Holy, Blameless and Beyond Reproach


Gil Rugh

Copyright © 1997
Indian Hills Community Church
Lincoln, Nebraska

Colossians 1:21-23

Colossians is a rather small epistle but one that is concerned with the supremacy of Jesus Christ. It demonstrates that Jesus Christ is, indeed, supreme over all. There is no message so glorious, so wonderful or so thrilling as the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a message that God is a God of love, and He has displayed His love in a marvelous and unique way to the world of mankind. This message of the gospel - and the Greek word for gospel simply means good news - this message which is such good news contains an element which makes it offensive and unacceptable to the vast majority of the human race. The fact is, you cannot talk about the good news of God for mankind without talking about the issue of the sin of mankind. Indeed, we are sinners. We are vile, guilty and condemned as sinners before God. There is no message from God that does not deal with the issue of sin.

This becomes a very difficult issue for us to accept. As fallen sinners, we are proud people. We say, "I don't mind hearing about the love of God. I don't mind hearing about the goodness and kindness of God. I don't even mind hearing about the struggles we have as human beings, and I don't mind if you say none of us is perfect." But that changes as soon as we get more specific and say, "We're dealing with an issue of personal guilt, personal sin and personal accountability. The fact is you are lost and on your way to hell." Now we have tension.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15: "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." You see, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Yet we cannot talk about Jesus Christ and why He came into the world. We cannot talk about the greatest demonstration of the love of God that was ever given. The love that God had for us while we were yet sinners was such that He had His Son die for us.

The people of Jesus' day found this message very offensive. Beginning with Luke 18:10, Jesus told a parable about a very religious Pharisee who came before God in worship and offered a prayer that began, "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers..." Jesus used that Pharisee as an example of one who was unforgiven. His worship was unacceptable before God.

I found something interesting in one of the commentaries. One of the writers gave an illustration that is drawn from the very wonderful biography of George Whitfield. The two-volume biography is available in a condensed, one-volume version, but you really ought to read the two-volume version. George Whitfield was born in 1714 and carried on his ministry through the middle of the 1700s - the 18th century. Lady Huntington was a very godly woman of high standing, high birth. A devout believer, she would invite her friends, including those of royalty, to come hear George Whitfield preach. She received response from one friend that went like this: "It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting. And I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding."

We find, then, that this tension is not new to our day. Clear back in the 18th century a person asked how someone of Lady Huntington's birth and standing in society have any kind of warm sentiment toward the preaching of a message that calls people sinners and that implies they are lost and condemned. We sometimes think that it is harder in our day to present the gospel. But the gospel has always been the gospel, and sinners have always been sinners. We think today we have a right to not be offended. So if you present the message of Christ and I am offended, you are wrong. That concept is not biblical. That is not true. The preaching of the cross is offensive to those who are perishing.

We say this as we start our study today because Paul, in writing to the Colossians, is talking about the subject of God's work of reconciliation. As soon as you talk about reconciliation, you are talking about something being wrong. Suppose someone walks up to you and says, "Did you hear that so and so and so and so have reconciled?" You might say, "I didn't know there had been a problem." Why? Because reconciliation presupposes conflict, hostility, difficulty.

Paul began this section in verse 15 by emphasizing the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ over all creation. He is supreme over all creation because he is the creator of everything. Then he moves on to emphasize the fact that Jesus Christ is supreme and head over the church. Why? Since He provided reconciliation for the world, He brought the church into existence. So He is supreme not only in creation but in reconciliation. Paul emphasized in verses 18-20 the work of reconciliation that Christ had accomplished. And it was a reconciliation that encompassed all creation. It's a cosmic reconciliation. All things on earth and in heaven experience or will experience reconciliation through the work of Christ. This does not mean that all will be saved, but, ultimately, everything is brought into proper relationship and alignment to God by being brought into submission to Him. So in connection with the earthly kingdom of Christ, 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, tells us there will come a point in the future when everything will be brought into subjection to Christ and thus to the Father. We will be reconciled. Some will be reconciled in hell. Some will be reconciled in the glory of heaven. But we will be in submission to the One who is ruler of all.

