logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

“What Fruit Does the Gospel Bear?”

Sept.4, 2016 Colossians 1:3-12


Is there an emptiness in your life? Are there gaps, do you feel unfulfilled, as if there’s something you’re missing out on?

             During the last week of our vacation in August, we were visiting old friends from our time up in the Sault Ste.Marie / St.Joseph Island area. We were staying in the Sault so made at least a couple of trips out of town along the North Shore of Lake Huron to St.Joseph Island. Now, if you know anything about that North Shore, you’ll know its geography is tied up with Highway 17 which runs east to west along it from Sudbury to Sault Ste.Marie. So for our trips to the Island, we’d been used to following Highway 17, ever since our time there from 1987 to 99. All the time we’d pass through the towns of Garden River - an Ojibway native reserve, which had “This is Indian Land” boldly painted on the railway bridge - and Echo Bay, a small agricultural/residential town. Not long after we returned to southern Ontario, a 4-lane bypass was completed which cut just a kilometer or two inland of both Garden River and Echo Bay. You can imagine the effect on both towns! Now the vast majority of the traffic along that part of Northern Ontario completely misses them. When we drive through them now, they seem eerily quiet compared to previous times.

             The city of Colosse [see map] was an important city about 500 BC, standing as it did at the crossroads of two major trading routes in Asia Minor, the east-west one to Ephesus and the north-south one through Sardis to Pergamum. However the north-south road got re-routed about 15 km to the west, towards the prosperous new foundation of Laodicea (the wealthy but lukewarm ‘spit-you-out-of-my-mouth’ city of Revelation 3:14). As a result of being bypassed, the city of Colosse suffered decline. The New Bible Commentary: Revised describes it as “a small, relatively unimportant city in the Lycus valley.” NIV Study Bible calls it “a second-rate market town”. Hmph - hardly complimentary!

             Paul the apostle had spent a couple of years in Ephesus, 100 miles to the west of Colosse, on his third missionary trip (about AD 53-57). It seems during this time a native of Colosse named Epaphras had heard Paul and become a Christian. Paul sent Epaphras back to his home town where he in turn planted a church, which met in the home of a man named Philemon. Colosse was a mixed town: Jews had fled there during the persecution in Jerusalem under Antiochus and established a settlement a couple of hundred years BC. There were also Gentiles and Phrygians. This mixture of ethnicity in the population made it a natural place for syncretism to develop – heretical religion which tries to mix together “a little bit of this, a little bit of that”. A person decides for themselves what particular elements of religion you wish to adopt or leave out; pick-and-choose. Isn’t that popular today?

             Religious scammers took advantage of this feeling of not being fulfilled spiritually. Heresy arose at Colosse featuring a variety of elements. On one hand you had ceremonialists, legalists, emphasizing strictness about what kinds of food could be eaten, religious festivals and rites. Ascetics stressed not tasting or touching. On the other were those influenced by early Gnosticism, Greek philosophy, secret knowledge, human wisdom. Then there were some super-spiritual types who said they worshipped angels.

             Epaphras, who had planted the church, was starting to get concerned. Was it about to go off the rails spiritually? He needed help. So he got up and travelled some 1500 km as the crow flies to go find Paul, who by now was in prison in Rome. Epaphras had preached the gospel he’d heard from Paul likely at Ephesus, but probably hoped the apostle could supply extra instruction that would help the church not get drawn into deviant doctrine and weird practices.

             Scammers are still active today. One local news item recently involved a person who was persuaded to buy iTunes cards as a way of making a Canada Revenue payment – that turned out badly! Spiritual scammers are out there ready to offer a bill of goods to those who may be feeling unfulfilled, they’re missing out, they’ve been bypassed in life. I see a psychic-medium is coming to the Knights of Columbus hall in Wingham Sept.10 (how’s that for a mix!). The related group is associated with Reiki, ‘Shamanic Journeyings’, and ‘Angelic Messengers’.

             Paul responded to Epaphras’ concern by writing to the people of Colosse to put a more solid foundation under their faith. He wanted them to realize how much they already HAD in Christ, so they wouldn’t feel like they were missing out and get duped by spiritual con artists.


