Colossians 1:21-23 - "Reconciliation by the Preeminent Christ"

Author: The BFC Gadfly
November 10, 2019

Intro: How is peace made?  Whether it is individuals fighting or nations warring, how does one go about actually achieving a lasting peace?  Not just a temporary cessation of hostilities, but a lasting peace?  There may be many answers to that question, but perhaps one of the best is that peace is finally restored when the injustice that caused the dispute has been satisfied.  Peace is not always achieved in this manner.  Sometimes the guilty party is the stronger and injustice reigns.  But when that happens, everyone knows that the future holds renewed conflict.  The only way to a lasting peace is for justice to be finally and fully satisfied among the waring parties.  It works that way on planet earth, and it works in just that same way between God and man.  Ever since the Garden of Eden, God and man have been at war.  As fallen men we have all done countless injustices against a Holy God.  As we’ll see tonight, peace has now been restored between those who believe and Almighty God, because the claims of justice against us have been satisfied by the Preeminent Christ.  

Proposition: Since God has reconciled us to Himself through the death of Jesus, we should whole-heartedly believe this great salvation. 

(v.21) “You were…” – Our condition before we believed in Christ.  It has often been observed among us that we have to get people lost before we can get them saved.  Before anyone will care about the good news of the gospel, he must first realize the lost nature of his condition before God.  The Holy Spirit through Paul was writing to the Colossians, a group of believers – people who had realized their lostness and put their faith in Christ as their Savior.  They were now saved, but Paul took a moment to remind them of who they were before their salvation.  He reminded them of three conditions once reigning in their lives:

You once were alienated from God…  Separated from life’s Source, having no ability to respond spiritually to God.  Before Christ saved us, we were spiritually dead – powerless to save ourselves.  Notice that all of these things spring FROM OUR SPIRIT.

You were hostile to God in mind…  Actively avoiding God.  Mistrustful of God and His word.  Determined to suppress the knowledge of God in our minds.  Disbelieving His love for us.  Notice that all of these things happen IN OUR MINDS.

You were doing evil deeds before God…  Because our spirits were dead toward God and our minds were captivated by lies about God, our bodies practiced evil deeds toward God.  The deeds of the body result from the condition of the “heart.”  “Out of the heart comes corruption…” (cf. Luke 6:45; Ezekiel 16:30; Proverbs 4:23)  In our Bibles, “heart” means the inner part of man: our spirit connects us with God, our souls are our personality (thoughts, feelings, will).  It is from this wellspring that our actions come forth. 

[DOCTRINAL POINT] Before Christ, we were alienated from God and without hope in the world.

[ILLUSTRATION] It is important for us to remind ourselves of this often because the way we think about these truths will determine how we act toward others who are still in this lost condition.  In our present day lives we know this is true, don’t we?  If you grew up in poverty; if you were in a family that had to scrape for your next meal, it is very likely that having escaped the grip of poverty that you have a great concern for those who are still living in poverty.  Because you know from bitter experience the hopeless feeling; the insecurity; the humility of poverty, it is very likely that you have a tenderness of compassion toward those who are still caught in its grip. 

[APPLICATION] For just this same reason it is important for all of us who are believers to remind ourselves often of who we were before Christ came to our rescue.  Never forget what you were before Christ saved you!  Remind yourself often of the greatness of the gift you have been given.  Before Christ we were cut off from grace and completely without hope just as those around us are who are still “in Adam.”  It will help us to feel again some of the desperation they are living.  Do we see those around us as still trapped in mortal danger from which we have escaped because of God’s preeminent Son?  I think it would do worlds of good for our willingness to witness if we would remind ourselves regularly of who we were before Christ!

(v.22) “But now…”  What the Preeminent Christ has done for us.  He has reconciled us to God by His death.  Jesus, by His taking of humanity up into Himself, has reconciled us to God – made permanent peace between God and man.  How did He do this?  By dying the death we deserved in our place.  He has become the “Last Adam” and the “Second Man” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45-48).  He is the Federal Head of a new humanity.  We all sinned “in Adam,” but now those who believe are all raised to new life “in Christ.”  How did we get “in Christ”?  God did it (cf. 1:13-14).  Because we are “in Christ” we have redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation.  A gift of grace.  What was His aim in being so gracious?  That in Christ we might now appear before God no longer as dirty sinners but now as holy, blameless, above reproach sons.  All of this is true of us because we are “in Christ” who is holy, blameless and above reproach.  Notice that this is not a product of any work we do to earn it.  It’s a gift.  We simply receive it by faith.  It’s as simple as ABC!

[DOCTRINAL POINT] In Christ we are reconciled to God and made new creatures. 