1. God's Reconciliation Results in Perfection

But there is a personal dimension of reconciliation, which is the major thrust of that teaching of the Scripture. The other aspect of reconciliation - its encompassing nature to all creation - really flows out of what is at the heart of reconciliation. God is doing the work necessary to bring fallen, sinful, human beings into a perfect, restored, redemptive relationship with Himself through the cleansing from sin and making a person new. The personal dimension of the work of reconciliation is where Paul is going in verses 21-23.

Look at verse 21: "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds." You see, if you want to understand reconciliation, you must come to grips with sin. Now Paul is writing to these Colossians who have turned from their sin and believed in Christ, and he reminds them of what their condition was before they were reconciled. Then he tells them how glorious was the reconciliation that they experienced. "And although you..." Note the emphasis here. The emphasis and you appears first in the Greek text. We have the word although put before the word you in order to make it read better in English. But the and you still is emphasized as Paul continues to explain the doctrine of reconciliation. The emphasis of reconciliation is on the personal salvation, or reconciliation, of sinful human beings.

" were formerly..." is followed by a three-fold description of what they were like before they were reconciled. You were alienated. You were hostile in mind. You were engaged in evil deeds. That describes their condition before they were reconciled. They were estranged from God, separated from Him. There was hostility in the relationship. That is the basic condition of fallen humanity. It is at enmity with God. It is separated from Him by a relationship of enmity, hostility, conflict. It is interesting, grammatically, the way this is worded - " were alienated..." The forms of these two words, which are participles in Greek, express the fact that this was their settled condition. This was the state in which they resided. They were in a state of alienation, which is the condition before or apart from reconciliation. Their condition is one of alienation from God. They are estranged from God. It is not a situation of indifference. It is a relationship of hostility.

2. Separation From God Breeds Hostility

Paul is saying that in their thinking they were hostile toward God. They were hostile in mind. Now there is going to be a progression, and we will see it. Those who are alienated from God, and thus in a state of separation from God, are hostile toward Him in their thinking. They are the enemies of God, and this is the way they think. They are opposed to God in their thinking. We will see more of this when we tie this together.

The third thing said about them was they were engaged in evil deeds. This is the natural outworking of a mind that is hostile toward God. Those who have no relationship with God or are alienated from Him are hostile in their mind toward Him. They practice deeds which are sinful and wicked as they express their opposition to God and His will. There are a number of expressions used that are similar to engaged in evil deeds. This expression evil deeds is used in the John 3:19 where we are told that men loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. They did evil deeds, so they didn't want to come to the light of the revelation of God and thus be revealed for what they were. A couple of other passages talk about deeds of darkness. Romans 13:12 and Ephesians 5:11 carry the same idea we saw in John 3:19. Men love the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil. So they do deeds of darkness - deeds that are characteristic of those who live apart from God because God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. So those who are alienated from God and are hostile in mind do deeds associated with living in the darkness apart from God and His light. Those deeds of the flesh are ones that a fallen, unregenerate person does in opposition to God.

Back up to Galatians 5:19: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident..." The deeds of the flesh are the same things as evil deeds. They are what a person does who has no relationship with God. The word deeds is the Greek word for works, so the deeds, or works, of the flesh. "...are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these..." That is not a complete list. But that gives you an idea of what kinds of things we are talking about when we talk about evil deeds, deeds of the flesh or deeds of darkness. But you note those who practice such things will never be part of the kingdom of God. Those people are lost. Paul will follow this by talking about the characteristics of a person who has been redeemed by God's grace.

Back up to Romans. Here again the connection is made between the mind and the practice of a person. Romans 1:18 tells us that "...the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." Because they are alienated from God, they are opposed to Him and His truth. They have no room for God in their thinking. Verse 21: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile..." - empty - " their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." The word heart here means the same thing as the word mind. They are darkened in the realm of their minds, the way they think. They are empty. Look down in verse 28: "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind..." They are not even willing to take God into consideration in their thinking.

We see a display of this in our society today. It is offensive for anyone to bring up God in a conversation. And, my, if you would bring it up in the schools.... You can give out condoms. You can give sexual instructions to immature, young people, but you better not mention God. Why? Because we don't take Him into account. He is not included in our thinking. Besides, we are hostile to Him. So we will tell you how to engage in evil deeds which God says He will judge. But do not bring up God or His truth in this place. As we can see, the hostility is there.

