“ . . . The gospel,
which has come to you,
just as in all the world also it is
constantly bearing fruit
even as it has been doing in you also
since the day you heard of it
and understood the grace of
God in truth,
just as you learned it from Epaphras,
our beloved fellow bond-servant,
who is a faithful servant of Christ
on our behalf . . .” Colossians 1:5-7
This describes how the gospel came to the people of the city of Colossae. They owed so much to Epaphras, one of their own who had brought the gospel to them, to whom Paul gives a double attribution: “fellow bond-servant and faithful servant of Christ.” Whatever we can say about this gospel-bearer, he was first and foremost a servant. To carry the gospel without compromise, you have to be.
Epaphras and the Colossians who responded to his message were part of something huge, just as you are. Paul ascribes to the gospel message an expansiveness that is far beyond Asia, where Colossae was located. The gospel was bearing fruit in all the world, and it was increasing, just as it was among the Colossians. When Paul said it bore “fruit in all the world” he was exclaiming about the effect and expansiveness of the gospel. It started among them the first day the gospel was believed.
The gospel is something to be learned. “Just as you learned it from Epaphras.” In the verse preceding Paul says that the Colossians “previously heard [about the hope laid up in heaven] in the word of truth, the gospel (v 5). The gospel is often called “the word” or the message. Here it is described as “the message of truth.” And so it is.
Sometimes people have the mistaken idea that the gospel is something that is merely lived out before others, as in serving them. It is commendable to serve. It is expected that every believer will serve. Epaphras served. But the gospel is a message to be learned and heard, just as Paul and Epaphras understood so well. Our service will adorn the gospel, but is not the same as the gospel
But the most important truth for the Colossians to know concerning the gospel was that it was above all “the gospel of grace.” It’s not good news to think of it any other way. The most insensitive of us surely find it hard to imagine that God would give us such a great gift, which includes eternal life, on the basis of how excellent we are, or that somehow we are worthy. We are not worthy, but are given grace that is undeserved. If we have any of the conviction of the Spirit, we will see ourselves entirely too low and sinful to deserve such a gift. It’s of grace from beginning to end. Even the desire to listen and to respond to the gospel is a gift from God.
So, like the Colossians believers, we breathe the air of grace. He brought this gospel of grace to the Colossians, and he also brought it to you. You heard and learned about it. You believed the message. It is now doing its work in you and among those around you since the day you heard it. Beyond this, the gospel goes around the world. You are among the tens of thousands and more that have heard and received grace. God’s grace is so wide and strong and yeast-like that people out of every tribe and tongue will hear and believe. When John saw into heaven, he saw a multitude of believers that no one could count.
Be thankful for the gospel of grace and share it with others.