The Supremacy of the Work of Christ Part 2, The Purpose and Application of His Work (Col. 1:21-23)
I. Doctrinal: The Person and Work of Christ (1:1-23)
B. The Supremacy of the Person of Christ (1:15-18)
C. The Supremacy of the Work of Christ (1:19–2:3)
2. The Plenitude and Description of His Work (1:19-20)
a. In Relation to God (1:19)
b. In Relation to all Creation (1:20)
3. The Purpose and Application of His Work (1:21-23)
a. The Past Alienation Described (1:21)
b. The Present Reconciliation Accomplished (1:22a)
c. The Purpose and Obligation of Reconciliation Described (1:22b)
d. The Cautionary Condition Disclosed (1:23)
4. The Propagation of His Work (1:24–2:3)
This lesson will deal only with the Purpose and Application of the Work of Christ, but as in the previous lesson, points 1, 2, and 3 are included in the above Outline Review to show the literary relationship of all the verses of this section, 1:19–2:3.
1:21 And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, 1:22 but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him—1:23 if indeed you remain firm in the faith, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant.
The Purpose and Application of His Work (1:21-23)
While the gospel message guarantees eternal life to believers, it is not without great ramifications and responsibilities for believers here in this life. God’s purpose is not just to bring us into an eternal relationship with him in the eternal future, but into a vital, life transforming fellowship in this life. God is interested in producing a holy people who represent Him to the world as ambassadors who live as aliens or sojourners. However, as with the promise of eternal life, this life-transforming experience (experiential sanctification) is based on a proper grasp of Christ’s person and the nature of His work of reconciliation as finished and complete. To this there is nothing left for us to add by way of human works or religious rituals for either salvation from sin’s penalty or sanctification from sin’s power. We must learn to rest in the sufficiency of His life and abide in Him by faith. Believers are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10) having been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). Thus, in 1:21-23, the apostle writes to stress the purpose and application of the reconciling work of the pre-eminent Christ.
The Past Alienation Described (1:21)
1:21 And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds,
The truth of reconciliation (to bring from a state of enmity to harmony) naturally presupposes the pre-salvation conditions, which the apostle describes in the words, “strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds.” “Were … strangers” is a perfect passive participle from the verb apallotrioo, “to estrange, alienate.” In the New Testament, this verb is found only in Paul’s writings, here and in Ephesians 2:12; 4:18, and in each incidence, the apostle uses the perfect tense and the passive voice. This construction focuses on their past state of affairs as the outworking of some condition or specific cause. In the Greek text of Colossians 1:21, the perfect participle is found with ontas, the present participle of eimi, a “to be” verb, which serves to stress the persistence and hopelessness of their past condition. In our pre-salvation condition in which we were born in sin as the children of Adam, we were without hope and totally helpless to deal with our sinful condition and totally unable to establish a relationship with God. In Ephesians 2:12, the focus is on the pre-salvation condition of being gentiles who, because they were without Christ, were also strangers from the citizenship of Israel, and thus alienated from fellowship and service to God. In Ephesians 4:18, the apostle speaks of unbelieving gentiles as alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, undoubtedly their ignorance of the gospel message of God’s grace and salvation in Christ.
