” . . . because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 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, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.”
Writing to the Colossian church, Paul gives thanks to God for their reception of the Gospel as it runs throughout the world. Paul says “the word of the truth” is the gospel–a message they had come to hear, understand, and learn. The fact that Paul uses actions like “understood” and “learn” speaks to how unnatural the gospel is to our sinful nature. We are prone to moralistic self-righteousness, performance-based religion, and turning the radical grace of God into a contractual agreement whereby we get some credit.
Paul thanks God precisely because they understood and learned the gospel. This takes time. It takes “a faithful minister” and “beloved faithful servant” who will, to use Martin Luther’s words, beat the gospel into our heads over and over again. The grace of God in truth is boundless and free, and we would be fools to marginalize it to the early days of when we first heard it proclaimed. God is calling you and me to be Epaphras to ourselves and one another–a mouthpiece of the gospel continually proclaiming who Jesus is and what He has done so that it continues to bear fruit and have great increase in our lives.
Is the gospel bearing fruit and increasing right now? God’s good intentions for the gospel in our lives is such that it would infiltrate every square inch of the soil of our hearts. The deepening roots of our identity in Christ produce a harvest of good works and faith-induced righteousness ever increasing as we are conformed to the image of Christ.
When we learn and understand the gospel, the good seed brings forth thirty, sixty, and hundredfold. Through it, God establishes his kingdom as we gladly submit to the reign and rule of King Jesus. To harken the words of our Savior, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” The ever-expanding kingdom of God travels through the good news of King Jesus. As His Gospel goes out, His kingdom comes in.
Gospel-centered Christians understand how slow they are to really understand and learn the gospel. They desire that the gospel bear fruit and increase in every area of their lives so that no aspect fails to be brought under the reign and rule of Jesus. They long for the gospel to flourish in and among them so that there would be no testimony of barrenness, no wandering in wilderness, and no acting as though they have not entered the Promised Land. Gospel-centered Christians know how prone they are to forgetting, and therefore call one another to remember their deliverance and Exodus from idolatry and slavery to freedom and fruitfulness in Jesus.