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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Faith and Love Springing from Hope


“The faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel.” Colossians 1:5

There are, as far as I see it, three good reasons to turn our attention to the book of Colossians at this juncture in Riverside’s development.

Paul's Authority

The first is that the church at Colossae was one that had not been personally planted by the apostle Paul. Which is like us. We haven’t been personally planted by the Apostle Paul – for very obvious reasons.

But that’s not what’s significant.

What is significant, is that even though the church in Colossae was planted by Epaphras – you can see that in verse 7: ‘You learned it [the good news about Jesus, that is] from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister’ – it was planted by Epaphras not Paul, yet this letter is from Paul and it carries authority. Paul expects the believers in Colossae to receive this letter as the very words of Christ to them because, verse 1, he is an apostle – that is an emissary – of the risen Christ Jesus, and therefore his letter to them carries the weight of the will of God.

That’s different from anything Epaphras could say to them. Epaphras was a faithful minister, but whatever Epaphras had to say, had only as much validity as his words dovetailed with the words of one of God’s divinely appointed apostles or prophets.

That’s important for us. We are exactly like the Colossians. We are planted here by 8 faithful believers who want to minister the word of Christ to people who have never heard of him. And we are led by two chosen elders.

But not one word from those 8, or even those 2, has any weight, so long as they don’t accord with the words of God’s divinely appointed apostles and prophets who received the very word of God and wrote them down for us.

We either take our cues wholesale from this book, or you should reject them.

The Colossians were meant to listen to a man they had never met – chapter 2, verse 1 - as having more authority than their own beloved founder Epaphras, because this Paul has the designation ‘Apostle of Christ’ and the permit of God Almighty, to reveal God’s will for them, and by extension for us.

So that’s the first reason for Colossians right now in the life of Riverside. We need to rely wholly on the words of the apostles and prophets, even though we never met them, because they are the very mouth-pieces of God.


The second reason for Colossians at this moment is that Colossians – and this might be surprising to you if you’ve read the new testament quite a few times – Colossians represents the greatest concentration of verses about ‘growth’, ‘maturing’, and arriving at ‘fullness’ of any new testament letter.

Whilst other letters may have more references - for example Hebrews uses the word ‘grow’ as many times as Colossians, and Romans uses the word ‘full’ 12 times to Colossians 9 times - yet both Romans and Hebrews are significantly larger books, and their content is doctrinally much more comprehensive.

So, for Colossians to be punching with those books and holding its own on the subject of ‘growing’, means Paul has this in mind as a significanttheme of his letter. In fact, a cursory glance at the first 14 verses here will serve to underline the emphasis. Verse 5 says, ‘faith and love spring from hope’. Which is the kind of language I use in April when I look out of the window and see the flowers starting to ‘spring’ up through the soil.

Verse 6, ‘the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world’. Which Paul is using as a global parallel of how the gospel was working in the lives of the Colossians.

Verse 10, ‘bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened’. All the language of growing up; maturing; and being established.

And I can’t think of any subject we need more at this juncture, as a fledgling church, than to speak to the question, ‘How do we grow up into the fullness of Christian maturity?’

If you could distil into one phrase the goal that (Pastor) Paul and I have for all your lives and for which we ‘earnestly contend’ by God’s grace, it is to see you all grow up to full maturity and attain to the fullness of what God has promised you – even his eternal inheritance. So that’s the second reason for Colossians.

Avoid Disqualification

The third reason is that we believe that the devil is real; that he hatesany endeavours made in the service of his arch-enemy, Jesus; and that he would by whatever subtle means possible, seek to bring down this church as soon as he possibly could.

One of the ways he can make inroads, is by suggesting to our minds and hearts that there is no real cosmic battle going on at all. All there is, is what can be seen. That kind of strategy would serve to put us on low alert.

And that’s exactly what Paul is afraid of in Colossae.

On the one hand Paul is very encouraged by reports of their faith and love (1:5); reports of their discipline, (2:4); and the fact that they are holy people, 1:2 & 22 and 3:12). But Paul knows that sitting back and getting comfy in that reality, with zero awareness of the prowling lion that is stalking them night and day, is an ever-present danger. Which is why he speaks to them in forthright terms, like: ‘if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel’ (1:23).

