Saturday, March 5, 2011

Be Fruitful and Fill the Earth

Which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth. (Colossians 1:5-6)
We are breaking into the middle of one of Paul’s ponderous sentences (of which there are many in his letters). So far, he has thanked God for the faith and love evident in the believers at Colosse, and the hope laid up for them in heaven. They came upon this hope — this positive expectation, this joyful anticipation — when they heard the “word of truth,” the good news of the gospel that was brought to them, and experienced the grace of God.

There is an interesting comparison between what Paul notes was already happening with the gospel, and the divine mandate given to first man and woman Genesis 1, especially when we remember that the gospel results in new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The one who is in Jesus the Messiah is not only a new creature himself, but he is part of the new creation, which God has already begun and will culminate in a new heaven and a new earth. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul compares Jesus to Adam: “So it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Closer to home in the context of this letter, Paul calls Jesus “the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

When God created the first man and woman in the divine image and likeness, He blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Notice especially in this divine commission the idea of fruitfulness and of filling the earth. Do you hear the echoes of it in Colossians 1:6 with respect to the gospel, which even in Paul’s own day was filling the world and bringing forth fruit?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and He did it by the Word: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). The new creation comes the same way, by the Word of God, which Paul here calls the “word of the truth of the gospel.” Jesus, who by His resurrection from the dead became the firstborn of the new creation, gathered His disciples and gave them this commission:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This was already beginning to be fulfilled, as Paul attests. The gospel had come to Colosse, “as it has in all the world” and it was bearing fruit, “as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.”

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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