The Gospel Truth Reaches the World
which has come to you, just as in all the world (1:6a)
The gospel is also universal; it has come to you, just as in all the world. Christianity was not just another of the local sects of the Roman Empire. It was not merely one more cult like the others at Colossae. It was and is the good news for the whole world. The gospel transcends ethnic, geographic, cultural, and political boundaries.
This universality of the gospel is repeatedly emphasized in Scripture:
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come. (Matt. 24:14)
Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.… For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom. 1:8, 16)
But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Rom. 10:18)
For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. (1 Thess. 1:8)
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9–10)
The diffusion of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire foreshadowed its spread throughout the world. It is a message of hope for all people in all cultures. The true church, the Body of Christ, is made up of people from all over the world (cf. Rev. 5:9–11).
The Gospel Truth Reproduces Fruit
it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it (1:6b)
The gospel is not merely a stagnant system of ethics; it is a living, moving, and growing reality. It bears fruit and spreads. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active.” When the gospel enters a divinely prepared heart, it results in fruit (Matt. 13:3–8). It possesses a divine energy that causes it to spread like a mustard seed growing into a tree (Matt. 13:31–32). Peter says it brings spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2).
The gospel has both an individual and a universal aspect. It is both bearing fruit and increasing. Paul tells the Colossians he is thankful the gospel had done both among them since the day you [the Colossians] heard of it. He is grateful they believed the gospel message when Epaphras shared it with them.
The gospel produces fruit both in the internal transformation of individuals, and also in the external growth of the church. The two concepts are interrelated. The spiritual growth of individuals will lead to new converts being won to Christ. That was the pattern of the early church. Acts 9:31 tells us that “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up … going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,” and as a result, “it continued to increase.” First Thessalonians 1:6 speaks of the spiritual growth of the Thessalonians as they imitated Paul and the Lord. As a result, “the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (v. 8).
The living gospel is the power that transforms lives. As it does so, the witness of those transformed lives produces fruit, including new converts. So as the gospel produces fruit in individual lives, its influence spreads.
The Gospel Truth Is Rooted in Grace
and understood the grace of God in truth. (1:6c)
Grace is the very heart of the gospel. It is God’s freely giving us the forgiveness of sin and eternal life, which we do not deserve and cannot earn. Christianity contrasts sharply with other religions, which assume man can save himself by his good works. Nothing is more clearly taught in Scripture than the truth that “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
After hearing Peter’s account of the conversion of Cornelius, the rest of the apostles exclaimed, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). Lydia was saved after “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Paul told the Thessalonians he was thankful “because God has chosen [them] from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). He wrote to Titus that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12). Salvation is a gracious act on God’s part (see also Acts 15:11; 18:27; Rom. 3:24; 4:1–8).
Paul describes saving grace as the grace of God in truth. The phrase in truth carries the sense of genuineness. It is truly the grace of God in contrast to all other claimants to the true gospel. God is freely, sovereignly merciful and forgiving. We can do nothing to cause our own salvation; God saves us freely by His grace. The hymn “Jesus Paid It All” expresses that thought in these familiar words:
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim.
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.
6 The gospel that came to the Colossians is said to be “bearing fruit and growing” all over the world. The scope and expansion of the gospel is global. It is like a luxuriant plant that flourishes and yields a bountiful harvest. While Paul’s description of the gospel’s dissemination at that juncture in Christian history is hyperbolic, his theological vision of its all but inevitable progress is notable. Paul was convinced that the transformative power of God’s grace, about which the Colossians heard and subsequently understood, would invariably reach the entire cosmos, and he labored to such an end (1:24–2:5). A message that was centered on a cosmic Christ (1:15–17), the apostle reckoned, could not be confined to or contained within a corner of the Mediterranean world; it must go to and grow in all the world.
1:6 / Here the emphasis continues to be on the truthfulness of the gospel. In 1:5 it was linked with hope; here the association is with the grace of God. From this, one could conclude that Paul is concerned to show that the message of the gospel is true with respect to hope and grace. But more likely he has the entire message in mind. This gospel, in contrast to the false teachings to which the Colossians have been exposed, is a true message.
The truthfulness and power of the gospel have practical dimensions as well. First of all, the gospel is universal in scope, that is, growing throughout the entire Roman Empire. The gospel of Christ is for everyone (inclusive) and not for a select few (exclusive) as the heretics are teaching (2:8–15). Second, the gospel is bringing blessings (lit., bearing fruit) to the whole world, even as it is to the Christians in Colossae. The true word of God is something that reproduces and grows (cf. the parable of the sower in Mark 4:1–20 and parallels); it does not sprout and then die out quickly (1 Pet. 1:23–25) as the false teaching was prone to do (2:14–15, 19).
