RECONCILING THE HOSTILES Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on February 2nd, 2014. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Col1D.
Paul confronts a way of thinking that seems to affect many Christians – the notion that God is hostile to sinners, and, if not hostile, at least restrained in his joy towards believers whose actions and words and thoughts are often sinful and/or not worthy enough. In these verses, Paul confronts our false and self-serving ideas with the gospel.
God Responds to Our Hostility With Peace.
God Was Pleased To Reconcile Us to Himself: “19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.“
The Biblical word for “reconcile” means to exchange, and harks back to the time when two clans laid aside their weapons and exchanged gifts – intermarried – so that they became one clan.
This idea, which is at the core of the gospel, is not naturally how we think of God. We tend to believe that God was angry at us, and that now, through our actions and reforms, we have been reconciled to him (e.g. God was angry at us–we were afraid or sad or lost–Jesus died–and now God isn’t angry–or maybe not as angry as he was–or at least willing to let things go).
This is exactly the opposite of what the gospel proclaims–and Paul confronts this idea here, telling us that “God was pleased” to reconcile–to make peace and to restore friendly relations. This is not to say that God was never angry at sin. God, in a very healthy and appropriate way, was angry at injustice and pretended innocence, grieved over wicked, self destructive behavior. However, God was not the one who needed reconciling. God was angry, yet without being hostile. Rather it is us we who were hostile–and it was God who reconciled or made peace with us. This is exactly the point Paul makes
We Were Hostile towards God: “you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind” The situation, says Paul,is that we were the hostiles – the enemies of God in our own minds. In other words, our hostility was our own–not a reflection of God’s desires. In our hostility, says Paul, we “engaged in evil deeds”
The image of the sullen teenager or the disobedient child can help us fill out this description. We were like the sullen, angry teenager whose foolish or harmful or cruel behaviors or words are challenged–whose will is crossed by the parent, who sees the harmful consequences of their actions. The sullen teenager sees the parent as hostile, unkind or unfeeling, and as a hindrance to what they desire.
In the same way, the child who is playing with matches in his room, will not want to be found out – will be furious at anyone who tells on them, or tries to persuade them against their will.
This hostility, Paul describes in Rom.8:7-8, “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so”. In other words, our hostility is a question of our unwillingness to submit our wills to God. However, just like the teenager, our self-serving attitude attributes our own hostility–the breakdown in the relationship – to God.
Jesus Faced and Overcame Our Hostility.
God Has Reconciled Us Through the Body of Jesus: “22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death” The NIV translation misses this idea completely by translating, “Christ’s physical body”. The Greek phrase, “through the body of his flesh”, sounds awkward but captures the idea better.
The word Greek word “sarkos” or “flesh” is particularly significant. Paul uses this word to describe the sinful motivation that is tied to “this body of death” (Rom.7:24)–the unwillingness to submit ourselves–the hostility–which we have just been talking about.
God, through Jesus Christ, in order to reconcile with hostile mankind, took on himself flesh or the stuff of this sinful flesh in order to become the representative of mankind. As Messiah, he represented his people, Israel – but as God incarnate he represented all mankind.
- Jesus Faced the Hostility of Mankind – as God: So Jesus came speaking the truth about God with grace – and this brought him into conflict with the Jewish leadership. But the point at which they really decided to kill him was the point at which he claimed to forgive sins and be the Son of God. These statements, more than any other thing that Jesus did–and despite miracles that often accompanied them–brought out the murderous hatred of mankind. Both the hostility of religious (The Jewish priests and other leaders) and secular (the Roman government), were focused against Jesus because he challenged their authority. The mixture of the holiness of God and the hostility of mankind ended in the explosion of the cross.
- But these leaders only expressed explicitly, and to the full extent, that hostility which is in every person’s heart who does not want to submit to the will and way of God–who does not want to worship or joyfully obey the word of God.
- God Condemned Sin in the Flesh of Jesus: In this representative event, our sin did its worst. The hostility of sinful men murdered God. This event that is so often characterized as God raining down hate on mankind is actually an event in which mankind rained down hate on God. And God, receiving the hatred of mankind and allowing it to do its worst on the cross, received the sacrifice of his Son so that the hostility of mankind could be put to death on the cross–and left there.
By Faith We Have Been Reconciled to Become The Family of God.
Now, by Faith, We Have Become God’s Righteous Family: “in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—” Jesus rose again, after the event of the cross, at the head of a new family. The cross was a family creating event. The family created is led by Jesus–Firstborn from among the dead. This is the family of those, whose sin and hostility having done its worst at the cross is left there.
The change in us happened when we believed and our hostility began to change from hatred and rejection of God and his ways to worship and a growing obedience and love. The new desire in us to submit to God, to know God, to love God, is the evidence of our faith and this change.
And this event of the cross also exchanges all of our former and continuing hostile acts of sin–which are now fully in the past in Christ–for the obedience described in Hebrews 5:7-8. So that, now, that which we do in the body is seen only through Christ’s obedience.
If We Continue to Believe and Hope: “23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
It should be clear, at this point, what Paul means. This work of Jesus is what has made us family. By faith in what Jesus has done our sins are left at the cross. Paul wants us to see the importance of this fact. He does not want the Colossians to wander away from what they have believed, but to continue to look at the cross and see this great reconciling at of God.
- We Continue to Believe and Hope Through Communion: So now, this morning we come to communion – our continuing physical picture of the reconciling work of Jesus on the cross. Communion is the expression of God’s love for us–and our expression of loving response in joining ourselves with him as family–specifically through the sacrifice of his death. This morning, let’s recognize that we are not the innocents, but that we have been the aggressors and the hostile ones–that our hostility put him to death. Let us believe and be free of our sin, which is now all in the past at the cross of Jesus, so that we may come freely to God.