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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Enemies of God Reconciled by Christ
Text:Colossians 1:21-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Blessed Assurance

From Days of Early Youth, O God

And Can It Be?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
02/22/15 – a.m.
Enemies of God Reconciled by Christ”
Colossians 1:21-23

I met a pastor once who had good gone through an extremely traumatic event. He and his wife had a son, about 20 years old, bright, well-educated, with a promising future ahead of him when he was suddenly murdered.

I can’t begin to imagine the heartbreak that murder brought to the pastor and his wife. But it is also hard for me to imagine how that pastor and his wife lived out their Christianity in such a remarkable way. Their reaction to their son’s murder was a demonstration of the grace of God at work in heartbroken lives.

In the anguish and anger which they experienced, they nevertheless reached out to the young man who had murdered their son. They went to visit him in prison on a regular basis. They witnessed to him, telling him how since God had forgiven them they in turn forgave this man who had taken their son’s life in a heartless act of murder. Through that witness the murderer confessed his sin, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and was saved.

The pastor and his wife didn’t quit visiting the man at that time. Instead, from what I understand, to this very day they still travel many miles to visit that man who is in prison for murdering their son. They continue to encourage him in his faith, to help him grow as a Christian, and to assure him that by faith in Jesus Christ he has not only been forgiven by them but by God.

And I suppose that we could look at verse 21 and say, “That must be the type of incident that the apostle Paul had in mind, when he wrote, Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. After all, the man who committed murder fits the description of verse 21.  In the act of murder, he was alienated from God and he was certainly, as the ESV translates verse 21, hostile in mind. And the deed that he did was an evil deed.

In a similar way we could say that verse 22 describes the results of the pastor and his wife witnessing to the murderer. The murderer was reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death, and the murderer, by confessing his sin and believing in Jesus alone will be presented holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

We could also look at verse 23 and see how that verse applies to the ongoing witness of the pastor and his wife. When the man who murdered their son confessed his sin and placed his faith in Jesus, the pastor and his wife continued to visit him. They wanted that man to realize that he had to continue in his faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel, just as verse 23 says.

Those three verses accurately describe the three stages in the life of the murderer. Verse 21 describes the hostility and alienation from God which led to an evil deed. Verse 22 describes the reconciliation that comes through saving faith in Jesus Christ. And verse 23 describes the ongoing life of a Christian who, by God's grace and sanctifying Spirit, continues in their faith established and firm not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

But those three verses don’t just apply to a prisoner who remains in prison because of the bloody murder committed years ago. No, those verses apply to every believer who has ever lived, whether to the Christians back in Colossae almost 2000 years ago, or to you and to me living today.

“How can that be?” some might ask. After all, many of you were baptized in this church decades ago. Many of you had the privilege of being raised in Christian homes. Many of you have gone to Christian schools. You have shown throughout your lives that you know what it means to continue in your faith, to be well established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. In this church we are blessed to have many godly mature Christian people who set an example for all the rest of us. So how can it be that the apostle Paul would describe each one of us as being alienated from God and enemies in our minds because of our evil deeds or behavior?


When verse 21 says, Once you were alienated from God, it is speaking about the alienation that comes because of our sinful nature. Each one of us was born as a child of Adam. None of us were born as innocent little babies. I have a really cute granddaughter. I know because many of you have told me that with a big smile on your face! But she, like all of us, is far from being sinless. Scripture is clear in passages such as Psalm 51:5 that we have been sinners since conception; each one of us was born as a sinner.

On the other hand, God is perfectly holy. There is not the slightest wisp of sin in God. As the perfectly holy and righteous God, He has a proper wrath against sin. Sin is what has brought so much misery and sorrow into this world.

The sin of breaking the sixth commandment, You shall not murder, leaves the lives of those who remain shattered and broken. The same is true for the seventh commandment. When adultery is committed, marriages are often broken up and lives are shattered. The same is true for the eighth commandment and all the other commandments. God gave us rules to live by for our good, and when we obey them, we are blessed. Unfortunately, each one of us, from the time of our conception, has been alienated against the good and gracious God who has, in love, instructed us how to live.

That is why Jesus taught so clearly that we must be born again, literally born from above, in order to be saved from our sin. When the Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see spiritual truths, such as the goodness of God’s commands, and ears to hear and hearts to respond to the Lord through saving faith in His Son then, and only then, are we saved from our sin. Only through faith in Christ alone is the alienation from God the Father taken away.

Unless, by God’s grace, we are born from above – born again – we have hostility toward God and hostility toward His commandments. We see that increasingly in our society. People in our culture view God and His people with hostility and ridicule God’s commandments and His Word.

We cannot help but feel sorry for them, and we must be in prayer for them, and seek opportunities to witness to them, because they are no different than we were in our natural state as sinners. The only difference is that God, in grace, has given us the gift of faith in Christ Jesus by which we are reconciled to Him.

Verse 21 tells us, not only that we were alienated from God because of our sin, but it also speaks about evil deeds and evil behavior. We would all admit, I’m sure, to some sins and shortcomings. “After all, we are only human,” people are fond of saying.  Isn’t verse 21 a bit extreme in calling our deeds evil?

As we grow in Christ we are given the great privilege and also the great responsibility of doing good deeds that God has before ordained that we should do. But unfortunately, even the best deeds that you and I by God’s grace do, are yet stained with sin. The Heidelberg Catechism brings that out clearly in the Lord's Day 24 where it teaches that “Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.” It cites Isaiah 64:6, We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Later, in Lord’s Day 33, the 91st question of the catechism asks, “What do we do that is good?” The answer: “Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for His glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.”

I trust that you and I begin to see that verse 21 doesn’t just describe that murderer sitting in a jail cell. No, it describes all of us in our sinful condition. It describes everyone who has not placed their faith in Jesus alone for salvation.


