But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence--
I. THE NATURAL STATE OF THE COLOSSIANS. "And you, being in time past estranged and enemies in your mind in evil works,... hath he reconciled."
1. They were estranged from God. The original term denotes that they had fallen from a prior relationship of amity. It points suggestively to the original innocence of man in Eden, and to the deplorable effects of the Fall, as separating between God and man (Isaiah 59:2). They had become strangers to God,
(1) because strangers to the life of God (Ephesians 4:10;
(3) because they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:12).
2. They were hostile to God both in thought and deed. A strange thought that man should cherish a living enmity in a dead heart! It is enmity to God as Lawgiver and Punisher of sin.
(1) Mark the reality of this enmity.
(a) The threatening of the second command asserts it: "Them that hate me" (Exodus 20:5).
(b) The friendship of the world involves it: "Whosoever will be a friend of the world will be an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
(c) The carnal mind is full of it (Romans 8:7).
(d) All scoffs and blasphemies manifest it (Psalm 74:18).
(2) The seat of this enmity. "In your mind." It is an essentially carnal mind. The enmity lies deep down in the heart, which is a "chamber of imagery," full of all shapes of hatred to God and man. Strange that there should be hatred to him who is Author of our being and Fountain of our happiness! We need, indeed, in regeneration to be "renewed in our mind" (Ephesians 4:23), that we may exchange our hatred for love.
(3) The practical sphere of this enmity. "In evil works." The enmity is not caused by evil works, but is manifested through them (Matthew 15:19). They whose "mind and conscience are defiled" are "unto all good works reprobate" (Titus 1:16).
II. THE RECONCILIATION OF THE COLOSSIANS. "Yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death." The reconciliation has been already explained. The means of it are here expressively set forth by the apostle. The passage suggests:
1. That the atonement was a great historic fact; so that no person might conclude that the reconciliation was effected apart from the person of the incarnate Son or after his return to glory.
2. That he was a real man in a human body, as if to refute Gnostic theories as to a phantom body or as to the body being essentially evil. It was a heresy to say that "Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh" (1 John 4:2, 3).
3. That he carried about with him on earth a sin-bearing humanity. It was, therefore, a "weak, abased, and suffering humanity" (Romans 8:3).
4. That his life was consummated by death, as the completion of his atoning sacrifice for sin.
III. THE FRUIT OR EFFECT OF THE RECONCILIATION, "To present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before him."
1. We see that sanctification follows reconciliation and does not precede it. It confounds the relations of things and perverts Christian doctrine to reverse the order.
2. The atonement provides for our sanctification. It purchased for us all the communications of Divine life. Christ is made to us at once "Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30);
3. The nature of this sanctification. "Holy and without blemish and unreprovable." The words point, not to the relative standing before God, but to the externally observable advances in spiritual life. These are represented, first, positively - "holy;" and then negatively - "without blemish and unreprovable."
4. The end of this sanctification. "To present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before him." Not, as some allege, at the day of judgment, but for his personal approbation, implying
IV. AN EXHORTATION TO PERSEVERANCE IN CONNECTION WITH THE PROVISION FOR THEIR RECONCILIATION. "If at least ye continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and are not constantly shifting from the hope of the gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven."
1. There is nothing strictly hypothetical in this passage, as the tense clearly indicates; yet warning is needed as the divinely ordered means of averting failure. There were risks to faith in the presence of Judaeo- Gnostic teachers. We need to be reminded that "he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13); but God himself provides for us the grace of continuance.
2. The mode of this continuance. "Grounded and steadfast."
(1) Marking its positive side.
(a) We must be built on the true Foundation (Ephesians 2:20). We must be grounded in the doctrines of grace as well as "built as living stones" on "the precious Cornerstone" laid in Zion (1 Peter 2:6). Otherwise we shall be swept away in the rising floods of judgment (Luke 6:48, 49).
(b) We must be steadfast as the result of this grounding. An ungrounded Christian cannot be a growing Christian. It is well to be settled in the faith if we would make progress in Christian life. Suffering has its influence in increasing our stability. Therefore our apostle prays that the God of grace, "after that ye have suffered a while," may "make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10).
(2) Marking its negative side. "And are not constantly shifting from the hope of the gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven."
(a) The apostle points to the danger of drifting. When the anchors are lifted, it is impossible to know where the ship may go on a dangerous shore. The false teachers were subtle and plausible and speculative. It may have been hard to resist their logic. But the end of their speculations was death - the sacrifice of the hope of the gospel.
(b) He points to a sure anchorage - "the hope of the gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven."
) This hope may have been that of the resurrection, of which the false teachers said it "was past already" (2 Timothy 2:18), and thus cut up by the roots the true expectations of the Christian.
) It was more probably the "hope of the gospel" generally, which is described in Ephesians 1:18 as "the hope of our calling," including all the blessings of redemption with resurrection itself.
