We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always concerning all of you, having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope set aside for you in the heavens (Colossians 1:3-4).
First Ephesians, then Philippians, now Colossians–my Bible reading itinerary over the past two weeks. Just started Colossians this morning and was reminded by the above verses of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 that of the three greatest Christian virtues–faith, hope, and love–love is to be the most sought after. It would seem that the context there qualifies Paul’s meaning to the effect that these three virtues are the greatest in terms of our effectiveness in bringing edification to the body of Christ. After all, the great love chapter is sandwiched between two chapters on the use of spiritual gifts in the corporate assembly.
In this Colossians passage Paul thanks God, having heard of the presence of faith, hope, and love in the lives of the believers there. Faith is simple trust alone in the person and work of Christ alone. Love is a self-giving commitment to unconditionally seek what is best for your brother in Christ through concrete actions of service–after the example of the Savior Himself. Hope has a forward look toward those treasures in heaven which await the believer. After many years of life and ministry I have come to see hope as a great motivator. When a person sees light at the end of the tunnel he will take action to move toward that light. Sometimes, in the absence of immediate hope, all we have to go on is the hope we know is laid aside for us on high. Read Hebrews 11 and you will see the close connection between faith and hope.
In verse six Paul says that the good news of Jesus is bearing fruit and increasing among the Colossians and across the Roman Empire. My first inclination is to conclude that Paul is referring to the verbal proclamation of the gospel; and of course he must obviously have this in mind, since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). But I can’t help but think that when the gospel proclamation is backed up by the testimony of lives characterized by genuine faith, hope, and love, the effect is really powerful.
My prayer for me and you is that we will grow in our trust for Christ and Spirit-filled love for God’s children, and that we will place our hope where it rightly belongs–in the hope God by His sovereign hand reserves for us in heaven, where moth and rust cannot reach, and thieves cannot break in and plunder. May we live the gospel today and demonstrate these virtues in our lives to where the unbelievers and believers around us see a genuine difference in us. And as the good news grows and increases in us may His grace spill over and touch the lives of many.
Stay tuned for more out of Colossians over the next few days.
As a postscript I wish to dedicate today’s post to a man named Eldon. Eldon was/is a pastor I knew a few years back (1984-86). What I remember most about him was his faith in Christ and commitment to the Word of God. He was a loving husband, father, and shepherd of God’s people. I was honored to sit on his ordination council, and I can remember to this day how he shed tears of gratitude to Christ as he shared the testimony of what Jesus had done in his life. What a joy to know that after these years he is still trusting and serving the Lord. Eldon, if you shoud be reading my words, this one’s for you, brother. Keep you hand to the plow.