I heard this past week of a new movement that is afoot around the world. It is called the “Maker’s” movement.
I was in the car and I had turned on the radio, and I was listening to one of those technology shows; the kind of show that if you are having troubles with your computer you can call in and ask them what might be wrong with it, or you can ask advice about what kind of phone might be right for you.
So, for instance, one man was interested in making films and he needed a stabilizer for his camera so the picture wouldn’t be bumpy. He could have sunk a couple thousand dollars into one by going out and purchasing one. But he decided to make one for himself. He designed it and bought the parts. Some of the parts he even made in his own shop. And he ended up doing it for a fraction of the money he would have spent.
More than that though, he had the appreciation of making it. He got to see all the little parts and he had a greater appreciation for the intricacy of the little do-dad that he had made. And as a “Maker” he had a greater sense of the wonder of it all.
I’m not much of a maker. But I do know that it is true that understanding the various dynamics of things can help you appreciate it more. I mean, who hasn’t stared at those human body displays, where you can see the intricacies of the muscle system or all the veins that make up your circulatory system. It’s gross, but you can’t help but look at it because it makes you to stand in awe of it.
This reaction is the same reaction you get when you study Scripture. In Scripture we are often presented with the different intricacies of our salvation. And part of the reason that this is so is that we might stand in awe of God and appreciate the grace that has been given to us.
That is certainly true with the passage we have before us today. In this passage Paul is writing about the topic of our being reconciled with God. That is to say, he’s showing us how we have come to have communion with Him. And as he writes we get to see some of the intricate dynamics that allow us to have this relationship. And it is my belief that as we study them, we come to appreciate even more the relationship we have with Him.
In order to grasp the wonder of our relationship, we first have to consider the nature of reconciliation. And three things are said regarding it in verses 21-22. Paul starts by talking about who it is that God reconciles.
I. Its nature [21-22]
A. Who God reconciles
Look at what it says in verse 21. I want you to see how it describes you. It says, that you were once “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” There are three words here that are used to describe you. And the words are not very flattering.
The first word is “alienated.” When you hear that word you should think little green men from outer space. Aliens are unique because they ride in space ships from distant galaxies. They are far away. And that is the essence of this word here in the original language. You are estranged. The Greek word is actually a compound word. It is made up of a word that means estranged and away. You are estranged away. That’s how far away from God you are. You are not just estranged, but you are estranged and away! When it comes to God, that’s how close you are! You are galaxies away, so to speak.
But not only are you alienated, you are also hostile in mind. That’s the next word you find there in verse 21. Now, we tend to think that all is cool with God and us. We like to say that there is no one who is a better buddy than the Lord. But that is not the way it is. You might be chums with the god you made up—the god of your imagination. But when it comes to the true God, you are hostile in mind.
Think here of the middle east. Or, as the case may be, think Ferguson, MO. The hostilities in those places right now. The tensions that exist and the extreme hatred that exists between those respective groups, that is starting to get at how you really feel towards God. Your thoughts are like Hamas.
And then there is the fact that you were “doing evil deeds.” That’s the third word Paul uses to describe us. Our lives were filled with evil deeds. We tell lies. We belittle other people. We disrespect them. We fail to encourage people and uplift them. We made idols out of everything and we neglected the worship of God (or, at the very least, we profaned his worship by not attending to it the way we should).
And that’s not even the half of it. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of your resume of evil deeds. I like the theologian who once said our lives are so inundated with sin that we don’t even recognize 99% of it.
Some of you may know the story of Martin Luther and how he lived a monk prior to his coming to grasp justification by faith alone. The story goes that he would spend 4 hours with his priest confessing his sins. Then, after he left, he was afraid that he always forgot something! He was once speaking with his priest and the priest said, “I haven’t heard you confess anything interesting yet.”
Luther understood that his life was full of evil deeds. Whether it was coveting another monk’s potatoes or having a wayward thought, all of it was evil.
And that is the life of us all. Our lives were characterized by evil deeds, hostility, and alienation..
But yet, that’s who god reconciled. And the passage goes on to tell us exactly how he did it.
B. How God reconciles
It says “he has now reconciled us in his body of flesh by his death.” You see, God couldn’t have communion with us as we were. Something had to be done to remove that hostility. Something had to be done to get those who were alienated back. And verse 22 tells us that we are reconciled not by any prayer that we pray or by turning around our lives. Communion with God could only be achieved through the crucified body of Jesus Christ.
You will notice as you read this that it is emphasizing the physical-ness of Jesus’s sufferings. It is not just his body, but Paul says that it was “the body of his flesh.” Paul is emphasizing the fleshiness of the event and that there was a literal, tangible, biological death that occurred.
The Colossians were Gnostics and they tended to exalt the spiritual over and against the physical. So they might have been tempted to say that Christ didn’t really have a body. Or, at the very least, that he didn’t really die because that would be too carnal.
But here he is emphasizing that the cross was real. The death of Christ was a true death. And if it were not for the suffering and death of Christ, it would not be possible to have a relationship with God. That is how central the incarnation of Christ really is. Without it, and without his forfeiting his life, no one may be reconciled.
There have been some who have also said that God could have reconciled us some other way. They say that the cross wasn’t needed, but that God could have willed our sins away or accomplished our redemption without the shedding of blood. But that is foolishness. To say that kind of thing is to make a mockery of the cross. The Bible makes it clear that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness. The guilt we have incurred requires death. And the only way we can be reconciled to God is if that penalty has been paid.
And thank God it has. Our redemption has been sealed through Christ and his death.
But this passage not only shows us who was reconciled and how we were reconciled, it also shows us why God reconciles.
