Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Gospel of Reconciliation, part 2

We continue our study of the gospel as we look at the Paul’s presentation that the gospel is the reconciliation between God and humanity. Last week we looked at the supremacy of Christ and how he and his work make the act of reconciliation ultimately effective. Now we move on to Colossians 1.21-23 and how Paul lines out how God has made peace with us.

Once you were alienated – what does this mean to you? Literally it says, once you were “estranged”. That implies a previous relationship. I wonder if it implies back a few verses to the understanding that creation was created “in Christ” but that something happened that caused creation to need being reconciled. (We, of course, appeal to the sin of Adam and Eve, see Romans 5.11-18).

You were enemies (in your minds because of evil behavior) – have you ever felt like you were God’s enemy? Where does this come from? Have you ever felt like you engaged in “evil behavior”? See Col. 3.5,7-9, the previous verse says that the wrath of God is coming upon such behavior.

***But now*** he (God) has reconciled you. He has made peace with you. How? By Christ’s literal, physical death. In Colossians, it seems there was the beginning of the belief that Christ was not truly incarnate, but only seemed to be physically with us. Thus, he did not really die. Paul seems to be directly combating this view.

To present you – this begins to sound like sacrificial language. God is presenting us as a sacrifice, made holy and free from blemish (like the requirement of an animal to be sacrificed in the OT, see Romans 12.1 as well). But it could also be a reference to a law court and our legal standing before the judge (see Rom. 3.23-24).
Either way, God does this work of reconciliation on our behalf and we have access to this reconciliation by our faith in Christ (Eph. 2.8-9).

Sounds conditional at this point - **if** we continue in our faith…not moving from the hope we have in the gospel (this good news of reconciliation). F. F. Bruce puts it this way: If the gospel teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it teaches at the same time that the saints are those who finally persevere – in Christ.

This is the gospel – we were once alienated from God (even enemies) but God has made peace with us through the physical death of Jesus. By accessing this work of Christ by faith, we are made clean and free from accusation (not guilty) before God. That is, if we prove that we have truly accessed this faith by persevering to the end.

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