The outflow from unrighteous men in Romans, chapter 1, is all kinds of sinful deeds. There is sexual immorality of all kinds, with a focus upon degrading passions of homosexuality. In Romans 1:29, look at the list of these things which God says are not proper to do. They are "...filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful." They not only do those evil deeds, but they encourage other people to do them. Those are the kinds of evil deeds that we are talking about back in Colossians.

3. The Unrighteous Can't Clean Up Their Lives

Now come back to Colossians. It's important to see the connection of these three things - alienation from God, hostility in mind toward God and evil deeds in conduct. Now the danger - and I fear this happens much to the church - is that we focus on evil deeds. We would like to stop the evil deeds. But evil deeds are a result of the hostility of unbelievers toward God. That hostility just overflows from their thoughts and breaks out in their conduct. That hostility in mind toward God is because they are separated from God. They are the enemies of God. They have no relationship with God, so they conduct themselves accordingly. We need to be careful that we don't try to patch up the situation and thus deny the biblical doctrine of reconciliation and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is you cannot clean up your life. You can make adjustments in your life. You can go from being one kind of sinner to another kind of sinner.

Did you notice the mixture in those lists we read? Murderers, adulterers, slanderers, disobedient to parents. Wait a minute. Don't you think we ought to have a second category for people who gossip, cause division or are disobedient to parents? The sinners in that second column aren't so bad . That's where I belong. Murderers, immoral people, adulterers, homosexuals - that's the bad column. No. That's like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14 who prayed, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers...' and so on. All sin is a manifestation of hostility toward God, and it which reflects the fact that those who do not love God are separated from Him. He sees us as we are. That's the condition. That's why we as a church do not get involved in programs that supposedly will clean up society. We recognize that the evil deeds flooding our society simply reflect the hostility of mind of those who are alienated from God.

I've had the opportunity the last couple of weeks to be involved in some situations with young people who are 18. The hostility of mind that characterizes them as unregenerate people is breaking out in their lives, and they are being consumed by their own hostilities. What a sad situation. But the solution isn't to correct their behavior. It would be nice to correct that behavior. Life would be easier for those around them. But simply correcting their behavior won't solve the problem. Suppose I have a pain that is caused by a cancerous tumor. Someone says, "Here, take these two tablets. They will take the pain away." Well, that is a temporary help, but you realize that I haven't solved anything. What I really need is a cure for the cause. Someone who is satisfied to do nothing more than to tell me to take these two pills doesn't really care about me. Maybe they're trying to make life easier for themselves because I might be less trouble, but they haven't helped cure the problem.

We would like smooth lives for ourselves, but we have to be careful. It be nice if this world wasn't so hostile toward our God. It would be wonderful if they weren't so overt in their sinful behavior. Life could be more comfortable for us as God's people. But God is concerned with reconciliation. Too often we become concerned with reformation. We want to clean up that life. But God says to reconcile that life and make it what it must be before Him.

4. Christ's Death Provides Reconciliation

Back to Colossians, chapter 1, where verse 21 describes the condition of the Colossians before reconciliation Paul said they were alienated; they were hostile in mind; they were engaged in evil deeds. Those three things go together. You must correct them all or you really correct none. The Pharisees who did not practice immorality and murder were no more righteous and no more acceptable before God than the woman whom they caught in adultery. In fact, they were worse off because they were less open to the message of truth. But for those who are alienated, hostile, and engaged in evil deeds, "yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death..." Amazing. The gospel is good news because it is a message of reconciliation. But it is a message of reconciliation that becomes personal to your life only when you understand the message of condemnation and sin. You must understand that you are alienated from God. You say, "I don't feel like I am alienated." That doesn't matter. I may not feel like I am sick, but I may be dying. You are hostile toward God. You are engaged in deeds that are contrary to His will, but the good news is that you can be reconciled. He has reconciled you.

