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— 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.
In the previous section, we had a look at verses 19-20 and saw that God through Christ made peace with all things by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. Now we finish this amazing paragraph…
There was a time when each of us was alienated from God; we saw ourselves as His enemy because of our evil deeds. I broke this into two parts, because I’d like us to think about two ideas here. First, we saw or thought (in our minds) that we were God’s enemies. In Scripture, God never made us His enemy; it is we who made the choices that headed us in this direction. It is (or was) our own attitudes that created the problems. It was never God; it was always us.
Second, “because of your evil deeds.” Which evil deeds do you think Paul is talking about? I would suggest that most people, certainly most preachers, would assert that Paul is referring to some sort of list of infractions, a Bill of Indictment, so to speak. I hope we might take a different approach, and hope you will give this a little thought. It isn’t so much a list of violations that Paul is talking about here; it is the very condition of being in rebellion against God that he is talking about. If we are in rebellion against God, then we are not in relationship with Him. If we are not in relationship with Him, what are the rules, anyway? Consider the Jews and the Gentiles. From the Jewish point of view in the Old Testament, a Jew was good or bad based upon his or her keeping the Law, the 613 laws of Moses. If they disregarded the law, they had problems, if they kept the law all was as it should be. The Gentiles on the other hand, weren’t even in the ball game. Nobody expected them to keep, or even to know the law. They had no covenant with God, they had no Law. How could they “get right” with God? Not an easy thing to do: The very fact that they were Gentile made them evil and unclean. We were enemies with God in our minds because of our evil deeds of rebellion against Him, and this transcends a rule book and petty violations.
“But now he has reconciled you…” (v. 22) Because of what Christ has done on the cross, everything is completely different. He made a peace treaty; you accepted its terms and signed on to it. Now you are in a whole new kind of covenant, and that covenant has made you as clean as though you had never sinned, in God’s sight. All of that rebellion is forgotten, expunged from the record− over.
Well, now we haven’t quite finished the sentence. This is a tough spot, beginning at verse 23 with the word “if.” You may agree with me, or you may disagree, but as I see it, the word “if” makes this a conditional statement. “…free from accusation— if you continue in your faith,…” As I see it, and I think the rules of grammar back me up in this, we have the blessings of the promises in the New Covenant, unless we decide to totally renounce our faith in Jesus Christ and go off and follow other gods.
This passage ends with Paul pointing out two things, did you catch them? The work of Jesus Christ on the cross has established peaceful relations between God and Man; your sins are taken away and you are blameless before God. This is the Gospel, and it is the first point of summation. Paul has become a servant of this Gospel (and by extension, so have you and I). This is the final point of summation.
So what do you think? Are you thinking that you’ve heard this a thousand times and there’s nothing new in this text for you? I sure hope not, maybe you might reflect a little more, and seek His presence asking what He has to say to you in this. I know that I’ve taught it a thousand times, and each time is just as exciting as the first time I grasped it…
God loved us so much, while we were still thinking of ourselves as His enemies, that He went and did all of this…? Really…? And not only that, but we are a part of the spreading of this awesome demonstration of the boundless love of our eternal God…?
May He draw all of us closer to Him in His Word today. May He fill our hearts with glad assurance of the truth of His Word, and may He increase in our lives as we grow in our faith and in our desire to draw ever nearer to Him in everything that we do.