[ILLUSTRATION] I recently saw this story in the New York Times: Sarah Yanai, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, clutched the handle of her wheelchair as she closed her eyes, and then opened her arms to embrace the woman who helped save her and most of her family from the Nazis more than 75 years ago.  “How are you, how are you Melpo?” Ms. Yanai asked in Greek while stroking the cheek and silver hair of Melpomeni Dina, the 92-year-old Greek woman who, along with her two sisters, provided a hiding place for Ms. Yanai’s family in Veroia, a town in northern Greece, during the German occupation of the country in World War II. The two women and Yossi Mor, Ms. Yanai’s brother, were reunited at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial center, in Jerusalem on Sunday.  The meeting, which was set up by the center and by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a charity that assists those who risked their lives to save Jews, might be the last of its kind, Stanlee J. Stahl, the executive vice president of the foundation, said by phone on Tuesday.  “I believe this will be the very last reunion,” Ms. Stahl told reporters on Sunday, noting that most survivors and the people who had helped them were either unable to travel or had died.  Ms. Dina, who was accompanied to Jerusalem by her daughter, was introduced to 40 descendants of the Jewish family she had helped to shelter in a bedroom in Veroia in the 1940s, according to a statement by the center and the foundation.  “Everyone is here, they are all waiting to meet you, to tell you that they thank you very much,” Ms. Yanai told Ms. Dina. “We are a large family now, we are all here,” she said.  One by one, members of the Jewish family, middle-aged offspring through to young children, embraced Ms. Dina, who now uses a wheelchair.  “We were hiding in her house — she saved all my family,” said Ms. Yanai, whose family name at the time was Mordechai. “Thanks to her, now she can see all our large family.”[1]  When we read stories like this, why do we find them so moving?  Because they are stories of grace!

[APPLICATION] Have we forgotten the great grace we have been gifted “in Christ”?  An escape from death in this present world is cause for gratitude and celebration.  How much more do we owe God for giving us deliverance from eternal death through Christ’s sacrifice for us?  God has taken the initiative to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.  “In Christ” He has done this purely as an act of loving kindness and not because we can repay Him in any way.  Here is a call for humility and gratitude as we live our new lives in Christ. 

(v.23) “If indeed you continue…”  The condition of our reconciliation is that we possess genuine faith in Christ Jesus.  What are the evidences of genuine faith leading to permanent reconciliation?  The text gives us a list:

  • “True faith perseveres…”True believers finish the race set before them.Don’t drift away from Christ and His gospel.Finishes in the faith.
  • “True faith is steadfast…”Holds its shape.Clings to truth.Keeps plodding forward.Doesn’t chase some strange new “gospel.”Sticks with the stuff!
  • “True faith abides in hope…”Keeps confidence in the end promised in the good news about Jesus: that He will return for us; that He has prepared a place for us; that He has given us eternal life, glory and joy “in Christ.”
  • “True faith proclaims the good news…”This gospel is meant to be proclaimed everywhere and to everyone so that all may believe it.God proclaims it everywhere through His ministers such as Paul, and you and me!

[DOCTRINAL POINT] The condition of this reconciliation is that we truly believe the gospel. 

[ILLUSTRATION] Polycarp had been a Christian since he was a child, but the Romans didn’t get around to killing him until he was in his eighties. Whatever the reason for the delay, it is still the first recorded martyrdom in post-New Testament church history.  Roman soldiers eventually discovered Polycarp’s whereabouts and came to his door. When his friends urged him to run, Polycarp replied, “God’s will be done,” and he let the soldiers in.  He was escorted to the local proconsul, Statius Quadratus, who interrogated him in front of a crowd of curious onlookers.  When Quadratus offered to set Polycarp free if he would renounce Christ or burn him at the stake if he would not, the old man simply replied, "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong.  How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked."  Soldiers then grabbed him to nail him to a stake, but Polycarp stopped them: “Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails.” He prayed aloud, the fire was lit, and his flesh was consumed. The chronicler of this martyrdom said it was “not as burning flesh but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace.[2]  Where does such faith come from?  Not from knowing about Jesus, but from knowing the preeminent Jesus, Himself. 

[APPLICATION] Some take lightly the greatness of the gift they have been offered in Christ.  It is not infrequently the case that people hear the good news and commit themselves to a set of facts rather than to a Savior.  “Faith” that saves is not faith in a set of facts about Jesus – it is faith in Jesus Himself.  It is easy to abandon a belief system when times get rough.  That is why God did not give us a set of facts to believe in but a living Savior to rely on.  It is easy enough to abandon a belief system but hard to forsake a Savior who died in your place and who waits for you daily to come into His presence to fellowship, listen and discuss life.  True faith persists because God is no longer distant from the believer.  As the years go by He becomes more real in our experience, somehow closer to us in our journey.  Christ becomes preeminent in the life of a true believer because He is a person, not a proposition.  Is Christ becoming more real to you each day?  If not, why don’t you begin to talk to Him about that?  “When we seek His face, He is always glad to open His hand.”[3]  

Conclusion: How is peace made?  Peace between God and man comes in only one way.  It comes when we Admit we are a sinner; Believe Christ is the Savior; Commit ourselves whole-heartedly to His preeminence.  Really, it’s as easy as ABC. 

[1] New York Times, November 5th, 2019.

[2] Wikipedia and “131 Christians Everyone Should Know,” by M. Galli and T. Olsen.

[3] Daniel Henderson