Here in Colossians 1:21, the apostle links alienation with being “enemies in your mind …” Of course, the alienation and enmity has to do with their relationship to God, but the connecting “and” (the Greek kai) can be understood to mean, “even enemies…” In other words, “enemies” explains how the alienation expressed itself in their pre-salvation condition. “Enemies” (a plural form of the noun echthros) speaks of a state of enmity or active hostility and opposition. This opposition is in realm of the mind (dianoia, “mind, understanding,” or “thinking, disposition, attitude”). In this unsaved condition, the mind with its unregenerate attitudes expresses itself through “wicked works.” Before salvation all men stand in opposition to God in one way or another. This is true even of religious and moral persons no matter how godly or moral they may appear in the eyes of others, or how many good works they boast of or engage in. In reality, however, and from God’s standpoint, their works are evil because these works oppose the plan of God’s grace. These works, no matter how good they appear to people, are “wicked” if those who do them stand opposed to or ignore the person and work of Christ as the source of their life, and the only means of reconciliation and sanctification by the Holy Spirit through the truth of God’s Holy Word. In that case, they stand opposed to God’s grace in Christ and are His enemies because they seek to either bypass the Savior as the means and motivation for their works, or they seek to add something to His person and work as a means of acceptance with God. Paul deals with this in great detail in chapter 2 (cf. 2:6-23). Two illustrations of such enemies through wicked works are (1) the religious Pharisees and leaders of Christ’s day who rejected Christ and nailed Him to the cross (cf. Acts 2:22-23), and (2) the false teachers at Colossae. These teachers were advocating reconciliation between God and man through the intervention of angelic mediators and religious/human works (2:16-19) rather than by the biblical reconciliation of man to God through the person and work of Christ alone.
The Present Reconciliation Accomplished (1:22a)
but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death
Verses 1:19-20 focused on how the reconciling work of Christ through the blood of His cross extends to the whole creation. But with the opening words of verse 21, “and you,” the apostle narrows the cosmic work of Christ to the believers in Colossae. The reconciling work of Christ, though cosmic in its nature, has tremendous local application and significance to Christians everywhere. The apostle demonstrates this significance by making a sharp contrast between their past condition in sin and their present state as reconciled believers. In the Greek text, this contrast and emphasis is stressed by the emphatic position of “and you,” by the words “at one time” (pote) in verse 21, and “but now” (nuni de) in verse 22. The emphasis is now on God’s purpose and plan of sanctification (spiritual growth and transformation) for them as reconciled people. The purpose of God’s plan of reconciliation is personal holiness in His people, as the second part of verse 22 will stress. The wonder of the grace work of God in Christ is contrasted with their past life from which God had delivered them through the reconciling work of the Savior.
…the gravity of their previous condition serves to magnify the wonder of God’s mercy. The past is recalled not because the emphasis falls upon it, but to draw attention to God’s mighty action—here in the reconciling death of his Son—on the readers’ behalf. Their response ought to be one of loving gratitude that shows itself in a determination to continue in the faith (vv 22, 23).162
“By his physical body through death” stresses a vital truth of the New Testament, namely that our salvation was accomplished through One who was nothing less than true humanity and undiminished deity united together in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the God-man Savior who came to restore to mankind that which Adam lost in the fall as recorded in Genesis 3, and to provide salvation to everyone who will believe in Christ as his or her Savior.
Paul emphasized the physical body of Jesus Christ that was nailed to the cross. The false teachers denied the incarnation and taught that Jesus Christ did not have a real human body. Their philosophy that all matter was evil made it necessary for them to draw this false conclusion. But the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus did have a fully human body, and that He bore our sins on that body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). 163
William Barclay’s comment on Paul’s emphasis on the humanity of Christ is also helpful.
The Gnostics completely denied the real manhood of Jesus. In their own writings they, for instance, set it down that when Jesus walked, he left no footprints on the ground. That is why Paul uses such startling phraseology in Colossians. He speaks of Jesus reconciling man to God in his body of flesh (Colossians 1:22); he says that the fullness of the godhead dwelt in him bodily. In opposition to the Gnostics, Paul insisted on the flesh and blood manhood of Jesus.164
In the Lord Jesus, we have one who is the perfect means of our reconciliation to God because in Jesus we have one who was not only true humanity, but also sinless humanity. He is therefore the only one perfectly qualified to represent us and deal with our sin problem by dying in our place. But He was also undiminished deity, God in the flesh. This means that He can also perfectly represent us because He gives us not just life, but eternal life, and not just righteousness, but God’s imputed righteousness.
