05 – Colossians 1:19-23 – The Reconciliatory Work of Christ

“It pleased the Father that in His Son should dwell the divine nature in all its fullness and, having made peace through the blood He shed on the cross, to bring back everything in heaven and earth into harmonious union with Him. And you who were once alienated and estranged from Him by hostile thoughts and actions He has now reconciled by the sacrifice of His physical body in death to present you consecrated, unblemished, and blameless in God’s sight, provided you remain stable, steadfast, and do not abandon the hope given you through the Gospel. The entire world has heard this message of which I, Paul, am privileged to be a minister.”   (1:19-23, paraphrased) 

v. 19
It pleased the Father that His Son incarnated and restored harmony to the universe. The word “pleased” is eudokesen and means to “delight, satisfy, or take pleasure” in what is heard or experienced. In the New Testament, eudokesen is used almost exclusively in reference to what delights God. What pleases the Father is Jesus’ primary objective (Jn. 8:29). It pleases (eudokesen) the Father to save souls through preaching (I Cor. 1:21) and it is His good pleasure (eudokesen) to give us the kingdom (Lk. 12:32). This is the same term the Father used regarding His Son at His baptism (Mt. 3:17) and at His transfiguration (17:5).

Christ is not endued with special powers for a limited time only. “Fullness” (pleroma) carries the idea of “taking up residence.” This stresses the completeness of the divine power that dwells in Him alone. “Dwell” is katoikesai and means “to be permanently at home.” Paul uses this term to stress that all the fullness of deity eternally resides in Christ.

But pleroma is also a technical word used by the heretical teachers in reference to intermediary beings known as “ the aeons.” The Gnostics believe all pleroma is distributed among these mediators.  In addition, all communication between deities and humans must pass through the realm controlled by aeons. To them, Christ is just one of many such intermediaries. Paul’s use of “fullness” reminds the Gnostics no reconciliatory power is inherent in angelic beings. He overrules their heresy by stating that all divine power is resident in Christ alone. As servants of God and men, even angels desire a more complete comprehension of Jesus’ sacrifice (I Pet. 1:12). Angels stand in awe of God’s redemptive plan, but have no power to make it effectual.

v. 20
Christ’s incarnation, redemption and resurrection have also impacted the entire universe. His arrival in Bethlehem is announced by angelic voices proclaiming peace has come to earth (Lk. 2:14). Through His cross, Jesus brings “peace” (eiro), a word meaning “to bind together.” “Peace” is perhaps the most appropriate word to describe the personal effects of redemption. Jesus sacrifice on Calvary makes possible a bond between God and man. Christ is the sole agent of reconciliation, His blood is the means whereby it was procured and peace is the result (Rom. 1:7).

“Reconcile” (apokatalasso) means to bring something back to its former state of harmony. It also emphasizes the restoration of a previous relationship. In the Garden of Eden man’s harmonious relationship with the Lord was severed. Since that day people have continued to sin and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Reconciliation was made possible only through Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.

The “reconciliation of all things” is not an abstract thought. The far-reaching effects of God’s plan of salvation will eventually be known. Paul refers to reconciliation in an all-encompassing sense which includes everything animate or inanimate. Through Christ’s atonement, divine harmony will be restored to the universe. John foresees an extreme makeover of the heavens and the earth (Rev. 21:1). Peter speaks of the recreated earth as the habitation of righteousness (II Pet. 3:13).

Five times in this passage Paul uses the phase “all things” (vv. 15-20). But the apostle is not proposing a doctrine of universalism whereby all human beings are saved regardless of religious convictions. He does not say all persons but rather all things. In many ways not yet revealed, Jesus’ vicarious work benefits everything in creation. One day, all principalities will recognize and admit that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:11). The reconciliation He provides is as all-encompassing as His creation. The depth of His creative power matches the depth of His redemption.

Paul’s words are a rebuttal of the Colossian heresy which holds the universe is infested with supernatural entities which contend for power even among themselves. The best the Gnostics could hope for is an abstract connection with God. This falls woefully short of true reconciliation. Their imagined mediators are neither human nor divine, but Jesus Christ is both.

v. 21
From his emphasis on Christ as Creator of the universe, Paul now shifts his focus to redeemed individuals. His cosmic thoughts regarding salvation are now applied to the Colossian Believers. He refers to what they were formerly and what they have become (II Cor. 5:17). Prior to salvation, every person is estranged from God. The Greek term “alienated” (apallatrioo) is used to denote one who is excluded from the company of another. Although it is not man’s original condition, man becomes estranged from God as a result of sin.

Alienation from God results in a hateful attitude toward Him (Rom. 1:28-32). To be God’s enemy (exthrous) is to view Him with active hostility. Spiritual frustration results in resentment which affects the “mind” (dianoia). Dianoia includes one’s intellect, disposition, and world view. This consternation also breeds a negative attitude toward other people. The sinner is opposed to God’s will and his dissatisfaction manifests itself in the form of evil deeds.

