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Colossians 1:12 by Robert Dean
In a continuation of our study of the sufficiency of Christ, we learn more about the implications of "in all things" with the Doctrine of Reconciliation. But what does reconciliation really mean? And why was it necessary at the cross? This doctrine is so often confusing, misrepresented, and misstated. There is no sense of it in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Paul is the only author who addresses it. View this lesson and find out what it really means for a Christian to be "at peace with God".
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:39 mins 2 secs

From Enmity to Amity. Colossians 1:20


What Paul is saying in this passage is that what makes Jesus sufficient is also what makes Jesus the only way, because there is nothing else and no one else that can do what Jesus did. And only Jesus could do it because Jesus is fully God, in the flesh. So Paul unpacks this idea and it has a number of layers to it that he develops. In 1:14 it is through Him that we have redemption through His blood—an emphasis on His death. It is through His death on the cross that we have redemption which is forgiveness of sins. Redemption is as much of the Godward package that is accomplished on the cross as reconciliation and propitiation. 

God the Father is the subject the action in Colossians 1:20 NASB "and through Him [Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven." Who is performing the action of reconciliation here. It is a little bit ambiguous but it is God the Father. That becomes clear when we compare this to other passages on reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:16. He uses Jesus' work on the cross to do it and He is reconciling all things to Himself, i.e. to God the Father. The word that is used here for reconciliation is the verb apokatallasso [a)pokatallassw]. This is a compound of the preposition apo [a)po] and the verb katallasso [katallassw] which is the normal word used for reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5 and other passages. It is an aorist active infinitive to express a purpose. It was the purpose of God to bring about this reconciliation. But by intensifying the verb with this preposition it means to reconcile completely. Why would Paul do that? The theme of Colossians is the sufficiency of Christ. Sufficient means it is complete; it is enough. So Paul is going to talk about reconciliation in Colossians and in Ephesians by coining a new word that is going to take reconciliation to another level of intensity; it is a complete reconciliation. He didn't leave anything out, it is all there. So we read that Jesus completely reconciles ALL things. 

Then he adds on "whether things on earth or things in heaven." Where else do we see that idea? Genesis 1:1. It is a merism, like night and day, where you use two opposites to express an idea of everything in between; it is a completely inclusive term. So when Paul says "He reconciled all things" he reinforces that meaning by saying "whether things on earth or things in heaven." That is everything, animate objects and inanimate objects. Why would Christ reconcile inanimate objects? Because even earth itself is under condemnation and groans, according to Romans chapter eight.

Ephesians 2:16 NASB "and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." There he is talking about the relationship between Jew and Gentile. There was a state of enmity not only between mankind and God but also a state of enmity existed between Gentile and Jew. When Jesus performs the work of reconciliation it is reconciling both all of mankind and Gentiles to Jews, so that now in Christ there is a unity. Just in case we forget what the "all things" are and want to limit it in some way, let's look back to Colossians 1:16, 17: "For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." So now in verse 20 and He reconciles the all things, the all things here have to be the all things of vv. 16, 17, which is everything in the universe.

What does reconciliation mean? The core mean of allasso, the root word, means to change a relationship between two things. Since this is in the aorist active infinitive it tells us that the one who performs the action (God the Father) is actually doing something. It is not potential, not hypothetical. But it emphasizes that something happens at the cross that changed the orientation of everything in the universe to God. At the fall the orientation of everything in the universe was changed to God. Does that mean that everything is saved? No. In Romans 8:20ff Paul talks about the creation suffering under a curse waiting the redemption that will occur when the sons of God are made manifest. That is not applied to the creation until. Jesus returns. There is a change that takes place but it is not a salvific change, not a change that actually saves or redeems people in terms of its application; but it changes the orientation of everything that has been in this state of hostility toward God.

We are told how He does this by the next phrase, "having made peace through the blood of His cross." Here we have a compound word from eirene [e)irhnh], which means peace, and poieo [poiew], the word to do—eirenopoieo [e)irhnopoiew], meaning to make peace, to do peace. It is a participle and it has the idea of either cause or means. It is ambiguous in the Greek; it could be either one. It was through Christ that God reconciled all things to Himself either because He had made peace through the blood of the cross—the action of that participle precedes the main verb idea, which is reconciled—or He reconciled by means of the cross; it is the peace through the blood of the cross that makes reconciliation possible.

Defining reconciliation. It is the work of God for man. There is an element of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5 where we as believers are given the ministry of reconciliation, and we go to people and the command is to be reconciled to God. That has to do with an experiential application in terms of the gospel. But this is talking about the objective aspect that Godward. So reconciliation is the work of God for man in which God undertakes to transform man's position of hostility to peace in order to make possible an actual eternal fellowship with a righteous and just God. It doesn't make it a reality because Jesus died at the cross but it makes it possible to make salvation a reality.

When we talk about forgiveness—e.g. Colossians 1:14 NASB "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins"—we really have different ways in which we experience forgiveness or that forgiveness is accomplished at the cross. One is a legal forensic sense. We are under condemnation for sin, but what happens at the cross is that that is blotted out—Colossians 2:14. He took it away when He nailed it to the cross in 33 AD, not when we trusted Jesus. That is a revolutionary concept for a lot of people. His substitutionary death paid the penalty for sin; it is not an issue anymore. Does that make you and me automatically saved? No, because we were born dead in trespasses and sins. We have to experience a positional forgiveness when we trust in Jesus and then as we grow as believers we experience experiential forgiveness. That first forgiveness is what is called a legal or forensic forgiveness.

But what we see here with reconciliation is a comparable idea. That is how Paul is taking these threads and he is connecting redemption and forgiveness, which is that payment of a price to God, to reconciliation and he is going to show how these ideas work together. So the next aspect of this definition is that reconciliation was accomplished forensically in a legal sense once and for all by Jesus Christ on the cross. It applies also to each believer positionally but only when we trust in Jesus as savior. That is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that God was in Christ reconciling the world. The world is what Jesus died for over in John 3:16, but that includes believer, unbeliever, everybody. There is this changed relationship; He is reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus Christ, but that doesn't make them saved because we are then given the ministry of reconciliation, to go out and tell people to be reconciled to God. And if we don't understand that there are these two different dimensions—one that is objective and fully accomplished and Godward, and one that then becomes something that man has to do in terms of realizing it in his own experience—then we can get confused. All this is saying is that reconciliation is God's work of changing man's status in terms of the law; His legal requirement. Then there is a subjective or personal experiential application.

We have a profound passage in Colossians 1:20. By Christ God reconciled, and His intent and purpose was to reconcile all things to Himself. He accomplishes that, which leads to the idea of sufficiency. He does it for all things, so there is nothing in our life that gets dropped out. That is going to have great implications when we connect that idea back over to forgiveness because there are so many people who wander around with guilt. Reconciliation and forgiveness means there is no basis for guilt. Even when we do something for which we are guilty there is complete divine forgiveness; it is wiped out. These words that are emphasized again and again and again emphasize that that is not the issue. Jesus took care of that issue so there is no basis for living on a guilt trip and bring motivated by a guilt trip.