We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing–as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf  and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” (Colossians 1:3-8). 

Paul gives thanks to God who, through Christ, is the only source of our faith. Then he makes us aware of the character of this faith. Saving faith necessitates love motivated by hope. This hope is rooted in and propelled by the “word of truth”, the good news of Jesus. Holy Spirit driven love for Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:6), manifests itself in the fruit-bearing that such passion characterizes. There is no such thing as loving Jesus without faith in Him, loving others, and bearing fruit. Our hope (Jesus as our eternal reward – see Colossians 1:27) is the instigator of such internal devotion and external deeds. 

Faith and love are virtues that are visible and verbal. When one is placed in Christ there is no such thing as private faith and love – these are publically displayed as evidence of the transforming power of Jesus that is empowered by His Spirit. Although Paul had never met the Colossian disciples, he had heard of their faith and love. It was no secret – the word spreads when we are radically transformed by a crazy love for Christ. And the scope of this love was not narrow or limited. Their love affair with Jesus and faith in Him caused them to have love for all the saints. I believe we all understand just how incredible this is. We often find it most difficult to love other believers. This same sentiment is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church: 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). 

Indeed, this is the good news, the gospel. Jesus, through life-altering, soul-absorbing faith in Him, drastically revolutionizes us from the inside out. He becomes our reality. Beyond that, He becomes our future hope (assurance) of an even greater experience of His reality – heaven. And what a motivator it is! He has laid up this hope by having our sins laid on Him. Its full consummation will be in glory but, with our hearts melted into Him and our eyes fixed on our future with Him, faith and love come pouring out of our spiritual pores as we are compelled by His Spirit. This is the character of those “in Christ”. This is why I don’t buy into the misapplied axiom that “you can be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good”. And I believe Paul would agree: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). 

In looking at Paul’s body or work, clearly faith, hope and love are interconnected. Paul often refereed to this trinity of virtues in the Christ-follower: 

  • “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). 
  • “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). 
  • “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). 

Just as significant and breathtaking is this Word of Truth that is the well-spring of this kind of faith, love, and hope can be known. It is objective and, despite the outcries and reasoning of the relativists, can be experienced. Jesus is that Truth and He is that Word. And from intimacy with Him pours these attributes that testify that we are faithful saints in Him. 

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