However, Paul is quick to remind his readers this is no longer true of them. Every person’s mind is transformed when reconciliation takes place (Rom. 12:2). The phrase “yet now” contrasts their former state of alienation with their current state of reconciliation (apokatellaxen). This term refers to a definitive and complete reconciliation, rather than an indefinable disconnectedness from an abstract deity controlled by obscure intermediaries. Whereas these Colossians were the enemies of God, they are now part of His Body, the Church.

v. 22
Gnostics give little credence to Jesus’ deity or incarnation. Believing reconciliation can be accomplished through angelic mediators, they think He is an apparition rather than one who possesses a human body. The words “body” (soma) and “flesh” (sarx) are combined to prove Jesus was a physical entity. His life and death make universal redemption possible and His resurrection validates His deity (Jn. 1:14).

After referencing the Colossian’s former condition, Paul reminds them of Christ’s achievement on their behalf. “Present” is paristemi, a legal term picturing one who is brought before a court. The goal of God’s plan of salvation is eternal union with Him. The keynote of redemption is Christ’s presentation of the Church “without spot or wrinkle” to the Father with exceeding joy (Jude 24).

Saints are describes as holy, unblamable, and unreprovable in the sight of God. Holy (hagios) bespeaks a dedication to God evidenced by a sanctified lifestyle. It implies consecration to God and separation from defilement. Unblamable (amomos) is a term used regarding unblemished animals worthy to be sacrificed. God is seen here in a high-priestly role, examining what Paul calls “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1). “Unreprovable” or “irreproachable” (anegkletos) carries the idea of being blameless. Because Believers have been acquitted, no allegation can be brought against them. The redeemed are deemed worthy by God and as such are unworthy of accusation by others (Rom. 8:33).

Paul here stresses the Colossian’s position in Christ as well as their personal conduct. He desires to see the Colossians holy, spotless, and blameless in God’s “sight” (katenopion). This word indicates a penetrating gaze rather than a passing glance. One passes inspection under the scrutinizing eyes of God only if free from worldly contamination.

Paul reviews the Colossian’s past position (enemies of God), their current standing (now reconciled), and future hope (presented faultless before God).

v. 23
“If” is a term used hundreds of times in the Bible to show salvation is not an automatic process. But “if” is not used here in a hypothetical context. Although Paul is confident the Colossians will endure and prevail, he subtly warns them against complacency. Their salvation is validated by their perseverance and continuance (epimenein) in the faith. Epimenein means to abide by something, persist in it, and adhere to it. Resolve and endurance are essential aspects of redemption. 

To be grounded (themelioo) means “to lay a foundation” and is used here in reference to stability in the faith (Eph. 3:17). To be settled (hedraioi) is to remain firmly seated, spiritually steadfast, and possess the inner strength necessary to continue. Used together, these terms picture a strong building constructed on a solid foundation that can weather all storms (Eph. 2:20). Jesus uses this same term concerning the house built upon a rock that cannot be dislodged (Mt. 7:24-25). The heretic epitomizes the foolish man who builds his house upon the sand (vv. 26-27). 

The Colossians are exhorted to not “move away” (metakinoumenoi) from the hope of the Gospel. Hope is an indispensible facet of salvation which must be held firmly till the end (Heb. 3:6). Metakinoumenoi refers to something that changes locations or shifts as opposed to one which is firmly attached. Neither the Gnosticism of the first century nor the New Age Movement of the 21st century can dislodge the Believer whose hope is anchored in God (Heb. 6:19).

The Colossians originally hear the Gospel message from Epaphras who is instrumental in their conversion (1:7). Paul admonishes them to remain spiritually strong. He will not allow his joyful anticipation to be hijacked by heretics.

The concept of the Gospel being “preached to every creature under heaven” is a hyperbolic phrase which emphasizes the universality of the Gospel. Paul states the salvation message is already spreading throughout the civilized world. This expression accurately depicts the global impact of the Gospel in contrast to the secretive doctrines of false teachers.

Having presented a succinct summation of the powerful effects of the Gospel, Paul now introduces his personal affiliation with it. He does this not to boast but to affirm his privilege as a minister. He stresses the fact he is made a minister, perhaps to contrast himself with self-appointed heretics. Paul stands with the Colossians proactively and is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure their spiritual welfare. He views his local missional activity as closely linked with God’s global plan of salvation.


Points to Ponder

1. On what occasion did Peter hear the words recorded in II Peter 1:17?

2. According to Hebrews 11:5, who pleased God and why?

3. From Romans 1:28-32, describe the sinners attitude toward God.

4. How is reconciliation accomplished (II Corinthians 5:19)?

5. How does a person receive the peace of God (Ephesians 2:14)?

6. According to I Peter 3:22, who are angels in subjection to?

7. Who commands the angels (Mt. 13:41)?

8. Who do the angels worship (Heb. 1:6)?

9. Does Jesus have anything in common with angels (Hebrews 2:16-17)?

10. Using several sources, define “reconciliation.”

11. Paraphrase Romans 5:9-11 and describe your former and current position in Christ.

Maxim of the Moment

The height of your accomplishment will equal the depth of your convictions. - William Scolavi