This Is the Gospel

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Colossians 1:19-23

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Living the Christ-Centered Life” and we are in the middle of a passage that speaks of the person and work of Christ. Last week we looked at verses 15-18 which presented the person of Christ, who Christ is. Now this week we will look at the work of Christ, what Christ has done for us. And Christ’s work is summarized in this passage as a work of reconciliation. This is the gospel, that God has reconciled all things to himself through Jesus Christ. (Read and pray.)

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How would you describe your relationship with God? Are you good with God? Is God good with you? I remember trying to share Christ with a neighbor once and he assured me, “Everything is just fine between me and the man upstairs.” Well, is everything fine? And how do we know?

You see, there are two main problems when it comes to our relationship with God. First, there is the problem of our sin. We are sinful, and therefore our sins have separated us from God. But there is another problem which is just as serious and that is the problem of God’s wrath. God is holy and must punish sin, and therefore as sinners we are justly under his wrath. So everything is not fine between us and God. These are two huge problems that we cannot solve on our own.

Fortunately even though we could not solve these problems, God could and God did. And even though they are two problems, they actually both have one solution. And that solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us three things about the gospel in these verses. 1) The gospel begins with the incarnation. 2) The gospel has universal implications. And 3) The gospel has personal application. So let’s take a look at the gospel as presented to us in these verses.

I. The gospel begins with the incarnation (19)

First of all, the gospel begins with the incarnation. Look at verse 19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” (Colossians 1:19) This speaks of the incarnation – that God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell within Jesus as a human being. The incarnation bridges both the person and work of Christ. It has to do with the person of Christ because it is part of who Christ is. And yet it is also has to do with the work of Christ because the incarnation is part of what Christ has done for us. Jesus humbled himself and became a man so that he could die on the cross for our sins.

   A. Jesus became fully man (John 1:1,14)

There are two major parts to the doctrine of the incarnation. First of all, Jesus became fully man. We read in John 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us … full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14) This is what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus, who was fully God, became fully man when he was born into this world. The false teachers at Colosse said that all physical things were evil, but God affirmed the goodness of the physical creation when Jesus took on a physical body. That’s the first part of the incarnation. Jesus became fully man.

   B. Jesus did not cease to be fully God (Jeremiah 23:24; John 10:30)

The second part is this. Jesus did not cease to be fully God. Colossians 1:19 tells us God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. How much fullness does God have? Well, he’s God, so a lot! We read in Jeremiah 23:24: “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24) All the fullness of God – God’s fullness that fills the whole universe, that fills heaven and earth – all that fullness dwells in Jesus Christ.

Last week we saw that Jesus was fully God from the very beginning – that he was before all things and that all things were created by him. Jesus was fully God before the incarnation, and now we learn that he did not cease to be fully God after the incarnation. Jesus said in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) He spoke these words in his physical body after he had taken on flesh. Even as a human being all the fullness of God dwelt in him. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He became fully human without ceasing to be fully God. That’s our first point this morning. The gospel begins with the incarnation.

II. The gospel has universal implications (20)

Next, the gospel has universal implications. Just as God created all things through Christ, so God will also reconcile all things through Christ. Look at verse 20: “… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20)

   A. God will reconcile all things to himself through Jesus
      – Romans 8:20-21; Philippians 2:10-11; Hebrews 9:23

There are two main things we learn from this verse. First, that God will reconcile all things to himself through Jesus. The word translated “reconcile” here literally means “to reconcile back” or to restore something to its original state. Last week we learned that all things were created by Christ and that all God’s creation was good. But now we read about this need for things to be reconciled. So what happened? Here’s what happened. Sin entered the world, and that changed everything. We tend to think of sin as a personal problem, but sin affected the whole creation.

Notice that God is the one who reconciles. The initiative for reconciliation comes from God. We didn’t reach out to God; God reached out to us first. And notice that this reconciliation takes place through Christ, through the one who is fully God and fully man.

The fact that God will reconcile “all things” through Christ tells us that Christ’s work is broader than just saving men and women. Creation itself will be restored, as we read in Romans 8: “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21) When God created the world, all things were in perfect harmony with his will. Sin changed all that, but through Jesus God will change it back. The false teachers taught that material things were evil, but the Bible tells us God will restore all of his creation.