Or, ‘I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine sounding arguments’ (2:4).

Or, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy’ (2:8).

Or, ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful’ (4:2).

Or, ‘Epaphras is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured’ (4:12).

So, Paul is opening their eyes to the reality. This Christian life is not a stroll to the end, it’s a struggle to the end – a struggle with, what Paul calls, the ‘elemental spiritual forces of this world’ (2:8).

In Colossae there were false philosophies which were infiltrating the church and corrupting the ‘true message of the gospel’, verse 5. There’s no doubt in Paul’s mind, these philosophies are not harmless. On the contrary they are a device of the evil one to undermine the gospel, and Paul’s remedy is, to alert the Colossians to the fact of it; remind them of the spiritual triumph of the cross; and to show them how to live in light of it.

Now, I don’t see that we are any different to the Colossians. We are young, we are vulnerable, and we live at a very comfortable time when it is not immediately apparent that we are under attack from spiritual forces we cannot see. That means that we share with the Colossians their perilous position and we, like them, have need of the sirens Paul is sounding in this letter, and the admonitions and reminders he is delivering unto them.

I think that before the Colossians got their letter from Paul, they would have thought they were doing quite well. In fact, they were probably in danger of resting in that notion. But after reading Paul’s letter I think they would have been placed on high alert and aligned with Paul’s goal for them, which he states most clearly in chapter 2, verse 2: ‘My goal is that [you] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that [you] may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that [you] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may easily deceive you by fine-sounding arguments’.

So that’s the third reason: we need awakening to the cosmic reality that threatens to lead us astray and disqualify us from our inheritance so that we will remain firm to the very end.

That’s half the message on ‘why Colossians?’ 1. Let the bible be our authority. 2. Let us be brought to full maturity and so receive our blessed inheritance. And 3. Let us be alert so that nothing may disqualify us along the way.

Faith & Love from Hope

I think that broadly speaking in the introduction this morning I’ve covered, in some way, most of the elements of the first 8 verses. But in those 8 verses the glaringly obvious teaching of Paul is about Faith, Hope and Love and how they relate to something that is quote ‘stored up for you in heaven’ (v.5).

I want to show you three things about faith, hope and love here.

I want to show you how faith and love are related to hope.

I want to show you what this hope is in.

And finally, I want to show you how that whole mechanism is working to produce fruit in our lives.

Three things.

So firstly, how love and faith relate to hope.

What seems really obvious at first glance is that faith and love are the fruit of hope. According to Paul they are ‘springing’ out of hope. I think that idea is borne out in verse 6 when Paul says that ‘In the same way’ – in other words just like it is in your personal experience – ‘the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the world’.

So, the gospel is the equivalent of their hope, and the fruit is the equivalent of their faith and love. So, putting the two together, their gospel-hope is like the soil and their growth in faith and love is the springing into life of gospel fruit.

And Paul is very pleased with the demonstration of this growth in the lives of the Colossians – so much so he says in verse 3, ‘We alwaysthank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people’.

That raises some provocative questions I think. Questions like:

So, faith in Jesus isn’t a one-time thing then, but something that grows?

Is love for brothers and sisters visible in my life, and if not why not?

Do I give thanks to God that the fruit of the gospel is visible in the lives of my brothers and sisters when I encounter it – see it, or hear of it?

And, how do faith and love grow out of hope anyway?

We’ll get some answers in a few minutes, but let’s see first what this hope is in.

The world has an idea about hope, but it’s vague and nebulous. What is the world hoping in? What promises can it rest it’s hope upon?

I think the world predominantly rests its hope on the laws of nature, the expertise of people and the happenstance of luck. But we know from experience that life presents all kinds of circumstances that the powers of the laws of nature cannot overcome; that the skill of human beings cannot meet; and that the odds that the ‘happenstance of luck’ offer exist in the realms of the impossible.

We have been taught to believe in nothing so much as these things in our millennial times, and when they can’t offer any answers what are we left with, except empty despair.

That is emphatically not what Paul is talking about when talks of hope. He’s talking about hope in something totally concrete, rock solid, surpassingly great, and guaranteed by an unaltering, all-powerful, sovereign God.

