Almost everyone desires peace in this world. Have you seen the bumper which reads, “Visualize World Peace!” The idea presented is peace throughout the world could be attained if only we could get enough people to simply imagine it. No long ago I saw another bumper sticker which was perhaps more cynical. This one said, “Visualize World Peas!” I suppose neither idea is harmful in and of themselves, but I find this latter an image which is more difficult to get out of my mind, even as I say it.
Recently I passed a billboard which pictured the faces of people from various religious backgrounds. At the bottom, the billboard had a caption which read, “A World at Prayer is a World at Peace!” I wondered if this was true. Could it be we need only to persuade more people to pray to their various gods and all conflict among nations, within communities, and within families would end? If you could resolve just one conflict in your life, or just one conflict in this world, with a snap of your fingers, which conflict would you bring to an end at this very moment?
If you have been watching the news recently, you might snap your fingers and reconcile the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, or perhaps Israel and the whole Arab world. Perhaps you would attend to more personal conflicts in your life. Some may say, “I want our family to be a united family again,” “I want my husband to be reconciled with me,” “I want my wife to be reconciled with me,” or “I want my mom and my dad to be at peace with each other.”
Indeed, we long for peace of every kind, and yet wholeness seems as elusive as catching the wind in our fingertips. This world of ours is broken in such a way so as to bring pain, misery, hostility, and fighting which alienates us and fills us with deep grief and sadness.
We have to ask this question, as we look at all of this conflict with seemingly no end, “Is it possible for peace to reign in this world? Is there any hope for such all-inclusive, all-comprehensive peace?”
The passage of Scripture we are studying answers that question with a resounding, “Yes, peace is possible. In fact, it is not only possible, it is certain.” God instructs us Jesus and His work upon the cross provides for each one of us a foundation by which God will bring peace to this world, and in as much as we bow to Jesus’ Lordship, we will enjoy the peace which He offers. Jesus does not just address the branches of the tree of hostility and enmity in this world, but He lays His axe directly at the root of the tree.
The reasons why husbands are unloving to their wives and why nations are at war against other nations and why wives disrespect their husbands and why children rebel against their parents and why friends betray trust and even why hurricanes ravage coastal cities is we, as humankind, are at war with God. Until we are reconciled to God we cannot hope for any kind of lasting, comprehensive, and real peace, but once we are reconciled to God peace is the natural result between those who bow to Jesus and His Lordship. It is a certain outcome and the culmination of human history.
We will focus our attention upon the Doctrine of Reconciliation. In reconciliation we, who were once enemies of God, become His friends, as we see in Verses 19 and 20,
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The term, reconcile, used here means a “complete, thorough, total change of relationship”. There are four different angles by which we are going to look at God’s reconciliation. We will first consider man’s need for reconciliation. Second, we will look at God’s pleasure in reconciliation. Third, we will look at God’s method for reconciliation. Finally, we will look at God’s purpose in reconciliation.
First, let us consider this idea of man’s need for reconciliation. The Bible teaches us there has been a long-standing feud running between God and man. It began early in Creation history when our first parents listened to a snake’s voice rather than to God’s Word. This act of rebellion, in listening to the Devil’s truth, the Devil’s lie, tossed every one of Adam and Eve’s future generations into a relationship of hostility against God.
Do you know you were born with hatred in your soul toward God? The unconverted man and the unconverted woman often protest against the Gospel at this very point, for, indeed, that truth is very much a part of the Gospel message itself. The unconverted protests and says, “I never had any ill feeling toward God in my life. I have always had a positive response toward Him.”
Understand this is a very grave matter. This protest and this claim, the protest your life has always been in harmony and peaceable relationship with God, will keep you from Heaven itself. It will keep you from ever entering into a right relationship with God, for no one believes in Jesus as Savior until they first believe in themselves as sinners and as enemies of God. Such a protest is false regardless of how much one attempts to defend it. You may ask, “Pastor, how do you know I have been at enmity against God in my person?”
I provide two infallible pieces of evidence. First, the Word of God condemns you as an enemy of God. If you are not in hostility against God, you would believe Him when He tells you of your natural condition, but because you are in hostility against God, you chaff underneath those truths God makes known so abundantly
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
In this one verse there are three statements from God about our natural condition. The first statement is we were once “alienated from God”. When He uses the word “you” He is using a plural you, all of you, so there is no one who is excluded from this description and there are no exceptions to this general rule. The word “alienated” is an unusually powerful word. It indicates a permanent and persistent condition of separation from God, of isolation from Him, and of living apart from the One True God.
