“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – 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.”
Reconciliation takes place instantaneously at salvation. The results cannot be felt or seen; it takes place spiritually. Verse 21 says we were “formerly alienated and hostile in our mind.” The Greek word for alienated is “apallotrioo” and means to be estranged from. The Greek word for hostile is “echthros” and primarily denotes hatred or hostility. This means that prior to salvation we were estranged from and the enemies of God. Since this hatred is in the mind, it is our thinking that needs to be transformed before and after salvation. When a person responds to the message of the Gospel, they automatically change their mind (the true meaning of repentance) from lack of faith in Christ to faith in Christ. Now a believer in Christ, peace exists between him and God and he is no longer estranged from God.
Christ was our substitute, accomplishing for us something that we could not accomplish for ourselves, reconciliation to God. Only Christ’s spiritual death (being judged for our sin in His fleshly body - humanity) could satisfy the holiness (righteousness and justice) of God. Therefore, the spiritual death of Christ on the Cross is the instrument of reconciliation. Man’s good works fall well short of God’s righteousness, but “in Christ” the believer possesses divine righteousness.
After salvation believers become God’s “ambassadors of reconciliation” to the world. The Bible says that we are given the ministry of reconciliation and the word of reconciliation. This means that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel with others and have a Christ-like character that authenticates the message we are sharing. It is, therefore, imperative that we learn how to share the Gospel with others clearly and effectively. The Holy Spirit will make it understandable to the person with positive volition. The more Bible doctrine a believer has in their soul the more likely they are to properly represent Jesus Christ to the world.
The context of verse 23 tells us that it is not talking about positional truth, but experiential truth. The “if” clause in verse 23 tells us that it is only potential…“maybe you will be presented blameless and maybe you won’t.” Even though reconciliation takes place while we are in this body, we will be presented to Christ in our resurrection body. The believer has the potential of being presented holy, blameless, beyond reproach before Jesus Christ. The Greek word for holy is “hagios” which means to be set apart. In this verse “hagios” means to be set apart, experientially. The Greek word for blameless and beyond reproach is the same, which is “anenkletos” and means “with nothing laid to one’s charge after public investigation.” The Greek word for firmly established is “themelioo” meaning a firm foundation. The Greek word for steadfast is “hedraios” and means settled in your mind. The word for continue in Greek is “epimeno” and means to abide or to remain. In other words, being presented blameless before the Judgment Seat of Christ with regard to your Christian life depends on whether or not you continue to take in and apply Bible doctrine, faithfully.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
Paul’s first Roman imprisonment becomes something of personal benefit to the Colossians. Once again we see the Greek word “pleroo” used for filling, which means to fill up a deficiency, to fully possess, to fully influence, to fill with a certain quality. The apostle Paul is the one filling up what is lacking within the church at Colossae with regard to Bible doctrine (for your sake). Remember that Paul has authority over many churches as an apostle.
Christ’s afflictions mean pressure and suffering because of Paul’s relationship with Him as he moves throughout the various regions teaching doctrine. In my flesh refers to Paul’s suffering in his physical body. On behalf of His body here refers to the Church and Paul is going to feed the body. The main spiritual ingredient for the body of Christ on earth is Bible doctrine and this is accomplished through the pastor-teacher.
“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of His glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Paul now begins to give these believers some dispensational orientation to his ministry. First, Paul presents himself as a minister in this new dispensation of the Church. A passage which summarizes the general function of the communication gifts is Ephesians 4:11-16: And he gave some refers to a few people in the Church Age. This indicates a specialized gift to teach Bible doctrine and fill a deficiency. Apostles refers to a gift before the Canon of Scripture was completed and every writer of the New Testament was either an apostle or one closely associated with an apostle, like Luke. And prophets is the communication gift taken from the Old Testament which was temporary until the New Testament canon was completed. Some evangelists is the communicators of a special type of doctrine, namely the Gospel, and therefore a specialized gift without authority within the local church. Then the gift which is pertinent to our study in Colossians is and pastors and teachers. The word “and” here is really like a Greek hyphen, it means “pastors-teachers.” The word “pastors” is plural to indicate there is more than one in the Church Age, and the word simply means “shepherd.” The sheep are believers on earth and the shepherd has charge or authority over them. The word “teacher” indicates the function of teaching a group. In this way the privacy of the individual believer priest is protected. So the two words go together. One is the function of the ministry and one is the authority of the ministry.
The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations indicates that Paul had some new doctrinal information to share. Mystery is the Greek word “musterion,” which was originally used to depict the doctrines and the secrets of one of the Greek fraternities. Here it refers to the classification of doctrine pertaining to the Church Age. The whole system of doctrine pertaining to the Church Age was totally unknown by any Old Testament prophet. Therefore during the Church Age there is an entirely new realm of doctrine to be learned, and it is the responsibility of the pastor-teacher to teach it. (Romans 16:25,26; Ephesians 3:1-5)
Matthew, Mark and Luke are not dealing with the Church Age; they are dealing with the interruption of the Age of Israel. It is the epistles of the New Testament that deal with the Church Age. Acts is primarily historical. Once the mystery doctrine was revealed, the Jews no longer have a monopoly on doctrine as they did in Old Testament times. This new doctrine was revealed among the Gentiles. This was Paul’s charge from God – go to the Gentile nations and evangelize them and teach them the mystery doctrine.