C. Why God reconciles
The second half of verse 22 says that God reconciled us “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
This, you might say, is the whole goal of reconciliation. It is what makes reconciliation possible. So long as you are alienated and doing evil deeds, God can be near you. If God is going to have a relationship with you, you must be holy and blameless.
Young people, I want you to think about it this way: So long as you are a bum, living out in the street, you can’t have access to the country club. You’re clothes are going to be too dirty and too raggedy. You are not going to be clean enough and you are not going to have the credentials to get into the country club. That’s because the country club won’t allow street people in. But let’s say that someone comes along and gives you some new clothes. They get you cleaned up and they vouch for you. Can you get into the country club now? Yes you can.
You are still a bum, right? But in the eyes of the country club, you are different. You have everything you need to get in and enjoy country club life.
That’s is what this verse is saying. God makes you who are alienated and hostile in mind to be holy and blameless. All your sin is taken away. Because of what Christ did on the cross, you sin is removed. And in its place you have the perfect merit of Christ. All his holiness is given over to you. And, as a result, you are ushered into the very presence of God to have a relationship with him.
But you’ll notice that as Paul talks about this reconciliation with God, he is very careful. After he describes how wonderful it is, issues a warning. He reminds us that this reconciliation has a condition.
II. Its condition: Faith 
You’ll notice that verse 23 starts off with the word “if.” The whole passage hinges on this word. It would be like me saying, “Children, I’ll give you a trip to Disney World, if you clean your room.” Now, what happens if you don’t clean your room? Are you going to go to Disney world? Nope. You are going no where. Your going to Disney world depends on your cleaning your room.
Here we have the same thing. Your relationship with God is dependent upon something. Without fulfilling this condition, then you are not reconciled.
Well, what is the condition? The passage says that you need to continue in “the faith.” Now, I’d like you to notice something. It’s important that you get this or you will miss the whole condition. There are two ways to talk about faith. I want you to understand that this is not talking about your believing. It is not talking about the act of demonstrating faith. It is talking about the content of your faith.
Do you see what I mean? It does not say “if you continue in faith.” It says, “If you continue in the faith.” You see, Paul is speaking against the false teachers here. False teachers had crept into the church at Collosse and they were teaching different doctrines. “The faith” was being corrupted. And Paul was writing to make sure they understood that they needed to believe the right things. Otherwise their salvation was in danger. If the doctrines they believed changed, then their relationship with God was in jeopardy.
Look at how Paul really emphasizes this too. In verse 23 Paul describes the faith that they are to hold. He says that there are three basic things that ought to describe the faith you hold. The first is that it must be an orthodox faith.
A. It’s an orthodox faith
He says that “you must continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” He uses words from the world of construction here. The words stable and steadfast have to do with a foundation that one lays for a building. You know that some houses that are not built right will have a foundation that shifts. That doesn’t make for a secure house. You know what happens to that kind of house, right? It collapses.
Paul is saying that there is a fundamental truth that God has laid out and that you have been believing. And you need to make sure that you continue to hold firmly to that body truth.
Today we call that body of truth “orthodoxy.” We say we have to make sure we believe what is orthodox. The word orthodox comes from two Greek words “orthos” meaning straight and “doxa,” which means opinion. So orthodoxy stands for the straight opinion. When you have shift your opinion from the straight one, then you’ve got problems.
All this is to say that there is are right things to believe and there are wrong things to believe. There is the orthodox faith and there are things that are unorthodox. And you need to be sure that you are holding to that you are grounded in the body of truth that God has revealed in the Bible and not shifting from it.
The second thing that Paul says about this faith is that it is a catholic faith.
B. It’s a catholic faith
Now, I’m not talking about Catholic with a capital “C.” (as in the Roman Catholic Church). I’m talking about catholic with a lower case c. The word catholic simply means “all.” To believe in the catholic faith is to believe what all Christians everywhere have believed. That’s what I’m talking about. And that is what Paul essentially means when he says that this faith has “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.”
It is interesting that the book of Colossians had probably been written 30 years after Christ’s death and resurrection. In that 30 years the gospel had spread throughout the whole Roman Empire.
But you get the point. There is a catholicity to the faith. The faith that you are to believe needs to align with the faith that has been preached everywhere else. If it differs from what has been proclaimed in other places, then you’ve got a theological boo-boo.
This is part of the reason why we have creeds and confessions in our church. Some people get a little queasy when we have our confession of faith and recite these documents. But the creeds and confessions are simply helping us to identify what the church has confessed in all places and in all times. We are not setting these things above the Scriptures. Not at all. They are simply helps for us to know what the Bible teaches and they serve as good summary statements to help us know what God’s people have believed down through the ages.
So in this verse Paul says that your faith needs to be orthodox and it needs to be catholic. But, we might add that what you believe needs to be apostolic too.
C. It’s an apostolic faith
Look at the very end of verse 23. You’ll see that Paul pulls himself into the text. He says “of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Paul is pulling out the apostle card here. He understands that his office carries weight. Unlike the false teachers, his words had authority because he was an apostle. God had commissioned him (and the other apostles) to teach and preach the doctrines of the faith and the things that we are to believe. And if anybody teaches anything different, then we need to reject it because it isn’t from God.
All this is to say though that there is a particular faith that we are to believe. And you understand why we are so finicky about doctrine here at Providence Church. We understand that it is the difference between being a Christian and not being a Christian. It is the difference between having a relationship with God and not having a relationship. It is the difference of being reconciled or spending eternity in hell.
Herein lies the wonder of it though: even our continuing in the faith is all of God’s doing. How else would alienated, hostile people be able to continue in the faith? Would we not take a dive off the foundation and do a cannonball into a sea of error if left to ourselves? “If” is an important word. It’s reminding us that this relationship is impossible without the Lord’s doing.
And that he has done it, and done it alone, should make us stand in awe.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.