“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing…” Colossians 1:6

In Colossians chapter 1 Paul gives us a very striking description of the gospel, one which is well worth our careful consideration, given the confusion about and lack of confidence in the gospel that is so prevalent today.

First, Paul reminded the Colossians (and us) about the objective truth of the gospel. The gospel, he writes, is literally ‘the word of the truth’ (1:5). This means that the gospel is true as opposed to being false, but it means far more than that. What Paul is also saying is that the gospel is not just one truth among many truths, all equally true and valid, but that the gospel is the one and the only truth, at least as far as a saving knowledge of God is concerned. Behind Paul’s phrase ‘the word of the truth’ to describe the gospel lay his clear understanding of God’s Word as the Truth, an understanding based upon the way in which the Old Testament Scriptures spoke about the Word of God. Thus in calling the gospel about Jesus Christ the word of the truth, Paul is equating this gospel about Jesus with the Word of God of which it is the full and final expression. That this is indeed how Paul saw the gospel is abundantly clear from what he says about it in his other writings, e.g. Romans 1:1 where he calls the gospel about Jesus Christ the ‘gospel of God’. And it was because he saw the gospel as objective and absolute truth from God that he was so determined that no other gospel should be preached or believed among the churches. For Paul then, the gospel had the authority of God behind it and his role with respect to the gospel was to be its true and faithful servant (Colossians 1:23).

Secondly, Paul reminded the Colossians (and us) of the universality of the gospel. The gospel, wrote Paul, was one word of truth to be preached “all over the world” (1:6). This is of course a very important truth and one which needs reaffirming in our own day just as it needed to be affirmed in Paul’s day. For Paul lived in a multi-faith society just as we do and one of the key building blocks of a multi-faith society is that all religious truth is equally valid and therefore that no single religious truth should be held out as the only way.

Paul’s response to this, while being respectful to those whose beliefs differed from his own, was in the name of the God who had entrusted the gospel to him, to call upon people to turn away from their false way of thinking and to accept God’s gospel about Jesus Christ as the only message by which anyone could or would be saved. For Paul the gospel of God was thus an all over the world gospel, a gospel that had to be preached and believed all over the world. It was precisely for this reason that Paul himself was willing to endure all kinds of hardship and persecution to travel all over the known world of his day preaching the gospel. Indeed, when he wrote Colossians, he wrote from within a prison cell, placed there because of the gospel he believed and preached.

Thirdly, Paul reminded the Colossians (and us) of the effectiveness of the gospel. This gospel, wrote Paul, was not merely being preached all over the world, it was “bearing fruit and growing” all over the world (1:6). This is striking language indeed and speaks of the gospel’s power to take root within and transform the lives of people and indeed the lives of entire communities. And Paul has good reason to say this, for the gospel had brought about a total transformation in his own life and he had seen this same gospel bring about this same transformation in the lives of others, not least of all were the Colossians themselves. Not that Paul thought for one moment that the gospel itself had some kind of magical power. Grateful though he was to Epaphras for his faithful work in teaching the gospel (1:7) and glad though he was that the Colossians had not only heard but also understood the gospel which they had been taught (1:6), it was to God that Paul expressed praise and thanksgiving, for he understood that in the final analysis it was God and God alone who by His Spirit made the word of the gospel fruitful in the lives of those who heard it. Behind Paul’s statement that the gospel was a growing and fruit bearing gospel lay his clear conviction that it was God’s power at work through the gospel that made the gospel effective. As he wrote elsewhere: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to save everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

It is this same “word of truth”, the “all over the world, fruit bearing and growing gospel”, that we are called to believe and not only to believe but also unashamedly and eagerly to preach in our own day.

Written by Mervyn Eloff. Original article can be found here.