Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—
We’ve now journeyed through Paul’s brilliant “Christ-hymn” in this opening chapter of Colossians, as found in Colossians 1:15-20, and find Paul contrasting our previous life before Christ’s work on the cross, and our life after the cross, as reconciled people.
Once you were alienated from God: there was a time in all our lives when we lived alienated from God. Even from birth, in our earliest days of childhood, our inner nature was alienated from God, distant, separated by the gulf caused by the human condition known in the Bible as sin. Capital “S” Sin is different from the many lower case “s” sins. Capital Sin is the human condition as alienated from God. Humans naturally have our backs turned from God, full of our own self, with our own preservation and survival as paramount, and love for God a distant longing, often neglected. We are by nature selfish creatures, seeking our own good over our neighbors. We have all lived “once” as alienated from God.
and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. Our alienation from God is described in this opening chapter as though we are “enemies,” who are hostile to God. This hostility takes place, according to Paul, “in our minds.” Paul was an intellectual who highly valued the use of the human mind. In Romans 12:2, Paul writes that we are transformed by God, made into a new form (metamorphosis), by the “renewing of our minds.” Here in Colossians, Paul asserts that we were once alienated from God by our mental hostility toward God, and also because of our evil behavior. What we think and what we do matters. When our thoughts are selfish, arrogant, bent on corruption, we are hostile toward God. When our actions are displeasing to God, focused upon pleasing our bodily desires more than pleasing our loving God, we act as though we are enemies of God in our actions, in our behavior.
But now he has reconciled you: That “once” was in our past. Paul celebrates the great change that has occurred in the lives of the people of the church in Colossae. The word “but” is a conjunction, a contrast to the previous phrase, signaling to us a major change. Once you were enemies of God, “but now” God has reconciled you. God did the work. We receive the gift of God’s reconciliation. Reconciliation is the work of restoring what was broken, reuniting a disjointed relationship.
by Christ’s physical body through death: The gift of God’s reconciliation was accomplished by Jesus Christ, through death of his physical body on a Friday, on a Roman Cross.
to present you holy in his sight: By Christ’s death on the Cross, by physical death, by Christ’s willingness to become separated from God by taking upon himself the sins of the world, God now presents you and I holy in God’s sight. We are made right with God. We are reconciled to God, no longer enemies, no longer alienated before God.
without blemish and free from accusation: Our lives with God are free from stain or blemish. We have nothing to be ashamed of, no fears, no guilt. We are free from accusation. The Judge of every human soul declares us “not guilty,” but free from accusation, free to go and live as people who are holy in God’s sight.
One of the images of this grand work is a bridge that spans a great expanse. The image above is of the Astoria Mergler Bridge spanning the 4 mile width of the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. I’ve driven over that bridge hundreds of times in my life, confident in the design of that bridge to hold up the weight of my life and my car to get across to the other side.
God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ has built a bridge in which we can place our trust and be fully confident in the design of this bridge to hold up the weight of our lives, and bring us fully into God’s living, loving presence.