Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (July-Sept. 1994) 325-38.
Copyright © 1994 by
Doctrinal Issues in Colossians
Part 3 (of 4 parts):
THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION
H. Wayne House
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians,
painted an exquisite portrait of Jesus Christ. The apostle, how-
ever, did not complete his painting without also depicting the im-
portance of Christ's Person and work in relation to eternal salva-
tion. The basis of that salvation is the death of Christ on the cross,
by which He has given an eternal inheritance to believers. As
heirs, saints possess abundant salvific treasures, including re-
demption, reconciliation, sanctification, and ultimate glorifica-
tion. Salvation flows from the headwaters of the eternal plan of
God the Father and its actualization through the work of the Son in
time and space. By the Son, believers have been transferred from
the tyranny and destruction of the kingdom of darkness to the
blessing of the kingdom of light. Moreover, they are presently be-
ing transformed by the work of God. In Colossians, salvation is a
multifaceted doctrine, made up of many threads woven together
in relation to Christ and His work.
THE BELIEVER'S INHERITANCE
QUALIFIED BY GOD THE FATHER
In Paul's opening prayer he praised God the Father as the One
who initiates the salvation of Christians (1:12), a salvation given
to them in the form of an inheritance. Paul clearly established the
fact that salvation is wrought in a family context. Salvation
comes through God "the Father, who has qualified us" for an in-
-Wayne House is Professor-at-large,
This is article three in a four-part series "Doctrinal Issues in Colossians." Parts
one and two were published in the January 1992 and April 1992 issues of Biblio-
326 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July–September 1994
heritance. Inheritances, and specifically in this case salvation,
are awarded on the basis of family qualification. Salvation, then,
is not something that believers have obtained by merit; inheri-
tances are given to heirs and sons, not to workers. God the Father
qualified believers for a "portion of the lot" (th>n meri<da tou? klh<-
rou) by virtue of His predestined plan to adopt them (cf. Eph. 1:5).
i[kanw<santi is a consummative aorist emphasizing a past com-
pleted action. Thus, according to Paul, God caused believers to be
qualified for inheritance. Again an inheritance is only for those
who are duly authorized heirs.
In Colossians 1:21 Paul demonstrated that before conversion
the believer's relationship with God was anything but familial.
Paul did not equivocate when he stated that sinners were alien-
ated (o@ntaj a]phllotriwme<nouj) and enemies (e]xqrou>j). The pre-
sent participle o@ntaj depicts an ongoing breach between God and
sinners. The idea of being enemies of God coincides with Ro-
mans 5:10. As an enemy, one is not entitled to anything. Mercy
and grace for a captive foe are purely at the discretion of the con-
queror. And though God owed sinners a fiery payment, He
forgave them and qualified them for an inheritance through
Jesus Christ and brought them into His household.
When was this action of "qualifying" (Col. 1:12) consum-
mated? In one sense the believer was "qualified" by means of
God's election in eternity past. As Ephesians 1:4 states, believers
were chosen "in Him before the foundation of the world" (pro>
katabolh?j ko<smou2). Thus the qualification has already come
about in eternity past.3 Then through the sacrifice of His Son God
the Father qualified them to receive this inheritance. The Cross
was the outworking of God's eternal plan, which was initially
ratified "before the foundation of the world." Ephesians 1:11
further emphasizes that the inheritance comes by virtue of God's
predestination: "in whom we have obtained an inheritance,
having been predestined (prorisqe<ntej) according to His purpose
who works all things after the counsel of His will." The aorist
participle proorisqe<ntej indicates that God's predestining work is
the basis by which "we have obtained an inheritance"
1 Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lex-
icon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2d ed., rev. F.
Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (
2 The phrase pro< katabolh?j is also used of Christ in 1 Peter 1:20.
3 Peter T. O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, Word Biblical
TX: Word, 1982), 26.
The Doctrine of Salvation in Colossians 327
(e]klhrw<qhmen). Therefore this inheritance is a matter of God's
grace, since God's election is apart from any counsel or persua-
sion other than His own.
The concept of inheritance was commonplace to those famil-
iar with Jewish history. God promised the Israelites an inheri-
tance in the
and as He led them out of
Promised Land. The right of the Jews to this inheritance came by
virtue of their being descendants of Abraham. However, the in-
heritance promised to the Colossians "belongs to a higher plane
and a more enduring order than any terrestrial
thermore, rather than having Abraham as their "father," believ-
ers today have God as their Father.
