21And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. – Colossians 1:21-23
In my last post on reconciliation, I addressed the nature of saving reconciliation–that we are declared to be righteous before God through faith in Jesus Christ. In this post I want to look at a second essential element of our reconciliation to Christ–that through faith in Christ, we are restored to the purpose for which we were created.
We were created by God and for God. And through Christ’s reconciling death we are restored to proper fellowship with God(1 Peter 3:18). We can now begin to live for his glory rather than our own. We are freed from slavery to sin to live new lives in Christ, no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. There is no greater gift that God can give us than himself.
This reconciliation brings glory to God but it also brings joy to believers. When we place our hope in Christ for salvation, we are freed from slavery to that which keeps us from God-we are freed from slavery to sin. Thus in His reconciling death, Christ has born our greatest burden and we are now free to rejoice in Him, to enjoy Him, to love Him, to worship Him. We are free to live out the purpose for which we are created!
But we are not yet perfectly free. We know this because we still struggle with sin. We know this because we know that we will wake up tomorrow and go to work and we will still be tempted to speak unkindly of our coworkers, and we will still be tempted to think lustful thoughts, and we will still be tempted to treasure our television sets above the risen Christ.
We also know that we aren’t perfectly free because Paul warns us in v. 23 that we must endure.
He says we will be presented holy and blameless and above reproach before God if we “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that we have heard.”
This is a warning. Paul is in no way saying that your salvation is dependent upon your ability to remain faithful. We know that we have no ability to be faithful to God in and of ourselves. Colossians 2:13 tells us that “we were dead in our trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh.” Thus we are dead, we have no life in and of ourselves and our salvation only comes when God acts to make alive our dead hearts.
I think instead of understanding Colossians 1:23 as a requirement for our salvation, we should see it as a warning by which we will persevere.
Let me explain.
In order to drive safely through a mountain road, you must be careful to observe all the signs along the way. If you neglect to heed the warnings about icy roads or warnings to slow down on a curve, you could potentially slide off the road and crash. The signs themselves do not save you. A sign that says icy road does not save you, it merely warns you of how you ought to live in order to make it home safely.
Thus Paul’s warning is divinely ordained of God. And it tells us that we will be saved “if we continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel,” This ought to be seen as a warning that true believers will heed. This warning does not save us. But those who make it home safely will heed them. In other words if you are a believer you will heed Paul’s warning not to depart from the faith of the gospel. But you ought also take heed to these warnings, these warnings will not save you, but if you heed them you will make it safely home. If however, you depart from the hope of the gospel and place your hope in anything else you can have no hope that you will make it safely home. It is God who sovereignly guides us home, but it also God who sovereignly provides the warnings by which we will make it safely home.