August 14 – Colossians 1:1-8

Main focus: The gospel bears fruit.

This week we’re jumping into the book of Colossians, and we’ll be going verse by verse through the entire thing—the series extends through November 13, right up until Vintage’s 20th anniversary. We’re turning to Colossians as a way to start landing the plane on our year-long Citizens theme. In the spring we turned to the Gospel of Matthew to learn about the King of the Kingdom, over the summer we turned to Revelation to see where this Kingdom is ultimately headed, and now in the fall we’re turning to Colossians to learn what it means to live as citizens of that kingdom in the here and now.

Also, along with the series we handed out Colossians study journals and a devotional, which will be available on Sundays throughout the series in case you didn’t get one.

Not unlike the Triangle, the church in Colossae faced great cultural pressure, especially from the multi-theism of the Greco-Roman world in which they’d grown up and from the encroachment of legalism from errant Jewish and Christian teaching. Paul is writing for them, and for us, to align our lives under Jesus’s reign as king and to learn how to live in the present in light of our promised future.

And this is crucial because, if we’re honest, a large number of Jesus’ followers in 2022 aren’t sure how the “good news” relates to the increasingly complex cultural and moral issues facing our society. People give equal weight to Jesus’s words as they do to cultural currents and proverbial “wisdom,” and feel left wondering about his intent for humanity. Our series in Colossians is a time for Vintage Church to revisit the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as King of kings. When we see our King and how the way of the kingdom brings freedom like the world has never seen, not only will our lives be changed, but our cities as well.

Now, as we jump into Colossians, keep in mind that Paul is writing to a church he didn’t plant and had never visited. The only knowledge Paul has of this community of believers in Colossae was through the word of his friends, including Epaphras, who likely planted the church. Yet through their reputation Paul is able to say, “We always thank God… when we pray for you.” What is it about the Colossian church that makes them a church for which people like Paul are thankful? How are we as a community to believe, love, and live so that people make much of Jesus in our city?

Paul’s introduction gives us insight into the shape of this church. They are gospel-centered, hope-motivated, love-filled, and fruit-bearing. In our language, they know, live, and advance the gospel. We’ll take this week to recenter ourselves on the mission Jesus gave our church (both the why and the how), and we’ll do this by focusing in on the gospel “bearing fruit.”

You’ll notice the repetition of that phrase in the passage, and arguably much of the letter to the Colossians is intent on showing the way in which the gospel bears fruit in the lives of believers. You’ll similar language throughout the New Testament in which agricultural metaphors for fruit or grain crops are used to describe spiritual realities or growth, such as in Luke 3:8 when John the Baptist urged, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance”(Luke 3:8), or in the parable of the sower, “And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain”(Mark 4:8).

This can give us a helpful corrective for how we understand both the work of the gospel and the Christian life. We tend to think of the gospel as a static message, but here Paul says the gospel “is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day you heard it”(1:6). In particular, he calls the gospel “the word of truth” in 1:5, which is a helpful dimension to add here. The gospel is not merely an encouraging message, an optimistic lens through which we can see our way through the difficulties of life, nor is it a personal truth comparable to other personal truths. It is THE word of truth, God’s disclosure to mankind upon which we depend for any hope in this life and the life to come. It is this word of truth that “will set you free”(John 8:32).

Next week we’ll turn to Colossians 1:9-14, in which Paul shows the way in which the gospel bears fruit (ex. “Bearing good fruit in every good work,” 1:10). So, we’ll close our discussion this week by preempting that, asking how we hope God causes the fruit-bearing reality in Colossae to happen in our lives and the life of Vintage Church.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Colossians 1:1-8 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• How do you think Paul feels about the believers in Colossae?

• What do you think it means that the gospel is “bearing fruit and increasing” at Colossae?

• What do you think is significant about Paul calling the gospel the “word of truth”?

• We go to God for many things—what’s a specific way you need truth from God?

• How do you hope the gospel bears fruit and increases in your own life and in our church?