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Sunday, April 10, 2011

9 - The Gospel of Truth [B]

Colossians 1:5-8 by Robert Dean
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:51 mins 33 secs

The Gospel of Truth; Colossians 1:5-8

Whenever Paul is praying for the Colossians church or any of the other churches he has sent epistles to he frequently makes this statement that he gives thanks for them. In this we see something of the spiritual priority of our lives; we understand something of what should be important to us in our own spiritual growth. So he focuses on these three spiritual virtues we have seen: their ongoing faith in Jesus Christ as they are growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, learning to trust Him more consistently; their love for all the saints, i.e. as they are growing spiritually God the Holy Spirit is producing in them the fruit of the Spirit, the first of which is mentioned in Galatians 5:22 to be love; then the statement in the fifth verse, "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven." This hope is related to their love for all the saints. It is motivated by the hope, that something in the future that is laid up for them in heaven.

As we are increasing in grace orientation and doctrinal orientation then our walk by the Spirit becomes more consistent and in all of this we are trusting in the truth of God's Word. So we see that something that under girds our spiritual growth is our concept of truth, which is what the apostle brings in in two verses, Colossians 1:5, 7. We have our foundational skills which relate to faith, growing in faith and increasing the consistency of our walk by faith and not by sight, and then the more mature aspects relate to love. It is not easy to love people who are unlovable. It is not easy to love because we are all so mired in our own arrogance and self-absorption that to focus on other people and what is going on in the lives of other people demands a certain divorce from that standard self-absorption. So it takes a certain amount of doctrinal understanding, trust in the Lord and growth before love really begins to mature. But what motivates us is hope, our confident expectation for what is laid up for us in heaven.

Colossians 1:5 NASB "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel." This hope is not just an abstract hope, not just a hope in a general future in heaven, not just a confidence that when I die I know where my destiny is. It is more than that. Only Christianity gives real hope because real hope is based on real knowledge, and real knowledge is based on absolute truth, a sense of truth that is more than just what is true for you and true for me. Today we reduce truth to something that is nothing more than simply people's opinion and you can't have very much confidence in something that is opinion based. Faith, hope and love are all based on truth, and this hope that Paul is talking about is a certainty that is laid up in heaven. If there is no heaven then this is just meaningless babble and we may as well just tear up the New Testament and go home. The only other option is that this is speaking about genuine truth.

Peter uses this same phraseology in 1 Peter 1:3 NASB "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again [regenerated] to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is a living hope because Peter is talking about resurrection from the dead. [4] "to {obtain} an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." The word "reserved" is related to the word "laid up" in Colossians 1:5, apokeimai [a)pokeimai] which means to store something up, to lay it up, to reserve it to an appointed end. It is not the same word but they are synonyms. It has the idea that something has been set aside for us in heaven. It has to do with inheritance, something future that is reserved for us, that belongs to us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul refers to this in Ephesians 1:18 NASB "{I pray that} the eyes of your heart may be enlightened [perception of our soul for understanding God's Word], so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." There is not an uncertainty there. The Bible represents the fact that there is a truth, a truth that is knowable, understandable; it is not guesswork, it is something that is grounded in the language and revelation of Scripture. And we can know this with certainty. But we can only say that if we believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. Today no longer do people ask, what is truth? Today the question in, is there truth? The answer that modern man gives is, no, there is not. Modern man has landed in an unsettled sea of chaos in terms of knowledge; he has rejected completely the possibility of knowing truth.

Paul uses apokeimai [a)pokeimai] in 2 Timothy 4:8 NASB "in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness…" So again we come back to this idea of inheritance, and it is related to rewards. There are four different crowns that are listed in Scripture, one of which is the crown of righteousness that Paul refers to here. "…which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." The day is a reference to the bema seat, the judgment seat of Christ.

But there are actually two different categories of inheritance that we see in the Scripture. These are seen in Romans 8:16, 17 NASB "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with {Him} so that we may also be glorified with {Him.}" This is always an important couple of verses to illustrate that what we have in our Bible has already, no matter how good the translation, been washed a little bit through somebody's interpretive grid. In our translations, e.g. NASB, the punctuation—a comma after the word "Christ," and the two terms "heirs of God" and "fellow heirs with Christ"—makes it seem to refer to the same thing; that heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ apply equally to anyone who is a child of God. Then we have the clause: "if indeed we suffer with {Him} so that we may also be glorified with {Him.}" The problem with this punctuation is that it makes heirship conditional upon suffering with Jesus.

