that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood the grace of God.
I. THE GOSPEL IS FRUITFUL. It is not a barren doctrine. It is a living truth that produces effects in the hearts of men which are made manifest through the influence of them on external conduct. It is fruitful in two ways.
1. In increase. The truth spreads like leaven; the mustard seed grows into a great tree; the two or three in an upper room multiply into the thousands of Pentecost and into the millions, the Churches of modern Christendom.
2. In good influences. The tree not only puts forth new shoots and so grows in size, it blossoms and bears fruit. The fruits of the gospel are the same graces as are elsewhere called "the fruits of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22, 23). Christianity makes happier and better men of us. These fruits are as visible as the fact of the numerical increase of the Church. All modern history bears witness to them, especially in the elevation of woman, the abolition of slavery, the recognition of national justice, the spread of a spirit of humanity, the creation of institutions of charity, and, better still, the doing of innumerable nameless deeds of kindness.
II. THE FIELD OF THE GOSPEL'S FRUITFULNESS IS THE WORLD. It was not preached in the whole world in St. Paul's day, nor is it even yet. But the process of bearing fruit throughout the world then began and still continues.
1. The fruit is seen in this world. The ripest fruit may not be perfected here, but if there is no fruit on earth there will be none in heaven. The gospel is first of all good news of peace on earth - it promises blessings for the present life (1 Timothy 4:8).
2. The gospel brings blessings to the whole earth. It is suited to all kinds of men, of all nations and in all ages, because it speaks to the common heart of mankind, offering the supply of universal wants and conferring graces that are universally good.
3. The gospel bears fruit throughout the world by first of all bearing fruit in the Church. "As it doth in you also." We can only enjoy the fruits of the gospel by entering the kingdom of Christ. The fruitfulness of the Church is the direct cause of the spread of Christianity throughout the world. Thus God is glorified in our fruitfulness (John 15:8).
III. THE SECRET OF THE GOSPEL'S FRUITFULNESS IS THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GRACE OF GOD OF WHICH IT IS THE DECLARATION.
1. The energy of fruit bearing resides in the grace of God. When men feel that grace they become new creatures. The constraining love of Christ works the miracle.
2. The receipt of this energy defends on the knowledge of Divine grace. It does not work by magic, but through an understanding of its truths. Therefore it is vain to pray for the increased fruitfulness of the gospel without also preaching the gospel.
3. A true understanding of the grace of God is necessary for its fruitfulness. It must be known "in truth." Perversions of the gospel hinder the fruitfulness of Christianity. The gospel tells of facts. Let us see those facts clearly separated from the errors and imaginations of human theology. - W.F.A.
Which is come unto you as it is in all the world.I. In It's ADAPTATION AND ENTERPRISE. "Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world." The gospel, though first proclaimed to the Jews, was net confined to them. It reached and changed the Colossians. In them all races were represented. The world's greatest blessings are not indigenous; are not even sought; they are sent from above. Systems of philosophy lived only in the soil that produced them. Heresies are ethnic; truth is catholic. The success of Mohammedanism was of a different character, and effected by different means. It depended more on the scimitar than the Koran. Alexander, Sesostris, and others achieved similar conquests, and as rapidly, by the force of arms. The victories of the gospel were won by moral weapons.
II. IN ITS RESULTS. "Bringeth forth fruit and increaseth as it does also in you." The fruit-bearing denotes its inward and subjective influence on the soul and life; the increasing refers to its outward and diffusive influence as it makes progress in the world. The metaphor used by the apostle suggests that the gospel, as a tree, not only bears fruit, but grows, sending forth its roots more firmly and widely, and extending its branches in the air. We cannot monopolize that which is intended for the world. It is intensely practical, and aims at results corresponding with its character. The individual who is most spiritually fruitful will be most active.
III. IN THE MANNER OF ITS RECEPTION. "Since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth." Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The mode of receiving the gospel is the same to all. It is apprehended by tim understanding, approved by the judgment. mad embraced by the affections. It is not enough that it falls on the ear like the strain of a seraphic melody, not enough that it enters the understanding as a clearly conceived, full-orbed truth, not enough that it ripples through the sphere of the emotions as an unspeakable ecstasy; unless, aided by the Divine Spirit, it be cordially embraced by the heart and conscience as the whole truth — the only truth that saves. It is in the gospel only that we "hear of the grace of God" — the good news that He has provided redemption and restoration for the race. Nature, with all its revelations, is dumb on this subject. Providence, with its vast repertory of mingled mystery and bounty, unfolds it not. It is only by believing the gospel that, like the Colossians, we can "know the grace of God in truth."
