Your faith in Christ Jesus,
The love which ye have to all the saints,
The hope which is laid up for you in heaven
Evidently Paul had never yet seen the Colossian Christians when he wrote to them (Col. 2:1). He had only heard of their conversion to Christ (Col. 1:4,5).
But what had he heard that had convinced him that they were genuinely saved? Our opening passage gives us the answer:
“We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven….”
But was this sufficient evidence that God had worked in their hearts? Would it be evidence enough today?
Some answer: “No. We must have the gift of the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues, or work miracles.” And this writer must admit that this once was conclusive evidence of salvation. Our Lord’s great commission to the eleven clearly states:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils [demons], they shall speak with new tongues;
“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17,18).
This is the clear Word of God on the subject, and too many confused fundamentalists and evangelicals run in circles trying to explain it away.
When Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, “the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word” (Acts 10:44). But how did Peter and his companions know that those of Cornelius’ household had received the Spirit? Verse 46 provides the answer: “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” It was this that settled the matter for Peter according to his own testimony in Acts 11:17:
“Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God?”
And it was this that settled the matter for the apostles and elders in Judaea too, for we read in the next verse:
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
Ah, but there has been a change in dispensations since that time. In I Corinthians 13:8 we read:
“Whether there be tongues, they shall cease….”
In this same part of I Corinthians we read of other signs1 that were to be done away, but the closing verse of I Corinthians says:
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love].”
These, then, are the abiding characteristics of the true Church in this present dispensation.
The problem with our Pentecostal friends and confused fundamentalists in general, is not that they are not Scriptural in their teachings, but that they are not dispensational; they have failed to “rightly divide the Word of truth.”
The first of these three “abiding” characteristics is faith. This is of primary importance, for, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). And faith produces hope . In a world of hopelessness and fear, the believer may “abound in hope.” And this hope is no mere wish, for it is founded on the Word of God, “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” (Heb. 6:19). It is the enjoyment, here and now, by faith, of the blessings which are ours in Christ and shall some day be fully realized.
And hope, in turn, produces love. The very passage we are studying speaks of “the love which ye have to all the saints, for [because of]2 the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” The blessings which are ours in Christ draw us—certainly should draw us—closer together. The closer we are drawn to our blessed Lord, the closer we are drawn to each other.
Faith, hope and love, then, are the three abiding evidences of salvation. Any local church where these three characteristics abound is a full church, even if it is composed of only a few members. Any believer possessing these three characteristics in abundant measure experiences a full Christian life.
Water baptism was once required for salvation, and miraculous signs were the evidences of salvation (Mark 16:16-18; Acts 1:8; 2:38), but let us not create confusion and division by efforts to continue on in a dispensation which God has replaced by something better.
The simplest believer in this dispensation of grace is complete in Christ (Col. 2:10), crucified (Gal. 2:20), resurrected (Col. 2:13), and seated in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), IN CHRIST. And the genuineness of conversion to Christ is attested by “faith, hope, love, these three,” rather than by miraculous signs or demonstrations.
Shall we then seek to restore what God has “done away”? Shall we say, Let us be baptized with water as a testimony and seek the signs for spiritual renewal, even after God has provided something better? Shall we retreat from the substance to the shadows? No! God says: “When that which is perfect [i.e., complete]3 is come, then that which is in part shall be done away….And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three…” (I Cor. 13:10-13).
These three abiding evidences of salvation are brought together in I Corinthians 13:13; Gal. 5:5,6; I Thes. 1:3; 5:8; II Thes. 1:3; Heb. 6:10-12 and many other places in Paul’s epistles. Why not look them up, study them prayerfully, and rejoice in the riches of God’s grace.
- In Mark 16:17, et al, these miraculous demonstrations are called “signs,” because they confirmed the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus. They were signs of the validity of His claims.
- This is the sense in the Greek.
- Referring to the full “revelation of the mystery.”