Colossians 1:21–23 “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 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, if (emphasis mine) 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.”
Our Bibles teach us that God is absolutely and supremely sovereign over every aspect of his creatures and his creation. We learn in Ephesians that his gift of salvation is not a result of our works, but solely a gift through the sacrifice of Jesus. I also believe in the doctrines of grace. The specific doctrine whirling in my mind as I write is the “P” in TULIP. This doctrine teaches that those whom God elected to inherit eternal life will persevere in their faith. But there is also another lens which we must look at salvation through; the lens of our continual belief and hope in the gospel of free grace. Our salvation depends not upon anything that we can or could do. Yet our salvation depends entirely upon whether we continue steadfastly in the hope of the gospel. The gospel is unconditional, and yet completely conditional. This passage of Scripture teaches that Christians have been reconciled to God only if they continue steadfastly in the gospel.
The first thing to note about our text is that all people need reconciliation because they are born alienated from God, hostile in their minds, and perform evil deeds. You and I were at one time alienated from God. This word means that we were once shut out from the intimacy and fellowship of God. We were an estranged, non-participant in the community of the triune godhead. We also were hostile in our minds. This hostility is either active or passive. We can be either actively at odds with the Lord the way an enemy force presses against their opponent. Or we can be passively indifferent to God, never thinking much about him at all. Both of these mindfulnesses are hostile to the Lord. Our Bibles teach us we were all at one time this type of enemy.
I lived thirty years of my life as an enemy of God. I was sinful in vile ways, radically autonomous and independent. I do not recall ever having many thoughts about God. If I stumbled into Church once or twice a year, I did not take anything I heard for more than just a boring story. I would not consider myself actively aggressive against the Lord, but was more passively indifferent.
The second thing to note about the Colossians passage is that Christians become reconciled to God through the death of Jesus. The incarnation of the Son of God is an absolute necessity for our salvation. God is Spirit. And as a spirit, he is unable to die. He sent his Son down to this world to be clothed in flesh in order for God to die. Death is a result of sin. And sin needed to be swallowed up in the death of a perfect and pure sacrifice. Jesus became that sacrifice on the cross, and earned the position of being the only person who could ever reconcile a sinner to God. This was accomplished through the death of Jesus.
Thirdly, Christians enter into this reconciliation through faith and hope in the gospel. The gospel teaches not only the death of Jesus, but also his victorious resurrection. Sin and death were swallowed up in his victory. There is no longer any sting that death or sin can eternally hold in the life of the believer. We certainly feel both of these weights while our flesh remains apart from the Lord. But we hope in the day when our bodies will be raised from the dead, and we will be with the Lord. This is our hope. We enter into this reconciling hope through faith in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. We, the enemies of God will one day be presented before his throne holy, blameless, and above reproach. We receive this through faith.
Lastly, Christians remain reconciled to God if they continue steadfastly in the gospel. This is the point where the mind of man reaches it’s limits to comprehend this antinomy. God elects us from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. We enter into this relationship passively at first. We are enacted upon to receive a new heart. Our eyes awake to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. We hear the gospel and believe it by faith. This new birth is a miracle and a sole act of God. Yet, our text teaches that our continual state of reconciliation depends upon whether we remain steadfast in the faith or not. Does our salvation depend upon us? No, and Yes. We Calvinists can tend to a passive state where we utter things like, “once saved always saved.” But the old doctrine of the perseverance of the saints taught that those whom God elected will persevere in the gospel. We will not default to simple clichés, but rather press hard, stable, and steadfast in this duty called faith. James 1 tells us that if we are mere hearers of the word and not doers, we will deceive ourselves into thinking we are on the road to heaven when in reality we are traveling to hell.