How does reconciliation occur? He did it in His fleshly body through death. Paul already covered this in verse 20: "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having make peace through the blood of His cross..." There Paul said reconciliation was made possible through the blood of His cross. In verse 22, Paul says His fleshly body through death made reconciliation possible. They both say the same thing. The blood of His cross referred to His sacrificial death when He was crucified on the cross. Here, in His fleshly body means that it was in His physical body through death that reconciliation was made possible. When we studied the preceding verses, we looked at passages like chapter 2 of Hebrews which say that Jesus Christ had to become a human being so He could pay the penalty for sins for human beings. He became flesh and blood. So here it was in His physical body through death that reconciliation was made possible.

You understand that if Jesus Christ had left glory, been born into the human race, led a great life, liberated the Jews from the domination of the Romans and returned to heaven, there would be no salvation for anyone because the wages of sin is death. The penalty for sin must be paid. The great demonstration of God's love, we are told in Romans 5:8, is "...that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." You cannot avoid the issue of the death of Christ when you deal with the issue of your sin. The penalty for sin is death. That's why Paul wrote to the Colossians that He reconciled them in His fleshly body through death.

5. Key Passages in Romans, 2 Corinthians, Colossians

The three major passages on reconciliation are Romans, chapter 5; 2 Corinthians, chapter 5; and Colossians, chapter 1. These aren't the only ones that mention reconciliation, but they are the key passages. Back up to Romans 5:1, where Paul begins by talking about justification: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." This tell you how the work of Christ becomes personally applied to you. You believe what God has said and done. Then you are justified. What does justification mean? It means God declares you righteous because the penalty has been paid. You have been redeemed. The price to set you free was paid. God declares you righteous, so you are now reconciled. The sin that separated you and God has now been dealt with, and you are brought into relationship with God.

Look down at verse 6: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." You see, Jesus Christ and His death make no sense unless you understand sin, unless you understand that you are an ungodly person. I didn't say you aren't a religious person. I said you are an ungodly person. The Pharisee was a religious person, yet he was not godly person. Verse 8: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." See the connection? We were sinners; Christ died for us. That is how we know God loves us. That is the demonstration of His love. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exalt in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." The point is if Christ would die for us while we were sinners, we have all the more assurance that our Savior who is alive will keep us now that we have been born into His family and been forgiven our sins. We are secure in Him.

Come back to Colossians, chapter 1. You who were alienated, hostile, engaged in evil deeds have been reconciled through His death on the cross. For what purpose? " order," middle of verse 22, "to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach." This is an awesome statement of how God's work of reconciliation is so powerful and so complete. It starts with people who are alienated from God. They are hostile in mind toward Him and are engaged in the practice of evil, sinful deeds. It so transforms their lives and brings them into such a relationship with God that they are assured when they stand before Him at a time yet future that they will be presented in His presence as holy, blameless, beyond reproach.

The transformation could not be any more complete. Those who are alienated, hostile and sinful in conduct are now holy, blameless and beyond reproach. And not just in comparison to other people, like the Pharisee of Luke, chapter 18, who said: "God, I thank You that I am not like other men..." But he was still sinful even though he didn't do the same open, vile deeds that others did. We're talking about being holy, blameless and beyond reproach in the presence of the God who is holy and righteous. And now those who have been reconciled are in the presence of that God and are called holy, blameless and beyond reproach. The work of reconciliation is remarkable. That is why Christ had to die. It wasn't to make us better than someone else or to help clean up things, but to make us totally new so that we could be presented in His presence. Romans 14:10 says, "...we will all stand before the judgment seat of God." At that time, those who have experienced this personal reconciliation will be presented holy, blameless, and beyond reproach.

Holy. Remember in our study of Peter that he quoted from Leviticus 11:45 where God says, " shall be holy, for I am holy." The root meaning of the word holy is separate, set apart. God is perfectly holy because He is perfectly set apart from all sin and defilement. In Christ, you and I have experienced such cleansing, such purification, that we are holy in a way that makes us acceptable in the presence of a God who is holiness.

