[5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, [6] which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

Colossians 1:5-6

Paul has previously focussed on hope as the foundation from which faith and love are built on. He continues his theme by explaining that the hope the Colossians had, came from hearing the word of truth the gospel.

Paul tells us that the gospel is, the “hope laid up for you in heaven.” It was when the gospel was proclaimed that they “heard” of this hope. It’s not a popular subject “the hope of a future heaven” there is a lot in today’s gospel which is, “make me feel good on Earth” and also, “do good on Earth.”

I can understand this trend, we should preach a gospel that gives folk direction, transforms lives, addresses poverty and social justice and advances the kingdom. We should preach the love of Christ, redemption and the forgiveness of sins. We should not shrink back from the gospel of Jesus is Lord and his lordship over all parts of our lives. On the other hand, “the hope of heaven” should not be to escape this wicked world. Having said that, the gospel is most definitely about life after death, it is about eternal life.

[16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5

Can I make a plea for oral in person proclamation of the gospel, the Colossians “heard” the gospel. Oral and in person is now off trend, on trend is a gospel of presentation, assaults on our senses through image, colour, noise, taste and smell. Video clips, appeals, interviews and backdrops make the gospel a theatrical presentation and errs on the side of entertainment. Gone, and considered not current and out dated is expository preaching and exegesis. I suspect I will upset some and they will perceive me to be a grumpy old man hanging on to the past. Our energy, as pastors, is now focused on a multi sensory experience rather than getting into the text or wrestling with the context. It is true that discovering the intent of the biblical authors and their relevance to the lives of our folk is hard work. Praying for the Holy Spirit’s enabling is sometimes agony however, for me, it’s clear in scripture, the gospel is spoken person to person, or person to people.

This gospel that is oral and in-person when heard and received delivers us from the dominion of Satan.

[13] He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

The “word of the truth”. Word is the Greek word logos meaning a proclamation or a declaration or a message of truth. Sadly we no longer live in a word based culture, but we must not throw out word based gospel because it carries with it a work of the Holy Spirit upon those who hear. The Holy Spirit is working though a person to a person or people who in turn is working in their lives causing them through revelation regarding the work of God in Christ to be delivered or transferred out of one place “darkness” to another place “light”. These words are life-giving, soul-saving, comprehensible truths that the Spirit awakens us to “hear” and understand and to trust and enjoy, they rescue us from a domain and place us in a new kingdom. Something sovereign and supernatural is at work.

Lastly the gospel we hear is truth. Whether we translate this phrase “the word of the truth, the gospel” or “the true preaching of the gospel” or “the proclamation of the truth which is contained in the gospel,”

the result is the same: there is truth in the gospel of Jesus Christ that can be discerned, known and embraced.

The very concept of “truth” is not a popular subject today. Some say truth does not exist, that absolute truth certainly does not exist. Others say if truth does it exist then it is unattainable or inaccessible as it is beyond the human experience. Then there are others that say that truth is based on your understanding of what truth is. What I perceive to be truth may not be truth to you. Or it’s true for me.

The consistent theme of scripture such as we find in Colossians is that truth is absolute, accessible and relevant to all peoples at all times. We must contextualise it and be sensitive to our hearers but truth is unchanging. It’s not a weapon to fire at those who disagree with you, or a hammer to hit a congregation with. Truth is living and active, it works beyond what is spoken, it is as we have said earlier a key that unlocks the mind from slavery to false idols, a light that dispels the darkness of errant thinking, a power that liberates and delivers us “from the domain of darkness and transfers us “to the kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son”

This truth is found in the “gospel”, in the good news that God has become human in Jesus Christ and has lived and died and risen from the grave for the redemption of his people.

This truth is now embodied and expressed for us in the written Word of God, the Scriptures. Let’s have it as our standard to live by, ingest every word we can, meditate on it and relish it. Above all else, by God’s grace, let it transform our hearts and renew our minds and govern our decisions.