The Purpose and Obligation of Reconciliation Described (1:22b)
to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him
The purpose of God’s work of reconciliation in Christ through the cross is holiness. Holiness refers to the state or quality of being holy. The fundamental idea of the Greek term for holy (hagios) is set apartness. The holy person in the biblical sense is one who is set apart to God from the world. However, there are three aspects of holiness or sanctification in the New Testament—positional, progressive, and complete or final sanctification. The Lord is deeply concerned about the holiness of His people. He does not save us so we can live as we please, but so that we might live as a special people set apart to Him and His glory (cf. 1 Pet. 1:13-16; 2:9-12). As to the three phases of sanctification, the first phase is that of the believer’s eternal position of holiness. Every believer from the moment of his or her conversion possesses an eternal and heavenly position. This means a perfect standing in holiness before God through faith in Christ as justified saints (Acts 20:32; Rom. 5:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:2, 30a; 6:11). Then, there is the future sanctification of our ultimate, complete state where we will stand in glory without a sinful nature. This is that point in time when we are completely set apart to the Lord (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23). But in-between, there is the obligation for the spiritual process of progressive sanctification here on earth, not in our own strength, but by power of the Holy Spirit through the sanctifying power of the Word. Regarding progressive sanctification, Evans writes:
2 Pet. 3:18—”But grow in [the] grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 3:18—We “are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” The tense is interesting here: We are being transformed from one degree of character, or glory, to another. It is because sanctification is progressive, a matter of growth, that we are exhorted to “increase and abound” (1 Thess. 3:12), and to “abound more and more” (4:1, 10) in the graces of the Christian life. The fact that there is always danger of contracting defilement by contact with a sinful world, and that there is, in the life of the true Christian, an ever increasing sense of duty and an ever-deepening consciousness of sin, necessitates a continual growth and development in the graces and virtues of the believer’s life.165
Many if not most commentators take the statement, “to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him,” of Colossians 1:22 to refer to either the believer’s present position or to the final state. For instance:
The result of Christ’s reconciling work is the presentation of the Colossians “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Some interpreters, perhaps most, take these words as a description of a yet-future presentation to God (at the Judgment Day). And this is the view this passage seems naturally to suggest. There are, however, a number of scholars (e.g., Lightfoot and Beare) who see it as a statement of what God through Christ had already done for the Colossians. In reconciling them, he brought them into his presence, no longer as unhallowed, stained by sin, and bearing the burden of guilt; but “holy” and “without blemish and free from accusation.” So the reference is to the standing effected for the believer at the time of and by the death of Christ.166
But there is a third option, and one that fits with Paul’s focus on spiritual growth and change in the book of Colossians, but this is only obtained through resting in the full benefits of the person and work of the Savior. Anything else is futile to deal with the indulgences of the flesh (see 2:23).
Bruce presents a view in which there is a balance between the present and the future: “The sentence of justification passed upon the believer here and now anticipates the pronouncement of the judgment day; the holiness which is progressively wrought in his life by the Spirit of God here and now is to issue in perfection of glory on the day of Christ’s parousia” (p. 213).167
The point is this: to return to dead works (cf. Heb. 6:1; 9:14) as a means of acceptance with God or for spirituality is to nullify the power of a believer’s complete position in Christ so long as that believer continues to look to his or her own accomplishments or system of works for spiritual change. Rather, the apostle has in mind progressive holiness in this life that is attained through resting in the accomplished work of Christ and what that work means to believers in their daily walk with the Lord. Holiness, progressively wrought in a believer’s life by the Spirit with a view to his or her mature standing before the Lord in the future, falls in line with Paul’s teaching regarding rewards or their loss in the apostle’s other epistles.