How did we end up in this condition? Isaiah 59 would describe it this way,
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
So great is our alienation from God not even our prayers and our voices would reach Him, all because of our sin.
The second statement this verse makes about us is we were “enemies in your minds”. Again, there are no exceptions to this. Our problem is not one of ignorance of God, but rather our problem is one of willful rebellion against God and the willful love of sin. We willfully and actively break God’s Holy Laws. Why do we do so? It is because we think the Lawmaker Himself could be set aside so His Laws are no longer applicable to our lives; they have become obsolete, unnecessary, and unhelpful.
Indeed, as enemies of God in our minds, not only do we twist and distort our view of God’s Holy Standard so as to bring them down to the conditions of our own lives. We twist and distort our concepts of God Himself so God Himself is no longer sovereign, holy, just, and rightfully angry against sin, but rather He is gentle in a frail and feeble way, much as a great-grandfather would be in his waning years. We twist the concepts of God to satisfy our own pride and we no longer bow down to Him as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word and through Jesus Christ, but rather we bow down to these idols we have fashioned and created in our own minds and we say, “This is the kind of God I will worship.”
Do you not understand everyone who fashions a god unto their own liking is a man or a woman who is at enmity and hostility and in direct opposition to the One True God who has revealed Himself? We say He should be okay with that but He is not.
The third descriptive statement from God about our natural condition is we behave “in evil ways”, at the end of Verse 21. We say, “What! Evil behavior sounds rather harsh. Maybe I have made mistakes in my life and I may not be perfect, but I would not say I have ever acted in an evil way.”
Let me apply the second line of evidence which is your behavior. The natural heart of man, because of his hostility against God, hates to listen to biblical teaching with regard to the natural condition of the heart of man. That is one of the great evidences; that you remain in hostility against God. If, when you read these statements, you chaff under them and say, “I do not like those statements,” for the one who has received God’s grace rejoices this is who we once were, but we have been made new now all because of Christ and not because of ourselves.
In 17th Century England there was a Christian woman by the name of Lady Huntington who was quite an evangelist. She invited one of her friends, the Duchess of Buckingham, to hear George Whitfield preach. George Whitfield was a man of immense spiritual power and great clarity with regards to the Gospel. Afterward, she asked the Duchess of Buckingham for her response to the preaching of George Whitfield. This is what the Duchess of Buckingham has to say about George Whitfield’s preaching in a letter, “It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches who crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting and I cannot but wonder you holyship should relish any sense with so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.” She could not stomach the initial truth of the Gospel and thus she did not come to Jesus Christ as her Savior.
The second line of evidence is found in your own lives and in the way you live. Everyday, do you not behave in ways which displeases God? Do you not do these things over and over again, often without any grief or sorrow for such actions? Do you not see you daily actions reveal you to be in hostility against God, who is Holy and who has made His Laws to be just and right?
Let me apply the matter more directly: the proof of your alienation from God lies in your heart attitude. Is it not true, as an unconverted person, you found the reading of the Bible to be rather dull? You pick up God’s Word which has been given to us and you find it to not have much meaning and life and you certainly do not want to spend much time in it.
Is it not true you find prolonged time in prayer to God to be boring and wearisome, but, indeed, you consider matters of the church to be an obligation, but certainly not something joyful and not something to get excited about, particularly the teaching of the Bible. “Some stories and some jokes would be nice, but when we get into this stuff called ‘doctrine’ I wish the preacher would move on from there.” Is that not true of your heart? It is true of every person who is unconverted and it is true of every person who remains in hostility against God.
When you desire pleasure in your life, let me ask you, is God in your thoughts? If God is not in your thoughts, is not that absolute proof you are in hostility to Him, for He is the God of life itself and of joy and of the ultimate pleasure.
If you could sin without the fear of punishment and without the fear of any retribution ever, would you do it? Does not that inclination cause you to realize your soul is still at enmity against God Himself?
