Colossians 1:3–5 (ESV): 3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
Paul had never gone to Colossae. While he had met (and presumably converted) Epaphras and may have also met some others from this city and church, Paul had never personally visited the church. Yet Paul prayed for them regularly, thanking God for the great reports he had heard of these believers.
What makes a believer of Jesus? How can you know when you have met a Christian?
The answer to this could vary greatly, depending on whether the person answering wanted to focus on lifestyle, outward appearance, attitude and more. Some may even answer this question sarcastically, listing characteristics that should not be true of Christians.
Paul in this passage identifies three key marks of a follower of God: this person has faith in Christ Jesus, a love for all the saints, and assurance of hope laid up for him or her in heaven. The good news – the Gospel – speaks to these three identifying marks of a Christian.
The Christian has faith in Christ Jesus. Our faith is more than about Jesus. It is faith in Jesus. It is a trust, a reliance, in Christ. This faith is much more than head knowledge or belief that Jesus exists or even is the Son of God. It is a reliance, a commitment of oneself, to him as Lord and Savior. Notice that Paul wrote “Christ Jesus”. Christ – Messiah, King, Lord. Jesus – Savior, Rescuer. Paul emphasizes the lordship of Christ to whom the believer has surrendered one’s life in the title he gives our Lord.
The Christian loves all the saints. Our belonging to the family of God is marked by our love for the family of God. Love does not mean agreement with others on all their beliefs, opinions, or ideas, but love does mean a commitment to them because of our love for God.
Indeed, our love for all the saints, the family of God, is given to us by God who changes our heart from one of self-love and even hatred for others to one of sacrificial love. We love because he loved us, and take as our example Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross.
In both our natural and spiritual families, there is sometimes hurt, disagreement, misunderstanding, and much imperfection. But Christians are family, and so our growing love for one another should be evident.
The Christian has an assurance of the hope laid up for him or her in heaven. This world is not all there is for the believer. In fact, our main identity should not be found in the things of this world, but in the Kingdom of God, which is here now in the hearts of all believers of Jesus but will be fully realized in the future when Christ returns.
And so the Christian should be noted for their joy despite current circumstances, their peace in the midst of trouble and suffering, their hope in the world beyond this world. The Christian lives with confidence and perseveres. The Christian lives free of worldly entanglements. The Christian lives to please the eternal King.
Sometimes, there is a tendency to emphasize certain scriptures, which support rules and regulations, as a method to identify the “true” believer in Jesus. Unfortunately, this reliance on certain scriptures, while often ignoring others, is used to force others into one’s mold of “Christianity.” The result can easily become legalistic hypocrisy.
God expects holy living of his people, but true holiness is the result of radical trust in Christ, a life filled with love for God and others, anchored in the sure hope of living for eternity in the very presence of God.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace that changes us dramatically from sinners to saints. May I live as a person with faith in Jesus, love for all, and a settled hope in heaven. May I always welcome and join others of like faith, love, and hope and together may we witness to a lost and dying world the change they may experience through the amazing grace of Christ Jesus. Amen.