One of the key events that will follow the coming of the Lord for His church is the Judgment or Bema Seat of Christ. This should not be confused with the judgment of the Great White Throne mentioned in Revelation 20, which is for unbelievers only. At the Bema all believers will stand before the Savior to be examined for rewards based on their works or faithfulness to follow the Lord and live in fellowship with Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10). As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, each person will either loose rewards or receive rewards based on the quality of his or her works whether bad (worthless) or good (valuable). Thus, one of the goals of reconciliation is that each Christian, through the process of progressive sanctification, will stand as a mature person, as one who is holy, without blemish, and blameless before him, and the promise is that they will receive eternal rewards for their spiritual faithfulness (1 Cor. 5:12-14). If they do not, if they stand before Him as one who has failed to grow and bear fruit, then there is the warning that their works will not stand up to His examination, and their works will be burned as wood, hay, and stubble, though they themselves will be saved (1 Cor. 3:14-15). The apostle John, writing to believers concerning true fellowship and evidences of the abiding life, speaks of the concern and the possibility that believers who fail to walk in fellowship with the Savior or who fail to abide in Him as the source of their spiritual life will find themselves shrinking back in shame from the penetrating presence of the Lord at His coming for the church (1 John 2:28). Therefore, in Colossians 1:22, the terms “holy, without blemish, and blameless,” pertain to the progressive element of sanctification, and “before Him” refers to the Bema Seat of Christ.
“Holy” is the Greek adjective hagios from the verb hagiazo, “to dedicate, separate, set apart for God alone.” Thus, hagios means “devout, godly, dedicated.” In secular Greek, hagios meant “devoted to the gods,” with an application to a temple, devoted perhaps to Aphrodite, or to oriental sanctuaries, or to respected persons.”168 As used of people in the New Testament, hagios refers to those who are set aside from Satan’s world system, and who are dedicated to the service and worship of God. God, who is often called Holy, is the perfect standard of holiness because He is totally set apart from sin and devoted to all that is holy and good. In 1 John 1:5, John declares that “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
Christ too is holy. Before His birth an angel described Him as holy (Luke 1:35). Even the demons realized that He was “the Holy one of God” (Mark 1:24). In their proclamation the apostles repeatedly referred to Christ as the Holy One (Acts 4:27-30).169
The Spirit who indwells all believers as their enablement for the process of sanctification (setting us apart to God) is called the “Holy Spirit” some sixty times in the New Testament, yet people try to become holy without resting in the finished work of Christ, the Holy One, and without trusting in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
“Without blemish” is the Greek amomos, “unblemished, without blemish in the moral or religious sense. It was used of sacrificial animals (Num. 6:14; 19:2) it is used of Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God who offered Himself without blemish to God for our sin (Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:19). Though used in some places of the believer’s standing before God (cf. Eph. 1:4), it is also used of the believer’s experience or the process of sanctification. In Revelation 14:5 the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of the Tribulation are said to be blameless before the throne of God. The reason given is that “no lie was found in their mouth.” This word is used similarly in Philippians 2:15 though there it is translated “above reproach” (NASB) or “without blemish” (NET).
Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish (amomos), when you come into his presence (2 Pet. 3:14).
“And blameless” is anegkletos, a compound word from egkaleo, “to call in, demand,” “to bring a charge against, accuse” plus the alpha (a) negative. Thus, anegkletos means “not to be called to account, unreprovable, blameless.” It is used of the qualifications of elders and deacons, which certainly does not mean faultless or sinless (1 Tim. 3:10 & Tit. 1:6, 7). In these verses, this term is used in a relative sense as one of the qualities of godly maturity, not the absolute sense of one’s standing before God in justification.
Thus, we have seen that none of these three terms call for a meaning that demands that this text refers to either one’s eternal position or one’s final standing before God, but may refer to the results of the maturing process of sanctification at the Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ. This is particularly important because of the cautionary condition mentioned in the 1:23.
The Prudent (Cautionary) Condition Disclosed (1:23)
if indeed you remain established and firm in the faith, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.
