“…the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”
Colossians 1:4-6 (NIVUK)
Sheffield is a city that has two universities both of which hold graduation ceremonies at various times during the year. At such times the city seems to be full of students regaled in their caps and gowns being photographed by friends and relatives in the most photogenic areas (yes there are such areas in Sheffield). Despite the current difficult economic climate some, who have newly qualified with the appropriate grades, will be able to take up a conditional offer of a job made prior to their final examinations and hence look forward to the prospect of a bright future.
Some Christians seem to think that God operates on a similar basis; that at the end of our lives we face a final examination when God decides whether we have made the grade and are able to take up his conditional offer of a place in his kingdom.
As the above scripture shows, at the beginning of his epistle to the Colossians, Paul reviews the current progress of the gospel and how it is bearing fruit among those that have heard and truly understood God’s grace. He then goes on to reveal certain facets of that grace that we should understand and be grateful for: “and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:12) By his grace, the Father, through the Son, has already qualified us to share the inheritance of the saints in God’s kingdom. Paul’s expression to “share in the inheritance of the saints” is an allusion to the inheritance that ancient Israel was given in the Promised Land. Paul was able to make this comparison because the inheritance and share allotted to each ancient Israelite in that land was also by God’s grace as Moses wrote, “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Deuteronomy 9:6)
Similarly, it is not by our righteousness, but by God’s grace, that we share in the inheritance of his holy people in “the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13)
The gospel message includes an invitation to humanity to believe and accept the unconditional offer of a position that the Father through the Son has qualified us for in his kingdom in Jesus Christ. It also includes the acceptance of the graduation robes God freely provides. Acceptance of these garments is expressed by the apostle Paul as a willingness to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 13:14) or to “put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27 NKJV) The good news is that God has provided everything necessary for salvation.
Father, we thank you that through Jesus Christ you have done all that is necessary for our salvation. Believing and accepting this fact can be difficult, help us to more deeply understand your grace.
Study by Eddie Marsh
Grace Communion, Sheffield
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