We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,…
Good news from Colossae had been brought to Paul at Rome by Epaphras. This devoted servant of Christ (Colossians 4:12) had probably been the first evangelist sent by Paul to Colossal, and the founder of the Church there (ver. 7, Revised Version). He brought also news which caused the apostle much anxiety (Colossians 2:1, 2, 8, etc.). But before he utters cautions he pours forth thanksgivings. We are thus reminded of two things.
1. Paul's largeness of heart. Love "rejoiceth in the truth" and "envieth not" those who have either more spiritual gifts or more temporal blessings (Romans 12:15). The fruit of Epaphras' ministry was a source of joy to him. He felt grateful for the gifts in money from the Philippians brought by Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:17, 18), but more for "the love in the Spirit" of the Colossians reported by Epaphras.
2. Paul's sympathy with the mind of his Master. Christ also dictated Epistles. Wherever there is anything to commend in the Churches of Asia, the Lord mentions this before he utters a word of censure. The apostle, writing earlier, but taught by the same Spirit of Christ, pursues a similar course in nearly all his Epistles (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). "The meekness and gentleness of Christ" enable him to praise and congratulate even the disorderly Church at Corinth. The apostle blends thanksgivings with his prayers, especially on account of that triad of graces, faith, love, hope, which elsewhere he rejoices in (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3). Their faith worked by love and was sustained by hope. Their permanent fruitfulness proved the reality of their spiritual life. We must, however, observe that the term "hope" is used here in a sense somewhat different to that in the other passages quoted above. It is the object of hope (as in Galatians 5:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 6:18), implying subjective hope. That "hope set before us" "we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast, and entering into that which is within the veil." Following the suggestions of this figure, we may notice some of the links of the chain of spiritual blessings by which the souls of converts are connected with that anchor, and on account of which ministers may give thanks on behalf of Christians who in these respects resemble the Colossians.
I. WE HAVE HEARD "THE WORD OF THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL." No gospel, no hope (Ephesians 2:12). We did not come to the gospel; it "is come unto" us. The Physician sought the patient, the Saviour the sinner (Isaiah 65:1; Luke 19:10). The gospel in its triumphant progress throughout all the world reached Great Britain, an Ultima Thule, brought by unknown missionaries who "for his Name's sake went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles." We ourselves have heard "the joyful sound," the genuine gospel, "the grace of God in truth" (Galatians 2:5; 1 Peter 5:12), the gospel of Christ which alone is "the power of God unto salvation."
II. WE. HAVE TRUSTED OURSELVES TO CHRIST. "Your faith in Christ Jesus;" We have not only heard, but we know,"the grace of God in truth." We know it because we have had a Divine Teacher. "In coelo cathedram habet qui corda docet" (Augustine). Our faith is the gift of God; it rests not "in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God." Thus we "know whom we have believed," etc. (2 Timothy 1:12; 1 John 5:13, 19, 20). Belief conducts to knowledge (John 6:69).
III. WE ARE BRINGING FORTH FRUIT. Wherever the gospel comes, i.e. comes home to men's consciences and hearts, it must be a fructifying power. "Even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit," etc. Ours is not a faith which "is dead in itself because it has not works." "Can that faith save" us (James 2:17, 14)? Ours is a "faith working through love." The quickening Spirit within us will bring forth "fruit after his kind" (Galatians 5:22, 23). One of the most characteristic fruits is love. "The love which ye have toward all the saints." We cherish love toward them because, in spite of all their failings, they are beloved children of our Father God (1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1).
IV. OUR FRUITS ARE VISIBLE AND PERMANENT. They are such as an Epaphras could discern and report. Our lights shine; our good works are seen (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 3 John 1:6). This fruit bearing is prompt. "Since the day," etc. The fruit itself multiplies; the gospel is "bearing fruit and increasing." Side by side with the outward growth of the gospel (which may be illustrated by the notices of the increase of the Church in Judaea from the "about a hundred and twenty" to the "many myriads" of Acts 21:20; and from progress in our own days), there is the ripening of Christian character (2 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:10) and the leavening influence of the gospel on modern society. For all these things we thank God, but especially if our fruit is permanent. The gospel still is bearing fruit in us (Psalm 1:3). Our hearts are not the stony or thorny ground. Christ's object is being fulfilled (John 15:16). We have not forgotten our first love; our last works are more than our first. "The past things perish if those things which were begun cease to go on to perfection" (Cyprian). Growth and persistence are causes for sincerest thanks.
V. "THE HOPE WHICH IS LAID UP IN THE HEAVENS" SUSTAINS OUR FAITH AND LOVE. "Faith... and love... because of the hope." This hope laid up is itself one of the things "hoped for." It is a reserved blessing, part of that great goodness of God "laid up for them that fear thee" (Psalm 31:19; 1 Peter 1:4, 5). But the links in the chain of spiritual blessings we have examined unite our souls here to the inheritance yonder (Romans 8:24, 25). Such hope maketh not ashamed (Romans 5:5; Jude 1:20, 21). If our souls are not firmly moored to that object of hope "laid up for us in the heavens," let us ask - Which is the missing link? - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,