In your speech, do you take God’s name in vain? We do all these things and more, and when we ask God, “Do you really have a problem with these things,” God tells us from His Word, “Yes!” Our hearts need changing, for we do not naturally love God, which is the first and greatest Commandment. We are not right with God until God reconciles us to Himself. We do not naturally love our neighbor as ourselves, which is the second great Commandment which reveals our natural heart-inclination.
We move from the need for reconciliation and I trust I have pressed this home to you, not in a way so as to appear myself to be somehow above or greater or in any way other than yourself. No, when I was born into this world, I was born in the exact, same condition and apart from an absolutely unmerited work of God in my life, that is where I would remain to this day.
The good news continues to tell us about the pleasure of God in reconciliation, as we see in Verses 19 and 20,
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
It is interesting to think this plan pleased God. You might think God would be fed up with us as we have discovered the great hostility and disrespect with which we treated Him, and yet it says, “God was pleased.” His pleasure, as we discussed in the previous study, was His Son being Supreme over all creation, but now we discover His pleasure also is in His Son being Supreme in salvation and in bringing salvation to men.
God delights to bring reconciliation to man even though man is openly defiant and rebellious. There are two pleasures of God revealed here. The first is God’s pleasure in the incarnation; the act of God taking on human flesh. In Verse 19, the word “fullness” is a slap in the face of the Gnostic teachers, the false teachers, who had plagued the Colossian church. They taught there were many emanations of God and no one god had all the fullness of God, but together, if they could discover all of these emanations which God was revealing Himself through, angelic beings and other people of great esteem and who had great experiences with God, then they could have fullness, if they pursued it.
No one ever was able to attain the fullness of the Gnostic view. You were always moving, moving, moving toward the fullness. The Apostle Paul takes their word and says, “Fullness, you want to talk about fullness? Let me tell you, fullness is found completely in Jesus Christ. You do not need Jesus plus something else! You do not need Jesus and something more. All you need is Jesus, for God was pleased for all the fullness which dwelt in Him, in bodily form.”
Colossians 2, would say this,
9 For in (Christ) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…
In this letter to the church at Colosse, which is a short letter, Paul uses the term “fullness” eight times in the letter so as to take the message on the attack against the false teachers so the church might not be deceived into thinking there is something more outside of Jesus which they do not have yet, and which they need to pursue in religious experiences. Paul is saying it is found all in Jesus Christ. The word “dwells” means to be at home permanently; it is there to stay.
Kent Hughes writes these words, “We need to look to no one except Jesus for the full revelation of God’s character. If God could only be perceived in closely, reasoned theological language, then only the most brilliant could understand Him, but the fullness was in Christ so it does not require someone super-mystical, or super-intelligent, to have the fullness of God. All the fullness was in Christ and all we have to do is look at Him. As we see Him in the Gospels and hear Him preach, we can know what God is like.” Is that a wonderful truth for us?
The second pleasure of God, which is revealed here is God’s pleasure in reconciling all things to Himself through Jesus, which we find in Verse 20,
20 …and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Both of these pleasures, God’s pleasure in the incarnation and in reconciliation, are very much connected. Apart from God’s pleasure in the incarnation, there could be no pleasure in reconciliation. Jesus Christ must be fully God for reconciliation to take place or He would be an inadequate Mediator. To have a mediator who is not fully God would be as though we were connected to God by a bridge which is broken at the farthest end.
Yet, also, Jesus Christ is fully man and there were those among the false teachers who debated that; whether He was fully man or just some emanation of God, and to not have a mediator who was fully man would be as though this same bridge was broken at the nearest end. Praise God He has given us a Mediator, and a Reconciler, who is able to spam fully with He feet, rooted in humanity and fully with His glory in Heaven itself, for all the fullness of God dwelt in Him in bodily form, the Scripture tells us.
We now look at God’s method for reconciliation. The question of the Gospel itself is: how can a Holy and Perfect God ever be reconciled with sinful man? How could this be? How could there ever be peace without God lowering His standards, without God winking at sin, and without God dealing lightly with disobedience?
The false teachers in Colosse offered a kind of reconciliation between God and man, but this reconciliation was never complete and it was never final. It included mystical experiences, an attainment of a higher knowledge only certain kinds of people could get to, and other spiritual emanations from God so one could remain in somewhat contact with God, but with never complete reconciliation.