The concept of inheritance in the Old Testament applied not
only to the land but also to the Israelites themselves. Deuteronomy
in addition to God's claiming individuals as His inheritance,
people referred to God as their "portion" or "lot." For example the
psalmist claimed God as "his portion" (yqil;H,) or inheritance (Ps.
73:26). The notion that inheritance sometimes referred to spiri-
tual as well as physical possessions is well attested in the Old
Testament (cf. Deut. 7:6; 32:9; Ps. 16:5; Lam. 3:24).
THE INHERITORS AND THEIR KINGDOM
God's inheritance is for His people, those mentioned in
Colossians 1:12 as "saints" (tw?n a[gi<wn). The saints are the people
of God, not angels.5 Certainly the Christian community is called
by God to participate in the angelic realm, and as they are "in the
light" they partake in the realm of the heavenlies. However, the
context seems to dictate that the a[gi<wn mentioned above are
believers (cf. Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 6:1; Eph. 3:8), and the light in
which they are qualified to share is the kingdom of light, the home
of God in His full glory. This is the polar opposite of the domain or
kingdom' of darkness, referred to in Colossians 1:13. This term
"darkness" (sko<toj) has an ominous tone of doom and destruc-
tion. Those in darkness are without salvation: "you were
formerly darkness" (Eph. 5:8). Such individuals are also
"children destined for wrath" (2:3). The Bible uses this contrast
4 F. F. Bruce, Epistle to the Colossians, Philemon and to the Ephesians, New In-
ternational Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984),
building on his study of the parallels between Colossians and
literature, says a[gi<wn refers to angels (Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon,
328 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1994
between light and darkness as a theme in many passages, not the
least of which is 1 John, which develops the difference between
light and darkness. In the literature of
darkness are determinative spheres but also paths one can
take."6 Light is indicative of goodness and righteousness, and the
culmination of this way of life is salvation, which is contrary to
darkness, which culminates in "eternal perdition in the fire of
dark places (1QS 4:12 f. cf. 2:8; 1 QH 3:29 ff.)."7
The inheritance of the saints is said to be "in the light" be-
cause God removed them from the power of darkness. "He deliv-
ered us from the domain [e]cousi<aj] of darkness and transferred
[mete<sthsen] us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).
The use of e]cousi<a here has the idea of the "domain of darkness"
as the antithesis of Christ's kingdom. The domain of darkness
refers to the spiritual realm where evil reigns. The phrase e]c
ousi<a tou? sko<touj is also found in Luke 22:53, which states that
Christ, when He was being betrayed said He knew that "the power
of darkness" was at hand. The term e]cousi<a was also used by
Paul in Ephesians 2:2, where the believer's former life is said to
be controlled by the prince of the domain (e]cousi<a) of the air,
whose spirit is working in the lives of unbelievers.8
Leaving the domain of darkness involves both a present
lifestyle pleasing to the Lord (consisting of "goodness and
righteousness and truth," Eph. 5:9) and an eternal existence of
being "in the light" (e]n t&? fw?j, Col. 1:12).
CHRIST'S REDEMPTION OF HIS PEOPLE
As is well known, the theological term "redemption"
(a]polu<trwsij) means "’setting free for a ransom,’ and is used of
prisoners of war."9 Slaves or captives could be "redeemed" or
"purchased" in the marketplace. Israelites would envision even
more in the word, for it would recall God's redeeming work in
deeming work is the "forgiveness of sins" spoken of by the
prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel as they predicted the New
6 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "fw?j," by Hans Conzelmann,
7 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "pneu?ma," by Eduard
8 Ernest R.
OR: Canyonview, 1982), 37.
9 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "a]polu<trwsij," by F. Bichsel,
The Doctrine of Salvation in Colossians 329
Covenant (Jer. 31:31, 34; Ezek. 36:16-36).10 The concepts of re-
demption and forgiveness (th<n a@fesin) in Colossians 1:14 are
closely related, perhaps even appositional.11 Lexically both terms
can be used in a commercial environment, a@fesij carrying the
notion of "cancellation of an obligation"12 and a]polu<trwsij con-
veying the idea of "buying back."13 Paul heralded this same truth
in a similar construction in Ephesians 1:7. Redemption, as a
work of salvation, is inseparable from the idea of forgiveness.