IV. IN THE METHOD OF ITS PROPAGATION.
1. It is propagated by preaching "as ye also learned," lit., "as ye were instructed," in the truth of the previous verse. Probably Epaphras first preached the gospel at Colosse and the neighbouring cities. Preaching is the Divinely-instituted means of disseminating the gospel. It cannot be superseded by any other agency. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save."
2. It is propagated by men thoroughly qualified for the work.(1) The apostle recognized Epaphras as a co-labourer with himself. The preacher must labour as belonging to Christ, as dependent on Him, and as attached to Him. With all frankness, affection, and modesty, the great apostle acknowledges Epaphras as "a dear fellow-labourer." Envy and jealousy of the gifts and reputation of others are pernicious and unjustifiable.(2) The apostle recognized Epaphras as a faithful minister of Christ.(3) The apostle recognized Epaphras as a man of deep spiritual insight. "Who also declared unto us your love in the spirit." Love is the leading characteristic of the gospel. Lessons:
1. The universality of the gospel a strong evidence of the: Divine authorship.
2. Though all the world were to reject the gospel it would still be true.
3. To whomsoever the gospel comes, the imperative duty is to believe it.
(George Barlow.)I. THE ADMIRABLE PROGRESS AND GREAT AND SUDDEN SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL.
1. The gospel had come to the Colossians, a people living in Phrygia, a province infamous for its abominations, whence had issued the mysteries and infernal devotions of Cybele, the most detestable of pagan idols, and in whose service were committed the most shameful horrors. Whence it appears that the knowledge of God's Word is a donation of mere grace, and not the payment of merit. The apostle tells them, not that they had come to the gospel, but it to them; to show us that it is God who comes to us, who prevents us by His grace, according to His good pleasure. The sick go to the physician; here the Physician of souls goes to the sick (Luke 19:10; Isaiah 65:1).
2. The gospel was come into all the world. This is not at all astonishing if the other apostles and evangelists laboured each according to his measure. We read of the extraordinary diffusion of the gospel in Justin, Clement, , and even Tacitus acknowledges that there was a very great multitude of Christians in Rome.
3. The apostle mentions this —(1) To confirm them the more in the faith of the gospel. Not that truth depends on its success; though all the world were against it that would be unshaken. Yet it is a consolation to the believer to see the extensive diffusion of his faith; and the more converts, the greater the confirmation.(a) It was not full thirty years since the crucifixion; how, then, could the doctrine of the Cross have made so great a way in so little time, surmounted so many obstacles, flown into so many places, if it were not Divine. What other system has accomplished so much.(b) Then it had no force of arms to advance it, or charms of eloquence and philosophy to commend it. Its missionaries were fishermen and artizans, without credit or experience, persecuted, derided, killed. Yet it spread everywhere.(2) Besides the confirmation of their faith the apostle designed to fortify them against the errors which were being sown in the Church.
II. ITS DIVINE EFFICACY.
1. It brings forth fruit — faith, love, etc. It is this energy of the gospel which Christ represents in Matthew 13. Wherever the gospel went it transformed (Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:10, 11), and those whom it transformed used it to transform others.(1) It brought forth fruit instantly — not as nature. The moment the gospel is rightly received it produces fruit. Receive it then at once (Psalm 95:7, 8). One of the most pernicious artifices of the enemy is to induce men to defer conversion. You cannot be the Lord's too soon.(2) But if we are required to bear fruit at once, it follows not that we may soon after cease to do so, as certain trees which, if they are the first to flourish are the first to fade (Psalm 92:14).
2. The faith of the gospel is "the knowledge of the grace of God," because it is not possible to enjoy this heavenly doctrine if the man has not received the mercy it offers in Jesus Christ. This grace is the heart and substance of the gospel. When Paul says that they "beard and knew the grace of God in truth," he means either —(1) That they received it in sincerity, without hypocrisy; or(2) That it was delivered to them pure, and without mixture of Pharisaical superstition or philosophical vanity; or(3) So as it is declared in the gospel, not on error and fictions, as in the false religions; nor in shadow or figure as in the law, but nakedly and simply as it is in itself. Of these three expositions the first is commendatory of the Colossians, the second of Epaphras, the third of the gospel itself.
(J. Daille.)tenebrosum, as the late Dr. Miller called it), the progress of the truth has been ever onward. From every defeat it has arisen afresh, and what has never been the ease in any other system, religious, social, or intellectual, has revived anew from the ashes of its own inward corruptions. In this nineteenth century, the Christian population of the world cannot be far from three hundred millions; and its progress now is more rapid than in any period since the apostolic age. What imagination can forecast the conquests of the next fifty years! The leaven is working in every land. The old empires of idolatry and superstition are effete, and ready to vanish; while new Christian empires are born almost in a day. Every new discovery in nature, or invention in art, helps to speed the gospel. Trade, commerce, revolution, exploration, all prepare the way and herald the approach of the heralds of the cross.
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