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Deep and Wide Gospel Growth

Colossians says that the gospel is “bearing fruit and increasing” (Col 1:5-6) not only in the unbelieving world, but also in the Colossian church. This indicates that the gospel is not only for unbelievers, but for believers too! In other words, the gospel must do more than justify sinners since it continues to be relevant to, and bear fruit in, those who are already justified. The gospel grows in the believing world as much as it grows among the unbelieving world. I distinguish between these two types of gospel growth by referring to them as “deep” and “wide” growth.

Wide gospel growth is the fruit that the gospel bears in the unbelieving world. The gospel bears fruit, widening its sphere of influence, as unbelievers come to believe it. Deep gospel growth, on the other hand, is the fruit that the gospel bears among those of us who are already believers as we increasingly imbibe and internalize its truth deep within ourselves, and continue to experience its life-changing power.

To illustrate the concept of wide gospel growth, picture a world map in your mind’s eye. On this map, every country in which the gospel is believed by at least some people is to be colored red, while all other countries are to be colored blue. At the time of Jesus’ resurrection, there would have been one red country: Israel*. Now, years later, the map is predominantly red. The gospel’s sphere of influence has widened dramatically as many people have come to believe in Jesus worldwide.

Deep gospel growth can be illustrated by the root system of a tree. A tree is a tree, whether or not it has a strong root system. And a Christian is a Christian whether or not they have deeply internalized the truth of the gospel, beyond the internalization that is intrinsic to true faith. However, the strength of a tree is determined by the deep growth of its roots, and the strength of a Christian is determined by the deep internalization of the gospel within our hearts.

There are at least two applications of this idea: One, Christians should never consider the gospel to be redundant and irrelevant to us now that we are believers. It continues to bear fruit in our lives. Therefore, we should pursue deep gospel growth, in addition to pursuing wide gospel growth. Two, we should prioritize (in sequence not importance) deep gospel growth above wide gospel growth in our individual lives and in our church community. This is not to because we are unconcerned and apathetic about fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 18:18-20), but rather because our energy, motivation, and ability to fulfill the Great Commission is some of the fruit that God bears in our lives as we drink deeply of his gospel(cf. John 16:14 and Acts 1:8). Those who have experienced deep gospel growth cannot avoid pursuing gospel growth(Acts 4:20). You can dig a wide and shallow hole with a shovel, but you cannot dig a deep and narrow hole. Prioritizing deep growth always leads to wide growth, but prioritizing wide growth does not necessarily lead to deep growth.

*Perhaps a few other countries may have contained believers, as the Old Testament indicates that God did sometimes grant salvation to those outside of national Israel prior to the Great (i.e. comprehensive, large, worldwide) Commission given in Matthew 28:18-20 (i.e. Melchizedek, Rahab, Ruth, Naaman…etc.).

This post was taken from Disciple Of The Word