Col_1:21-23. You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.
OF all the subjects that can occupy the human mind, there is not one so great and glorious as that of redemption through the incarnation and death of God’s only-begotten Son. It is that which occupies incessantly the heavenly hosts; and which the Apostle Paul, whatever be his more immediate subject of discourse, reverts to on every occasion: and when he has, however incidentally, touched upon it, he scarcely knows how, or when, to leave it. This very strongly appears in the passage now before us. Having in the beginning of this chapter thanked God for bringing the Colossians to the knowledge of his Gospel, and informed them what were the peculiar blessings which in his daily prayers lie sought for in their behalf, and what thanksgivings he constantly offered up, especially for that which they had experienced in being “translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son,” he launches forth into the praises of the Lord Jesus Christ for all that he had done in the creation, preservation, and redemption of the world, and particularly for his redeeming love, as manifested to, and exercised upon, the Colossian converts. But, as they were converts from the Gentile world, we may fitly consider his address to them as delivered also to us; and may take occasion from it to shew,
What the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us—
Our state was awful in the extreme—
[“We were alienated from God, and enemies to him in our mind by wicked works.” This is no less true of us than of the idolatrous Gentiles: for though by calling ourselves Christians we have professed a regard for God and his Christ, we have not really sought our happiness in God: we have not even desired his favour, or used any means to obtain it. We have been contented to live at a distance from him, to put the very remembrance of him far from us, and to seek our happiness in things which had no proper tendency to endear either him to us, or us to him. However observant we may have been of outward forms, we have had no pleasure in communion with him. The exercises of prayer and praise have rather been an irksome task, than occupations in which we found our chief delight. And if at any time we have had opportunities of becoming better acquainted with God and with his holy will, we have not been forward to avail ourselves of them: and if instruction on the subject of his Gospel has been proffered to us, we have rather turned away from it, as distasteful to us, than listened to it as pleasing to our souls. The very light which would have revealed him to us, has been offensive to us; and we have turned our eyes from it, as bringing to our view an object, whose presence was to us a source of pain.
Nor is this all. We have been “enemies to him;” yea, “enemies to him in our mind:” we have had a decided aversion to his law: instead of contemplating it as “holy, just, and good,” we have viewed it as imposing a yoke that could not be endured. And this hatred to it has been proved by our actual rebellion against it: our “wicked works” have shewn clearly enough that the service of sin was more congenial with our minds than the service of our God. As for all the sublime duties which it inculcates, we have lived in a wilful neglect of them: and of innumerable evils which it forbids, we have lived in the daily and habitual commission — — — Such had been the state of the Colossians in their time of unregeneracy; and such is the state of every child of man, till he is renewed by God in the spirit of his mind.]
But the Lord Jesus Christ has interposed to deliver us from it—
[“He has reconciled us to God in the body of his flesh through death.” Yes: the Son of God himself has left the bosom of his Father, and assumed our flesh, that in the very nature which had sinned he might bear the penalty that was due to sin, and expiate our guilt by his own blood. The sacrifices under the law were substituted in the place of the offender, and they surrendered up their life as an atonement for his sins: and through the death of the victim in his stead, the sinner was reconciled unto his God. So the Lord Jesus Christ has offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and effected reconciliation for all who believe in him. No longer does God look with anger upon his enemies, when with penitential sorrow they implore mercy for Christ’s sake. Not one of their trespasses will he ever impute to them: their iniquities, how great or numerous soever they may have been, are “blotted out by him as a morning cloud,” and “cast behind his back into the very depths of the sea.” This we are authorized to declare: for “God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation,” and commanded us to proclaim to the whole universe, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them [Note: 2Co_5:18-19.].”]
But, that we may not be deceived by a partial view of this mystery I will pass on from what he has done, to shew,
What was his ultimate design in doing it—
Whatever compassion the Lord Jesus felt for our fallen race, and however desirous he was to deliver us from destruction, he had other objects in view, that were not a whit less dear to him, and without which indeed his dying for us could never have prevailed to make us happy.
The restoration of our souls to the Divine image was in his more immediate contemplation—
Man by the Fall was despoiled of holiness, as well as happiness; and without a restoration to the former, could never repossess the latter. Indeed God could never re-admit him to his presence: nor could he, if admitted into heaven, find any satisfaction in the sight of a holy God, or any pleasure in the employments which constitute the felicity of the heavenly hosts. To restore man therefore to the image which he had lost, was one great end of Christ’s incarnation and death; as St. Paul has said, “He gave himself for us to redeem us” not from punishment merely, but “from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works [Note: Tit_2:14]” In another passage the Apostle comes more immediately to the point, and says, “Christ has loved his Church, and given himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish [Note: Eph_5:25-27.].” this passage shews, that the expressions in my text relate not to our justification before God, but to the sanctification of our souls; to which Christ has had a view in all that he has done and suffered for us.]