Perhaps you’ve been to some weddings already this season; there are some still coming up. One of the most oft-chosen passages at Christian weddings is 1Corinthians 13, which stresses that God’s kind of love is much more than just words or feelings: agape-love is patient, kind, unselfish, and so on. The concluding section of this famous chapter introduces a triad or cluster of 3 elements that appear together several times in apostolic writing. 1Cor 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

             So as Paul begins to write to this young struggling church at Colosse, he first of all affirms the way he detects (through what Epaphras has related to him) how God is already making Himself known in their midst. And these three primary qualities are being revealed increasingly. Col 1:4f “...we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel...”

             What’s anchoring them, helping them not go adrift into strange waters? FAITH in Christ Jesus – basic trust in God for what He’s done and how He’s revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, teaching wisely, healing many, dying for our sins, rising in triumph over our guilt and death’s destruction. LOVE ‘for all the saints’ – this church has been experiencing love and affection and devotion towards each other, they’ve felt God’s real-ness by the caring they’ve enjoyed with each other, fellow Christians. In v8 Paul notes Epaphras has “told us of your love in the Spirit”. Faith vertically toward Christ; love horizontally toward other Christians. Paul notes both this faith and this love spring from, have arisen from (NET Bible) “the HOPE that is stored up for you in heaven...” It’s BECAUSE we know Jesus has risen from the dead and gone before us and will receive us into heaven after we die if we trust in Him that we are enabled to keep on trusting God in the uncertainties here-and-now, and to keep on loving other believers even when they behave less than perfectly and disappoint us.

             Faith, hope, and love are central in a Christian’s life; as Paul put it, “these three remain” (1Cor 13:13). See also 1Thess 1:3 “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” And 1Th 5:8 “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”


One of our old friends we visited up north, Margaret Snider, had had an apple tree planted in her honour by Jocelyn Township, nearby the antique machinery shed that had been constructed in her deceased husband’s honour. They were recognizing Marg & Jim’s contributions to the community over the years. An apple tree is in some ways more fitting than just an ornamental tree because when it’s old enough, it should keep on bearing fruit year after year – just as the person it was planted in honour of contributed ‘good fruit’ to the community repeatedly.

             Paul prays in v10 that the Colossians “may please [the Lord] in every way: bearing fruit in every good work...” And previously in v6 he notes, “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...” What ‘fruit’ does the gospel bear? He’s not talking about apples, oranges, and bananas here...Not even tomatoes! Paul wants to point out to those who feel they may be ‘missing out’, who feel ‘second-rate’ or bypassed, the kinds of fruit God’s producing through them so they can feel FULFILLED in Christ and not be susceptible to hanker after spiritualists and heretics who offer something else. In vv7-12 he listens 7 kinds of fruit the gospel is bearing.

1) CONVERTS: v7 “You learned [the gospel] from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf...” Paul ministered in Ephesus, where Epaphras believed the Good News about Jesus; then Epaphras in turn shared about it in his home town of Colosse, and a church was born. Colosse is in the neighbourhood of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 to whom Jesus gives individualized messages through John: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These were all in Asia Minor, around modern-day Turkey. Paul had already planted several churches in places in Greece and Macedonia; now the gospel was spreading throughout the Roman Empire, as he kept on sharing in its capital city, Rome.

             Epaphras found the Good News of salvation in Jesus was so good he wanted to share it with people in his home town. Who have you shared the gospel with lately? Even such a simple thing as having someone over for a meal and offering to pray for them before they go can be a real witness.

             Last Sunday we witnessed half a dozen people get baptized in the Maitland River at Auburn through the ministry of Huron Chapel. Pastor Mark commented on their youthfulness and noted how important their church’s children’s / youth ministries are. As our church gears up for a new church year, we’re reminded that teaching Sunday School and nursery can have major impact on people’s lives.

2) CONTENT: The gospel bears fruit by planting Christian concepts in people’s brains, shaping their worldview. V5 It is “the word of truth, the gospel”... Back in ancient times, ‘gospel’ referred to good news of an enemy army being conquered, that was the good tidings heralded that the nation was now safe. Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil likewise is ‘good news’ that needs verbal proclamation. V9 “...we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Also v10B “growing in the knowledge of God...” Eastern ‘mystery religions’ such as Gnosticism emphasized a special knowledge reserved for the intitiates. Paul by contrast says Christ’s gospel is being broadcast ‘allover the world’ (v6), it’s not to be kept hidden for a select group. God reveals His word through the Bible (in tune with Jesus) so people’s minds can have the right kind of knowledge, wisdom, understanding. Knowledge has to do with facts, how the universe is ordered and God has acted in history; wisdom, general principles; and understanding, how to apply those principles in particular cases. We are to love God with our mind as well as heart / soul / strength (Luke 10:27). Wherever churches have been planted, they have helped schools and universities to spring up, education - science - technology have been advanced, ignorance diminished. Are you becoming more familiar with God’s truth through a habit of daily Bible reading? Do you want your kids to read the Bible more? A Barna research study found that teens whose parents read the Bible regularly are more likely to read it themselves. (No duh!) “Among teens who say their parents read the Bible regularly or sometimes, 45% report reading from the Bible at least once a week, compared to just 5% of teens whose parents do not read it regularly.” (ChristianityToday)

