Friday, 17 March 2017
…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 1:6
Paul now refers to “the truth of the gospel” from the previous verse with the word “which.” It is this message, as he says, “which has come to you.” The gospel is that which established their faith (see Romans 10:17) as Paul noted in verse 4, and which has laid up the hope for them as he noted in verse 5.
Next, he uses hyperbole by saying that this same gospel message which has come to them has also come “in all the world [kosmos].” It is important to understand that he is using hyperbole because replacement theology wrongly uses this verse to show that Jesus’ words of Matthew 24:14[ouikoumene: world]. are fulfilled in Paul’s words of this verse. Such is not the case. Paul uses a different word for “world” than Jesus does. It is true that he uses the same word as Jesus in other verses (such as Romans 10:18) [oikoumene: world], but the context indicates there that he is not speaking of the gospel itself having gone out to the entire world. The context of his words in Romans is based on an Old Testament reference concerning the general revelation of God to the whole world. From there, Israel is rebuked for rejecting His special revelation, meaning the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Further, Paul uses the same word and in the same way in Romans 1:8 by saying –
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world [kosmos].”
It is clear that Paul is using hyperbole there to show that the faith of those in Rome seems to shout out to all the world. Rome was the center of the Roman Empire, and therefore the faith of those in Rome extended out in a unique way. Clearly not all in the Roman Empire, much less the entire inhabited world, had heard of the faith of those in Rome.
It is an inappropriate stretch to take Jesus’ words of the gospel going out to the entire world and then to apply them in an absolute way to what occurred in the first century. However, concerning the gospel which had come to those in Colossae, he next says that it “is bringing forth fruit.” Fruit is the result of something else. The gospel had been preached, and there was a result because of it. People were coming to Christ, they were being obedient to the message, and they were continuing to share the message with others. These things are evident from Paul’s coming words.
However, he is writing the letter now to correct misconceptions or misrepresentations of Christ which were already coming about. He is writing to ensure that the fruit which is brought forth will be good fruit. This is why he continues with, “as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.” They had heard the message, they had received the grace of God, and it was received “in truth.” In order to ensure that this same message would continue on unstained by bad doctrine, or even heresy, he will continue with the words of this letter.
Life application: Context always needs to be considered when looking at statements which use the same terminology in the Bible. It is true that the use of identical words often is intended to show a pattern, or the fulfillment of something else, but the surrounding context cannot be tossed out in order to make unfounded conclusions. Always consider what the writer’s reference is before making a final determination about how his words are intended to be taken.
Lord God, Your word is big, and it is often complicated. Help us to read it carefully, and to always consider the context of what is being said. Without following this most basic guideline, we sure can get misdirected down unnecessary paths which have nothing to do with what You intend for us to see. Give us wisdom in this, as it is our desire to stick to Your intent for us as we read and study this marvelous gift which You have given to us. Amen.