The Grammar of the Gospel
Though I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as a full blown 'grammar nerd', I should admit that I'm fast moving in that direction!
Words fascinate me. How words work together in phrases, building a movement of thought to form sentences and paragraphs is, for me, akin to the richness of a symphony. All that to say, words matter, and the rules that govern how words work together are important. After all, even our Saviour himself is described as the 'Word' (John 1:1), yet not simply a distant notion or idea, but real and tangible; now stunningly knowable, Jesus is the 'word that became flesh' (John 1:14).
As Paul writes to the fledgling church in Colossi, a second generation fruit of his ministry, it becomes apparent that the gospel itself has its own grammar. As chapter three unfolds we see both the 'affect' and the 'effect' of the gospel.
affect: verb (used with object)
- to act on; produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops.
- to impress the mind or move the feelings of: The music affected him deeply.
- something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence: Exposure to the sun had the effect of toughening his skin.
- power to produce results; efficacy; force; validity; influence: His protest had no effect.
- the state of being operative or functional; operation or execution;accomplishment or fulfilment: to bring a plan into effect.
The 'affect' nature of the gospel tells us that it has a timeless, unchanging character that will never fail to hold sway over our lives. The gospel is a sure foundation, an anchor to which we cling, a fortress to shelter in, and an eternal song that soothes our restless souls.
The gospel never changes.
Yet while the gospel itself never changes, it never ceases to transform those who run to it.
The 'effect' nature of the gospel tells us that it has a powerful, transformative character that will never cease to hold sway over our lives. The gospel roots out sin and blazes with the light of grace. The gospel takes weak and broken lives and wraps them around a priceless treasure which in turn transforms these simple clay vessels into vessels of glory. From one degree of glory to the next, the gospel is changing those who have taken refuge in it.
Built on the foundation of Colossians 2:13-15, which establishes the 'affective' nature of the gospel, being further built on in Colossians 3:1-4, Paul then flows into the 'effective' nature of the gospel.
The 'put off - put on' language of Colossians 3:5-17 reveals to us the effect of the gospel as it works to transform our individual lives. Yet it doesn't end there. As the gospel transforms our individual lives, Paul says it will also transform our relational lives. The gospel will have an effect on how we live with each other, how we love each other, how we serve and lead each other (Colossians 3:18-4:1).
So on one hand, the gospel never changes. It is the 'affecting' force on our lives.
But on the other, the gospel always changes. It is the divine agent through which are lives are continually 'effected'.
And if all this grammar is little more than gobbledygook to you... ignore it.
But don't ignore the gospel. Because, as the 'word who became flesh' prayed not long before he went to the cross, that high point of the gospel story, "Sanctify them (set them apart... transform them) in the truth; your word is truth" John 17:17.
The gospel is our only hope. The gospel will change us. The gospel will transform this world.