And what exactly was this new mystery doctrine? Christ in you, the hope of glory. The moment you are saved, Christ comes to dwell within you. The indwelling of Christ is taught in John 14:20 where Jesus anticipated it. It is also taught in Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:10; II Corinthians 13:5. But the indwelling of Christ reveals the riches of the glory of God. And, the way these riches are revealed is by means of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Remember that Jesus Himself said He would send the Holy Spirit to be our guide and teacher. This means that the Holy Spirit is the revealer of truth in the Church Age. (John 16:5-15)
So the whole mystery doctrine is designed to erect an edification complex in the soul. It is the knowledge and application of this mystery doctrine that gives a believer hope (full confidence) and a personal sense of destiny. A personal sense of destiny gives a believer capacity for life by producing spiritual self-esteem. Spiritual self-esteem means that you have discovered who you are in Christ. God never gives us more blessing than we have the capacity to receive. (James 4:1-8, Isaiah 30:18) God also never gives us more testing than we are able to endure. (I Corinthians 10:12-13; Romans 14:10-13) Capacity for life replaces the temporary pleasures of the world with the eternal happiness of God. (Galatians 6:6-10) Capacity is increased by spending a maximum amount of time in fellowship with God, consistent intake and application of the mystery doctrine of the New Testament (Bible doctrine) and using Divine Viewpoint Thinking.
A personal sense of destiny takes you from spiritual babyhood to the beginning stages of spiritual adulthood. You begin to grow up in Christ and realize all the wonderful things that God has done for you, is doing for you and is going to do for you. You begin to see His work in your past, your present and your future. This causes you to put aside anything in your life that is a distraction to your spiritual life. And it causes you to keep looking to Jesus as your only real hope (confidence) for lasting peace and happiness. Finally, a personal sense of destiny will cause you to live your life in light of eternity. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Now we see the function of Paul’s ministry. Paul was not bragging about his gift of apostleship or his teaching ability. Paul was simply stating the true role of a teacher in the Church Age, whether the gift of apostleship, pastor/teacher, evangelism or teaching. And, the proclamation must always to be about Jesus Christ (Christology). Everything that we teach must be wrapped up in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. This is what the mystery doctrine of the Church Age is all about. It is as stated, “Christ in you.” The permanent indwelling of the entire Godhead is unique to the Church Age. It is a privilege that should not be taken lightly or for granted. We have greater privilege than any previous dispensation of believers.
Never before in the history of the world has the believer in Christ had the privilege and the opportunity that is afforded him today. The Church Age in which we live is an unparalleled dispensation with numerous advantages for the believer. The privileges and opportunities that we have been given are not only unique, they are “above and beyond all that we could ever think or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:13-21)
Jesus Christ has secured forever the strategic victory (the skillful planning and management in getting the better of the adversary) over Satan. At salvation this victory places the believer in a place of maximum strength with the potential to win the tactical victory (the procedure for gaining advantage or success over the adversary) over Satan, the world (cosmic) system and the sin nature. Our union with Christ (Positional Sanctification) guarantees the opportunity to overcome the obstacles that are placed before us (or that we place before ourselves) in order to execute the Christian Way of Life and glorify God while we are on earth.
Many privileges are given to the believer at the moment of salvation and many are given after salvation. However, opportunities must be seized by personal volition. As a believer, you are the most privileged person on the face of the earth, but at the same time you may be missing the opportunities for fantastic blessing by not executing God’s plan, purpose and will for your life. Tactical victory comes over a period of time as the believer makes thousands of right decisions regarding God, himself, others and circumstances. Winning the tactical victory is done by the believer who is being empowered by God the Holy Spirit as he organizes his life around right priorities: Jesus Christ must be the most important person in your life, learning and applying accurate Bible doctrine must be placed above personal pleasure or your career, and virtue (a strict adherence to the truth) must drive every decision you make in life. (Ephesians 4:14-15)
Privilege in life is always accompanied by responsibility. This is also true with the Royal Family of God. Our first responsibility, of course, is to God as Royal Priests, and our second responsibility is to others as Royal Ambassadors. Christ’s strategic victory secured only potential for the tactical victory. As believers, we all have equal privilege and equal opportunity to execute the Christian Way of Life. Some believers will choose to do so and some will not. Those who fail in their responsibility to God will experience a life of misery and unhappiness. Those who choose to embrace and fulfill their responsibility to God will experience a life of peace and happiness.
God is no “respecter of persons.” His justice shows no partiality. Any believer will succeed if he follows God’s system. The only equality in life is found in God’s system. Any believer can succeed, regardless of social background, current social status, I.Q., education, gender or race. For those believers who desire to advance beyond salvation and logistical grace there is the opportunity to receive an “abundance of grace.” There has always been a “remnant according to grace.” A remnant is a small portion of the whole and so it is with those who are serious about spiritual growth. (Romans 11:1-6)
For those positive believers who desire to know truth, God has guaranteed that they will receive accurate doctrinal information. (John 7:17) It is this accurate doctrinal truth that can catapult the believer from childhood to adulthood in a relatively short period of time, if a lifestyle of consistent and persistent study and application of God’s Word is followed.