This morning I started meditating on Colossians in my devotional time. Even in the first 8 verses I have been amazed and staggered at the marvels written there.
Paul says that he prays for the believers in Colosse with thankfulness because he has heard:
- of their faith in Christ
- of their love for all the saints
this faith and love spring from, emerge out of, have ther origin in the hope that is stored up for them in Heaven.
This is worth pausing over. In English today "hope" has become a vague and wishy-washy word. An unsubstantiated feeling of longing that something good may happen in the future. This is absolutely not what it means in Colossians. Here hope refers to something that already exists in Heaven and is already waiting for us.
I picture it like this. Imagine a child asking their parents for their first bike for their birthday. The parents agree and together they go and choose the bike. "Now," say the parents, "we are going to put the bike in the shed until your birthday next week and then you can have it on the day." The child's hope is not a vague feeling or longing that she might get a bike - that is absoutely certain. It already exists, in the shed! The concrete, certain hope now is the bike. "Hope" is a word that now means "bike." She has seen it, heard about it, been promised it. The fact that she doesn't possess it quite yet is irrelevant - she she is going to.
So Paul is saying that we have hope in this way. We have concrete things stored up for us in Heaven and our knowledge of them cause faith in Jesus and love for believers to spring forth. Two questions:
- What is this hope, this inheritance?
- How do we get to know about it?
In reverse order, we get to kow about it in v5 in the word of truth, the good news that has come to us. This is fleeshed out a little in v6 where it is described as the message of "God's grace in all its truth." You can check out lots of other posts on my blog about grace, but there it is again. The gospel, God's good news is the true message of grace. Truth-soaked grace. Grace-saturated truth. The message that Christ has died, becoming sin, in order that we become the righteousness of God in him.
What, then, is the inheritance stored up in Heaven? The simple answer is God himself. The parallel passage in Ephesians talks about being God's possession to the praise of his glory. The gift is being united to his son in glory and wonder, enjoyment of the most satisfying person, forever in complete delight. It is receiving everything he is and everything he has for us (in Ephesians 2 the incomparable riches of his grace) expressed in his kindness to us in Jesus Christ.
To summarise, then:
- God has a great inheritance of hope stored up in Heaven for Christians
- We have heard about it in his message of grace
- Reckoning on this hope makes faith in Christ and love for others spring forth
We might want to say that this faith and love are evidence that we have grasped the hope. If there is little of either it is probably that there is no appreciation of or wonder at the message of grace. Non-Christians aren't full of faith and love precisely because they don't know about this hope and haven't received the message of grace.
Let's nail down one last thing. Why does faith and love in the present spring from this hope in the future? Simply that the hope makes us excited. We fix our hearts on it. Our hearts want to live in accordance with it. The hope is objective but it produces subjective feelings in us that change our ambitions, actions and attitudes to others. This, says v8, is produced by the Holy Spirit.
For those of us who want to see the Holy Spirit at work among our believing friends and churches, this is how to work to that end according to Colossians 1: show people the hope they have stored up in Heaven, through proclaiming the message of grace. When you see people starting to ignite, when you see faith and love starting to emerge in greater and greater measure, that's not us doing it, that is the Holy Spirit of God.