COLOSSIANS SERIES NR 4
Theme: Bad News and Good news – Col 1 : 21-23
One might say that these 3 verses summarize the entire Bible. That it contains in a nutshell, the essence of the Gospel-message.
Look what the Apostle is saying at the end of verse 23: “THIS is the gospel (Good news/glad tidings) that you heard proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant“.
Therefore, Paul himself is saying that, what he has just written, is the Gospel-message. That is why it is so important for us to have a proper understanding of these verses.
May I ask that we listen with absolute reverence to this, and take in what we are able to take in!
First, we frown at the words “proclaimed to every creature under heaven”. Strange, not so? How could that possibly already have been done in Paul’s lifetime? At that stage the world population was approximately 190 million. The Gospel-message surely had not reached everyone at that stage. Yes, the Word was preached over a wide area in the known world of the time, but certainly not to everybody – all individuals.
What the Apostle is doing here, is to use the so-called “prophetic past tense”. He therefore wants to say: “It is definitely going to happen”. And if one today look back to the past more than 2000 years, we can see that it has happened and is still happening. The phenomenal and unstoppable way in which the Gospel message is spread through social media and internet, is astonishing, and it is still a continuing fulfillment of these prophetic words in verse 23!
But let’s look at these verses in more detail. The Apostle is saying THIS IS THE GOSPEL. We may ask: WHAT is the gospel? And to find the answer, we must look at the contents of these 3 verses. As simple as that. Here we go!
The Gospel-message consists of three sections: 1 > Comprehending man’s alienation in sin 2 > The reconciliation that God brought about in Christ 3 > The way in which man can partake in this reconciliation.
We could also say that the Gospel-message consists of both bad news and good news.
BAD NEWS > Man is by nature (since conception) absolutely lost in sin, and in himself has no hope or means to save himself. Yes, man needs salvation because God is holy and man is not! Man’s greatest dilemma is not his financial plight or illness. Unwittingly, man’s greatest distress is that he/she will soon stand before a holy God with his/her burden of sins, and will have no defence. That is indeed bad news.
GOOD NEWS > By free unmerited favour alone, God himself has single-handedly engineered the salvation and reconciliation – which the lost person does not by any means deserve and is not entitled to.
Verses 21-23 spell it out as follows:
FIRST, THE BAD NEWS (verse 21) – No person will nor can accept the bad news about him/herself without the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart – a miracle of regeneration. The natural human ALWAYS justifies himself until the Holy Spirit comes to do a supernatural inner work that makes the person broken-hearted and repentant. It is nothing less than the miracle of rebirth. It is only the person to whom that has happened, who comes to repentance and becomes willing to acknowledge the following three realities about him/herself….
REALITY NR 1 —> FAR REMOVED FROM GOD > By nature man is not in a true relationship with God. Nobody is. Eph 2:12 puts it plainly: “At that time you were SEPARATE from Christ, foreigners…“ The lost person may well be “religious”, yes. And attend church. And perhaps display all kinds of religious vocabulary, attitudes, deeds etc. But the power of a life with God is absent (2 Tim 3:5).
It is basically impossible for someone who is “good”, who is trying to live right and is morally good and religious, to come to the shocking realization and acknowledgment of the fact that he/she is in reality lost, not reconciled with God and is far from God. If the LORD does not work the miracle of supernatural spiritual awakening in such a person, he/she CANNOT realize his true state of alienation. It is simply impossible. Such people (which is true of ALL people) will rush towards their doom, and may even look forward to it. He CANNOT please God (Rom 8:8).
REALITY NR 2 —> HOSTILE TOWARDS GOD > Scripture is clear: The natural man is an ENEMY of God (Rom 5:10) – even the most sophisticated pious people. That is true of ALL people. Every individual on the planet. It is terrible to think that form-religious people are in reality haters of God! But that is what the Bible is saying.
REALITY NR 3 —> THE PROOF IS UNDENIABLY IN THE LIFESTYLE > The lifestyle always betrays the true spiritual state of a person – even if it is very subtle. Lifestyle, priorities, appetites, behaviour, choices and so forth, never lie and deceive. The lost person can be very religious, but the true LIFE (created by the Holy Spirit) is absent on all levels. And an outsider can see it and feel it.
For such a person the things that the true Christ-believer loves, is simply not attractive. His heart rather inclines to the world and the attractions of the world. The heart of the unsaved person is irrevocably worldly – even if such an unsaved person is very religious – even if he is a preacher or theologian.
The bad news is summarized in these three points. It should give anyone who understand English, shivers and cold sweat.
THEN THE GOOD NEWS… (verse 22)
1 > The breath-taking good news is that God Himself has done what no human is able to do. He Himself reconciled hostile and lost sinners – all who would ever come to faith – with Himself – without Him owing it to anyone. It is a reconciliation that is achieved and was completed 2000 years ago already.
It is significant that the Apostle is not saying that God potentially reconciled all people (all individuals on earth) with Himself in this way. In verses 21-22 he is saying : God has reconciled (an accomplished fact) YOU (his readers, the believers in Colosse). It is the Christian-believers and only the Christian-believers. God had passed by the others in His righteous judgment and eternal decree. When Christ went to the cross He did so with particular names on His mind. He knew exactly who He was going to reconcile with His Father. Only those whom the Father had given to Him – since before creation. One day, at the consummation, when we look back in history, we will see that those people were all who have ever come to faith in Christ through out all the ages. The Father gave them to His Son. The Son came to earth and reconciled them with His Father. Right throughout history, the Spirit calls THEM and brings THEM to life and grants THEM faith and repentance. And at the end THEY will be on the New Earth.
2 > HOW exactly did God work reconciliation? Only one answer: By the death of His Son as human.
The text says literally through the physical death of Jesus, literally the physical body of Jesus – His head, shoulders, arms, waist, legs, feet, veins, intestines and organs – that was mutilated by the 39 lashes and the blood that flowed over His whole body and spilled upon the ground – by that suffering and death, God reconciled His people with Himself. And removed their hostility. And changed them into friends and children. Because the flowing of blood and suffering and death were the offshoot of God’s wrath that came down upon Christ. The wrath that the sinner deserves to suffer. But Jesus vicariously stooped in under the wrath of His Father in their place as substitute.
3 > The goal/aim/intention of this reconciliation is only one thing: It presents the elect sinner to the sight of the holy God as a person who is without blemish and free from accusation. Holy (belonging to Him) and blameless (without guilt). Yes, the person who is thus reconciled is, in the eyes of God, just as unblemished than what Jesus is! It sounds too good to be true, but it is very true! It is the Gospel!
THIRDLY, THE IMPORTANT QUESTION > In what way can/must one personally share in this reconciliation (verse 23). Is there more than one way? Or is there only ONE way? What is the text saying? What is Scripture saying?
1 > Only one way: By trusting (believing) God for it.
When the gospel (bad news and good news) (as in nr’s 1-2) is preached and explained and the Spirit work an inner life-giving miracle in whomever He chooses to work, it creates HOPE in that specific person. It causes that person to place his/her trust in God’s promise that he/she is truly INCLUDED in the reconciliation on the cross.
That is what BELIEVE means: It means trusting God’s promise. It is to believe/trust God’s promise that He will accept me as His child ONLY based on what Jesus did in my place on the cross and NOTHING that I did.
2 > The believe/trust has a beginning, but it also continues on and on until the end of your life. Where true rebirth has really taken place, the believer shall never give up his/her trust and walk with the Lord.
That is the ATTRIBUTE of someone who has truly come to faith: persist/persevere and persevere.
Translated by Marthie Wilson