Meditations in Colossians: 37. Jesus the Reconciler
Col 1:19,20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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.
There are so many strands of the Gospel that Paul weaves together in this chapter and because there is such an interweaving we find ourselves covering the same ground again and again but picking out particular or different aspects. Even within these two verses Paul says the same thing twice, but in different ways.
When we speak of reconciliation we are referring to what takes place when two estranged people are brought together again. There had been a conflict between them but when they are reconciled that conflict is dealt with and peace is restored. In the following verse, as we shall see in the next meditation, Paul reminds us what we once were – enemies of God. We were self-centred and Godless and at odds with God, and we will consider that in more detail in the next meditation. For now, let’s just take in this concept of reconciliation in general terms.
Paul speaks in these same terms to the Romans: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom 5:10,11) There it is again. In our verse above it speaks of “making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” In these verses he simply speaks of “the death of his Son.” We’ve seen it before so we needn’t go into it in detail: we were guilty and justice demanded our sins be punished, and so Jesus on the Cross took our punishment. Our sins and our guilt separated us from God. The sins and the guilt needed dealing with and Jesus did that. Once they were dealt with, we can be reconciled to the Father.
Paul also spoke about this to the Corinthians: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:17-21) What a passage! It starts out speaking of how, as Christians, we are new creations and ends with speaking of how in this we reveal God’s righteousness. In between is the message and the ministry that brought this about – through Christ and in Christ – the work of the Cross meant that He would no longer look on our sins because he “who had no sin”, on the Cross became “sin for us”. Thus we were reconciled to God by justice being satisfied.
We should note in passing that this does not apply to absolutely anyone but simply to those who will respond to it. It is not a universal salvation that means anyone regardless is saved. As we’ll see later, the condition it that we receive this message and respond fully to it. But then in our verses above, there is an interesting and challenging phrase: “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”
The big picture is that when Adam and Eve sinned, not only was the harmony between God and us destroyed, but also disorder came into creation: “the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Rom 8:20,22) God stepped back from mankind at the Fall, so His blessing on the world was no longer automatic, but He did it in the realization that the Godhead had planned from before the Creation for the redemption of the world through Christ. Now, Paul says, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed…. that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:19,21) Our salvation leads on to the world being restored but, he suggests, there is yet still a future dimension to this: “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23)
To summarise this we might say that when Christ died on the cross, he made peace possible between God and us, and he restored the coming possibility of harmony in the physical world, though the full realization of this, it seems, will come only when Christ returns. The Cross not only dealt with our Sin, our sins and our guilt, it appears to have opened the way for the physical world to be changed as well. Maybe that is what we see in the Gospels when Jesus heals so many people, he is restoring them on the basis of what he is about to do on the Cross. I suspect there is yet much more that we have to learn about these things.