The apostle concludes this section with a strong conditional sentence that has both a positive affirmation and a negative warning. The positive element is seen in the fact that the condition is a first class condition that assumes the condition of remaining established, that is firm in the faith, has been, is, and will be true of the Colossians (cf. 2:5). This is made even more emphatic with the particle ge, “indeed,” which serves to emphasize the word it is attached to, in this case, the first class condition “if.” The negative warning is seen in the clause, “without shifting from the hope of the gospel you heard.” So there is a real danger presented here, a danger of not being presented before the Lord at the Bema as mature believers whose lives have been consistent in the process of spiritual growth or Christ-like sanctification. This is consistent with what the apostle says in other parts of this letter about the danger of being “careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (2:8), and of not holding “fast to the head from whom the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God” (2:19).
“Established” is the perfect passive of themelioo, “to be build a foundation,” and so, unlike the foolish who build their houses on sand, those who build their house on the finished work of Christ stand on Christ like a solid foundation, “established, firm.” Christ’s person and finished work constitutes the only Rock on which we may build our lives. The perfect tense of the verb “established” stresses the continuing state of solidarity and the passive voice looks at this as a work that God accomplishes in believers when they hold fast to the person and work of Christ as the source of their spiritual lives for salvation and spirituality.
“Firm in the faith” points us to the results of being built on such a foundation. “Firm” is the Greek word edraios, “steadfast, firm.” That which is steadfast or firm is seen in the phrase that follows in the English text, “in the faith.” This could be, “in your faith,” or “in the faith,” the body of revealed truth that is contained in the gospel, which the apostle previously defined as “the word of truth, the gospel.” It is truth and possesses God’s divine authenticity. An interesting observation here is that “in the faith” immediately follows the verb “remain,” and actually precedes the terms “established and firm.” By this word order, it is somewhat emphatic. In other words, remaining in the faith, the truth of the gospel as Epaphras had presented it to them, is the only way these Colossian believers, or any believer, can become established and steadfast, and thus protected from the shifting sands of the false teachings found in the world.
Thus, the apostle quickly added, “without shifting.” This is the verb metakineo, “to cause a state to cease, with the implication of force—‘to cause to cease, to be shaken from.’ … ‘not to be shaken from the hope (you have)’ Col 1.23.” 170 The verb kineo means, “to set in motion, move,” then, “to remove,” and finally, “to excite, stir up.” When believers are not firm in the faith they become easily disturbed and move from one panacea or remedy for their poor spiritual condition to another in hope of finding security or a means of true spirituality—going from one teacher or teaching to another.
“The hope of the gospel” is simply the “hope the gospel gives,” revealed by no other means or source. But hope is not a wishy-washy, maybe, or I hope so kind of thing that may or may not take place. “Hope” is elpis, and may refer to the act of hoping, i.e., “a confident expectation that looks confidently to what is expected and that is beneficial and meaningful.” Or it may be objective and refer to the object of hope, what is hoped for. Hope is used three times in Colossians (1:5, 1:23, and 1:27). In 1:5, “hope” is objective and surely includes the whole of our salvation—being in God’s presence at home with the Lord immediately after death, eternal glory, a future resurrected body at the resurrection of the just, and most importantly, eternal rewards (2 Tim. 4:8). In other words, the “hope laid up” includes all that goes with the gift of eternal life and the blessings of the eternal state according to the many promises of Scripture. This is a hope that cannot be compared to any earthly hope no matter how exquisite. It is a hope that is a living hope through Christ’s resurrection and gives an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-5). In 1:23 and 1:27, “hope” certainly includes the above, but in view of 1:27-28 there is another focus. The context anticipates being presented as mature believers before the Judgment Seat of Christ for Paul specifically states that his objective in ministry is to see every believer mature in Christ. Thus, the focus on the term “hope” in 1:23 includes the confident expectation of spiritual transformation—being transformed from glory to glory through the outworking of the indwelling Christ. Christ in us is “the hope of glory” (1:27), the glory of a transformed life by the Spirit here and now in this life (1:27). Ultimate glorification will occur at the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18), but we can and must begin to experience the glory of Christ’s life in ours here and now.