Redemption is "from the wrath and punitive justice of God."14
This redemption can be accomplished only by forgiveness. The
relationship between these two concepts has been a source of
dispute since the times of the early church fathers. Some said
salvation is a two-stage process, namely, forgiveness of sins at
baptism and redemption at a later state when the person receives
perfection (corresponding to Christ's baptism and the supposed
later descent of the Christ on the human Jesus), but Irenaeus
argued against this false notion.15 Calvin advanced that "the
apostle defines the redemption in Christ's blood as ‘the
forgiveness of sins’ [Col. 1:14]."16 Redemption has connotations
for both the present and the future. "All present spiritual
possessions are simply installments on the inheritance, which
will consist in the whole existence of man being given up and
made conformable in the Spirit."17
When the believer is delivered from the domain or power of
he is transferred (mete<sthsen) into the
God's beloved Son.18 Citizenship in this kingdom is procured by
the purchase of Christ: "in whom we have redemption, the for-
10 N. T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon, Tyndale New Testament Commen-
taries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 63.
11 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 28.
12 Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature, 96.
14 Charles J. Ellicott, The Epistles of
15 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 50.21.2, cited in William Hendriksen, Exposition of
Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964), 65.
16 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed.
John T. McNeil, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1:533.
17 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "a]polu<trwsij," by F. Buchsel,
18 The aorist tense reiterates the truth in Ephesians 2:6 that believers are posi-
tionally in heaven (Robert G. Gromacki, Stand Perfect in Wisdom: An Exposition of
Colossians and Philemon [
330 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1994
giveness of sins" (1:14). The preposition e]n, though often rendered
"by," should here be translated "in" (cf. Eph. 1:7, 10, 13; Col. 2:3,
2 Tim. 1:9).
agent by which redemption is accomplished.19 However, the idea
of the saints being in the light and being placed into the kingdom
adds force to the view that redemption is in Him. Romans 3:24
weaves together the ideas of redemption and the believer's posi-
tion in Christ: "through the redemption which is in Christ."20
With this interpretation is the conclusion that "forgiveness of
sins" is indeed appositional to redemption (as already sug-
gested).21 It further defines and clarifies redemption, not fully or
exhaustively, but enough to carry the intended meaning to the
reader. This identification is the crux of the issue for the believer.
Whatever "in Him" means, it at least speaks to the inseparable
identification of the believer and his Lord. It most likely is a
locative of sphere (of Jesus Christ),22 and since this passage fo-
cuses on the believer's spiritual destiny, the spiritual union of the
believer and Christ seems to be emphasized (cf. Col. 3:1-3).23
Most commentators agree that Colossians 1:14 could have
been a specific rejoinder against a false Colossian view on the
work and efficiency of Christ in relation to the true gospel mes-
sage (see 2:18). Colossians 1:14 is strikingly similar to Eph-
esians 1:7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the
forgiveness of our trespasses." The sin that has clung to
mankind since the Fall in Genesis 3 was not a mere triviality,
not something to be passed over without a second glance. God is a
just God, and sin carries a price. That debt was obtained by one
man, Adam, and its consequence was death (Rom. 5:12). The
progeny of Adam are carriers of this debt, this burden. Christ was
the lifeline, the only means of rescue, in the sea of sin. In the syn-
cretistic religious culture of
all-sufficiency was a central issue for the Apostle Paul. Any theo-
logical aberration that undermined the all-sufficiency of Christ
also jeopardized the verity of the redemption "in Him." A Chris-
19 Gordon H. Clark, Colossians: Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Mes-
sage (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979), 30.
20 The second attributive position allows the phrase e]n Xrist&? ]Ihsou? to modify
the leading noun (th?j a]polutrw<sewj), thus pointing to the quality or kind of re-
21 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6
Broadman, 1931), 4:477.
23 Hendriksen, Exposition of Colossians and Philemon, 65.
The Doctrine of Salvation in Colossians 331
tology that lessens Christ and His power lessens His role in sal-
vation and the integrity of that salvation.
In another parallel on the theme of redemption, Paul wrote,
"But by His [God's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to
us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and
redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). The context of this passage states that
Christ's work and the gospel were seen as foolishness, and to
Gentiles, redemption carried little of the meaning it would have
for Jews. Greek philosophy did not include a Judeo-Christian
concept of sin, wrath, and atonement. Deities in the Greek pan-
theon were too fickle and involved in their own affairs to adhere
to any sense of a perfect justice, as is presented in the Scriptures.
Any type of redemption in the pagan mythology was motivated by
petty jealousy or some type of law that even the gods were under.
REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS
The end of Colossians 1:14, which speaks of Christ's power to
forgive sins is a direct statement in support of His deity. In fact it
was this claim (though not exclusively) that spurred the wrath of
the Pharisees, and contributed ultimately to His crucifixion. In
healing a paralytic man, Christ first demonstrated His ability to
forgive sins (Mark 2:5-12). The scribes whispered among them-
selves in essence, "Blasphemy, who does this man think he is?
Only God forgives sin!" (v. 7). This was Jesus' exact point. He
can forgive sins because He is God in the flesh. Colossians 1:19
affirms the glorious truth that in Him all the fullness of deity
dwells in bodily form. The Pharisees could not bear the idea of
God in the flesh usurping their religious power over the populace;
and to the Colossians, who were delving into dualistic philosophy,
this concept certainly did not support their ascetic presuppositions
concerning flesh, spirit, and spirituality.
All these components of salvation—inheritance, deliver-
ance, redemption, and forgiveness—are because of God the Fa-
ther (v. 12), who in eternity past predestined and chose, according
to His will, those who would believe. This is His prerogative and
blessing bestowed on those who are undeserving.
Colossians 1:19-23 addresses several aspects of the subject of
For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell
in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, hav-
ing made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I
say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although
332 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1994
you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil
deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through
death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and
beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly estab-
lished and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the
gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation
under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
THE DEFINITION OF RECONCILIATION
The term a]pokata<llacai occurs in verses 20 and 22 and in
Ephesians 2:16. The prefixed preposition a]po suggests intensity
or completeness.24 In both passages it is important to note that this
type of reconciliation is not simply concession after mutual hos-
tility. It is used strictly in reference to man, not God. In 2 Corin-
thians 5:18-19, another passage on reconciliation, which uses the
term katalla<ssw, Paul wrote of sin not being reckoned to believ-
ers. This barrier of sin is truly a problem in man's relationship
to God. Scripture leaves no doubt as to the corruption of mankind
and the fact that this corruption, which is an effrontery before
God, required reconciliation.25 This reconciliation occurred
through the Cross. The Cross not only brought reconciliation and
an end to enmity between God and sinners, but it also is the
means of reconciliation between individuals (Eph. 2:16).
THE INITIATOR OF RECONCILIATION
Colossians 1:20 depicts God reconciling all things to Him-
self. The unsaved are incapable of seeking reconciliation. No
one seeks God (Rom. 3:11), and all the unregenerate are enemies
of God (5:10). The depraved state of sinful humanity renders in-
dividuals spiritually dead, incapable, and unworthy. Despite all
these accusations, God the Father, through the blood of Christ, rec-
onciled sinners, while they were yet His enemies. Reflecting on
one's former state before God, a believer can more fully appreci-
ate the truth of salvation by grace. Enemies do not deserve grace.
The fact that grace is unmerited makes it a beautiful yet confus-
ing thing to the human mind.
THE EXTENT OF RECONCILIATION
Because God reconciles sinners to Himself, by means of the
blood of His Son, its effects are all inclusive. The Cross thus af-
fects not only mankind but also the entire cosmos: "and through
24 S. Lewis Johnson, "From Enmity to Amity," Bibliotheca Sacra 121 (April-June,
25 Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (
The Doctrine of Salvation in Colossians 333
Him 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" (Col. 1:20).
The phrase "through Him" (di ] au]tou?) demonstrates that
Christ is the intermediate Agent through whom God effected the
reconciliation. Though God the Father is not mentioned in this
passage specifically, contextual considerations indicate that He
uses Christ to bring about His objectives. Through the Son's work
the Father reconciles sinners.26
However, in what sense does God reconcile all things to
Himself? One answer is that God, through Christ's death, has
somehow fully reconciled all fallen humanity, and that therefore
salvation has been procured for all. However, this view conflicts
with other Scripture. Universalism, though taught by some, has
never been a consensus of the orthodox church. The following
ramifications logically emanate from such an interpretation: (1)
Faith would be totally unnecessary. (2) The many biblical refer-
ences to hell and eternal suffering would need to be reinterpreted.
(3) Sin; forgiveness, and grace would be unimportant.27
The absurdity of these conclusions, when taken in light of all
Scripture, shows that this view is untenable. The proper view is
that reconciliation of all things means that God's legitimate
reign over all creation will be restored. Through Jesus God will
reign over all things because all things will be summed up in
Christ (a]nakefalaiw<sasqai ta> pa<nta e]n t&? Xrist&?, Eph. 1:10).
