First Mennonite Church
April 18, 2021
Called to Be Fruitful
Text: Colossians 1:1-14
Last Sunday, we took a closer look at how Paul presents Jesus Christ to the church of Colossae. According to Paul, Jesus is more than the savior of souls. His lordship is not confined over the church, only. The world and everything were created through him. The whole cosmos is sustained and held together by him, and for him. This marvelous and glorious Christ is the one who has called us. Therefore, the subject for my sermon this morning is: called for what? Because of the scope of Jesus’ lordship is greater than the universe itself, the scope of our calling is also more than just saying we believe in Christ Jesus.
Some have called the letter to the Colossians a theological monument to Christ and his church. At the same time, biblical scholars still debate whether or not it was Paul who wrote Colossians or someone who did in his name. However, regardless of those debates, we will take this passage as endowed with scriptural authority for the church, as we take every other passage of the New Testament.
First, Paul grounds his authority to address the Christian community in Colossae, not as coming from a human institution, but as someone who has been sent by Jesus Christ. Paul claims to be an apostle—that is, someone sent or commissioned by Christ.
The opening paragraph of this letter is quite heavy, not only grammatically, but more importantly, theologically. Many times I have been corrected for writing run-on sentences. Here, whether Paul was so excited about what he wanted to say that he did not notice how long his sentence had gotten or because his scribe could not find where to put a period as Paul was dictating, the case is that in the Greek the whole paragraph from verse three to verse 14 is one sentence only. But, I will not dare to make grammatical suggestions to Paul.
Theologically, Paul has a lot to say in this introductory passage. Paul begins by stating the reasons of his prayers for the Colossians. As I have said before, prayer reveals our true selves. That is because we know we cannot fool God, but also because in prayer we lay bare our heart before the Lord. That is what Paul does for the church.
Paul begins by giving thanks to God for the life of the Christian community in Colossae. But before I continue with the actual prayer, I want us to take notice of something about Paul’s prayer.
The congregation in Colossae was actually doing pretty well. They were showing every sign of spiritual, moral, and cognitive growth in Christ. They displayed the fruit of the Spirit. They loved one another and showed compassion towards the larger society. They were growing in the knowledge and wisdom of Christ. But despite all of these positive signs of a healthy congregation, Paul was praying for their continued holistic growth.
This is how prayer should be. We should not wait until someone is sick to pray for them. We should not wait until a marriage is in the brink of divorce for us to pray for the couples in the church. We should not wait until the church is in crisis to begin praying for the leaders and for God’s grace and healing to come.
You see, often times we see prayer only as something we should do when there is problem, illness, crisis, and everything bad. However, Paul prayed for the Colossians even when they were doing wonderfully well.
In your daily prayer time, remember to pray for those who are sick and for those who are doing well. Pray for those who are going through difficulty as well as for those who are thriving. Pray for the church’s needs and give thank for the blessings God is giving us.
Now let’s go back to Paul’s prayer. Paul gives thanks to the Lord because the people in this church had embraced the good news of Jesus Christ and the evidence of that was that they loved one another and all of God’s people. In verse five, Paul tells this church that their faith and love “spring out from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel.”
We know how little children trust their parents’ words. If we promise them something, maybe going to the park or to some place they like to visit, just by knowing that something exciting is awaiting them makes the be kind to among themselves. They are happy, even when doing their chores at home. In other words, the hope of having fun affects their behavior from the moment they know something exciting is in store for them. That is what Paul tells the Colossians. Your faithfulness to Christ and your love for one another, despite the present challenges, are the result of the hope you have in God’s promises and his eternal reward reserved for you in heaven. Faithfulness and love are the fruit of the gospel anywhere and everywhere it is received, says Paul.
Then, Paul goes to emphasize this point, when he says in verse 9 and 10:For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.
The first and foremost evidence of our knowledge of the will of God and of the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives us, is that we live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in every way. We are called to live a life worthy of the Lord; we are called to please the Lord in every way. The Lord is calling us to bear fruit in every good work.
I would like for us to take this time to see the implication of this metaphor Paul is using. Christians should bear fruit in every good work. Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16-18).
We just entered the spring season and it is so beautiful to see how plants and trees grow. One day they are bare, leafless, and might even look as lifeless; the next you see them blooming and shortly after you see tiny fruit: apricots, peaches, apples and so on, growing. If the conditions are right, the apple tree produces naturally. I know what I will harvest this year. I do not have to remind my apricot tree it is time to bloom or to bear fruit. It does so naturally. And that is what Paul suggests here. The Lord has given us everything that we need in order to produce fruit in every good work, naturally. God has given us knowledge, wisdom and understanding of what is in his heart through the Holy Spirit, so that we would live a life worthy of his name. To live worthy of the Lord, means that everything we do or say, every project we propose to accomplish, every thought and motivation that we have must honor Christ, as Lord of our lives. The evidence of a life worthy of Christ is that we bear fruit in every good work.
The idea of fruitfulness reminds of the creation story. God commanded Adam and Eve and all of creation to be fruitful. Israel was called to bear good fruit. Israel was God’s vineyard, planted of the choicest stock. But Israel was either barren or produced sour grapes. Faithlessness leads to bareness. Faithlessness is failure to produce what is expected.
In the book of Isaiah chapter five, there is a parable about Israel as a vineyard. God planted a vineyard with the choicest vines on a fertile hill. God built a protective fence around it and installed a watch tower to guard it. He also cut out a winepress to process his harvest. But instead of an abundant harvest of sweet grapes, the vineyard only yielded sour grapes (Isaiah 5:1-4).
We have been called by God. He has given us everything we need to be fruitful in every good work. We have not been called to win the culture war arguments, but to demonstrate the light of God in humility and in acts of compassion. We must remember that the morality we have or any signs of uprightness we display comes from the righteousness of God that he has gracefully given us.
My dear brothers and sisters, we must produce fruits of good work. We can start by doing something, like helping someone in need. These days, there are many who are in need, in need of someone they can talk to. Therefore, this week, call someone you have not talked to lately. There are those who are in need of prayer. Therefore, in your prayer time, bring someone you know needs God’s healing, strength or salvation, before the throne of God. There are those who are in need to be reminded someone cares for them, so send them a text, an email, or give them a call. Tell them you are praying for them. There might someone you know needs help materially. Help within your ability. If you know someone who is grieving, send that person a card or give him or her a call.
I want to invite you to ask the Lord to show you how best to share the fruit of righteousness and kindness with someone this week. We are not called to solve the problems of the world, but we can certainly touch the life of a person or even a family. Pray that the Lord would use you to be a blessing.
As we leave this morning, let us give thanks to the Lord for giving us everything we need in order to be fruitful. Let us offer ourselves to be used by God in everything we do. Amen!