) It was a hope
(i.) made known by the gospel;
(ii.) imparted to them by Epaphras, the delegate of the apostle - "which ye heard;"
(iii.) and proclaimed as the universal hope of man to all creation.
It was not, therefore, reserved for a select coterie of men. "Its universal tendency was already realized," and its wide publicity was not to be called in question.
(3) Consider the importance of religious steadfastness. "We must hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6). Let us, therefore, bless God that "he has begotten us to a lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3).
(4) Seek wisdom from on high "to know what is the hope of our calling" (Ephesians 1:18).
(5) Let us read the Scriptures prayerfully, that "through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope" (Romans 15:4).
(6) Let us acknowledge that "truth that is according to godliness" (Titus 1:1, 2). - T. C.
To present you holy and umblameable and unreproveable in His sight.I. THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF GOD IN THE WORK OF CHRIST.
1. In "present" there is possibly a sacrificial allusion (Romans 12:1), or the more eloquent metaphor of the bringing of the bride to the husband by the friend of the bridegroom (2 Corinthians 2:2; Ephesians 5:27), or perhaps it means simply "to sit in the presence of." The reference is to the day of judgment (2 Corinthians 4:14). In the light of that revealing day His purpose is that we shall stand "holy," i.e., devoted to God, and therefore pure, "without blemish," as the offerings had to be, and "unreproveable," against whom no charge can be brought. They must be spotless indeed who are "without fault before the throne."
2. All the lines of thought in the preceding section lead up to this peak. The meaning of God in creation and redemption cannot be fathomed without taking into view the future perfecting of men. The Christian ideal of the possibilities for men is the noblest vision that can animate our hopes. Nothing short of this satisfies God's heart, for it has to be connected with "It pleased the Father." Nor will anything less exhaust the power of the reconciling Christ. His Cross and passion reach no adequate result short of the perfecting of the saints. We ought, then, to keep before us this as the crowning object of Christianity; not to make us happy except as a consequence of holiness. Nothing less should satisfy us.
II. THE CONDITIONS ON WHICH THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THAT PURPOSE DEPENDS.
1. Generally speaking, a steadfast adherence to the gospel. "If ye continue in the exercise of your faith." This continuance is explained —(1) Positively, "grounded," i.e., built into a foundation, and "steadfast," as banded into the firm rock, and so partaking of its fixedness.(2) Negatively, "not moved away," a process that may be continually going on, and in which, by some force constantly acting from without, they may be imperceptibly pushed off from the foundation, i.e., the hope evoked or held out by the gospel.
2. Some plain lessons may be drawn from these words.(1) There is an "if." However great the powers of Christ, and deep the desire, and fixed the purpose of God, no fulfilment of these is possible except on the condition of our habitual exercise of faith. The gospel does not act on men by magic. "He could not do because of their unbelief."(2) It must be present faith that leads to present results. We cannot make an arrangement by which we exercise faith wholesale once for all, and secure a delivery of its blessings in small quantities for a time after.(3) If our lives are to be firm we must have a foundation outside of ourselves. If my practical life be not built on Christ the blows of circumstance will make it reel and stagger.(4) This Christ-derived steadfastness will make us able to resist influences that would move us away from the hope of the gospel. If we do not look to our moorings we shall drift away down stream and never know we are moving. Many a man is completely unaware how completely his Christian faith has gone till some crisis comes when he needs it.
III. A THREE-FOLD MOTIVE FOR ADHERENCE TO THE GOSPEL.
1. "The gospel which ye heard." Paul would have them recall what they heard at their conversion, and tamper with no teaching inconsistent with it. He also appeals to their experience. "Have these truths become less precious?" To us the same appeal comes. The word has been sounding in our ears since childhood. The "one thing" we know is not to be lightly abandoned.
2. This gospel was "preached" in "all creation under heaven," whereas the heretical teachings only belonged to a class. All errors are transient and limited; but the gospel can go into any corner under heaven.
3. "Whereof I Paul am made a minister."(1) This is not merely an appeal to their affection, though that is perfectly legitimate.(2) He puts stress upon the fact that he became a minister, as being an evidence of Christianity; which indeed it is.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
New Encyclopedia of Anecdotes."What are you doing here by yourself?" asked a man of his neighbour one day. "I am reading a book that has only two leaves," was the reply. "Then it won't take you long to read it," said the other. Months passed away, and they met again. "Well, what are you doing now?" "I am still reading my little book." "What! and only two leaves in it?" "Yes; a white leaf and a red one." "I don't understand you." "Well, the white leaf is the holiness of God, and the red leaf is the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. When I study the white leaf, and see my sin in the light of God's holiness, I am glad to turn to the red leaf and rest my eye on the blood of Jesus. And when I realize the preciousness and efficacy of the Saviour's blood, I feel a longing for holiness, and turn again to the white leaf. The little book will occupy me all my life, and I expect it will be my joyful meditation through eternity."
(New Encyclopedia of Anecdotes.)
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