Here’s how Paul talks about what is stored up for us in heaven:

Verse 12, it’s an inheritance in a kingdom of light – we currently live in the kingdom of darkness (verse 13).

Verse 22, we will be presented blemish free in his sight.

Verse 27, we will experience the glory of God.

Chapter 2, verse 3, we will have all the hidden treasure of wisdom and knowledge.

Chapter 3, verse 4, we will obtain resurrection life.

And, Chapter 3, verse 24, we will be fully rewarded.

All these treasures are secured by the unremitting purity and preciousness of Jesus’ purchasing power on our behalf, and they are rock solid, hope-dependable, realities.

The way that works, is that hope is what is kindled between what we desire and the realisation of what we desire.

So, as we walk through this life, Paul expects us to be fixing our eyes on that treasure that will be realised in the future. And as our desire for them rises, we will in turn find our hope is deepened.

That’s my experience. The older I get, the more dissatisfying I find this world. I find it has nothing lasting to offer. Nothing that satisfies the deep longings of my soul.

To say it positively, I find the promises of the treasures stored up for me in heaven more tantalising than ever, and more tantalising than anything this world can offer me.

I simply long to enter in and experience those infinitely enduring and ever deepening treasures.

But we’re not there yet. And that’s where hope is kindled. Right now, we are looking forward with eager anticipation to receiving what is stored up for us in heaven when our time comes.

So, we live in the most solid hope anybody can possibly have.

And Paul is saying that that hope, when it is kindled, produces faith in Jesus. How?

And he’s saying it produces love for brothers and sisters. How?

Well, it produces faith in Jesus because those treasures stored up for us are the work of Jesus and the warranty of Jesus.

He won them for us on the cross, and he left his Spirit in our hearts guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22). So, our final receivership of them depends on Jesus, both in his winning work and his warranting work. That causes our hope of receiving them to find its currency in Jesus, and so raises our faith in Jesus.

As our hope deepens, our faith deepens accordingly.

I’ll illustrate with an example from Jesus’ ministry. One time, a Roman Centurion – a powerful man – went out of his way to find Jesus to ask him to, with nothing more than a word, heal his sick servant. And Jesus said that he hadn’t witnessed faith like that in all Israel – meaning, he hadn’t witnessed faith like it in all his own people.

Now why did he say that? What was it about what the Centurion had done that caused Jesus to call that ‘great faith’? It was, that the Centurion had a pressing desire that his servant should be healed but no means of achieving that desired goal which he hoped for, save one – Jesus.

He believed that Jesus alone could accomplish the desired healing he hoped for. In fact, he believed it so much it caused him to say to Jesus, ‘just speak a word and he will be healed’. That’s how hope produces faith.

When what is hoped for can only be gained through Jesus, then faith in Jesus rises. Paul is saying that the Colossians lived with the kind of hope of heaven that caused their faith in Christ to grow. And I’m asking if that is our experience also?

What about love? How does the hope of heaven produce love? Two things: First, the evidence of love is how the treasure will be rewarded.

Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked’ (Luke 6:35).

So, when we demonstrate love in action to our brothers and sisters, we are behaving like the children of God that we really are. We are behaving like he behaves. And since God has stored up for his childrenan inheritance in heaven, he will give it to all those who by their love,act like he acts.

Therefore, love in action serves to ensure that what is hoped for is actually realised. Therefore love rises to realise what has been promised.

That’s one way that hope produces love.

The other way is, that the expression of love is an acting in such a way that someone else can share in the joy you have. So, if you love your brothers and sisters, that is going to look like folding them into the joy that is yours in the hope of heaven that you have. In other words, you will work to ensure that they endure to the end and receive that treasure stored up for them in heaven – that work is the work of love because it seeks to realise in someone else what is most valuable to their lasting joy.

So, now we see that hope produces the kind of growing faith and love in believers that causes Paul to give thanks to God.

The key then is, to cultivate hope in the treasure stored up for you in heaven which you heard about when you received the true message of the gospel – namely the glory of God and the hope of resurrection life.

And as we move through Colossians we will see how this hope in heaven is the very foundation of Paul’s letter.


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