The words, “that you heard,” reminds the Colossians of the good news as they heard it from Epaphras, a gospel message that he received directly from the apostle Paul. This once more approves the faithful work of Epaphras and becomes a warning against listening to the wrangling of the false teachers.
And what is this gospel? It is nothing less than the gospel that “has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant.” The false teaching confronting the Colossians was merely a local aberration that was being restricted to an elite few, but the message the Colossians had heard, as stressed in 1:5, is actively alive, is universal, and has a world-wide reach that is growing and increasing throughout the world. The statement, “in all creation” is not hyperbole, as it is sometimes claimed. Rather, based on the fact there were those like Paul, the other apostles, and their disciples like Epaphras who were carrying this message far and wide, “in all creation” expresses Paul’s anticipation of the fulfillment of the great commission by the Savior (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). This gospel that has been preached and is being preached far and wide in all creation is the message of the sovereign one of “all creation” (1:15). This gospel is the true gospel and takes precedence over all so-called gospels, which are not gospels at all (2 Cor. 11:3-4), because it is about the person and the finished work of the preeminent and sovereign Christ.
“And I Paul have become its servant” connects the Colossians with himself and this gospel. Epaphras was a servant trained by Paul to carry this universal and immense message to others, but its source was the apostolic preaching of Paul, one commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus.
At the same time this mention enables him to link himself in bonds of closer sympathy with the Colossians, and passes on at once to his relations with them…171
As presented in the preceding text, “to present you before Him” can refer to: (1) the believer’s present, eternal position, (2) our future, glorious state, or (3) our potential state of mature sanctification at the Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ. This third position is the one taken in this study and is equally plausible over the first two views for the following reasons:
First, in the broader context of the New Testament, this third view fits with the many promises of rewards in Scripture including Colossians itself (1:10, 12; 3:24; 4:12).
Second, the third view contextually fits the emphasis on sanctification through the finished work of Christ found in Colossians 1:9 through chapters 2-3. Note especially the emphasis on the many practical injunctions for sanctification starting in 3:4, but the basis for this is the line of truth discussed in chapters 2-3.
Next, this third view fits with the emphasis of Philippians 1:9-11, another one of the sister epistles written while Paul was held captive under Roman guard in his own apartment in Rome. There he prayed for a similar goal:
“And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere (pure, spotless) and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” “The day of Christ” is a reference to the coming of Christ, which includes the Judgment Seat and rewards. “The fruit of righteousness” is not a reference to imputed righteousness, the gift of justification through faith in Christ. Rather, it refers to the result of conduct that is pleasing to the Lord that God wants to see continue right up to the day of Christ.
Since the expression, ‘fruit of righteousness’ (karpon dikaiosunes: dikaiosunes, a genitive of apposition) is a familiar biblical phrase for conduct pleasing to God (LXX: Prov 11:30; Amos 6:12; cf. James 3:18), since the participial phrase pepleromenoi karpon dikaiosunes is parallel to the two previous adjectives, eilikrineis (“pure”) and aproskopoi (“harmless”), and since the previous adjectives describe the Philippians in relationship to others as being transparent before them and having no inclination to harm anyone in any way, it is but natural to see here an extension of this same idea. The “fruit of righteousness,” therefore, must be understood in an ethical sense as referring collectively to those “truly good qualities” (gnb) in the Philippians that result in all kinds of noble acts and worthwhile deeds done toward each other and their neighbors (Michael, Scott).
