“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Col 1:21-23)
Last Sunday, we talked about the supremacy and superiority of Jesus Christ through the concept of the ‘fullness of God.’ Paul said in Colossians 1:19, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col 1:19)
It simply means that we can find everything we need for our salvation and spiritual growth in Jesus Christ. We don’t need to look to or rely on things other than Jesus because the fullness of God dwells only in Him, which allows us to grow to fullness.
Paul also said that God, whose fullness dwells in Christ, is pleased to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ. It means that Jesus’ ministry is essentially a ministry of reconciliation.
To reconcile the lost with God and to make peace, Jesus shed His blood on the cross. The cross was the fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation because it was where the price of our sins were paid and the wall of sin was demolished. The cross was the new bridge Jesus laid with His blood through which we can have access to God, enjoy peace with Him, and call Him Father.
But, Paul said that the range of Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation was not limited to human beings. Rather, through Jesus, God reconciled “to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col 1:20)
The reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ was for every creation in the world. Nothing in the universe is outside of God’s reconciling ministry through Christ Jesus. Because God’s fullness dwells in Jesus, His ministry is sufficient to bring fullness to every creation.
This is what it means when Paul said “[Jesus] fills everything in every way” (Eph 1:23). Jesus’ ministry was to bring the fullness of God to every creation. And He is the head of the church, which is the body of Christ.
Then, as the people of God, we’re also to join in Jesus’ ministry to fill everything with His fullness by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and building the kingdom of God wherever we are.
Now, let’s move on to the next passage. In the previous passage, Paul explained how Jesus made peace through His blood and made a way to reconcile all things to God.
And in today’s passage, Paul gives us further explanation about how the reconciliation of Jesus changes our lives and how we should respond to it to keep it in effect in our lives.
Once… But Now
First, in verse 21, Paul describes the spiritual situation we were in when we were outside of Christ.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Col 1:21)
When we didn’t believe in Jesus, we were alienated from God. Sin severed our relationship with God and there was no way for us to have access to God because no one is without sin, and no one has the ability to pay the ransom for their sins. As a result of being alienated from God, eternal death came to us. That’s the result of departing from God “who alone is immortal” (1Tm 6:16)
But, we should also know that when we were outside of Christ, we were not only ‘alienated’ from God but also against God in our sinful minds and behaviors. In other words, we were enemies of God.
That’s the horrible result of corruption caused by sin. It not only severs our relationship with God, but also turns us against God because the essence of sin is to drag Him down from His position as the Lord of our lives and take His seat ourselves.
This hostility to God is easily shown in how non-believers normally respond to the gospel. They are not only ‘indifferent’ but hostile to it because the gospel of Jesus essentially requires them to lay down things that they think are theirs and to surrender to God in every way.
In Romans 5, Paul describes who we were before we believed in Jesus in three ways.
“We were still powerless… we were still sinners… we were God’s enemies…” (Rom 5:6, 8, 10). That was who we were once. But what’s amazing is that God still loved us and sacrificed His most precious Son for those who didn’t deserve it. Each description is followed by God’s gracious act to save us through Christ.
“When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Rom 5:6, 8, 10)
These verses do a great job describing the unconditional nature of the love of God. God didn’t send Jesus because we were worthy. We were weak, powerless, and ungodly sinners. We were even God’s enemies who were against Him.
But God still sent Jesus to us, and Christ died for us to reconcile us with God through His death. That’s the grace of God that we now stand upon in Jesus.
Pau said in Colossians 1:22,
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Col 1:22)
This verse starts with two words, “But now.” These are the two words I really love to read in the Bible. They imply that something really great and surprising, which is completely different from the past, has started. God saved us through Christ and our relationship with Him, which had been severed because of our sin, was reconciled again.
Let me introduce some more verses that start with ‘but now.’
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rm 3:21, 23-24)
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Rm 6:22)
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:13)
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord…” (Eph 5:8)
All of these verses talk about the amazing reversals that Jesus brought about in our lives. We were once under the authority of sin as slaves to it . We were once far away from God. We once lived in darkness. We once fell short of the glory of God because of our sin.
But now, we have been set free from sin and have become children of God. We were reconciled with God and brought near to Him. And now, we became children of light in God. This is the greatest and the most important spiritual change that all those who believe in Jesus and whose sins are washed away by His blood experience.
That’s who we have become in Jesus. This change is so great that it inevitably brings about other significant changes in our lives.
How can those whose relationship with God is severed and those whose relationship with God is restored live the same way? How can those who are against God and those who surrender their lives to God live the same way? And how can those who experience true love and forgiveness bought by Jesus’ precious blood live the same way as those who are still under the power of sin?
Our faith in Jesus must be reflected in our changed lifestyles. How can we say that we truly believe in Him if we are not changed by Him?
So, after explaining the greatest change Jesus brought us, Paul added the purpose behind it: to “present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Col 1:22)
Here, Paul is saying that there’s a purpose behind Jesus reconciling us through His death. We often think that salvation is the goal of Christian life. So, we are often satisfied with the fact that we were forgiven and reconciled with God through Jesus. We don’t think about the next step because we think we’ve already achieved the goal.
