But Now – Colossians 1:21-23 06/28/20

But Now – Colossians 1:21-23 06/28/20

The opening of our passage, “And you” (Καὶ ὑμᾶς)[1] in Colossians 1:21-23 is in the emphatic position.[2] It is marking a new beginning for the Colossian believers.[3] The purpose of that new beginning is to produce change in their lives, change that will allow them to be presented to God as holy and acceptable.[4]

The centerpiece of Paul’s argument against the proto-Gnosticism being taught in the church was the affirmation of the full deity of Jesus Christ, yet as deity He was incarnated, that is, He took on a full human nature, living in a human body. This makes possible His crowning act of love, He was able to truly die as a sacrifice for sin.[5]

The astounding truth of the Gospel is that, unlike every other belief system in the world, God didn’t wait for us to clean up our act and come to Him.[6] What, from a human perspective, appeared to be a devastating tragedy, was actually a demonstration of God at His finest.[7] God determined to do for us what we could not do ourselves.[8] The cosmic work of Christ as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, now has personal application to the individual believer.[9]

The problem is, we were enemies of God, but a sharp contrast is drawn between what was and what is.[10] This is accomplished as the wonder of salvation is set alongside the unpleasant truths of their (and our) previous lives.[11] They (and we, before Jesus) were, mentally, alienated from God.[12] In our unconverted state the attitude of our hearts was set against God.

This word, “were alienated” is a jaw breaker, (ἀπηλλοτριωμένους)[13] [ăʹ pāl lŏt rĭ ōm ĕʹn ŏūs].[14] The literal meaning is “to be a stranger or foreigner.”[15] It conveys the idea of “belonging to another,” of being an “alien,” even conveying the idea of being “hostile.”[16] In context it would harken back to our once being citizens of the kingdom of darkness, and therefore at war with the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Here it stands as a perfect tense participle.[17] The emphasis of the perfect tense is not on the past action so much as it is an emphasis of the present “state of affairs” resulting from that past action.[18] Here it completes what the adverb “being”[19] (ὄντας) refers to.[20] Being what? Being alienated from God in our minds.

I think the most remarkable statement in this passage is found in the second half of verse 21; Colossians 1:21b, “but now.” A change has been introduced. It is true we were once enemies of God, both in our minds and through our actions. “But now” (νυνὶ δὲ), [21] the situation is entirely different. God’s act of mercy and grace has resulted in a turning point in each of our lives, if we follow Jesus.[22] We’ve been reconciled to God.

Paul now begins to describe the turning point.[23] But now we have been “reconciled” (ἀποκατήλλαξεν).[24] This amazing gift is only possible because of divine intervention.[25] What took place in the body of His flesh? He has reconciled us. As always, we should stop and think about this word “in” (ἐν).[26] In this case “in” doesn’t point to a place, it serves as a preposition of instrumentality.[27] We are reconciled through the sacrifice completed by His bodily death.

The result of Christ’s very real physical sacrifice was that those who respond in faith may now be presented to God as holy, blameless, and above reproach. There’s a strong sense of both Jewish cultic language as well as Greek legal language being employed simultaneously.[28] To be blameless, or more literally, “without blemish” (ἀμώμους)[29] was the requirement for all Old Testament sacrifices.[30] Time and again the command for the sacrifice to be perfect is recorded. But the same idea can also be applied morally to mean blameless or faultless.[31] That idea is picked up more strongly in the final word, “above reproach” (ἀνεγκλήτους). [32] This is a judicial term pointing to the person against whom no charges can be leveled.[33]

Now, this isn’t the result of our own goodness and our own efforts. It’s through Jesus’ goodness, and His effort, that God sees us as holy, blameless, and above reproach. What’s more, if God declares us justified, that is, not guilty, He’s the One who’s been wronged. If He declares us, “not guilty,” then who else can bring a charge against us?[34] No one. We’ve been declare “not guilty” by the highest court possible.[35]

What this passage says is that Paul is calling on the Colossian Christians (and by extension, to each of us) to stand fast in the midst of opposition.[36] They’re being called upon to remain faithful to the message they heard from Epaphras, the pure message of the Gospel unadulterated by imported philosophies and pagan practices. In context, because Jesus is who He is, because He has died as a sacrifice for our sins, we can be reconciled to God, and we can be transformed to be holy and blameless before Him. We don’t need all that other stuff.

But none of this makes sense if you’ve never had that “but now” moment. You may not be able to point to a single time when you know you placed your faith in Jesus Christ. I’m not too concerned about that. For many who were raised in Christian homes they were so young when they accepted Christ that they cannot point to the day and hour it took place. I’m not worried about that. What I am concerned about is right now. Are you able to say, right now, “but now I know that I’m reconciled to God?” Because of this can you say, “I’m ready to stand firm in the faith?” If you can, are you also able to say “He is working in me to be holy, blameless, and above reproach?”

If this does not describe you, we need to talk. Jesus did everything necessary to make it possible for you to live in the victory He purchased for you. None of us are so mature in our faith that we don’t need to revisit this, at least occasionally.

[1]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:21. [2] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 64. [3] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon: A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, trans., William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, ed., Helmut Koester, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 62. [4] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 64. [5] Earle Wilson, Alex Deasley, and Barry Callen, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. Ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 299. [6] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, (Nashville, TN.: 1983), 342. [7] Earle Wilson, Alex Deasley, and Barry Callen, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 300. [8] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, (Nashville, TN.: 1983), 342. [9] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 65. [10] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 65. [11] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon: A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, trans., William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, ed., Helmut Koester, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 62. [12] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, (Nashville, TN.: 1983), 342. [13]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:21. [14]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 1:21. [15] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 132. [16] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 43. [17] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI.: 2000), 64. [18] Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013). [19] David Black, It’s Still Greek to Me: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI.: 2002), 124. [20]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:21. [21]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:22. [22] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon: A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, trans., William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, ed., Helmut Koester, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 64. [23] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 67. [24]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:22. [25] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 67. [26]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:22. [27] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 67-68. [28] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 68. [29]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:22. [30] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, (Nashville, TN.: 1983), 343. [31] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [32]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 1:22. [33] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 68. [34] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, (Nashville, TN.: 1983), 343. [35] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, (Nashville, TN.: 1983), 343. [36] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco TX.: 1982), 70.

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