We are blameless, a word that is used often of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. We are without defilement or blemish. We are not marred, nor do we have a defect of any kind. We were people who were alienated from God, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. Think of some of the things that have passed through your mind, how wicked and defiling they are. What about the vile things that we have done with these bodies? And to think that the reconciliation of Christ is so great and so powerful that there will not be one blot, not one defiling stain, when you stand in the very presence of God in glory. That's overwhelming. That is why Jesus Christ had to die, so we could be reconciled and not just cleaned up a little bit.

The third description here is beyond reproach. It is a legal term, a courtroom term. You appear before the judge. What is the charge? There is no charge. Amazing. Wait a minute, this is the one who was alienated. This is the one who was hostile in mind. This is the one who engaged in evil deeds. No charges. Go back to Romans 8:31: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns..."? You see the picture? Who is going to bring a charge against God's elect? God has declared me righteous. Who can overrule God? God is the one who justifies. He has declared me righteous in Christ. Who is the one who condemns? Who is the one who is greater than God? There is no one; that's the point. I will stand in His presence as one who has been reconciled beyond reproach. Unchargable. Is it because I was a perfect person? A better person? A preacher? We know something about preachers from some of our public figures in recent years. Being a preacher certainly doesn't make you righteous. Only in Christ is there the righteousness of God for those who are reconciled. No charges. We are talking about reconciliation - holy, blameless, beyond reproach before Him. God is the standard. You must be holy and blameless and beyond reproach before the throne of heaven, and in Christ that occurs. 6. Those Truly Reconciled Will Be Faithful

Come back to Colossians, chapter one. You might be thinking that the idea of being reconciled with God is too good to be true. Verse 23 begins with if. "I knew it," you say. "Too good to be true. There is a catch." "If indeed you continue in faith..." "Whew!" you say. "At least there is hope now." Well, there is more than hope. In Greek, there are several ways to give conditions. You can have a first-class condition, a second-class condition, a third-class condition, a fourth-class condition. It depends on the grammatical structure. This is a first-class condition. All the conditions have an element of doubt or they wouldn't be conditions. But this condition assumes the positive, so many who comment on this would translate it for expanded understanding - "If indeed you continue in the faith, and I am confident you will." This condition has a confidence, an assumption, that you will carry out the condition if you continue in the faith. Confidence is expressed that it will happen.

This doctrine is called the perseverance of the saints. It is not a matter that some who are reconciled will fall off the wagon and not make it. The doctrine is that those who truly have been reconciled will be faithful. "If indeed you continue..." Some call this eternal security, but that is not as biblical as perseverance of the saints. One person who has written about the Greek text of Colossians says of the word continue, in its form here, that it expresses active perseverance. In other words, perseverance is more than mere passive continuance. Some people latch on to a church, maybe a big church like this, and their goal is to just float with as little conflict and problems as possible. Let's face it. You can come into a large group, stay on the fringe and avoid very much conflict and difficulty. Those people are there, and they just want to float. We're not talking about the passive indifference, the passive go-along, here. We are talking about those who persevere in the faith. There is an active element to this. They continue by diligently persevering in the faith. That pre-supposes opposition, conflict, difficulty. They must continue in the faith.

7. There Is No Stability Without Foundation

As Paul elaborates on this, it becomes a more complete picture - "...firmly established and steadfast, not moved away..." That clause contains two positive statements and one negative statement. Firmly established comes from the basic Greek word for a foundation. You would use it when you talk about the foundation of a house. It comes to be used as a metaphor or a picture, but maybe Paul is drawing a picture of the building as well. The point is, it is like a house where you establish first the firm foundation. If you don't have a firm foundation, there won't be any stability in the building. Given the right set of circumstances, the building will begin to come down. There is only one foundation that can be laid, and Paul said he laid it. Jesus Christ is that foundation. He is the heart and foundation of the gospel.

"Firmly established, having a firm foundation, and steadfast...." If this word steadfast was being used in context of the building, it would be the structure built on the foundation. The picture is of a person whose life is firmly founded in the faith. There is stability in that faith, in the life that is built on that foundation. The negative side is that believers are not moved away from that position. Positively stated, they are firmly founded and have stability. Stated negatively, it means they are not moved away from the truth and the hope of the truth.

