Colossians 1:15-23 —
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. 19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.
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.
Greetings, readers! Writing these devotions, specifically getting to dive into Colossians 1:15-23, has been a joy for me, and I hope it has been of some encouragement for you.
The first two weeks in this passage, we looked at the greatness and preeminence of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We looked at how all of creation is by Him, through Him, and for Him. We looked at how fully embodied all that God is and yet is personal and sets His affections on us.
I want us to pick up the idea of reconciliation again today. Last week, we ended with a plea for people to trust in Christ and be reconciled to Him and how reconciliation most simply means change – a change of status. He sealed that reconciliation by “the blood of His cross” (v. 20). This week, I want us to look at our own pasts – for some of us, it will be our present, and I want us to get a clearer picture of what reconciliation means for us.
In verse 21, Paul writes that we were “once alienated”. I thought about asking a rhetorical question here, like: have you ever felt alienated or isolated? But that is not a fair question in this day and age. Alienation and isolation have been the norm for the past two months, and it is in this fact that we begin to truly grasp reconciliation.
The word translated “alienation” can be defined as being dislocated or excluded. It carries with it elements of one who would be considered a stranger or a foreigner. Sin alienates us from God. Before one comes to know God and trust Him as Lord – before being born again – there is definite alienation (Ephesians 2:1-2, 12) because the dead cannot commune with the living.
To get a better picture of this, I want to bring up some imagery from the Old Testament. Alienation was a byproduct of being unclean. Numbers 5:3, when speaking of people who were classified “unclean” for a number of reasons, says that they should be put “outside the camp, in the midst of which [the Lord dwells]”. There was a prescribed number of days in many situations to be spent outside the camp before they could return. The Old Testament “unclean” exile is a picture for us of the reality of our sin. Because of our sin, we are unclean, unrighteous, and hopelessly outside the camp of a relationship with God in Christ.
This is where reconciliation comes in. If alienation is being dislocated or excluded, reconciliation becomes something better than a change of status. Reconciliation is being reunited or reestablished. It gives us the picture of a former way of life being left behind. To continue with the Old Testament imagery, Jesus was taken outside the “camp” to Golgotha and there was took our sin and made reconciliation for all those who put their trust in Him. Those whom He saves have a status change: dead to alive, lost to saved, unclean to clean, outside the camp to inside, and dislocated to reestablished.
It reminds me of a change of status in my life. I can remember vividly the first time that I saw Candice. I had a theoretical knowledge that she existed as I had heard that our prospective pastor had a daughter around my age. I had heard that she was beautiful, but, for me, that remained to be seen. In my mind – pre-Candice – I was content with the status quo. Then, I met her.
I am not writing you a tale of love at first sight, but let me tell you that meeting her and beginning to get to know her was more than enough for me to long for a change in status. I wanted to leave my former way of life behind. I did everything that I could over the next several years to pursue her. And, thankfully, some nearly nineteen years later, I get to pursue her still.
My illustration falls short here, but I want you to keep that image in mind – the pursuit of a mate for the purpose of marriage. Look at how Paul speaks of reconciliation in verse 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.” If that sounds familiar to you, you may be thinking about the marriage passage in Ephesians 5. Look at verse 27 of that passage: “so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without any spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” He is speaking of Christ with His Bride, the Church!
Christ loved His Bride so much that He gave His life for her. He “reconciled [her] in his body of flesh by His death” so that He could be with the Church for all eternity. That is better than a knot-headed Mississippi boy hoping to marry above himself; that’s God in love stooping to our level to pick us up, dust us off, and save us.
God showed “His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He meets us where we are as lost sinners and offers – through the gospel in the Word of God – an opportunity for salvation. When people respond to the gospel with faith in Christ alone, the Bible says that they are born again. The change of status occurs.
This next part is key to our understanding of this: “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you have heard…”. This gives me a lump in my throat and a knot in the pit of my stomach. I would like to say that I never have any doubts. I wish I had a track record that gives me peace of mind. Folks, if I look to myself in this, I am hopeless – and rightfully so! But this is not meant to be a discouragement. Rather, it is meant to be an encouragement. Track with me here.
If we truly stand upon the “hope of the gospel that [we] have heard”, if we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone – if we have been born again, we will continue in the faith because our salvation is not in our hands but in Christ’s. I know a lot of people want to leave salvation up to us, but let us look at a few verses to place our hope in His hands:
- John 10:28-30 – “…I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
- Romans 8:38-39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 1 Peter 1:3-5 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The “hope of the gospel” is real, genuine hope – desiring something good with the expectation of getting it – in something more than we can accomplish. Forget Allstate, you are in God’s hands.
I would like to close with an extension of my earlier illustration. I first laid eyes on Candice in July 2001. As powerful a moment as that was, my status remained the same until June 17, 2006. Somewhere around two o’clock in the afternoon, I saw her more beautiful than I could imagine when the back doors of the church opened revealing her in her wedding dress. Shortly thereafter, I became her husband, a status I am glad to hold. I was no longer just a foolish boy pursuing a girl. Candice now has a foolish husband.
I am not trying to be overly sappy. I want you to know that God looks at His Bride better and with more affection than I am capable of showing mine. God died AND lives for His Bride. And there will be a day when we can echo the words of the song:
“When we arrive on eternity’s shore | when death is just a memory and tears are no more | We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring | Your Bride will come together, and we’ll sing….”
I plead with you: if you are not reconciled to Christ, you can be. If you are and you have forgotten how sweet it is, repent and find peace and joy in the love of your Savior.