God describes His method for us here and what a wonder the work of God is and what good news this is. God teaches four truths in regard to His method. The first is: reconciliation is a work of God alone. When two people are at odds with each other and need reconciliation, often there is work to be done on both ends. Is that not true in a marriage; both the husband and the wife need to do work on both ends? Here, the fault of this enmity, the fault of this conflict, lay wholly and solely with man. We, alone, are the offenders. God did nothing to create the conflict, nothing but to provide a Garden which was sufficient for life for all of eternity with Him. Man alone is the one who defies God and creates the conflict. Yet, the method of reconciliation requires nothing of man, but, reconciliation, if it is to come as it is described, is a work of God and God alone. The one who requires reconciliation carries out the work.
This is not true in any of the false religions. In every other religion, other than the religion which proclaims the true Gospel, there is something for man to do to bring about reconciliation. There are some religions which claim to be Christian which would still say, “If you want to be reconciled then here is ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’.” I tell you, anyone who teaches such things, that there is a work of man in reconciliation, teaches a different gospel than the Gospel we received from God Himself, and it is a gospel which has no power to bring reconciliation, for reconciliation is solely and wholly a work of God.
This Bible, contrary to some popular opinions, is not a story of man’s search for God. There is no one in this whole record who begins on his own in his quest for God, but rather, this record is a record of God’s search for man and His reaching down by grace, in taking the initiative, and in doing the work. Reconciliation from our sin requires only we receive the accomplishment Jesus Christ has provided for us in His life and in His death.
The second truth about reconciliation is: reconciliation is a work fully accomplished by God. Notice in Verse 22, the past tense,
22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight…
Believers in Colossae were saying, “You mean there is nothing more to happen in order for us to be in complete, right relationship with God, to be drawn nearer to Him, and to be befriended by Him?” Paul tells them, “That is right. You have been reconciled by God.” “But, aren’t there some prayers which need to be prayed in order to be reconciled in the future?” “No!” “Isn’t there some religious ritual we must take, maybe communion? Maybe that is what we need to be reconciled with God. Sure, the greater work has been done, but maybe there is something else.” The Apostle Paul says, “No, it is a work which has been fully accomplished. It is past tense. Jesus Christ, on the cross, said, ‘It is finished. It is completed.’ What joy there is to be now reconciled with God.”
Man must only receive God’s work in order to have a right relationship with God. Nothing can be added to Jesus’ completed work. Nothing is more necessary for God to forgive us and for God to embrace us. We need only to enjoy Jesus’ completed work.
The third truth about reconciliation taught here is: reconciliation was accomplished upon the cross in the death of Jesus. It says so in two verses,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death…
God paid the ultimate price for our reconciliation to Him. It is a price which is immeasurable. It is a price which is unimaginable for us. It would be unimaginable for me to consider yielding up my son, but that would be nothing like God yielding up His Son. Our relationship of eternal joy and our relationship of eternal glory, yet Jesus humbled Himself by taking on the form of man, and then, even more so, by subjecting Himself to death, even to death upon the cross.
In His death upon the cross we find the very heart of the Gospel, for in the cross Jesus Christ dealt with the justice of God. Jesus Christ took it upon Himself the wrath of God, as 1 John 2, would say,
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
God’s anger against you sin and against my sin was completely satisfied, and in fact, exhausted, in the person of Jesus. The Bible teaches God is just and He is right only when He judges sin; that He would be wrong and unjust not to judge sin. Nahum 1, says,
2 The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.
Jeremiah 10 says,
10 At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.
Ephesians 5 tells us,
6 …the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
All of this is to tell us man and God can never be reconciled in a right relationship unless God’s wrath and judgment against our sin was satisfied and appeased. The Bible is teaching this satisfaction, this provision of satisfying the wrath of God and the justice of God against sin, was completed fully and wholly by Jesus Christ in His death upon the cross. This is why the cross is always central to us and the cross is always central to God. The heart of the churches’ message must always revolve around the cross of Jesus Christ. God forbid the church of Jesus Christ would have something else at the center, some little principle for life, some little ritual, or some bit of advice. No, the cross of Jesus Christ must be that which everyone in the church revolves all their lives and all of our worship must surround the Throne of God for that is how we will be on the last day when the Lamb sits upon the Throne and all surround the Lamb and say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wisdom and glory and might. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”
From now until eternity, God receives glory in His Son through His death upon the cross and we must never move away from this emphasis in our life. When we move away from the cross, we move away from God’s power to redeem, to bring new life, and to bring peace to those who are hostile to Him. All who are reconciled are reconciled only through Jesus and His death on our behalf. He alone is the Mediator.
