Summary: Exposition of Col. 1:20–23
Knowing the Message of Reconciliation
“And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 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, not moved 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. 1:20–23).
What is the message of reconciliation? How can a person be reconciled to God and have eternal life?
In the church of Colosse there were teachings attacking the truth of the gospel. They were saying that Christ was not God and that further revelation was needed in order to be saved.
Paul writes this letter to the Colossians to defend the supremacy of Christ. He said in the previous passage that the fullness of God dwells in Christ (v. 19). Essentially, he was saying that Christ is God. He also said that it is through Christ that all things shall be reconciled (v. 20).
Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel. The word reconciliation means to renew a friendship or to restore to a right relationship. Paul was telling this church that if anybody was going to be saved—reconciled to God—it must be through Christ. He is the only one who can renew our relationship with God.
In fact, Christ taught the same thing while he was on earth. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but by me” (John 14:6). There is no salvation apart from Christ.
In considering Paul’s defense of Christ and the gospel in the current passage, it must be noticed that he calls himself a “servant” of this gospel. In Colossians 1:23 he says, “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.”
Because Paul was saved and transformed by this gospel, he had become its servant. This is the natural response for someone who has truly been changed and reconciled to God. He wants to serve this gospel by sharing it and enduring whatever cost that may come in the process of its dissemination. This is the only appropriate response for someone who has been truly convinced of the gospel’s innate worth. Here is a story from the 1900s that illustrates Paul’s response to the gospel and how it should be ours as well.
While on a three–story scaffold at a construction site one day, a building engineer tripped and fell toward the ground in what appeared to be a fatal plummet. Right below the scaffold, a laborer looked up just as the man fell, realized he was standing exactly where the engineer would land, braced himself, and absorbed the full impact of the other man’s fall. The impact slightly injured the engineer but severely hurt the laborer. The brutal collision fractured almost every bone in his body, and after he recovered from those injuries, he was severely disabled.
Years later, a reporter asked the former construction laborer how the engineer had treated him since the accident. The handicapped man told the reporter: ‘He gave me half of all he owns, including a share of his business. He is constantly concerned about my needs and never lets me want for anything. Almost every day he gives me some token of thanks or remembrance.’
That engineer who was saved became a servant of the man who saved him. In the same way, Paul, who was saved by the gospel of reconciliation, became a lifelong servant of it. Wherever he went, he would preach it. He traveled to nations throughout the ancient world to tell them about what had changed his life. This should be true of us as well. Second Corinthians 5:18–20 says this:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Yes, if Christ has saved you, you have also been called to be a servant of the gospel. You have been given a specific ministry. It is called the “ministry of reconciliation.” God is reconciling the world to himself and he has chosen to make his “appeal” through you.