Back to Colossians 1:20, Paul goes on to say all things will be reconciled “whether things on earth or things in heaven.” You might wonder why heaven would need to be cleansed as well as earth. Well, remember Satan’s great rebellion took place in heaven and Satan continued to have limited access there even after his fall. And so both heaven and earth needed to be cleansed. This also was part of Christ’s work at the cross. As we read in Hebrews 9:23: “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices [speaking of the animal sacrifices], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these [speaking of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross].” (Hebrews 9:23)

And so both the material and the spiritual world, the visible and the invisible things, all things will be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. As we read in Philippians 2: “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

   B. Reconciliation comes through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross
      – Ephesians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:5-6

So how does this amazing, universal reconciliation take place? Reconciliation comes through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. Back to Colossians 1:20 Paul writes: “to reconcile to himself all things … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20) It is the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross that brings us the reconciliation we need. Jesus’ blood was the necessary price for our redemption. Ephesians 1:7 says: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

And where did this shedding of blood on our behalf take place? On the cross. The cross is central to Paul’s teaching; it is central to the gospel, to salvation, and to all of history. As we said earlier, there were two problems in our relationship with God that needed solving. There was the problem of our sin and there was the problem of God’s wrath. Because of our sins we were separated from God, and because of God’s wrath we were under God’s judgment. The cross took care of both of these problems. At the cross Christ took away our sins, and at the cross he took away God’s wrath making reconciliation possible.

And he could only do this because of the incarnation. 1 Timothy 2 says this: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) Only as God could Jesus save, and only as man could Jesus die. Only Jesus is fully God and fully man, and therefore only Jesus can be the mediator between God and man.

The gospel has universal implications. All of creation is stained by sin, and therefore all of creation needs to be reconciled. Jesus shed his blood on the cross fulfilling his role as the mediator reconciling man to God and restoring all of creation.

This does not mean that all people will be saved, but rather that all things will be restored. The Bible does not teach universal salvation, but rather the restoration of all things under God’s rightful rule and power. Here is the biblical picture of the end times: unbelievers are punished; believers are saved; death is conquered; evil is overthrown; creation is restored. The gospel has universal implications.

III. The gospel has personal application (21-23)

1) The gospel begins with the incarnation. 2) The gospel has universal implications. 3) And then finally the gospel has personal application. After looking at the big picture of God reconciling all things to himself through Jesus, Paul now moves on to the personal application of the gospel. He writes in verses 21-22: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you.” (Colossians 1:21-22)

   A. God reconciled you when you put your faith in Jesus

God reconciled you when you put your faith in Jesus. And here Paul gives us a “before and after shot” of the Christian.

      1) You were alienated from God and an enemy of God
         – John 3:19-20; Romans 8:7

First the “before” shot. You were alienated from God, and you were an enemy of God. You were separated from God because of your sin, and you were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. Romans 8:7 talks about the sinful mind: “The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7) And why were our minds hostile to God? Because of our evil behavior. Look at John 3:19-20: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) Because our deeds were evil, we hated the light. We were enemies of God in our minds and in our actions.

      2) God reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death
         – Romans 5:10

So that’s the “before” shot of the Christian. You were alienated from God and an enemy of God. What’s the “after” shot? Look at verse 22: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.” (Colossians 1:22) God removed the barrier. God overcome our love for the darkness and our hatred of the light. He turned us from enemies into friends.

And how did he do this? “By Christ’s physical body through death.” There is an emphasis on Christ’s physical body here once again. Christ was not an angel or a spirit-being pretending to be human. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was born into our world so he could die for our sins. His death took away our sins that separated us from God, and it took away God’s wrath that was justly on us for our sins. Romans 5:10 says: “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) How did God reconcile you to himself? God reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.

      3) God will present you holy and free from accusation
         – 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; Ephesians 5:25-27; Philippians 1:6

And then the “after” shot of the Christian continues in verse 22: “to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:22) You are not only reconciled to God in the present; you will be presented perfect to God in the future. The reason God reconciled you to himself through Christ’s death on the cross is so that he may present you holy and blameless in his sight at the last day.

