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Reconciled in Christ

Updated: Apr 5


April 3, 2022 | In Christ Alone | Reconciled in Christ| Colossians 1:15-23

John Cutler

Senior Pastor


Click here for the sermon audio


In this third week, we pick up where Paul begins the heart of this letter, having established who they are in Christ, who they should be becoming in Christ, he now reminds them of how they got to be in Christ in the first place.

This is important because if you will remember, the false teachers were trying to lead the Colossian church to go beyond Christ, or to put it another way, to go beyond the simplicity of the gospel message of Christ alone by Faith alone. This is sometimes referred to as the Colossian Heresy.


From what we can gather, these false teachers did not outright reject Christ, his divinity, or his work, rather they taught things that depreciated the person and/or the work of Christ. They sought to add to Christ’s work by teaching that you had to have certain works or observe certain things to really know God. They taught that to truly commune with God you had to go through many levels of deities, of which Christ was one. They taught things like angel worship, astrological mysteries, and secret knowledge. They taught that matter itself, and therefore our flesh, was evil and to truly know God and attain righteousness or holiness, you had to either ignore it or beat it into submission, depending on the teacher.


Last week we summed up the problem that Paul was addressing by saying that essentially the Colossian believers had to wrestle with the question, among growing pressure and influence, ‘is Jesus enough?’. Is he enough for salvation, is he enough for maturity, is there something else we need to be right with God?

…essentially the Colossian believers had to wrestle with the question, among growing pressure and influence, ‘is Jesus enough?’

So after sharing his ongoing prayer for them, Paul begins the meat of his letter by dealing with two vital aspects of Jesus Christ. His identity and his ministry.

Who he is, what he did, and what he continues to do.


Depending on your translation of God’s word, you may have a subtitle here over these scriptures that says something like the Preeminence of Christ (ESV), or the Centrality of Christ (HCSB), either of which are a great summary of what Paul is getting at here. He is about to give the Colossians a very high view of who Christ is and what he has done for them.

“This passage, Colossians 1:15-20, is one of the most Christ-glorifying passages of all the New Testament. It’s crystal clear about Christ. Each phrase is pregnant with meaning. The text as you read it is both stunning and stirring.” Author Barry York

With the challenge before him of trying to set this church, that he had never visited, on the right path for their current and future health, to ensure that the gospel kept its central place in this area, and to give them the means to recognize false teaching, Paul begins with the cornerstone and object of our faith, Jesus. In doing so, he gives them a confessionary anchor that will keep them from drifting.


Colossians 1:15-23 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.


Paul presents two very important truths concerning Jesus, his identity and his ministry.


These were important things for the Colossian believers to understand, but make no mistake, they are no less important for you and I today. These truths are the very foundation of Christianity and central to our understanding of the gospel. The way you answer these two questions, ‘who is Jesus?’ and ‘what did he do for me?’ are of eternal consequence.


The identity of Christ

There is much we know about Jesus and his time here on earth. There are not very many historical scholars left that won’t at least acknowledge that Jesus was an actual Jewish person who lived around and died in Jerusalem after building a following during his short life.

According to the scriptures, we know that he was born to Mary, a young woman betrothed to a Jewish carpenter. We know that he spent the better part of his childhood in Nazareth and that around the age of 30 years old, during the ministry of John the Baptist, he burst on the scene, teaching with authority, preaching the kingdom of God and healing a variety of diseases. We have lineages recorded in the gospels that trace his ancestry from both Adam and Abraham. We have records of his teachings, his miracles, and his disciples.


But who was he?


Some people will say he was just a man who was a great moral teacher, some will acknowledge that he was a religious leader, and some will say he was a great prophet.

The question of who Jesus is isn’t a new one. It was being debated even as Jesus was traveling around ministering.

During his ministry, he turned to his disciples and asked, (Matthew 16:13-15) “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”


When it comes down to it, it matters very little what other people think about Jesus’ identity, but rather what you believe about Him. It is not a question that your parents can answer for you, it’s not a question the church answers for you, it is one that you have to answer for yourself.

When it comes down to it, it matters very little what other people think about Jesus’ identity, but rather what you believe about Him. It is not a question that your parents can answer for you, it’s not a question the church answers for you, it is one that you have to answer for yourself.

Paul uses three relationships to flesh out Jesus’ identity. His relationship to God, to creation, and to the church. Let’s explore each of those now.


His relationship to God

Vs 15a ‘He is the Image of the invisible God’


The word image here expresses two crucial points. First, it suggests representation. Hebrews 1:3 says it like this (ESV) 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Second, it reflects the idea of manifestation.

Jesus perfectly represents the Father and manifests his presence.

Jesus himself said it this way, John 14:8-11 (ESV) 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me

And again he says, John 10:29-30 (ESV) 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

To know Jesus is to know God.

The second relationship Paul highlights is of Christ’s relation to creation.


His relationship to Creation

Vs 15b ‘He is…the firstborn of all creation’


The idea here, as some religions have interpreted it, is not that Jesus was the first created, or that he is a part of creation, but rather Paul is addressing his priority and sovereignty over all creation. A similar principle is used to describe Israel in Exodus 4 “Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn. In Psalm 89:27 God uses the term to describe David, I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.

