 1:8 when he said that even if an angel preaches a gospel contrary to what he preached, that angel is to be accursed. A fallen angel preaches that gospel. The gospel is truly the grace of God.
7- The gospel is given forth by faithful servants. That's what we are called to do. There is nothing so important that has been entrusted to your care than the living and abiding word of God. Do you understand that? You have nothing entrusted to you by your Lord as valuable and important and powerful as the word of God, which is given forth by faithful servants.
8- The gospel will produce love for other believers. That was true of the Colossians.
A simple message isn't it, but it's absolutely thrilling. I don't claim to understand it all. But this book should be the truth of God. It should be alive and powerful and dynamic for the changing of fallen, sinful, hell-deserving lives. It should continue to develop and produce the beauty of the character of God within the heart of the one who feeds upon it. That goes beyond my comprehension. But it is true. There is far more about my God that I don't understand. I am a puny, finite, created being. He is the infinite, eternal God. But He has spoken, and by His grace I understand what He has said. He has spoken with the intention that we understand it, believe it and live it. All that God does in the context of salvation and sanctification in the world occurs in the context of His word.
What a travesty that the church gives less and less place to the word of God in its business. The church is to be "...the pillar and support of the truth," 1 Timothy 3:15 says. What are we about as a church? We are about the truth. What should be the outstanding characteristic of this church? The truth. What should be the outstanding characteristic of my life? Truth. Let's pray together.
Thank You, Lord, for the richness of Your salvation unfolded and made known in that which is truth, the gospel. There we hear and learn of our wretched sinfulness, of our lost condition. There we learn of the love of a holy and righteous God who intervened and provided His own Son to die on the cross in order to pay in full the penalty for sin, which is death. And we learn of a glorious, victorious resurrection because the penalty for sin had been paid. Jesus Christ is alive. There we learn by simply turning from our sin and believing in this Savior that we experience Your power in our lives. It is a power that totally transforms us and makes us new in heart and mind. It causes us to be born again, to become the children of God for time and eternity. Thank You, Lord, for this church. Thank You for each person who is here. Thank You, Lord, for the faithful servants like Epaphras who brought the gospel to us. May we in turn be faithful servants who carry this life-changing message to others as well. We ask it all in Christ's name, 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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