Paul makes it clear, however, that this crop of goodness is not self-generated. Nor can it be, for the “fruit” he has in mind is supernatural and is produced through Jesus Christ (karpon…ton dia Iesou Christou). Hence, although Paul uses the vocabulary of the OT, i.e. “fruit of righteousness” (Prov 11:30; Amos 6:12), he recognizes, as the OT writers seemed not to recognize, that no man is capable of producing this by himself. So in exactly the same way as he told the Galatians that love, joy, peace, and so on are the fruit (karpos) of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), so here he tells the Philippians that their rich harvest of good deeds is in reality the product of Jesus Christ, the source of all life and goodness (cf. John 15:4)…172
Interestingly, one of the characteristics of the Judgment Seat of Christ is that of manifesting the quality of each person’s works, as by fire (1 Cor. 3:13). Here in Philippians, the term “pure” is eilikrineis, a combination of two words, “sun” and “to judge.” In the ancient shops, which were usually dark and without much light, a piece of clothing, or cloth, or furniture would be taken out to the sunlight to examine the merchandise for any flaws. Thus one of the derived meanings of eilikrineis is spotless or free of defect. The apostle clearly had in mind the Bema Seat.
Finally, as discussed above, this third view fits the use of holy, blameless, and without reproach, which do not have to be taken in the absolute sense of the believers perfect standing before God due to the imputed righteousness of Christ, but are sometimes used in a relative sense in other places in Paul’s epistles.
Take your pick; whether money, precious gems, or paintings, anything of valuable will be counterfeited, and the best way to detect a counterfeit is to know what the genuine article really looks like. I have read that bank tellers are trained to discover counterfeit currency not by studying the counterfeit stuff, but by studying genuine currency in the various denominations. The same, of course, applies to the truth of the gospel, and the key element of recognition here concerns the person and work of Christ. The person and work of Christ are complete and perfect, and if anyone or any teaching seeks to add to or take away something from Christ’s person or His work, then it is a counterfeit, pure and simple. Thus, Paul assures the Colossians of the purity of the message they had believed and encourages them to remain steadfast to that message, for in this way and this way only, they could attain spiritual maturity, receive rewards for faithful service, and bring glory and praise to God when they stand before the Lord Jesus at the Judgment or Bema Seat of Christ.
These verses, 1:21-23, also stress that what is true of our faith in Christ for salvation, is equally true of our faith in Christ for the Christ exchanged-life, or for progressive sanctification. To add any system of religious or human works to seek to please God or become like Him in holiness is faithless in our position in Christ and futile to our ability to deal with the overpowering nature of our sin.
In summary, verses 21-23, set down two primary aims and obligations that are vital to the gospel. As already stressed, the first is holiness or transformed living by the power of the gospel message. As the next section will stress, this change or manifestation is the result of Christ in the believer, the hope of glory. The second aim and obligation is that of steadfastness, maintaining a constant confidence in the sufficiency of our new life in Christ based on who Christ is and what He has accomplished through the cross and resurrection, and is accomplishing through the Holy Spirit and the Word.
Finally, this gospel message is a universal message and applies to all peoples everywhere regardless of culture or religious background, but the problem is that every culture will have its own unique tendencies by which it seeks to change the gospel to fit with their religious notions. These notions, of course, must be recognized for what they are, counterfeit forms of the gospel, and rejected.
162 Peter T. O'Brien, vol. 44, Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon, electronic ed., Logos Library System;Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998).
163 Wiersbe, W. W. (1989; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). The Bible exposition commentary : An exposition of athe New Testament comprising the entire "BE" series (electronic ed.) (Col 1:21). Wheaton: Victor Books.
164 The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Logos Library System;The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (Col 1:24). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
165 William Evans, The Great Doctrines of the Bible (Moody Press, Chicago, 1912), electronic media.
166 Curtis Vaughan, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1976-1992), electronic media.
167 Curtis Vaughan, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1976-1992), electronic media.
168 Nigel Turner, Christian Words (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville,1981), 401.
169 Wayne a Detzler, New Testament Words in Today’s Language (Victor Books, Wheaton Ill., 1986), 212.
170 Louw, J. P. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (LN 13.42). New York: United Bible societies.
171 J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (MacMillan and Company, revised edition, 1879; reprint, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1961), 164.
172 Hawthorne, G. F. (1998). Vol. 43: Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System;Word Biblical Commentary (Php 1:11). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Related Topics: Christology