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The Cross: the Means of Reconciliation – Colossians 1:21-23

IFOn March 3 I wrote about the theme of reconciliation in Colossians 1:21-23. Yeah, but I left something out.

I said that the passage seemed (to this person who has spent a large part of his life looking for such things) to fall into a nice, neat sermon outline:

  1. The need for reconciliation: “And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds….”
  2. The purpose of reconciliation: “…as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him….”
  3. The condition of reconciliation: “…provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard….”
  4. The scope of reconciliation: “…which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.”

Nice little (old-fashioned) sermon outline, huh? Yes, but it’s missing something. At the time, I was very consciously leaving out point #5: The means of reconciliation.
Now let’s take a look at it:

5. The Means of Reconciliation is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

 

Colossians 1:19, 20:

ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι καὶ δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν, εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ, [δι᾿ αὐτοῦ] εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (NRSV)

…and reading further:

Colossians 1:21, 22

Καὶ ὑμᾶς ποτε ὄντας ἀπηλλοτριωμένους καὶ ἐχθροὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς, νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ,

“And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him….” (NRSV)

bible-crossIt is Jesus’ death on the Cross that brings reconciliation and peace. Notice how important the Cross is here! The Cross of Christ is an indispensable part of the message of the Gospel.

The issue is reconciliation with God. Things are not right. We are rebels. We are guilty. Something has to happen. Something has to give — in order for things to change. What happened is that Jesus’ shed his blood on the Cross. Something real, painful and physical happened.

Something has to end guilt and shame. Something has to provide a new beginning. And, it is clear that Paul doesn’t believe a good idea is enough. He doesn’t just recommend that we find a way to think better of ourselves. We don’t just need faith in faith and the power of faith (whatever that is). We need to come to the Cross.

Something has to be done on God’s side to provide for reconciliation.

Why so?

Because we are guilty. Because the solution to our moral and spiritual dilemma lies outside of ourselves.

eccehomo01In the Gospels (Matthew 18:23-27), Jesus uses the image of a man who has a debt he cannot repay. This is our situation. We cast ourselves on God’s mercy. We trust in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Because we know of the Cross and the Resurrection we know there is grace and mercy for us. We can be set right with God because God wills it.

And, anyway: nothing is more repugnant than self-righteousness.

The source of Christian righteousness can never be a matter of pride — it lies outside ourselves. Christ is our righteousness.

It seems especially inappropriate in this passage to import the ideas of legal restoration. Or: “imputed righteousness.” The ideas here are relational. Christ brings us reconciliation with God: a real change in relationship. We are set right. We are forgiven. And, when we are forgiven we can begin anew.

We really are forgiven. Our relationship with God is restored. Our sin is very real. The guilt it brings is very real. But, so is the forgiveness that is available to us in the name of Christ.

In ourselves we are helpless. God has provided a way through Christ.

“And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him….” (NRSV)
 

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