Colossians 1:1-8 Commentary – The Gospel That Produces
Epaphras: Fruit of the Gospel
Colossae was a small city and the hometown of Epaphras who became an evangelist-pastor after he heard the proclamation of the gospel from Paul in Ephesus. Most commentators agree that Epaphras had likely traveled there, heard Paul preach, and responded to his message. As a new believer he returned home and planted a church. Paul, himself, never visited the Colossians because of his imprisonment in Rome.
Colossians 1:3-8 ESV .. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. 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, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
Epaphras became a “fellow prisoner” (Philemon 1:23) with Paul in Rome, but not before “working hard” serving and teaching the gospel (Colossians 4:13) to the church at Hierapolis, as well as the Colossian and Laodicean churches. Of course, as Paul gives credit, God above all others is to be thanked for salvation, but Epaphras was the means God used to reach these cities with the word of Life. He was a “faithful minister” and not only obedient to the Great Commission, but an excellent example of the Nature of the Gospel.
What is the Nature of the Gospel?
In the text from Colossians 1 Paul describes the gospel as “bearing fruit and increasing”, both among the Colossian church as well as “in the whole world.” The nature of the gospel, the very constitution of it, is made recognizable by the change that takes place in a person once they respond to it and the outpouring of it from that person back into the world. When the gospel reaches a cold, dead heart and breathes life into it, it begins to function in the manner it was created for. For example, if a physical heart were to stop and essentially die, then be brought back to life by the hand of doctors, that heart would go from being “dead” and lifeless to “alive” and pumping blood to the rest of the body. When the spiritual heart (upon which our mind, will, and emotions are seated) is made “alive” through the message of the gospel the outcome is that person will begin to “pump”, or spread, the life giving message that saved them throughout their entire reach.
The gospel will inevitably bear fruit in you, if you have been truly saved by it, as it did among the Colossian church and as it does today. Epaphras heard the message and brought it home. The fruit of the gospel in you is initially repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation, from there it “increases” to produce fruit in your own life, which are the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) as well as fruits of holiness and good works, and the fruit of obedience (which of course includes evangelism, Matthew 28:16-20).
Once the gospel takes hold of you it is always increasing in you; molding, changing, transforming, and conforming us to become more and more like Christ.
Romans 8:29 ESV … For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
An Immediate Effect
While there is a definite process of sanctification that takes place throughout the entire life of every believer, there is also an “immediate effect” that the gospel has on the heart from the first day you “hear” it. (And by “hear” it I mean truly hearing it with spiritual ears of understanding granted by the Father in His timing. Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” Not everyone who hears “hears“.) Paul said to the Colossians that the gospel was bearing fruit and growing among them since when?
Colossians 1:6 ESV … in the whole world it (the gospel) 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,
“Since the day you heard it”…. Immediately there was a change in the people who believed and responded in repentance and faith. Immediately they “understood the grace of God…. in truth” meaning, God’s grace can obviously be misunderstood and taken out of context but they got it, they saw themselves as wicked sinners in desperate need of Jesus their Savior and their hope of future glory, rather than broken people hoping for a better life here and now.
This kind of awakening comes only by the hand of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and He most often uses the mouths of men and women to deliver the news.
Romans 10:14-17 ESV … How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
So now we are faced with two roads, do you need to call out to God to open your ears to hear? or do you need to call out to God to open your mouth to speak? Whatever the case may be, don’t delay.
Preparing the Way,
~ Danae Martin