A better way to understand this is found in the location of the commas. In verse 17: "and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him." In this view there are two categories of inheritance. The first category belongs to all believers (heirs of God); the second category (joint heirs with Christ). The condition applies only to the second category; we become joint heirs with Christ on the condition that we suffer with Him. Christ learned obedience, Hebrews tells us, by the things He suffered. Even in His sinless humanity Jesus still had to grow in sanctification; He had to learn obedience to the Father as He grew up. That doesn't mean He was disobedient but He had to learn to submit to the Father's authority. If we go through that same process then we are experientially sanctified, and so this becomes a second category of inheritance.

There are some things that every believer gets at the moment of glorification. We get a resurrection body, we are free from the presence of the sin nature, we are going to have life everlasting in heaven, etc. But there are differences, distinctions, and those are described at the judgment seat of Christ in 1 Corinthians 3:10ff where it talks about one category of works are wood, hay and straw, and another category which is gold, silver and precious stones. And everybody is going to have a different amount depending upon their walk with the Holy Spirit. So there are differences in rewards and some are not going to have any because they didn't grow and were disobedient—saved, yet with nothing. It is understanding this that motivates us to love one another because we recognize that there is accountability in the future at the judgment seat of Christ.

 Colossians 1:5 NASB "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel." There are three important nouns in the second half of that verse: word, truth, and gospel. The word "word" translated the Greek word logos [logoj], often translated "word" but it has about eighteen different meanings. It can mean thought, reason, even message. It is a little easier to understand the thrust of this passage if we translate it as "message"— of which you previously heard in the message of the truth of the gospel. It is not just the message of truth, it is not just the message of the gospel; it is the message of the truth of the gospel. Paul emphasizes that there is something in the gospel that is true, and because it is true with a capital T it gives is certain confident knowledge and information about the future.

There is a truth. Even the very language that we use to communicate to anybody about anything implies universal truth. If you are talking to somebody and say it is raining outside you expect the other person to understand that you are not saying it is snowing or that it is clear, but that you are saying there is liquid precipitation outside. Even the writers of multiculturalism and postmodernism today expect their readers to understand what they write in the same sense that they intend it to be understood. But what they are telling you in their writings is that there is no universal truth and you can assign whatever meaning you want to whatever it is that you read. So it may mean one thing to one person but another thing to another person—with the exception of this book that I'm writing! Of course if you fill out your income tax and follow the instructions in your tax bulletin in the same way that some of these people want to interpret Scripture or literature or politics and the Constitution…! But they find there are immediate consequences to not literally interpreting their tax instructions, etc.

Paul says the gospel is truth; there is one truth. In Galatians 1:6 he castigates the Galatians because they had gotten away from this; they had brought in something else—a different gospel, a works-based gospel. This verse uses the word "gospel" in a narrow sense. The word "gospel" has a narrow and a broad sense. Normally when we hear the word we think of the message that a person must believe in order to avoid eternity in the lake of fire. That is the narrow sense. There are very few places, other than maybe Galatians 1:6, 7, that use gospel in that narrow sense. Most places use it as Paul uses it in Romans 1:16 where it is not only the message of deliverance from eternity in the lake of fire but it is all of the implications of that, the whole body of doctrine that comes with that belief. So it is in a true sense the full gospel (not in a Charismatic, Pentecostal sense), the full gospel of everything that God has given us in Christ. Romans 1:16 NASB "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…" Paul never uses that word for just justification in Romans; it always refers to the end game of complete deliverance. It implies a certain view of truth: that if you are a Christian and you believe in the Bible you have a certain view of truth that philosophers call a coherence view of truth. That is their way of saying that truth conforms to the way things are.

As Christians we believe that absolute reality is defined by the thinking of God. So Jesus was able to say: "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one can come to the Father, except through me." The only option we have is that Jesus was telling the truth. Jesus also said: "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." He presupposes an absolute truth, an absolute body of doctrine, that is the basis for our spiritual growth and spiritual life; and that is embedded within God's Word, God's revelation.  

Colossians 1:6 NASB "[this gospel] which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as {it has been doing} in you also since the day you heard {of it} and understood the grace of God in truth [by means of truth]…" The only way we know the grace of God is by means of the truth. And the truth is where? It's in God's Word. [7] "just as you learned {it} from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, [8] and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit." It is not required for a pastor to build a big church. In fact, Jesus said: "I will build the church; you keep my sheep." What is required of pastors is only one thing, the Scripture says: to be faithful; to be faithful in their teaching of God's Word, faithful to the responsibilities of the spiritual gift that God has given them and in serving God. Epaphras meets the test. He is a faithful minister of Christ on their behalf, and he is the one who also declared for Paul their love in the Spirit. So he ties it back to their spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, and this is exemplified by their love for all the saints, but it is produced by the Holy Spirit.