God’s reconciling grace is a historical phenomenon, a felt experience. Third, whatever spiritualizing of this event may be found among the Colossian believers, Paul emphasizes the bodily and historical to bring together a human Christ and real human beings into a relationship that has historical results: the physical death of the human Jesus is to save lost people from the self-destructiveness of their sins. What happens to forgiven people has public consequences (compare 2:9), consequences that take place before our very eyes.
The result of conversion and God's forgiveness of sins through the crucified and risen Lord Christ is the community's future perfection. The infinitive to present should be seen as telic (in pursuit of a specific goal): "God's 'presentation' of the Colossians and all believers is a purpose be accomplished in the future, not a result already achieved" (Harris '1991:59). Of course Paul will argue that this goal has already been achieved as a result of Christ's death; so that believers, who are already "in" the Lord Christ, have already begun to experience the blessings of the future age…. God’s forgiveness makes
both worship (the cultic sense)and a relationship with God possible,
since faith accords with God’s demand (the legal sense).
Robert W. Wall, Colossians and Philemon, (IVPNTCS) p 78-81 (1993)
Reconciliation is the central, fundamental note of the Christian faith; and nothing, absolutely nothing, is more needed. For as long as man has the sense of being out of harmony with Reality, a dead hand is laid on him. Reconciliation lifts that dead hand, and instead stretches the hands of benediction over the reconciled soul.
If reconciliation is God’s chief business, it is ours. He “hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation”; we are to carry on God’s reconciling work. That is our chief work. We are to reconcile in three directions: between man and man. Our chief business is to make it possible for man to live with God, to live with himself, and to live with his fellows. These three hang together: if you will not live with God, then you cannot live with yourself, and you cannot live with others.
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of the American Road, p 117 (1944).
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Through CHRIST to reconcile the all…(Colossians 1:20-22)
This historic act accomplished on our behalf once for all by the death of Christ is brought into close relation with what takes place in our own experience when we enter into peace with God, when the work done for us is made effective in us. If in v. 20 we were told that the reconciliation was won for us “in the body of his flesh.” Both expressions denote His self-oblation in death (as they also do in the Eucharist); but here the emphasis is on the fact that He endured that death in His physical body. It is highly probable that some such insistence on the true incarnation of our Lord was a necessary corrective to the tendency of the Colossian heresy; more particularly, we should observe here the necessary bond between His incarnation and His atoning death. So, in Rom. 8:3, we read how God achieved “what the law could not achieve because it was weak by reason of the flesh” when, “having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” The incarnation of the Son of God was real and necessary for the vindication of God's righteousness in the bestowal of His peace on sinful men. And now that we have received His peace, we have direct access to Him already and shall have it in all its fullness when at length we are introduced into His presence “holy, blameless, and free.”
E.K. Simpson and F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to The Ephesians and Colossians, (NICNT), p. 212
“Once our attention is called to it, we notice these fractures all over the place. There is hardly a bone in our bodies that has escaped injury, hardly a relationship in city or job, school or church, family or country, that isn’t out of joint or limping in pain. There is much work to be done.”
“And so Paul goes to work. He ranges widely, from heaven to earth and back again, showing how Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together. He also shows us that in addition to having this work done in and for us, we are participants in this most urgent work. Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe, it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes (or not) to what Paul describes as God’s plan worked out by Christ, ‘a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summer up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.’”
Eugene H. Peterson, Practice Resurrection, p. 31 (2010).
Such confidence is not always easy. We are often seduced into conformity with the norms and values of our world, which is secular and
humanistic, materialistic, and cynical. Society's elites seem to control our daily lives and become substitutes for God; our immediate survival at home or in the workplace becomes more important to us than our witness to God's reign. Because of the difficulty of being Christian in a non-Christian world, our incarnation of Christ's victory requires a costly devotion. Yet this devotion is both required and made reasonable by the certainty of our eventual triumph with him.
Out of the Old Age (1 :21) The images of conversion in this passage highlight the importance of right thinking for making right responses to God (see vv. 9-10). It would be imprudent to think of the unsaved as unthinking or intellectually marginal, or to think of evil only in terms of perverted or ignoble behavior. The "evil" in view here is the hubris of unbelief that typically characterizes the best and brightest. They have learned to count on themselves for their security and contentment, and given the public’s affirmation of their ability, they find no real need for God's affirmation. The issue is not how much knowledge people acquire or their skill in using it, but how they think about God or about Christ.
The process of conversion, then, begins with right thinking about God; and right thinking about God begins with our consideration of the ultimate importance of Christ’s death and resurrection. And right thinking about Christ's dying and rising yields a correct response in the mind of the reasonable person, which is to depend on God's grace in Christ.
To admit that our experience with God's shalom does not depend on our social status or individual talent but solely on God's grace is a conversion from the ways of the world system; it is the way of Wisdom. We should not supose that this conversion of the mind, important as it is, will come easily to the lost of our world; it requires a paradigm shift in how we function within society. The slogans of secular materialism promise humanity's salvation in terms of self-sufficiency or economic security, technological progress or national sovereignty. According to Paul, God's salvation from evil comes to those who depend upon Christ. And to depend upon Christ is to follow his downwardly mobile way in
an upwardly mobile world (see Mk 10:43-45).
Into the New Age (1:22-23) The opening phrase but now acknowledges the ultimate importance of Christ's death for reconciliation. Paul always insists that at the core of a believer’s understanding of God is a historical fact—a real person, an ugly execution of that innocent man, his bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven. Likewise, at the core of the gospel is another historical reality—a reconciling God, an atoning death, a new life. Real human sins are actually forgiven and real human lives are saved.
That one guy, That Really Clever Title, p 4334556-84 (1359).
The gulf between God and us is still wider than we have so far considered. It is the chasm that yawns between us as rebellious creatures and God our righteous Judge. For the unpalatable truth is that we have defied our Creator, rejected his authority, rebuffed his love and gone our own selfish way. The intractable problems of the world bear witness to this human alienation from God. It is not only that we lack the mental equipment to conceive him, but that we lack the moral integrity to approach him. We are unable to find God by ourselves. Worse, we are unfit to do so. So the kind of mediation we need is even greater than we first thought. It is not just a personal disclosure of God, a making known to us in intelligible form of him who would otherwise remain forever unknown. It is more, much more, than this. We need ‘grace’, the free initiative of a merciful God who comes to his rebel creatures not to judge but to save them, not to destroy but to re-create them. And when we are talking about such a gracious initiative of God, as when we are talking about a personal disclosure of God, we are talking about Jesus Christ. For ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).
Apart from Jesus Christ, then, the chasm between God and us is impassable. It is our human finitude on the one hand, and our self-centered rebellion on the other. By ourselves we can neither know God nor reach him. The pathetic little bridges we build from our side all fall into the abyss. Only one bridge spans the otherwise unbridgeable gulf. It has been thrown across from the other side. It is Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, who entered our world, became a human being, lived our life, and then died our death, the death we deserved to die because of our sins. But this is to anticipate.
John Stott, Life in Christ, p 11 (1991).