The gospel literally means “good news.” It is the greatest thing that can happen to us, to hear it and believe it. In this passage Paul calls it “the word of truth.” This word of truth is from God, and promises salvation. It is life giving, life transforming; new life that is forever.

God accompanies his word of truth with his Spirit to create new life in the sinner. Where there was darkness he says, “Let there be light.” This light is the light of Christ who is the light of the world. In verses 4 and 5, Paul speaks of the fruit of God’s work in his new creation: the three pillars of faith, love, and hope.

Christians are like a seed planted by God, that grows into a flower, with faith, hope, and love as the three blooms God is cultivating in his children. We cannot cause the life to begin, but God tells us we are required to participate in the growing and maturation of the life he gave. Paul rejoices over the fruit in the Christians in Colossae.

First, he gives thanks for their “faith in Christ Jesus.” The first thing we learn about faith is that the object of faith is Christ Jesus. We look to him for our justification with God. Unless we have sincere faith in Christ, we depart this world in condemnation. He is the only way we can be reconciled to God. Apart from him, we are lost and undone.

Christ crucified for me is the life of the believer. Paul says elsewhere the life he lives, he lives by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. There is nothing in comparison to having Christ. There are blessings we rejoice over in this world, but these are small things in comparison to Christ. The same with hardships and trials; they are viewed in comparison to the gift of Christ.

Faith is an essential grace, but it is also continually assaulted. So we keep our eyes upon Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Our faith honors the name of Christ. Thomas Manton wrote: “When Christ adopts a people to himself, it is that they shall make a name for the Lord. Christ forms vessels of mercy out of thorns and briars that they may be to him a name.”

The second cardinal virtue Paul speaks of is love. He tells the Colossians he has “…heard of their love for all the saints.” The Lord taught us that if we love him, we will love his people. John makes a convicting argument in his first epistle: “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Love is the greatest virtue because it endures forever. The root and spring of love is Christ. If we don’t love him, we can’t love anyone truly. We have never seen God’s power to the utmost, though we are staggered by the universe and all of creation, spoken into being by Almighty God. But we have seen the utmost of his love. He took our nature to be an offering for sin.

To cultivate love, we must love ourselves.  Paul warns us in another place what this does not mean. There are those who are lovers of themselves in a way to promote their own vanity and to indulge sinful appetites. They have a form of godliness but deny the power of godliness by an absence of sincere love to Christ.

Yet, we must love ourselves in a way we don’t do ill to ourselves. Self-loathing and self-promotion in a vain way are closely related. When we submit our wills to God, we look away from ourselves to Christ and have life that is truly life. Remember, he who is forgiven much, loves much. Divine love gives us infinite blessing and infinite satisfaction, and so to Christ we must look.

Hope is the other cardinal virtue. Paul says Christians have a “hope laid up in heaven for you.” Hope is closely connected to faith, which is “the assurance of things hoped for.” Christians are a future-oriented people. The promise is eternal life. Heaven is heaven because of the enjoyment of God’s presence.  Christians have been given a hope and a future.

It is a matter of wisdom to be able to number your days, and weigh the promises of God and the hope of heaven in comparison to the uncertainty and tribulations of a sin-cursed earth. Many love this world more than Christ, but Christians are to be heavenly minded and look to things invisible, unseen by those who don’t have the eye of faith and a heart of hope to be with Christ.