For this picture, go back to Matthew, chapter 7. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is warning about those who present themselves as true believers but are not true believers. They are professing believers, not born-again believers, as we sometimes differentiate. Look at verse 13: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." You'll note these are the same kinds of ideas - narrow gate, narrow way; firm foundation, stable life; the broad gate, the broad way, the way to destruction.

"Beware of the false prophets..." verse 15. They come to you in sheep's clothing. They present themselves as something they really aren't. "You will know them by their fruits..." verse 16. Good trees bear good fruit; bad trees bear bad fruit. So all the excuses - "Oh, well, I know I am a Christian; I am just not living for Him. In other words, all the fruit in my life is bad, but, believe me, I am a good tree." No, I believe Christ. You are a bad tree. You ought to believe Him so that you might be transformed and changed. "So then, you will know them by their fruits," verse 20. Verse 21: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord,'... I did this, I did that, I cast out demons, I had all this." He'll say, verse 23, "...I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." See the connection? Alienated, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. They go together.

Now look at the picture in verse 24: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who builds his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." It had been firmly established on the rock. Verse 26: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand." The storm came and what? No stability, no foundation. "It fell - and great was its fall."

8. True Believers Will Have Stability

That is the picture we have in Colossians, chapter 1. We are going to confront false teaching and false teachers in chapter 2. True believers will have stability. One commentator wrote, "Just as a tornado can blow a house from its foundations, so the persuasiveness of false teachers can threaten the careless and unwary. This process is continually occurring, and it is one of the means whereby God allows those who are not really part of the church's life to be removed. The true Christian is characterized by his faithful adherence to the gospel which he has accepted."

1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." That's why they went out. Those who abandon the truth and the faith reveal they have never really been reconciled to God in the first place. An evidence of reconciliation is perseverance because those who have been reconciled have been firmly founded in the faith. They have stability because of the work of the Spirit of God in building them in that new life in Christ. They are not moved away. As Ephesians 4:14 says, not "...carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men., by craftiness in deceitful scheming."

Some even within the professing church hook into every new doctrine that comes along. That reveals something about their true character. They are blown here and there and are carried about by every wind. We say, "How does that happen?" Well, if you are not firmly founded in Christ and built to stability in Him, you will be moved away. And that is part of God's plan in purifying the church. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:19: "For there must also be factions..." - divisions - "...among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." As unpleasant as it is when the storm slams you - and remember, you are the house built on the rock - you say, "God, I am not enjoying this, but thank You." Why? That demonstrates your true character. That reveals you as one who has truly been reconciled. You endure the storm. You don't enjoy it, but you survive it. You persevere through it. But there is a sifting going on. Those lives without the stability of the rock foundation are moved away, and there is a great crash when those lives are destroyed.

Turn back to Colossians, chapter 1. We continue in the faith. We are not moved away from the hope of the gospel that was talked about in verse 5: "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel." That gospel is a complete package that provides not only for our present forgiveness, cleansing and new life, but for ultimate glory in His presence when we will be presented holy and blameless and beyond reproach. That is the hope. A true believer weathers the storms and the trials He opposes the false teaching. He is given the opportunity to persevere and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel, verse 23, "...that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven..."

9. The Same Gospel Is for Every Person

That was mentioned back in chapter 1, verse 5. It never changes. The gospel which the Colossians heard is the same gospel that is preached everywhere under heaven to every creature. It doesn't mean every creature has heard it yet, but it is the only gospel for every creature. And wherever that true gospel is preached, it is this gospel. It is not a gospel tailored for your culture or your society. No, this is the gospel of God for every creature under the world. There is no other gospel. This is it. And the gospel which you heard, which brought you into a relationship of reconciliation with God by His grace, is the same gospel that every person needs to hear, whether you live in China, Russia, wherever. It is the gospel for every creature under heaven. It is proclaimed in all creation under heaven because there is no redemption for heavenly creatures. The gospel is not proclaimed to them for personal reconciliation. They experience reconciliation in the broad sense, but in the personal reconciliation there is no gospel preached to fallen beings.

This is the gospel "...of which I, Paul, was made a minister." And that forms the transition to what will be the subject through the rest of this chapter and into chapter 2 - the ministry of the Apostle Paul with this gospel. There is a conflict here. We'll see in chapter 2 that some are coming preaching another gospel. Wait a minute. There is only one gospel. Paul says it is the gospel that he preached, the gospel of which he is a servant before God.

