ESV Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Paul’s attention shifts once more to the Colossians and their role as Christians in God’s grand plan of redemption and reconciliation.
I. “And you…alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,”
A. Humankind’s disposition on account of the Fall is that we are all by nature alienated from God…
Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
…and therefore children who hate God…
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
…doing evil deeds.
B. Thoughts and actions form an interactive, self-reinforcing circle. “Wrong thinking leads to vice, vice to further mental corruption, so that the mind, still not totally ignorant of God’s standards, finds itself applauding evil.” (Wright, 85)
II. “he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,”
A. Grammatically, it is not clear whether God does the reconciling to himself through Christ, or whether it is Christ who does the reconciling to himself.
1. The NIV chooses the former, and the NET and ESV allow for the latter.
2. Biblically, both are true.
a. God reconciles: (2 Corinthians 5:18)
b. Christ reconciles: (Ephesians 2:14-16)
c. Christ and the Father are One (John 14:10)
B. The Joyful News is that the formerly estranged Colossians and all believers have been brought back into a right (a good) relationship with God through the blood of Christ on the cross.
C. The “body of his flesh”: In the prior section, verses 15-20, we saw the divinity of Christ; here we see his humanity.
A father and daughter had a quarrel. The daughter, doubting her father’s wisdom and love, renounced her father first, turning her back on him in disbelief of his wise instruction. He then turned his back on her. The daughter, having been kidnapped by a lying and treacherous false lover, could no longer find her father. And even if she could, she didn’t want to return to his house, because as time went on, her mind tricked her into thinking of him more and more as a brutal dictator.
It remained for the father to locate his daughter and bring her home. But how could he, after she had abandoned him for his arch enemy?
There was a son, whom the father loved above all else. Between them, they devised a plan to bring the daughter home. The son volunteered to go to the foreign land in the enemy’s territory to locate the daughter and woo her back. In the process, he died, thus paying the ransom for the daughter’s life. The father, now satisfied that his holy justice and honor had been vindicated, called his daughter by the winds of his own spirit. She heard and responded, turning to see her father’s face shining on her in love. She ran to him. Thus they were reconciled. She and the son, who by a miracle of her father’s power had been resurrected from death, went out together to locate her own sons and daughters to tell them that Papa was welcoming them back home.
III. “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach“
- holy — cleansed from all sin and separated entirely to God and his service
- blameless — without any blemish whatever, like a perfect sacrifice (Philippians 2:15)
- above reproach — completely above merited accusation (1 Timothy 3:10; Titus 1:6-7)
A. This is every believer’s accomplished legal standing before God in principle at the moment of salvation, and in daily living these words describe a progressive and ongoing practise.
B. If such were not the case, Paul would not have written (Colossians 3:5-9).
C. The Presentation: Here Comes the Bride!
This glorious presentation is here referred to as the purpose of the reconciliation. (Wright, 84)
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
IV. If… Unconditional love has a condition
“if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven,“
A. Salvation is unconditional…”whosoever believeth in him”…(John 3:16)
B. Perseverance (assurance of salvation) has conditions… “if indeed you continue in the faith,…“
1. No human can tell the genuineness of another’s salvation, not even the Apostle Paul, or John, or Peter. Appearances deceive–consider the Pharisees. And often, it is difficult to judge the state of our own hearts–“Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
2. It is better to discover sooner, rather than later, the true state of one’s soul, in case there may be need of repentance–
Hebrews 3:15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
3. Because God has created us in his image, especially in the new birth, and because Christ is our forerunner, our model, our guide, our paradigm, we believe that we have free will, that God does not carry his children kicking and screaming into heaven. Therefore, as Colossians 1:23 indicates, continued and willful disobedience to the standards of a “stable and steadfast” faith and moving away from “the hope of the gospel that you heard” are both strong warning signs that all may not be right.
4. Notice that this verse does not say that living a sin free life, or a nearly sin free life, after salvation is the condition for our being presented to Christ at the End Time. Remaining in the faith is what Paul says God requires.
C. What does it mean for believers to “continue in the faith“? How can we know if this is true of both others and ourselves? Is it about certain doctrines or signing or not signing certain petitions? The Bible gives us Sure Signposts of a Steady and Steadfast Faith:
3. Regularly meeting with a body of believers for worship, prayer, and edification (Bible study). (Hebrews 10:25)
4. Repentance for ongoing sins. (1 John 1:5-10)
5. We are not doing this alone!
b. God is FOR us, and he wants us to succeed. (Romans 8:31-39)
c. God uses us to fight the battles for a stable and steadfast faith in order to bring about the end that he underwrites–the salvation of our souls.
We are in partnership with the Son, the Holy Spirit, and God. We are required to cooperate–to fight beside God–for our own perseverance to the End.
V. “and of which I, Paul, became a minister.“
Having spoken about the roles of God the Father (Vss 12-13), God the Son (Vss 14-20), and the Colossians themselves (Vss 21-23a), Paul now shifts to his own role in the salvation and sanctification (ongoing walk of faith) of the Colossian believers (Vss 23b-2:5).