The Purpose of Salvation
But what the Bible really says is that salvation itself is not the goal but God’s method to make us His holy people. Of course, God is very pleased with the fact that we were saved and became His children by believing in Jesus. But God doesn’t want us to stop there because there are still many other people out there who don’t know Him yet. And God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1Tm 2:4)
So, with the great purpose of saving all people, God is looking for those who would willingly and joyfully go to them. In fact, God requires all His people to join in His mission for the world. But, it is not a duty or obligation, but rather the greatest privilege we can ever have because there’s nothing more glorious than participating in God’s work as “God's fellow workers” (1Co 3:9).
But what makes me sad is that many Christians are not interested in God’s work of saving others anymore. Being satisfied with the fact that they themselves were saved, they turn a blind eye to what God is really interested in. In other words, they changed the method to the purpose. Because they’ve set salvation as their goal, they’re not really interested in what to do next as ‘saved’ people of God. What about you?
Paul said in Titus,
“[Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Ti 2:14)
Paul clearly reveals that there’s a purpose in Jesus redeeming us and purifying us. It is to make us His people who are eager to do what is good. Saving us is not the only goal. So we shouldn’t stop there. If we’re really saved, now we should focus on how we can live a good life, following the example of Jesus Christ.
God wants us to be without blemish and free from accusation. This tells us how we should treat our relationships with God and with others. In our relationship with God, we should be pure children of God without blemish.
But that may sound too difficult for us. We know our weaknesses and deficiencies. We all have flaws. There’s no one in the world who is not flawed.
But when we can’t make ourselves perfectly holy in the sight of God, we should remember that Jesus can. We can still be holy people of God without blemish by relying on Jesus and the power of His precious blood.
The apostle Peter said,
“You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Pt 1:18-19)
The author of Hebrews also said,
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb 9:14)
We’re to know that there’s great power in the blood of Jesus Christ. It is so much greater than we can even imagine that it not only washes away our sins and makes us children of God but also cleanses our consciences, minds, and acts and makes us flawless in our relationship with God so that we can serve Him better.
Because we were saved by the precious blood of Christ, who is without blemish or defect, His blood can also cleanse us of our blemishes and make us take after Him. That’s the power of the blood that we must know and believe. Rather than trusting in our emotions and past experiences, we are to trust in what God says.
That’s how we live by faith, not by sight. And when we do that, we can experience the power of blood that cleanses our minds and allows us to reach a place that we couldn’t even imagine reaching before.
Continue in Faith
That’s why it’s important for us to remain in Jesus by maintaining our faith in Him. After explaining the purpose of Jesus reconciling us through His death—to make us holy and without blemish in God’s sight—Paul now adds how we should pursue this in the next verse.
“If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Col 1:23)
Here, Paul suggests the one condition for us to remain holy in God. It depends on whether or not we continue to try to remain in the faith. And continuing in faith is understood as remaining faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This verse summarizes what Paul really wants to appeal to the Colossian Christians. Their faith was being shaken by new teachings from false teachers. They proclaimed something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this situation, Paul urges them to turn their eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ again.
They shouldn’t stray from the hope they had found in the gospel.
When we first believed in Jesus, we were saved. But that’s not the destination—it’s only the starting point of our new spiritual journey we come to have with Jesus. Again, we must keep in mind that the Bible uses three tenses regarding salvation—past, present, and future.
Even though it’s important for us to have confidence in our faith and salvation, we should also check every day if we still continue in faith or not. Our past salvation, namely justification, doesn’t guarantee our future salvation, glorification. If we lose our faith during the journey, we can also lose the precious salvation we once received by God’s grace.
So, we’re to “continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.” We should make every effort to continue in our faith and make it established and firm. Rather than being swayed by false teachings or worldly values, we should always build our lives upon the firm foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we can always put our hope in Him and live a life worthy of His calling for us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for reminding us who we once were and who we are now in Jesus. We thank You for Your unconditional love and amazing grace that You gave us when we didn’t deserve it.
We were ungodly sinners and Your enemies, but still You died to save us. We thank You for Your unconditional love for us.
Now, Lord, let us know the purpose of Your salvation. Let us not be satisfied with the fact that we were saved in the past, but help us to continue in our faith so that we can always experience the power of the precious blood of Jesus Christ cleansing all our thoughts, hearts, and behaviors to make us Your holy people without blemish. Let us be more interested in Your will so that we can serve You more.
Again, we thank You for Your love, grace, and great work of salvation for us through Jesus Christ.
We thank You and love You, Lord.
We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Today we talked about how the gospel of Jesus Christ brings change into our lives and how we should respond to it.
1) Have you experienced the difference between ‘once’ and ‘but now’? Can you describe some important changes the gospel of Jesus has brought into your life, whether in your actions, lifestyle, or mindset?
2) Do you believe that God has a purpose in saving you? What is it and how can you pursue it? What are some practical ways for you to continue in your faith?