The true Christian life is a supernatural life.
To say it negatively: an authentic, God-glorifying Christian life is not merely natural. Any action which God sees as spiritual fruit and worthy of his praise is empowered by something supernatural. There are several places this can be seen in Scripture, but the one that has enthralled me is Colossians 1:3-5. Let’s take a closer look.
In verse 3 Paul expresses the gratitude that saturates his prayers for the Colossians: “we always thank God… when we pray for you.” It always strikes me that Paul thanks God for the people he is writing to, which is very characteristic of his letters (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3; Eph. 1:15). Then in verse 4 Paul lists two things that are causing his prayers to be filled with thankfulness: “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints.” These are two of the most important elements to the Christian life!
You cannot be a Christian without faith in Jesus and love for fellow believers.
But remember that the true Christian life is also supernatural. Does Paul say anything that would lead us to believe that believers in Colossians are living the true Christian life? Yes! In verse 5 Paul provides the supernatural basis for their faith and love: “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” We know Paul is providing a basis because the verse begins with because – this word tells the reader what is causing their faith and love. Other key words like this in the Bible are for and since (verse 4) and these are important words to pay attention to. But it is not enough to simply identify the basis or ground of a verse; you need to ask how verse 5 is the cause of verse 4?
So, what is it about the “hope laid up in heaven” that would cause “faith in Christ Jesus” and “love for saints”?
How do we answer this? Rather than fabricate an answer, it is much more Biblically faithful to search the context of Colossians for Scripturally based answer.
First, the hope laid up for them in heaven is more specifically the hope of the gospel. If you keep reading in verse 5 it says, “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.” This is not a cheap hope! It cost the death of Christ to purchase it! But what is it about the hope of the gospel that causes faith and love in the Colossians?
Let’s look for the hope-faith combo in Colossians 1.
If you proceed into the rest of Colossians Chapter 1, faith and hope are used again in verse 23, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” This is the answer! The reason why the hope in heaven causes faith in Christ is because it is only those who “continue in the faith” who will obtain the hope laid up for them in heaven.
Now what about hope and love?
If you go back to Colossians 1:12 you will notice that the word “saints” is used together with something hoped for, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance (i.e. hope) of the saints in light.” So how does this help us understand how hope in heaven causes love for saints? I think the key word is “share.” That is it! The reason that the hope of the gospel causes love for fellow Christians is because we are going to share in it together for all eternity!
What does this mean for you today? It means that the hope of the gospel, purchased by the blood of Christ alone is the only source of God-honoring faith and love.
We dare not attempt to self-generate faith in Christ or love for fellow Christians; rather, fuel your faith in Christ and love for Christians by meditating upon the hope laid up for you in heaven, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27), and you will find your faith clinging to Christ and your love burning for other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Mike McKinney is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Church at Bergen in Paramus, NJ. He has also been teaching high school Bible and Theology for 7 years, and is earning a Masters in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is happily married to Keren for over 8 years and father to two little girls named Reese and Liv.