Bearing Fruit by the Work of the Gospel (Colossians 5b-6) ~ A Daily Devotion for August 13, 2014

“Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 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…” ~ Colossians 1:5b-6

Explanation of the Text: In the last devotion for Colossians 1:3-5a, we discussed the nature of the word ‘faith’ and its connotation of obedience. As we move into today’s text, we see obedience lived out in the character of the gospel in this section of Scripture. First off, note the connection of these sentences to the sentences of verses 3-5a. Paul notes that they have already heard about this, meaning the hope. He then connects it further to say that not only have they already heard about the hope, but they heard about it through the gospel message. Therefore, Paul is emphasizing not simply their act of hoping, but instead about what the content of that hope is.[1] Often people will say, “We have hope,” or “You just need hope,” without acknowledging what the content of that hope is. What Paul is noting here is that the reason the Colossians have true, legitimate hope is because they have hope that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul then goes on to explain the character of the gospel. It is bearing fruit. When the gospel is preached and has an effect on a person, it is expected that one will see fruit. For that reason, it can be said that the gospel is bearing fruit. According to 1 Thessalonians 1:6, transformation into Christlikeness occurs when one receives the word. Fruit will be the produce of the Gospel message. It is for this reason that the Colossians love the saints (verse 4). The love they have for each other is the result of the love they have for Christ and their obedience to Him. Interestingly though, not only is it bearing fruit, but it is increasing according to Paul. The idea is that it is growing and expanding. This is especially informative when we consider the fact that the message of the cross is very counter-cultural. It is a message that indicates one will deny themselves, place others before them, love their enemies, etc. All things that most people do not want to do. Yet, despite how challenging the message is, it is increasing and people are receiving it. Remember that the purpose of Colossians is to preach against false teaching that was trying to overtake the church. In his commentary on Colossians, J.B. Lightfoot notes the character of the true gospel being proclaimed to and by the Colossians versus the false gospel being proclaimed by others:

The true Gospel, the Apostle seems to say, proclaims its truth by its universality. The false gospels are the outgrowths of local circumstances, of special idiosyncrasies; the true Gospel is the same everywhere. The false gospels address themselves to limited circles; the true Gospel proclaims itself boldly throughout the world.[2]

A true gospel will never change. It is the same for every tribe, every tongue, every nation. A false gospel will morph based on the audience that is being addressed. The Colossians are an example of the true gospel in that their faith is noted by those around them and their love is seen by those within the church.

Likewise, note also, that there are two points to this gospel having an effect. It was heard and understood. Paul notes that the reason the gospel is having such an effect around the world is because people are receiving it around the world just as the Colossians did. That means that the people are hearing it first and foremost, but it also means that they are understanding it. Therefore, because they are understanding it, it is impacting a number of people. Specifically what people are understanding is God’s grace that is shown through the gospel. John Calvin notes that the phrase ‘in truth’ denotes both truly and without pretense meaning that the gospel has been purely administered to them.[3] That the people are receiving is an unadulterated gospel message so that they may accurately understand the truth of the cross.

Examination & Application of the Text: Like we said about the previous text, one of the first things that comes out of this text is challenging people to salvation in Jesus Christ. If you are not a believer in Him, if you have not heard the message proclaim, and if you have not understood it, then I urge you to seek someone who will explain it to you (or contact me through the contact link of this website). First and foremost, every person should desire a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. While people currently think that they live in freedom, it is the exact opposite. People living in freedom are actually slaves to sin, and the only way to find through freedom is be a slave to Jesus Christ. This sounds irrational, that to be free you must be a slave, but in reality this is what is offered through Jesus Christ. It does not guarantee an easy life or happiness as the world knows it, but instead it brings about a joy that can be found in a hope of eternity.

The second thing to notice here is that the fact that the gospel bears fruit. That means that when the gospel takes hold of your life, it too should be bearing fruit through you. The question is, “Is it bearing fruit?” I urge you to take time and read John 15 today, and use it as an examination of your own life. Abide in Christ in order that the fruit of Christ may be born.

[1] David Poa, Colossians & Philemon, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 53.

[2] Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, 8th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: Macmillan and Co., 1886), 132–133.

[3] John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 141.

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