“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
“As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
“Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit” (Col. 1:6-8).
A DEAR FELLOW SERVANT
Epaphras was evidently the evangelist whom Paul had sent to Colosse to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God, and who had now returned to tell Paul the wonderful results. Actually Paul was not surprised that a church had already been founded there with a group of believers rejoicing in Christ, for the gospel produces “fruit” wherever it goes.
All this brings up a very interesting and a very hotly debated point. Did Paul’s gospel of the grace of God actually get to “all the world,” as he says here?
THE PROFESSING CHURCH
To the apostle Paul was committed the greatest revelation of all time. It is called “the mystery,” or “secret,” and it was made known by “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is God’s great “eternal purpose,” and to Paul was entrusted, in connection with this sacred secret, “the dispensation of the grace of God.” His ministry superceded that of Peter and the eleven. Solemn recognition was given to this very fact by the leaders of the Twelve, including Peter himself, as they gave to Paul and Barnabas “the right hands of fellowship,” acknowledging Paul’s divine commission to go to the Gentiles. They agreed that since the favored nation had not yet received their message, they would confine their ministry to their own nation. Read it in Galatians 2:2-9.
Now in connection with this commission, Paul was also the divinely appointed “minister” of the church of this present dispensation, called in Colossians 1:18,24, the Body of Christ. No other Bible writer has a single word to say about the Church which is Christ’s Body. None of the other apostles mention it. Not only would we seek in vain for such phraseology in their writings, but we’d seek in vain for any discussion of the subject, for they do not discuss the Church of which believers today are members. But Paul, who wrote more books of the Bible than any other writer, deals consistently with those truths which concern the Church which is His Body. It is sad to say that this great revelation and the glorious truths associated with it have been largely lost to the professing Church.
The largest segment of this church ignores these facts, though they are clearly set forth in her own Bible. She insists that the true Church of today is the perpetuation of that which was founded by Christ while He was on earth. And consistent with this she holds that she is laboring to fulfill the so-called great commission given to Peter and the eleven, requiring water baptism for the remission of sins, and claiming to possess miraculous powers.
The Protestant Church, while boasting freedom from clerical or religious tyranny, has by no means emerged entirely from the shadows of the dark ages. She also still clings to the traditional teaching that the Church today is the perpetuation of that to which our Lord referred in Matthew 16 when He said, “Upon this Rock I will build My Church” (16:18).
The Protestant Church in general believes that the Church is God’s kingdom on earth. She, too, seeks to carry out the so-called great commission, the commission given to Peter and the eleven—though half-heartedly, for she can’t make up her mind whether water baptism is, or is not, necessary for the remission of sins, and she’s also confused and disagreed as to whether or not she possesses the miraculous powers of the so-called great commission.
EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN
Rather than recognizing the distinctive character of Paul’s position as our apostle, most Protestants think of him as simply one of the apostles, along with Peter and the eleven. In this the Protestant Church has assumed a very weak position. For if Paul is to be considered one of the twelve, it can easily be proven that Peter, and not Paul, was appointed their chief. Just read Matthew 16:19 and several other passages, especially in the book of Acts. Since Christendom has strayed so far and so long from the great Pauline revelation, she has lost sight almost completely of the vastness of Paul’s ministry, and his influence, and the extent to which she once became known in the world.
An example of this is found in what Bible scholars in general have done with Titus 2:11. It is correctly agreed that “epiphany,” the original word for “appeared” in this verse, means a conspicuous or an illustrious “shining forth.” And that the phrase “all men” doesn’t mean each individual, singly, but all men collectively, all mankind. But few can believe that even under Paul’s ministry the gospel of the grace of God shone forth to all mankind, or that it’s proclamation ever became worldwide. They conclude that Paul couldn’t have meant that. And so they change this verse to read that the grace of God bringing salvation for all has appeared, when that is not actually what it says. It says what the Authorized Version renders it to say:
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).
Now apart from Paul’s statement in Titus 2:11, there is a great deal of Scriptural evidence that this message did shine forth to all the known world.
ALL NATIONS, ALL THE WORLD, AND ALL CREATION
Before we go into that evidence, there are three phrases used in the so-called great commission given to the eleven, later made twelve, that indicate a worldwide scope in ministry.
Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations….”
Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature [Greek, all creation].”
Three important phrases: all nations, all the world, all creation. Remember them, because we’re going to come back to them.
The Twelve apostles were sent to all nations with their gospel of the kingdom. The blessing was to go to “all the world” through Israel with Christ as King, and when this was completed, here is what Matthew 24:14 says would happen:
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Now we know that the “end” of that administration has not even yet come. That dispensation was interrupted by God, and because the favored nation rejected the King and His kingdom, God concluded all mankind now in unbelief, to raise up another apostle, Paul, sending him forth with “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
“MADE KNOWN TO ALL NATIONS”
Surely no one even superficially acquainted with the book of Acts, or the epistles of Paul, would question the fact that some time after our Lord’s commission to Peter and the eleven, Paul was sent forth as an apostle of Christ to proclaim the gospel to all mankind.
It is very significant that the three terms—all nations, all the world, all creation_employed in the commission to Peter and the eleven, indicating its worldwide scope; these same terms are also used in Paul’s epistles in connection with his ministry. Only, whereas the twelve never got to all nations, all the world, and all creation with their message, Paul did with his. In closing his epistle to the Romans, he says:
“Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
“But now is made manifest, and by [the prophetic Scriptures], according to the commandment of the everlasting God, MADE KNOWN TO ALL NATIONS for the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25,26).
There you have it. It is now made manifest and made known to all nations. In Colossians 1:6 Paul speaks, as we have seen, to these Colossians about “the truth of the gospel”:
Verse 6: “Which is come unto you, as it is in ALL THE WORLD; and bringeth forth fruit….”
Verse 23: “…Which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature [ALL CREATION] which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.”
There you have those three phrases again: all nations, all the world, all creation. Arguments may be advanced to prove that the gospel of the grace of God didn’t actually reach all the world or all creation. We do not deny that to those addressed “all the world” would doubtless mean all the known world, and “all creation” would likewise mean all creation as they knew it. But the point is—now get this carefully—that whatever these terms mean in the so-called great commission to Peter and the eleven, they must also mean in these statements by Paul, for the terms are exactly identical in the original. And as we have seen, Peter and the Twelve did not get their message to all the world, all nations, and all creation, but Paul did.