(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. -Colossians 1:21-23
If I could sum up the Colossians 1:15-20, the verses immediately preceeding the above text, in one sentence, it would be this: Jesus is really really big. In my last post, I looked at the big picture of reconciliation. I wrote about how Christ is the center of the universe. I looked at how Paul sees Jesus as creator and the firstborn of all creation meaning that he sovereignly rules over absolutely everything. That means that Christ soveriengly reigns over you and me, over Louisville, over Kentucky, over the United States, the planet earth and the entire universe. Everything has been created through him and for Him and He holds it all together. Were it not for his sustaining the universe, everything would disintegrate. So as we come to the second part of this series on Colossians 1 we must remind ourselves that we are not self-sufficient creatures. We are created beings. We exist by the will of God, he created us and therefore has rights over us to do with us what he will. Further, we ought to remember that we were created for God—to fulfill his purposes, to live the way that he calls us to and to do the things he commands us to do! Isa 43:7 tells us that God has created us for His glory. Thus I don’t exist for me. You don’t exist for you. I exist for God. You exist for God. Everyone exists for God.
In my last post, I also about how God has reconciled all things to himself by the blood of the cross. The need for reconciliation implies that there is a problem in the world. That problem stems from the time of Adam and Eve when they took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in an attempt to become like God. And of course we know what happened don’t we. The image of God in which they were created from then on was marred, it was corrupted. Their sin was not just that they ate of a tree that they shouldn’t have eaten from, it wasn’t just that they broke some strange rule, their sin was that they rejected God and attempted to dethrone Him. Its not just that they disobeyed but that they thought that by doing the very thing that God told them not to do, they could become like Him. But we know what happened, in their attempt to dethrone God, they were cast out of the garden and faced the stark reality of living life in separation from God. From then on death entered the world and sin began to reign on earth, because as Romans 5 tells us, from then on everyone after Adam lived in sin.
Sin is a big deal because God is a big deal. Sin has disastrous results because the one we are sinning against is massively big and massively holy and infinitely deserving of all praise (c.f. 1 Samuel 2:2). Sin is a massive problem—it is our biggest problem. And because it is such a big problem it requires a big solution—and Jesus has provided that solution on the cross for all who would believe. So this post marks the first of a series in which I am going to write about our greatest problem and its solution. Colossians 1:21-23 will be my guide as Paul sets forth therein, the specific reconciliation of sinners to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:21 marks a shift from the general to the specifics of Christ’s reconciliation. Colossians 1:20 simply sets forth the truth that Christ has reconciled all things to himself on the cross. Colossians 1:21 shifts to tell us how the believers at the church at Colossae individually were savingly reconciled to God through Christ.
If you just glanced over Colossians 1:20, you might come away thinking that everyone is going to be saved since Christ has reconciled all things to himself. If you were to just glance at this verse without carefully reading the book of Colossians you might think that Colossians 1:20 indicates that all people will go to heaven. That simply cannot be the case because of what Paul says in verse 21-23. Thus Colossians 1:21-23 is a perfect example of how we must always read and study passages of Scripture in context. Paul is writing to believers in Colossae and in verse 21, he reminds the Colossian believers where they have come from. He says they were “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” This sets forth an all encompassing picture of our sinful estate. Sin has affected our mind, our actions, and most importantly has left us in a state of being alienated from God. And this state of alienation or separation from God will remain forever unless you put your hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ as Paul tells us in Colossians 1:23. So Paul makes clear that only those who have placed their hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ can have hope of being savingly reconciled to God. Everyone in the end will be reconciled, but Paul gives no hope of heaven for those who refuse to put their hope in Jesus Christ—those who remain alienated from God will be painfully reconciled to Him in the end because they refused to submit God and His way of salvation (c.f. Matt 25:41).
It is important that we not forget the great Christ-exalting verses immediately preceeding Colossians 1:21. Paul has just set forth in the previous verses how all things were created by Christ and for Christ and how He is before all things. The backdrop for Colossians 1:21-23 is the preeminent glory of Jesus Christ who is before all things!
Thus again we must remind ourselves of the purpose for which we were created. We were created by God and for his glory.
Because we were created by God and for His glory, our sin has cause us to be alienated and hostile in mind toward God and that is a big, big problem. But maybe you don’t think you are all that much of a sinner, so in case you don’t think you are all that bad-off, in my next post I will give you two tests to see whether you are a sinner and just how much of a sinner you are! I will also address more fully what Paul means by our state of alienation apart from Christ.