Because all of us are guilty sinners and all of us have murdered others by our thoughts, our deeds, or maybe by the “look that kills,” it makes it all the more amazing that God would reconcile – not just that murderer in jail – but each one of us to Himself. Yet verse 22 tells us that is exactly what God has done. 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.

There should be no greater desire in any one of our lives than the desire to be holy in His sight. We all care what we look like to others, even though we may not admit that. Many of you ladies reserve a special day of the week to have your hair done. While we men may not be as conscious of how we look to others we also, for the most part, try to make a good impression. And for you young people, perhaps especially for you teen-agers among us, there is often the desire to put the best foot forward, to have the right look that will bring the admiration and respect of others.

But while what others think of us matters to some degree, even though we often say it doesn’t, it matters to all eternity how God sees us. Does He still see us as those who are alienated from Him? Does He see that in our minds and hearts we are still hostile to His commandments and His word and to the promises of the gospel? Does He see that instead of the good deeds before ordained for us to do we seek out the evil deeds that are still so tempting to us?

Or by God’s grace through saving faith in Jesus Christ, does God the Father look at you and me and see us as being holy, without blemish, free from accusation, imputed with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ?

The description in verse 22, of being holy and without blemish, is the type of description that was also given to the Old Testament sacrifices. When people in the Old Testament brought an animal to the priest to be sacrificed that animal had to be without any blemish and it had to be set apart, which is the concept of holiness, that we are set apart from sin and set apart, separated, consecrated, to God.

Those Old Testament sacrifices, of course, could never save anyone. Those Old Testament sacrifices could never reconcile a sinner to God. But Jesus Christ is described in Scripture as being both holy and without blemish. He is the perfect sacrificial Lamb. And verse 22 tells us that God has reconciled us by Christ’s physical body through death in order to present us holy and in His sight without blemish and free from accusation.

It is only through the sacrificial death of the only One who is perfectly holy and without any blemish at all that you and I can also be, by God’s truly amazing grace, presented to our God as holy and without blemish.

And because through faith in Jesus we are presented to our triune God as holy and without blemish, there is then no accusation that will stand against us. As for the ESV puts it, we will be blameless and above reproach before Him.

I don't know about you, but in my life there is a list way too long of things that I could legitimately be accused of. Could I ever run for president of the United States?  I couldn’t. People could dig up dirt on me very easily. With the psalmist of old I have to ask, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).

I would be the first to admit that I could never stand because of all the accusations against me. The list of my sins is so long that I could never record them all. But because of saving faith in Jesus Christ, just like that murderer in the prison cell who confessed his sin and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, I too, now have the certainty of being presented before God Almighty on the last day, holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

And the same is true for you, if indeed you have confessed your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.


But then we come to verse 23, and it begins with that little two–letter word, “If.” It says, If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…

If it were left up to me and to you to continue strong in our faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel, there would not be any hope for us. But while we are responsible to use the means of God’s grace given to us to persevere in our faith, we know that it is God who gives us the grace to persevere.

One of the verses that we memorized in our Young People’s class is Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. That verse gives us the wonderful assurance that we will persevere in our faith because it is God who will grant us His sustaining strength.

But we also memorized Philippians 2:12-13, …Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. God works in us, but He also requires that we use the means He gives us to continue in our faith.  He gives us the preaching of His Word. He gives us the means of prayer. He gives us the means of the sacraments which picture for us, and seal to us, the beauty of the gospel and the power of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.

There are many aspects to those means: The fellowship of Christians one with another is crucial as we continue in our faith. Personal devotions, likewise, are essential in order to continue established and firm, building our life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and His Word. A personal prayer time where we thank God for His blessings, recite back to Him His Word, and humbly ask for daily forgiveness and provision of daily bread is also crucial in helping us to not be moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

Verse 23 ends as the apostle describes how the gospel that the Colossians heard has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.  And Paul describes how he had become a servant of the gospel.

The intent of the verse is not to say that every creature under heaven has now heard the gospel, but rather that the gospel was going to all people, Gentiles as well as Jews. And the truth of who God is, is known by all as Psalm 19 declares, the heavens declare the glory of God, and as Paul reinforces in Romans 1 where he writes in verse 20,  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

* * *

The gospel has such great power. The gospel, by the Holy Spirit’s conviction, brought a murderer to the confession of his sin as God gave him the gift of eternal life. The man who to this day sits in a cell in a highly secure state prison yet has the full assurance that on the last day, because of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, he will be presented to God not as a murderer, but as holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

He has the challenge that he must continue in his faith, but he also has the full assurance that He who began a good work in him will carry him until the day of Christ Jesus.

What about you? And what about me? Do we have that same assurance? Have we too confessed our sin? Are we trusting in Jesus alone for our salvation?

If so, regardless of what sins are in your past, and regardless of the sins in my past, regardless of our present failures and future sins, we too have that full assurance of being reconciled to God the Father through faith in the sacrifice of His Son. By God’s grace through saving faith we also will one day be presented holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation forever! Amen.


Bulletin outline:

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  
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 —  Colossians 1:21-22
                                      “Enemies of God Reconciled by Christ”
                                                        Colossians 1:21-23
I.  There is no neutrality in our relationship with Jesus. We are either at enmity with Him (21)
     or we are reconciled to God through Him (22): 
     1) All of us were not only alienated from God but were enemies against Him, hostile in
         mind (21, ESV)
    2) By grace, through faith in Jesus, we are reconciled to God by Christ’s physical body through His
        death (22a; cf. Colossians 1:13-14, 20)
    3) Those who are reconciled by faith will be presented to God holy in His sight, blemish and free
         from accusation (22b)
II. Our response: …Continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out
     in the gospel (23a)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Ted Gray

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