Every December we sing “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. The familiar lines slide easily from our mouths — usually so easily that we barely give them serious thought.
“God and sinners reconciled” is one such line. How often do we reflect on the truth that Jesus, Who is God in human flesh, brought reconciliation between us and the Father? For that matter, how often do we reflect on the truth that we actually needed to be reconciled to the Father?
Colossians 1:21-23 helps us understand the necessity of reconciliation, as well as the wonderful effects of that reconciliation. In so doing, it also refutes errors that make people think they can accomplish reconciliation through their own efforts. As a cherry on top, it also assures believers that this reconciliation is permanent. Let’s look at this passage for a moment, and then talk about it.
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. ~~Colossians 1:21-23 (NASB)
Paul states the situation clearly in verse 21. We once were completely separated from the Lord, actually hating Him. See Romans 5:9-10 and especially Titus 3:3-7 as evidence. The Gentile converts in Colossae hadn’t known the true God until the apostles preached the Gospel to them, and the Jews in that city depended on repeated sacrifices to appease God’s wrath. Now that false teachers had crept into the church, these believers needed Paul to remind them that they had been God’s enemies.
Notice the phrase, “hostile in mind.” Because the pre-gnostic philosophies celebrated the intellect, Paul needed to point out that their sin originated in their minds. Even more pointedly, this phrase strikes at their idea that what they did physically had no connection to the spiritual enlightenment that they achieved through their secret knowledge.
James 1:13-15 demonstrates, however, that sin indeed begins with our lustful thoughts. Jesus outright stated as much in Mark 7:21-23. So Paul chose his words with precision, refuting once again the false teaching that had infected Colossae.
Spiritual systems, such as those advanced by the Judaizers and the pre-gnostics, depend on the idea that we can make ourselves acceptable to God, so Paul insisted that Christ had to do the work of reconciliation. Then, as now, people fall into man-centered ideas, distancing ourselves from the fact that only Jesus Christ can reconcile us to His Father.
Verse 22 continues to explain reconciliation. Again, he takes the focus off human endeavors in order to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. He reconciled us through His death, not in response to anything we’ve done. Nor did He reconcile us because we attained special esoteric knowledge.
This reconciliation necessitated His Incarnation. He was an actual sacrifice, not a symbolic icon. This statement again counters the philosophies of the pre-gnostics, who distinguished between the physical and spiritual realms. The idea of God the Son inhabiting a literal human body, and then actually dying, would have been unthinkable in their belief system. Paul therefore brought out the point that Jesus Christ accomplished reconciliation through the death of His fleshly body to correct the false teaching of this group.
Jesus reconciled us to God for the purpose of presenting us to the Father as holy (2 Corinthians 11:2). Paul specifically directed this clause at the pre-gnostics. In separating body and spirit, they believed outward behavior had nothing to do with inner spirituality. For instance, a person could indulge in any sort of sexual experience his or her body desired without affecting his or her spiritual well-being. But Paul argued that Christ reconciled us so we would live in holiness (see Titus 2:14).
Moving to verse 23, Paul qualified his comments about reconciliation to warn that not everyone in the Colossian church was a true convert. Those who fell into the false teachings of either the pre-gnostics or the Judaizers would expose themselves as never having honestly been reconciled to the Lord.
Continuance in the faith gives evidence of genuine conversion. A true convert will continue in the faith. Luke 6:48 intimates that a Christian is stable when his house is built on a firm foundation. Like the First Century Colossians, we need to ignore false teaching those would distract us from the foundational teachings of the Gospel.
Our stability comes from the hope that Paul referred to in verse 5. The hope of the Gospel makes us established, steadfast and immovable, a point Paul will revisit in Colossians 2:7. As a result, we can be sure that Christ will present us the the Father holy, blameless and beyond reproach.
Paul once more draws their attention back to the Gospel message of reconciliation. He reminds them that the Gospel has been proclaimed in all creation, leaving mankind morally responsible before the Lord (Romans 10:18). The Colossians didn’t hear the Gospel directly from Paul, but they did hear the same Gospel that he taught. He didn’t want false teachers to move them from that Gospel.
When God and sinners are reconciled, it’s indeed more powerful than an overly familiar line of a Christmas carol. Reconciliation erases the hostility we have towards God so that He can present us to His Father. And we will not be moved!Follow my blog with Bloglovin