This is legal language. This is the language of the court. On the last day when you appear before God for judgment, God will present you holy and free from accusation. No charges will be brought against you. Why? Because Christ’s death paid for your sins on the cross. We read in Ephesians 5: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

This is the ultimate “after” picture of the Christian. You will be presented perfect in God’s sight. Philippians 1:6 says: “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.” (Philippians 1:6) 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 says: “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

God reconciled you when you put your faith in Jesus. You were separated from God in the past, you have been reconciled in the present, and you will be presented before him perfect in the future. This is the before and after shot of every believer in Jesus Christ.

   B. You know your faith is genuine if you continue in your faith

Now not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is a Christian. So how do you know if these things are true of you? How do you know if you are truly a believer in Christ? Paul goes on to say you know your faith is genuine if you continue in your faith. Look at verse 23: “… if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23)

Now I don’t believe anyone can actually lose their salvation, but we often try to base assurance of salvation in the past. We ask someone: “Did you trust Jesus as your Savior?” But Scripture seems to base assurance of salvation in the present. Not: “Did you trust Jesus as your Savior” but rather, “Are you trusting Jesus as your Savior?” And so Paul gives you two additional tests to determine whether you are truly in Christ or not.

      1) Stand firm in the faith (cf. Matthew 7:24-27)

First of all, you need to stand firm in the faith. Verse 23 talks about being “established and firm.” That word “established” means having a good foundation. The word “firm” speaks of not being moved. These words recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 about building your house on the rock where Jesus said: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

      2) Hold on to your hope (Colossians 1:5)

And secondly you need to hold on to your hope. Paul says: “… if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23) “Not moved” means not to move or shift around from one place to another, like an earthquake shifting or moving the foundation of a house. Paul spoke in Colossians 1:5 of “the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.” (Colossians 1:5) Now we know what that hope is. It is the hope of being presented perfect through Christ in God’s sight on the day of judgment.

So stand firm in the faith. Stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ. Stand firm in your faith in the gospel. Stand firm in the truth about God and Jesus as found in God’s word. And hold on to your hope. If you have put your faith in Christ, God has reconciled you to himself by Christ’s physical body through death and he will present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

   C. The gospel is proclaimed to every creature under heaven

Finally we read in verse 23: “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.” (Colossians 1:23)

      1) The gospel is meant to be heard and then shared

There are three things we learn from this final verse. First of all, the gospel is meant to be heard and then shared. If you have heard the gospel and God has reconciled you to himself through Christ, then you need to share the gospel with others so that they too may be reconciled with God. We need a whole lot more “before and after pictures” of new believers.

      2) The gospel offer goes out to the whole world (Mark 16:15)

Secondly, the gospel offer goes out to the whole world. Paul describes the gospel here as that which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) Remember the gospel has personal application but universal implications. God will reconcile all things to himself through Jesus Christ.

      3) Are you a servant of the gospel?

The gospel is meant to be heard and then shared. The gospel offer goes out to the whole world. Which leads us to the question: Are you a servant of the gospel? That’s how Paul described himself. “This is the gospel … of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:23) We will be learning more about what it means to be a servant of the gospel next week, but for now just know that to be a servant of the gospel means that the gospel takes precedence in your life, that your whole life is dedicated to gospel of Jesus Christ and its furtherance in this world. It is part of living the Christ-centered life.

CONCLUSION: Last week we looked at the person of Christ. This week we have looked at the work of Christ. And we have seen that Christ’s great work in the gospel is the work of reconciliation. Although this has universal implications (God will reconcile all things to himself through Christ), it finds its primary application in God reconciling lost sinners to himself through Christ’s death on the cross.

Without Christ as reconciler we are alienated from God and enemies of God. Without Christ as reconciler we would spend eternity separated from God. Without Christ as reconciler we would have no hope.

But because of Christ’s death on the cross, God will reconcile all things to himself through Jesus Christ. This is the amazing work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This is what God calls you to believe and then share with others. This is the gospel.

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