Sunday, August 23, 2009

Colossians 1:21-23 - Christ's Gospel

Opening thought: The Uncivil War was carnage. Over 600,000 Americans died. Then Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy died. And Ulysses Grant of the Union died. Their widows, Varina Davis and Julia Grant, settled near each other. They became closest of friends. [1]

Pray & Read: Colossians 1:21-23

Contextual Notes: Last week we looked at Paul’s awe-inspiring statement of Christ’s deity and reconciliation to the world (Col 1:20). Now Paul takes that cosmic reconciliation and applies it to you and me, repeating the theme of the death of Christ Jesus doing the work of reconciliation. He mentions again several things he first brought up at the beginning of his letter (v. 4-6), faith, hope, hearing the gospel, and its global reach.

Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 1:21-23 to teach the Colossian Christians that sin makes us enemies of God; Christ makes us holy friends of God, and the Gospel then makes us servants.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Christ’s Gospel.

Sermon Points:

  1. By default we are Christ’s enemies (Col 1:21)
  2. By grace we become Christ’s friends (Col 1:22)
  3. For the Gospel we are Christ’s servants (Col 1:23)

Exposition: Note well,

1. BY DEFAULT WE ARE CHRIST’S ENEMIES (COL 1:21).

a. “And you were once strangers”: The construction of these words denote a continuous, settled state of estrangement from God. “And even hostile”: could be enemies or ‘even more, hostile.” In your minds / attitudes. “Expressed through your wicked deeds/evil works.”[2]

b. ILLUSTRATION: Eight out of 10 Americans believe in an afterlife of some sort, according to the poll by the California-based Barna Research Group. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe they will go to heaven. Only one-half of one percent expect to go to hell upon their death. One in every four adults admitted that they have "no idea" what will happen after they die.

c. Less than half of those who say they are heaven bound (43 percent), however, believe they will go to heaven because they have "confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior," which is the teaching of Scripture.

d. Others felt they will get to heaven because "they have tried to obey the 10 Commandments" (15 percent) or because "they are basically a good person" (15 percent). Another 6 percent believed their entrance to heaven would be based upon the fact that "God loves all people and will not let them perish."[3]

e. APPLICATION: The Apostle Paul has something to say about that in this verse. Paul makes it clear that if Christ is not your Lord, you are estranged from him and are his enemy. Your sin makes you his enemy. You say, well, I’m a pretty good person. I take care of my wife. I provide for my family. I work hard and am honest with my company. I’m probably going to make it to heaven. I’m afraid there is a dreadful FYI in this passage. Everyone is a sinner and without a genuine relationship with Christ Jesus, there will be no heaven for you. You cannot live your whole life like you want and then expect Christ to bail you out when you stand before Him for judgment.

f. If you think that sounds harsh, then perhaps you are not seeing sin from God’s perspective. Sin is something you were born with. No one had to teach you how to be disobedient to the Lord. It comes from the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Sin is a rebellious slap in the face of a gracious, loving, creative, and holy God. It is a great offense against his Rule and Reign. Sin in criminal activity committed against the Lord. Sin will destroy you in this life and in the life to come.

g. Some of us think we are like GM or Chrysler, but I have bad news. You are not too big to fail. If you continue rebelliously in your sin, you will die and be in hell for eternity. Hell is for those who never accept Christ’s free gift of eternal life. That gift comes without strings attached, but it transforms you and makes you a new person and gives you new priorities so that you want to do things differently than you did before. It orients you toward serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Being rescued from sin is a no-brainer. At the invitation today at the end of this sermon, let me encourage you to come down the aisle and talk with me about receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior.

2. BY GRACE WE BECOME CHRIST’S FRIENDS (COL 1:22).

a. Reconciled: (ἀποκατήλλαξεν) is a strong word meaning to change from an enemy to a friend.

b. The construction here is more than present time. It is the condition now since reconciliation. The fleshy, earthly human body is used to distinguish from both the spiritual Body of Christ and a docetic Christology that minimizes Christ’s body and humanity. It was Christ’s death in a physical body which brought us reconciliation (Rom 5:10).[4]

c. “To present you holy”: You are reconciled for a purpose in the future, the idea here is not of a result that has already been achieved, but of a future to fulfill. And look at the word holy. The two negatives define the holy, without blemish and without blame. We are holy “before him” or “in his sight.” The verdict is in, and we have been made holy through Christ’s reconciliation.[5]

d. APPLICATION: Christianity is not a get-out-of-hell-free card. It is a call to a future. This is why it is so tragic when someone walks down an aisle, gets baptized, walks out the back door, and you never hear from them again. Something is desperately deformed in that kind of religion. If Christ means enough to you to go to the trouble of going through the religious motions of a public profession of faith and baptism and there is no fruit afterwards, then there is a real question of whether that person was ever really born again in Christ Jesus. When God presents you as holy, it is for a future and for you to grow as a disciple of Jesus. This discussion also calls into accountability the leadership of the church. We Southern Baptists rightly focus on the importance of evangelism, but our focus is sometimes so intense that we forget that conversion is simply the beginning. We can’t pat that person on the back and say, “OK, great! You’re a Christian now! Now go do it!” They don’t know how to do it. It is each Christian’s responsibility to have someone under their arm, teaching them what they know about the Lord, teaching them to pray, training them in Bible study, etc. The trouble is, not many of us who claim to be his disciples are actually walking with him in such a way that we would feel comfortable discipling a new believer. It is time to get serious about disciplemaking.

3. FOR THE GOSPEL WE ARE CHRIST’S SERVANTS (COL 1:23)

a. ε γε: If indeed,” “provided that.” Γε emphasizes ε and makes it an actual condition that Paul is confident will be fulfilled: “I am confident/assuming that you will.” (see 2:5b). ἐπιμένετε expresses an active persistence rather than a passive continuing in your faith: “assuming that you will have active persistence in the Faith.” Established and firm (τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι): literally, “laying a foundation and not easily changing one’s home” thus “steadfast.” (μὴ μετακινούμενοι) never abandoning, the hope which is the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been preached (“in the whole of creation” or “to every type of human creature”) under heaven. This does not mean it has been preached to every single human being, but throughout the cosmos (see 1:16; 2:10, 15). Paul had become that gospel’s servant, literally, deacon: διάκονος.[6]

b. ILLUSTRATION: An ancient Christian leader named St. Clement of Alexandria once said, “For the sake of each of us he laid down his life--worth no less than the universe. He demands of us in return our lives for the sake of each other.”

c. APPLICATION: We are called to discipleship, to grow in Christ, but that is not all. We are also called to be disciple-makers to become servants of the Hope found in Christ in serving others and helping them to grow in Christ. We are called to take that discipleship to the ends of the earth, as this passage indicates. It has been proclaimed in the cosmos through the death and resurrection of Christ (Eph 3:10-11). How are you being involved in these areas of serving the Lord through being a servant to His Gospel?


[2] Murray J. Harris, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 56-7.

[4] Harris, 57-8.

[5] Harris, 59.

[6] Harris, 61-2.