Turn to 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, which is the other major passage on reconciliation. The context is so similar to what we saw in Romans and in Colossians. Verse 10: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ..." We saw that in Romans 14:10. Look at verse 14: "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." You see, the transformed conduct comes from being transformed in your being by the power of God. That is why I say it is a denial of the gospel to imply to people that if they clean up their lives, they will be more acceptable to God. We realize the most difficult people for us to reach in our own city are the religious people. So we don't want to deny the gospel by going on a clean-up mission.

Paul continues down in verse 17: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things come." Sure there is a change in conduct and behavior, but that is because you have become a new creature. "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." That is the transition Paul brought us to in Colossians 1:23 - and it is this gospel "...of which I, Paul, was made a minister." God did the work of reconciliation. Now, 2 Corinthians 5:18, He "gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." You want to know what the ministry entrusted to us is? "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

I take it that Paul and those joined with him, along with believers in our day, have been entrusted with the word of reconciliation. So what do we do? Paul says, verse 20, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ..." We represent Christ, not ourselves, " though God were making an appeal through us..." That is an awesome statement. I stand here presenting to you the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is as though God Himself were speaking from heaven with this message: "...we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

See, there is a personal dimension. God has provided reconciliation. Now we beg you; we plead with you; receive that reconciliation. Bow before Him. Recognize you are a sinner and believe that His Son died to pay the penalty for your sin, and you will be reconciled to God. Verse 21: " He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." That's justification. I receive His righteousness; He takes my sin. What an exchange. That enabled reconciliation to occur and allowed me to be brought into a personal, right relationship with God and my Savior. What a ministry; what a message. Sometimes we who have been reconciled take for granted this great truth. The eternal God has taken this most wonderful work that He has ever done or ever will do - redeeming fallen creation and fallen humanity - and entrusted it to us. Now it says we have the word of reconciliation. And when we give that word forth, it's just like God is speaking through us.

10. Angry Responses to God's Message

People sometimes hear that message of reconciliation and are antagonized. They become angry. Sometimes I am fearful to present it because I am not sure what their response will be. I have to remind myself that their response is to the eternal God who gave me the message of reconciliation. It's like when one of our ambassadors to another country meets with representatives from that country and conveys a message from our president. If they respond negatively, that's not a personal affront to the ambassador. It is a personal affront to the country and to the president. So it is with our message. Should I be embarrassed to present the work of God to a fallen human being? Should I be embarrassed for my God? I may be embarrassed for the sinner's response. Are we really ashamed of the gospel? Paul said in Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel..." Am I ashamed of the work of reconciliation? Quite honestly, sometimes I am. I am embarrassed. I don't want God to really speak through me. I don't want to be an ambassador because I am speaking to someone who is alienated, hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds. They may not want to hear this. Unless God by His grace is at work, they won't want to hear it.

But what a privilege. What a message. Is there anything else in life that compares with the privilege and honor of bringing the message of reconciliation? This is why it is such a travesty that the church abandons this role of giving forth the truth in order to try to give out aspirins, to try to clean up behavior, to try to call our country back to better conduct. No, we have a much greater, much more important message. It's a message from the living God. It's a message of reconciliation. It's a message for your life. You know, you might have been sitting here week after week and never been reconciled. You're religious, but you're not godly. That message of reconciliation can only be appropriated when you turn from your sin and believe in Christ. But when you do, the transformation will be life-changing for time and eternity. Let's pray together.

Thank you, Lord, for Your grace, the greatness of that grace, the wonder of Your love, the work of Your reconciliation. Lord, it's good for us to be reminded of what we were, what we are and the glory that awaits us. And, Lord, may we take as precious this message of reconciliation which we have experienced and which has been entrusted to our care so that we might give it forth to others, so that in Your grace they, too, might experience the reconciliation that You have brought about in our lives. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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This file was converted from Adobe PDF format to HTML by Tony Capoccia of Bible Bulletin Board (BBB). Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the conversion and the posting on BBB. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for a church that preaches/teaches messages that are bold and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

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