The last truth about reconciliation is: this reconciliation takes in all things. It is not just those who have believed and have come into a right relationship, but it also includes the created world. Romans 8 describes how this created world groans underneath the weight of sin,
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope… 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Whenever we see a tornado or a hurricane or tsunami, we ought to be reminded of those verses and these verses in Colossians 1, that the effect of Christ’s reconciliation will reach, one day, even into the created universe so that the lion will lay down with the lamb and the little child will be able to play with the poisonous snake, Isaiah would say.
Furthermore, in the end of time, every knee will bow. That is not to say everyone will enjoy the reconciliation God brings through Jesus. Only those who believe in Jesus will enjoy the provision. This is a clear teaching of Scripture: every knee, one day, will bow.
The last truth with regards to reconciliation is God’s purpose for reconciliation, as we read in Verses 22 and 23,
22 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…
The purpose is to present us holy so we will be in fellowship with God Himself. Notice the descriptions God uses to describe what happens to a believer’s life. We are holy in His sight, that is to say, set apart for God Himself. He goes on to describe us as being “without blemish” and “free from accusation” and any charges laid against us, because all of those charges laid against us have already been laid against Jesus and they have been paid for.
What is God’s purpose in all of this reconciliation? God did not make peace so we could live as rebels. God made peace through His Son Jesus Christ so we might be His holy people and so we might live to His glory and honor and praise, and so we might be a part the His service of His eternal Kingdom. That is the reason why and that is His purpose, so we might ever remain in worship and fellowship, bringing glory to Him.
I close with some practical applications. First, I urge you, friends, to continue in the faith. Verse 23 says,
23 …if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.
That “if” is not “if, and I doubt you will” or “if, but probably most of you won’t, or some of you won’t”. The “if” is: if you remain, and if you continue in your faith, and I know you will”. That is the way Paul frames this terminology. This idea Paul is presenting to us is, friends, when we come to Jesus Christ it is not easy to continue in the faith. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are tearing at you to remove yourself from the reconciler Jesus, and to remove Jesus from being the center of your life and putting Him off in some periphery. If you are going to remain in the faith, guess what, when you get up in the morning you will have to say, “I have a fight ahead of me and I am going to have to claw it out, hand-to-hand combat, with these enemies of God, but by God’s grace I am going to continue in the faith, holding onto the hope which is mine.”
The second application is: be God’s ambassadors. 2 Corinthians 5 relates this idea of reconciliation when Paul says,
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
If you have reconciled, God has set you aside as His ambassador to tell other people, “It is possible to have peace with God.” This is the greatest news anyone could ever know. Be ambassadors. Do not be cowardly and sit back passively, but be ambassadors.
The third application is: treat God as your best friend. Do you have a best friend? Perhaps it is your wife; perhaps it is your husband; or perhaps it is someone else. What do you do with that best friend frequently? Don’t you invest your time and your energy? Don’t you rejoice in spending time with them and love developing and seeing that relationship continue to grow and to flourish? Is that not true of your best friend? Friend, we have been reconciled. Treat God as your best friend.
The next application is: be reconciled with your Christian brother or sister. If God, perfectly Holy and pure, who had no part in this conflict whatsoever, graciously extends Himself to single-handedly, of His own initiative, to wholly take upon His shoulders the responsibility of bringing about reconciliation, cannot we reach out the little distance in that conflict we have with a brother or sister in Christ, who, when we look it, say, “They did the most part,” cannot we at least say, “I have done some.” Cannot we, who have been the recipient of such grace and mercy, reach out and be reconciled to whoever it is; a husband or a wife, a friend or fellow church member, or a business partner. Cannot we reach out and be reconciled with others?
The last application is the most important one and it is found in 2 Corinthians 5,
20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Have you been brought to a place of being at peace with God? Jesus Christ has done everything for you to bring about your peace. Will you accept Him and will you trust in Him and in His work? Be reconciled to God.