             The gospel bears fruit in its informational content. As our fall season begins, is there a Bible study you can plug into or maybe even host that would foster God’s truth becoming more planted in the lives of yourself and others?

3) CHARACTER: The gospel bears fruit in the quality of the lives of believers; their actions are a credit to their Lord. V10 “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way...” NLT “Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord.” As onlookers observe your life, would they say you are a credit to Christ? Or do they see hypocrisy, fudging, waffling? Paul could write in 2Tim 3:10 “You...know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance...” Those who’d spent time around Paul could attest to things he’d done that illustrated these qualities. His character was a credit to Jesus.

4) CONTRIBUTION: The gospel bears fruit by good deeds we do. V10 “bearing fruit in every good work...” This month we’re planning to start a transportation service that will help people access the food bank in Wingham once a month. Some people have volunteered to serve as drivers; that’s a time commitment. Our monthly Good Food Boxes are a tangible witness in the community, but they take time to plan, assemble, and deliver. What ‘good works’ of yours testify to God’s grace in your life? Peter wrote (1Peter 2:12) “Live such good lives among the pagans that...they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Make a positive CONTRIBUTION in the community.

5) KICK: God through the gospel gives us ENERGY to carry out His purposes. V11 “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might...” Who needs caffeine when you have Christ, right?! When you get tired out and at the end of your resources, lean into Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s supply. Paul was used to getting beaten up, stoned, even shipwrecked; Jesus said to him, “"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore [Paul concluded] I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Christ gives power, strength in our weakness.

6) CARRY-THROUGH: (#5 was ‘Kick’, I wondered about calling this one ‘Stick’!) The Gospel helps us stick with it when the going gets tough, encourages us to endure and carry through on God’s goals. V11B (strengthened with power) “so that you may have great endurance and patience...” In our local paper, editor Shawn Loughlin was talking about participating in one leg of the Goderich triathlon as a team. His task was cycling 42 km; he’d trained, but when he hit the first hill, he wondered how he was going to make it. Yet he endured and finished the course. His buddy who was prepared to do the 1-km swim found out at the last minute the swim was cancelled due to poor conditions on Lake Huron, so he had to run 5 km instead! Sometimes life throws us curve balls; Jesus helps us endure through trials. Our friend Marg up north is now over 90 years old, yet when we visited she was in the middle of yet another project, sorting out photos she’d accumulated over the years in order to give them to people in their respective families. Being 90 is no reason to give up!

             Nabeel Qureshi is an apologist with Ravi Zacharias ministries; he was converted from Islam and has a great message in that regard. Yet this week he found out he has advanced stomach cancer “and the clinical prognosis is quite grim”. Yet his faith in Christ flavours how he reacts to this threatening news. His opening statement announcing this development says, “God in His infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray He will be glorified through my body and my spirit.” He closes by quoting Philippians 1:19f, “I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.” Nabeel’s conviction of gospel truth is helping him endure potentially terminal illness.

7) CHAR-ISMA: The grace that is ours in the gospel helps us have a notably positive attitude, marked by joy and gratitude. V11C-12 “and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” JOYFULLY GIVING THANKS... Not grumpy or begrudging or grumbling, but joyfully giving thanks. In the Greek, ‘joyfully’ comes from chara, and ‘giving thanks’ comes from eu-char-isteo, so God’s grace tinges our attitude with CHAR-isma. God has already qualified us, made us eligible, enabled us to share in the saints’ inheritance; because we trust in Jesus who gave Himself for us, it’s a ‘done deal’. They may kill the body but they cannot kill the soul, and that soul is bound for eternity in relationship with the most loving good powerful being in or outside of the universe! So we can ‘joyfully give thanks’ even while enduring life’s tougher moments.

             GK Chesterton said, “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” Giving thanks in all circumstances is one way that we can show really deep down we are rejoicing always in our inner person (1Thess 5:16,18). Let’s pray.