Colossians 1:21-23

‘’Once…but now…’’

Have you ever seen those successful slimming photos that tell the story, in a snapshot, of ‘before and after?’ In these few verses Paul writes about how someone’s situation radically alters through coming to know Christ. ‘Every picture tells a story’, and here are two contrasting landscapes.

‘’You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted.’’ The Message.

Our pre-Christian state is described in (21). It was stark and it was dark. We were ‘’enemies’’ of God, and that is not a good place to be. The gospel call to repent (i.e. to change your mind) is indispensable because fundamentally the problem of ‘’evil behaviour’’ stems from a mind at war with God (Romans 8:7). To be ‘’alienated’’ in any situation is not a happy place to be. Thank God this is no longer our story. This is the ‘before’ photo and it’s one to keep in your wallet! I’m not proud of mine. How about you?

The emphasis on ‘’Christ’s physical body’’ in (22) is important. Reading between the lines, the false teaching that was infecting the church in Colossae may have denied the reality of the incarnation. There was a belief that matter is evil, and that God could not and would not contaminate Himself by coming into contact with it. But Paul emphasises that God really and truly did become a man (see 2:9) and that He was crucified in a body. Look at the great difference the cross makes. We no more face alienation and accusation, but we are brought into a place of acceptance with God, where we have a clean record in His sight. This is the ‘after’ picture, and it’s one you will want to take out of your purse and pass around the room. But the reason for doing so will not be pride, but praise for the One who has changed everything, at such great cost to Himself.

The gospel call is to repent of sin and believe in Jesus, in order to be saved ‘’through his blood’’ (20). But also embedded in it is the call to persevere; to endure to the end. I don’t want to get into a debate about ‘once saved, always saved’ etc. I just want to highlight the fact that the New Testament regularly warms of the possibility of drifting away from our faith moorings, and repeatedly exhorts us to keep going. We surely have to heed these calls, and take them seriously? Also, the parable of the sower highlights the uncomfortable truth that many who profess faith do not press on in the faith. I understand that Colossae was located in an earthquake zone, so Paul’s words in (23) would resonate with the Colossian Christians.

Just one other thought: if the gospel message is to be ‘’heard’’, it must be ‘’proclaimed’’ by those who are willing to be its ‘’servant’’. Paul was such a person (23b).

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your ‘amazing grace’.