And this he will effect for all whom he reconciles to God—
[He will impart of his Spirit to the soul: he will strengthen the soul for all its conflicts: he will enable all his people to “mortify their earthly members,” and to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts:” nor will he ever cease to work in them, till he has transformed them into his own linage, and can “present them unblameable and unreproveable in the sight of God.” We are not indeed to suppose that he will so renew them as to render them perfectly sinless; for the Mesh will continue to lust against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh, to the latest hour of our lives [Note: Gal_5:17.]: but he will so make the spiritual principle triumphant in the soul, as to leave in us no allowed sin, and so that he may present us to God as “Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile.”]
In this, however, there must be the concurrence and co-operation of the believer himself; as will appear whilst I shew,
What is necessary to be done on our part, in order to secure the blessings which he has obtained for us—
Those who are addicted to system would alter the translation here, and read it, not, “if ye continue,” but “since ye continue.” But this is only one instance of many, wherein the advocates for human systems betray their determination to make every thing bend to their views. The translators of our Scriptures would indulge no such unhallowed partiality. They would in no case wrest the Scriptures to make them favour a party in the Church. They maintained a child-like simplicity; and with scrupulous fidelity laboured to transmit to us the Scriptures in a perfect agreement with the inspired original. Of the propriety of the translation in this place I have no doubt: it is the very language of the Scriptures, in a thousand other places as well as this; and it speaks to us a most important truth, namely, that we never can be presented blameless before God at last, unless we continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.
It was by faith that we first obtained an interest in Christ—
[It would have been to no purpose that Christ had died to reconcile us to God, if we had not on our part believed in him as our Mediator and Redeemer. The unbelieving world who die in their sins, are rather plunged the deeper into perdition, than delivered from it, by the intervention of Christ. Their rejection of him has aggravated their guilt exceedingly: and the word preached to them in his Dame, will be “a savour of death unto all, to whom it is not a savour of life.” The receiving of him into our hearts by faith, put us into possession of all the blessings which he had purchased for us.]
By the continued exercise of the same faith we must ultimately secure the harvest of which we have reaped the first-fruits—
[“As we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we must walk in him [Note: Col_2:6-7.].” We must “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” It is a fact, that many do make shipwreck of the faith. The Scriptures abound with instances of it: and we also shall feel many temptations, both from without and from within, to follow their sad example. Like the stony-ground hearers, we may through the influence of persecution “fall away:” or, as in the case of the thorny-ground hearers, the good seed in us may be so choked by the cares and pleasures of this life, as to “bring forth no fruit to perfection.” And, from whatever source the defection arises, “if we turn back, we turn back unto perdition,” and “God’s soul shall have no pleasure in us.” Would we then be “presented faultless before the presence of God’s glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.]?” we must hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering:” we must be more and more “grounded” in the faith by a constant exercise of it on every occasion: we must be so firmly “settled” in it, that a man may as well attempt to pluck the sun from the firmament, as to shake either our faith or hope. This is the way to “endure unto the end;” and it is in this way only that we can fulfil that salutary injunction, “Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward [Note: 2 John, ver. 8.].”]
Are there any who are here yet unreconciled to God?
[O! think what a mercy it is that God’s wrath has not broken forth against you to your utter and everlasting destruction! Think how many of the human race are now suffering the penalty due to their sins in hopeless sorrows, and in torments of which we have no conception. Do not, I entreat you, let the efforts made for your salvation be in vain. Let not “Christ have died in vain;” and “receive not the grace of God in vain:” but “to-day, whilst it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, lest you provoke God to swear in his wrath that you shall never enter into his rest.”]
Are there here those whom God has reconciled to himself?
[How can you ever adore him as you ought to do? Can you reflect on the means he has used for your redemption; can you reflect on his laying your iniquities on the person of his only dear Son, and not bless him? The wonder is, how you can find a moment for any other employment; and that you are not, like the lame man whom Peter and John healed, leaping, and dancing, and praising God every day and all the day long.
But, if this were the frame of your mind, I should still point you to a more excellent way of glorifying your heavenly Benefactor. You have seen that the Lord Jesus, in dying for you, sought “to present you to God holy, and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight:” let his object then in redeeming you be the one object at which you shall aim through the remainder of your lives. And remember, that it is not sufficient that you be unblameable and unreprovable before men; you must be so “in the sight of God” also, even of that “God who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins” Let your secret walk with God be such as he will approve. Let your every temper, and disposition, and habit, mark the friendship that subsists between God and you. And let every day be so spent, as if at the close of it you expected your soul to be required of you, and to be presented by your Saviour to your reconciled God.]