Paul is establishing criteria by which the Colossians can counter the claims of the false teachers. With a concern much like the Apostle John, who wrote, “test the spirits to see whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1), Paul wants his readers to test the claims of these heretics against the claims of the gospel. Is it God’s truth? Is it universal? Does it bear fruit in people’s lives? If not, then it cannot be the gospel that they have received. The gospel needs to bear fruit in order for it to be the gospel!
1:6. The gospel bears fruit not only in the lives of individual believers but all over the world. Paul wanted the Colossians to understand that the gospel is not just another mystery religion isolated in the Lychus Valley and Asia Minor. These Colossians were part of a grand movement of God because the message they had believed and embraced was the seed of truth that was springing up with rich fruit all over the world. It’s just as true today as it was in a.d. 60. As Eugene Peterson translates this verse, “[The message] doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world” (The Message, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993).
The gospel message is not just true and good; it’s also a message of grace. Grace means “unmerited favor or undeserved kindness.” Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. He gives us heaven when we deserve hell; he grants us forgiveness when we deserve to be forgotten; he offers us life when we deserve death. It’s all grace. None of the good things we receive from God are earned. Salvation didn’t come to the Colossians because of their attachment to a complicated series of intermediate spirit emanations, or their adherence to a set of demanding rituals, or their adventures into the realm of ascetic experience. Those were the experiences the false teachers said were necessary to be truly saved and spiritual. Paul says, “No, it’s just grace.” Jesus died for us, and he offers us life. That truth, when adequately understood, takes root in our heart and bears fruit.
1:6 The truth of the gospel had come to the Colossians even as it had in all the then-known world. This must not be taken in an absolute sense. It could not mean that every man and woman in the world had heard the gospel. It may mean, in part, that some from every nation had heard the good news of salvation (Acts 2). It may also mean that the gospel was for all men, and was being spread abroad without purposeful limitation. Paul is also describing the inevitable results which it produced. In Colosse and in all the other parts of the world where the gospel was preached, it bore fruit and was growing (NKJV margin5). This is stated to show the supernatural character of the gospel. In nature, a plant does not usually bear fruit and increase at the same time. Many times, it has to be pruned in order to bear fruit, for if it is allowed to grow wild, the result is that all the life of the plant goes into leaves and branches rather than into fruit. But the gospel does both at the same time. It bears fruit in the salvation of souls and in the upbuilding of the saints, and it also spreads from city to city and from nation to nation.
This is precisely the effect that the gospel had in the lives of the Colossians since the day they heard and knew the grace of God in truth. There was numerical growth in the church at Colosse and, in addition, there was spiritual growth in the lives of the believers there.
It appears that great strides had been made in the first century, and that the gospel did reach Europe, Asia, and Africa, going farther than many persons have supposed. Still, there is no ground for thinking that it covered the entire earth. The grace of God is used here as a lovely description of the gospel message. What could more beautifully summarize the glad tidings than the wonderful truth of God’s grace bestowed on guilty men who deserve God’s wrath!
6 Paul goes out of his way to stress the powerful and almost personal character of the gospel: it has made its triumphal progress, coming to the Colossians and taking up a sure place in their lives. All over the world (which does not mean everywhere or to each person under heaven, but in the large cities and towns, e.g. Damascus, Tarsus, Antioch, Cornith and Ephesus, which served as centres of outreach), the gospel has been bearing fruit and growing. This phrase is used in the OT of human growth (Gn. 1:22, 28; 8:17; 9:1, 7) and of Israel’s population increase (Je. 3:16; 23:3); in the NT it is used to describe the seed (i.e. the word) in the parable of the sower (Mk. 4). Like that seed the gospel ‘bears fruit’, producing a crop of good deeds (i.e. godly actions) in the lives of believers (cf. Phil. 1:11), and it ‘grows’ as the number of converts increases. The Colossians heard this message of God’s grace in Christ and came to know its reality when they were converted.
1:6. Paul thanked God because the gospel was spreading all over the world. In fact, in an obvious hyperbole, Paul wrote in verse 23 that the gospel was being “proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (cf. Rom. 1:8). But Paul stressed not only the universality of the gospel but also its practicality, for it was producing fruit and growing. As a tree bears fruit and grows in size, so the gospel produces spiritual “fruit” in believers’ lives (cf. “the fruit of the Spirit,” Gal. 5:22–23; “the fruit of righteousness,” Phil. 1:11) and spreads to and influences others (cf. the same words “bearing fruit” and “growing” in Col. 1:10). Heresies (such as the one at Colosse) are local and harmful; but truth is universal and helpful. One of the unmistakable characteristics of the true gospel is God’s grace in all its truth. Some preach a “different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6–7). This is because it is a gospel of grace plus works, or faith plus works. But the true gospel is one of grace alone (Rom. 11:6; Eph. 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 21–23). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 281). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 19). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, pp. 279–280). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1990). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 O’Brien, P. T. (1994). Colossians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1263). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Geisler, N. L. (1985). Colossians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 670). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.