Summary: Following the examination of the Early Church Hymn to Christ's Supremacy over Creation and Redemption , Paul explains the persevering character of those who have received saving faith.
“A Reconciling Love and Resulting Character” Colossians 1:21-23
We continue in our study of Colossians. Having studied the hymn of the early Church in Colossians 1:15-20 exalting Christ’s supremacy over all Creation as well as redemption, we continue in verses 21-23:
Col. 1:21: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
Sinful man is estranged from God
After considering Christ’s majestic role in Creation and Redemption, Paul comes down to earth, so to speak, and becomes personal again with the Colossians as well as with us, explaining that “you (pl.)…were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.” By nature, sinful man is estranged from God, and helpless to bridge the chasm. Ephesians 2:3 expresses that truth about us in our unsaved state: “Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” We were filled with self-desire and deserving only of the wrath of God. God was “a stranger” to us and us to Him. Alienated” carries with it the idea of being far off and shut out from fellowship and intimacy with God; before God worked in us, we were shut out from any intimacy with God.
Ephesians 2:12-13 also states this fact clearly; before you were saved by grace, “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, (You had no clue about God’s saving grace by faith in Christ.) having no hope and without God in the world.(You may have THOUGHT you had hope, but you did not because you were a stranger toward God.)
Ephesians 4:18 uses this clause to describe our lost condition: “18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Being alienated from the Holy God by our own sin is a most desperate condition, and we were unable to move without the gracious help of God.
Our text says we were “Enemies in our mind”; This means that our thoughts and intents, our minds, our hearts and our wills, were so opposed to God that we were blinded and at war against God and the things of God. We were His enemies because our sin separated us from God and of ourselves we could not come to God. Our minds will always entertain what is in our hearts, and then played out in our actions. Our wicked deeds served as proof of our alienation and produced wicked works as the fruit of our lives. Our own works proved our sinful natures, which prohibited us from knowing, fellowshipping and loving God at all, let alone with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. While pondering that commandment to love God with all our being, Martin Luther once replied in honesty: “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him.”
How can a Perfectly Holy and Just God accept sinners? By A Reconciling Love
Martin Luther’s follow up question was: How can a Perfectly Holy and Just God accept sinners who are thoroughly devastated and dead in their sin? (He found his answers in studying the book of Romans at length while he was a monk.) Our text explains it this way: “21b Yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”
“Yet now He has reconciled.” Those are the most glorious words to a believer! How can a Perfectly Holy and God accept sinners? HE HAS RECONCILED US! We looked at that word last week: Reconciliation is the act of God to remove the chasm caused by our sins in order to restore relationship with us. He is not in any way obligated to do this. In our entitled society, so many think that God somehow “owes” us happiness and success; nothing could be further from the truth. We deserve his eternal wrath because of our sinful estrangement from Him. We are totally undeserving of His forgiveness; but instead of destroying us, God exercises His merciful reconciling love to us. Romans 5:8 says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”