Helpful hint for locating Colossians in your Bible: remember that Guys Eat Potato Chips (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians).
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 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— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (TNIV).
Paul now brings the vision of the cosmic hymn down to earth, relating it to the readers (Dunn, 105). Note the shift from the third person (in the hymn) to the second, “Once you…reconciled you…etc.”
Verses 21 and 22 pick up the theme of being transferred from one realm and way of life to the next that we encountered in vv. 13 and 14. Note the “Once…But now” contrast: “Once,” i.e., formerly (v. 21), the Colossian believers were alienated from God because of their evil mind and deeds. “But now” (v. 22) through Christ’s reconciliatory work on the cross, their relationship with God has been restored. Paul is referring to the very same “reconciliation” that the hymn speaks of in v. 20; thus assuring his readers that this reconciliation applies to them. In fact, instead of being God’s enemies, Christ may now present them as “holy,” “without blemish,” and “free from accusation” (v. 22). This is a beautiful thing. Verse 22, therefore, teaches that the primary goal of Christ’s death and resurrection is to present the believers as acceptable before God—presumably at the final judgment (cf. Rom 14.10).
We should note, however, that while the believers may now enjoy a right relationship with God and a new status before him, their reconciliation is not yet complete. This is, of course, already implied by the verb “present,” in that it refers to a future event, and receives further confirmation in Paul’s note of caution in v. 23. In this verse, Paul informs his readers that their reconciliation and presentation is contingent (“if you continue…”) upon their perseverance in the faith—i.e., that they continue to hold onto the Christian truth (and lifestyle) that they heard and accepted through Epaphras. This point is reinforced by the continued emphasis on remaining grounded in the faith (“established,” “firm,” and “not wavering”).
This is the Gospel of which Paul is a minister…
What can we take away from these verses? Primarily, we encounter the benefits of Christ’s reconciliation for us as believers:
- We now have peace with God and a right relationship with Him (v. 22).
- We can leave our old lifestyle behind (v. 21) and help make our righteous status a reality through our continued walk of faith, exemplified by godly living (1.22-23; cf. 1.10-12).