Meditations in Colossians: 11. Fruit-Bearing Gospel
Col 1:4-6 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it
The things we have been considering in recent meditations have been in respect of, or related to the Gospel. We saw that it conveys hope out of which spring faith and love and that it conveys the truth of God’s will expressed through the life and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now Paul speaks of the effect of the Gospel, “all over the world.” should not be taken to infer that the Gospel had travelled all over the earth for it is clear from history that it hadn’t yet, but is more likely to mean ‘wherever it had gone’. Wherever the Gospel had gone it had had effect.
That the Gospel had spread far and wide, there can be no doubt. The mighty Gospel ingathering of some three thousand souls on the Day of Pentecost would have included those who witnessed the Spirit’s outpouring who we are told included, “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.” (Acts 2:9-11) We tend to forget that when many of these returned home they went as believers and took the Gospel with them.
The disciples seem to have forgotten Jesus’ words, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) and initially it was only persecution that drove some away from Jerusalem: “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria….. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:1,4) The accounts then follow Philip in Samaria conducting an amazing signs and wonders ‘crusade’ (Acts 8:5,6). Peter and John joined him and the Spirit was poured out on the Samaritans. Eventually the Lord told Philip to leave and go south where he encountered the Ethiopian official who left as a believer (see Acts 8:26-39), who, it is believed, took the gospel back with him to Africa. The church clearly grew and flourished throughout Israel (Acts 9:31).
It is interesting to note that although Philip ended up in Caesarea (see Acts 8:40) the Lord called in an apostle, Peter, to preach the Gospel and pour out His Spirit on the first Gentiles, Cornelius, his family and friends (Acts 10).
The next big move of God appears to have been in the north: “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19-21) Then we find, “News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:22-24) Thus the church in Antioch (Antioch was considered the third major city of the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria) was established (see also v.25,26). It was from Antioch that the Lord sent Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on what became Paul’s first missionary journey.
The remainder of Acts follows Paul in his travels. Initially they went to Jews only, starting at local synagogues but when they were rejected we find, “Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ” `I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:46-49) This took place in Pisidian Antioch.
Thus we find in the early chapters of Acts the church largely focusing on Jews and Jerusalem until persecution drove the Gospel to Samaria and then to the north. From there the Lord propelled the Gospel out across Asia Minor, largely through the ministry of the apostle Paul, although others were clearly involved doing the same thing.
The Gospel was clearly bearing fruit and growing. The fruit was clearly people responding and turning to Christ and being saved. First Jews and then Samaritans and then Gentiles. The Holy Spirit took men who shared the Gospel and then He did His work of conviction and bringing people to salvation. One of the places where that had had happened was Colosse. (Several hundred years before Paul’s day, Colosse had been a leading city in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey).but by Paul’s day Colosse was just a second-rate market town, As we will see as we continue, the church there came about by the preaching of Epaphras (v.7) who eventually reported back to Paul in Rome who then wrote the letter we have before us. The church in Colosse was just one example of the Gospel bearing fruit and growing.