Israel was not the first nation to exist, and David was not the firstborn among his family or the first king, Chronological origin and timing are not the concern here, but that of preeminence.

Paul goes on, vs 16- ‘For by him all things were created…’

This further emphasizes that Jesus is not a part of creation but rather the means by which it was created. Paul especially stresses that nothing was created apart from him or by anyone other than him.

in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The Gnostics taught that Christ was a part of creation and he created other deities that then created others, each more corrupted than the one before until eventually they created the world. Paul refutes all of that and singularly lifts Christ to the center of creation. He uses created two times in two different tenses to highlight that Jesus both initially created and what we experience is a continued result from his creation. There is no other agency involved.

He is before all things and in him all things hold together.

The word before again emphasizes that supremacy of Christ in creation. Jesus has always existed, but it is also by his power that creation continues to exist.


Paul now moves from Christ’s deity to his humanity. The repeated use of the word body in the following verses serve to fully flesh out Christ’s identity. He is both fully God and fully man in the incarnation.


His relationship to The Church

Vs 18- He is the head of the body, the church


The church- all believers who place their faith in Jesus and are born again, both spiritually and one day physically. Just as Christ is supreme over natural creation, so he is sovereign over the new creation, the New Testament church as the head of the church. He is supreme in the spiritual realm as well as in the material realm. The word beginning here denotes ‘source’ or ‘origin’. We not only receive physical life from God but spiritual life as well. The firstborn again references his preeminence as the first to be resurrected to permanent physical life. This Greek word is where we get the English word prototype from. Paul summaries Christ’s identity in verse 19- For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,


We need not look beyond Jesus to know who God is, he has revealed God to mankind in his incarnation and resurrection.

We need not look beyond Jesus to know who God is, he has revealed God to mankind in his incarnation and resurrection.

Verse 20 begins the second truth Paul communicates through this confession, what Christ has done for us.

The ministry of Christ


20a and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,


Scriptures teach that, because of sin and rebellion, man’s relationship with God has been broken. Ever since Adam, every person has not only inherited a sinful nature, but has willingly followed it into sin. Because of that sin, we are spiritually dead and separated from God, in desperate need of reconciliation. God’s plan from the beginning was to reconcile men to himself through Christ, the lamb of the world that would take away sin, the lion of Judah that would conquer sin and defeat death. When we talk about reconciliation, there are two sides, objective and subjective. Objectively, God has removed the barrier between himself and sinful man through Christ, so we may experience a living relationship with God. Subjectively, people must accept the offer and possibility of reconciliation that God has provided.


So, how did God provide reconciliation for man through Jesus?


20b Making peace by the blood of the cross.


Paul will more fully dig into this truth in this letter when he says Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV) 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.


But for now, we acknowledge that Christ’s ministry was to reconcile mankind to God through his atoning and substitutionary sacrifice on the cross.


21-22 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,


Paul in no uncertain terms outlines for these believers their condition before reconciliation.

Alienated- shut out from fellowship and intimacy with God

Hostile in mind- opposing God, not just in action but in thought

Doing evil deeds- practicing sinful lifestyles


Notice Paul says this is who they once were, but now, because of Christ, they have been reconciled and now they are new creatures.

Why did Christ reconcile us? So that we may stand before God, in Christ, holy, spotless, and unaccusable.

Christ came in the flesh, lived the life you and I could not, died the death you and I deserved, freeing us from sin and death, so that he may reconcile us to God.

Christ came in the flesh, lived the life you and I could not, died the death you and I deserved, freeing us from sin and death, so that he may reconcile us to God.

So the question is how do we experience this reconciliation?

23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard,


This phrase has caused some to believe that you can lose your salvation or standing in Christ. But the word translated ‘if indeed’ can be translated as since or inasmuch.

I think the key is in what Paul says about continuing in the faith he uses three descriptors.

Stable- literally to lay the foundation

Steadfast- settled, immovable

Not shifting- to move away from


Paul essentially says that the proof of your reconciliation is that you will not be moved away from your trust in Christ’s atoning work. If you move away from it or abandon it, you simply prove that you were never reconciled in the first place, you never put your hope in the gospel. The best defense against false teachers and teachings is to be firmly rooted in Christ and his atoning work as presented in the gospel.


We began this morning with two questions.

Who is Jesus? What did he do for you?


Here is what Paul has shown us.


Jesus is the eternal son of God, fully divine, creator and sustainer of all life. He entered his creation, taking on humanity, so that he could provide reconciliation through his atoning work on the cross, so that your sins could be forgiven, you could be made alive, and ultimately stand before God in eternity, in Christ, free from sin.


That is the gospel message, and the only way to be reconciled to God.

It is a gift from God, appropriated by you through faith and trust in the person and work of Christ.


As we close I want to share with you some final words from Paul

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV) 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

That is the invitation today, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. If you would like more information or to share with us your decision, you can do that here.



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