THE OBJECT OF RECONCILIATION
The obvious target of God's reconciliation is fallen human-
ity. As He removed the barrier that stood between God and
mankind, He took care of the wrath that comes on the sons of dis-
obedience (Col. 3:6). The fact that the barrier has been removed
does not mean reconciliation has been appropriated. As Wal-
voord states, "the act of reconciliation in the death of Christ does
not in itself effect reconciliation for the individual, but rather .. .
it is provisional and makes possible the reconciliation of the
individual."28 However, people by nature do not desire to take
advantage of this situation on their own accord. This does not de-
tract from the reconciling work of the Father, for it had to be in
26 Clark, Colossians: Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Message, 50.
27 Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (
van, 1982), 406-8.
28 John Walvoord, "Reconciliation," Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (January—March 1963):
334 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1994
place to be in accord with His nature. For this reason Christ be-
came "sin on our behalf' (2 Cor. 5:21).
RECONCILIATION OF CREATION
Another aspect of the reconciliation of all things on the earth
is the inclusion of all physical creation. The Fall had a definite
effect on the physical creation. As Adam and Eve were being ex-
pelled from the Garden of Eden, God informed them that because
of their sins, even the ground would be cursed (hmAdAxEhA hrAUrxE), and
it would produce thorns and thistles, along with their crops (Gen.
3:17-18). A New Testament witness to this fact is Romans 8:19-22,
which addresses mankind's responsibility for nature's fall.29
Creation waits with eager anticipation (a]pokaradoki<a) to be set
free from "the servility of corruption" (vv. 19-21). Moreover, cre-
ation "groans and suffers" (v. 22), while God, in reconciling ta>
pa<nta ("all things") to Himself, prepares to put creation itself un-
der His authority and rule, through the administrative reign of
Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15-20 proclaims Christ as the cosmic
Head who is "before all things" (v. 17). When Christ is officially
inaugurated as the cosmic Potentate at the beginning of the eter-
nal state, the earth will have its day of reckoning and redemp-
tion, and will be transformed (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 21:1).30
RECONCILIATION OF THE HEAVENS
The worshiping of angels was part of the heretical practice in
the Colossian church (Col. 2:18). Christ's authority over all cre-
ation (1:16-17) suggests that there will be an end to the spiritual
tension present in the heavenly places. Colossians 1:16 speaks of
thrones (qro<noi), dominions (kurio<thtej), principalities (a@rxai),
and powers (e]cousi<ai), the potentates of the angelic realm (cf.
Eph. 3:10).31 Spiritual warfare in the heavenlies results in con-
flict in this life between the believer and satanic powers (6:10-18).
However, Christ, at the right hand of the Father, possesses author-
ity over the angelic realm, though at the present time that realm
has not come under final judgment. In spite of the presence of evil
in the heavenlies (cf. Job 15:15), the angelic realm will be subject
to God's work of reconciliation.32 Philippians 2:10 states that as a
result of His work on the cross, Christ will be exalted, and that at
His name "every knee shall bow, of those who are in heaven, and
29 See Charles C. Ryrie, ed., The Ryrie Study Bible (NASB), note on Romans 8:20.
30 Clark, Colossians: Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Message, 51.
31 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 46.
32 Gromacki, Stand Perfect in Wisdom, 74.
The Doctrine of Salvation in Colossians 335
on earth, and under the earth." This is an all-inclusive state-
ment, affecting all creation (cf. Eph. 1:10). Though this digres-
sion on the reconciliation of creation seems to wander from the
soteriological examination of Colossians, it is necessary to
demonstrate the complex nature of soteriology, which affects both
mankind and the environment designed for their rule.
CONTRASTS IN MINDSETS ON RECONCILIATION
Former condition. Paul's message in Colossians 1:21 nar-
rows in focus to the unbeliever's estrangement from God: "you
were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil
deeds." He contrasted the Colossians' former and present condi-
tions by the words "formerly" (pote, v. 21) and "yet now" (nuni>
de>, v. 22). This points up the dramatic change in the believer's
quality of life that was accomplished by God
(cf. Eph. 2:11-13;
3:7-8; Phile. 11).33
"Formerly" they were "alienated" (a]phllotriwme<nouj) from
God (cf. Eph. 2:12; 4:18). This alienation was born out of igno-
rance. This ignorance was a spiritual not an intellectual lack of
knowledge (4:18). The same passage in Ephesians speaks of "the
darkened mind" (e]skotwme<noi t^? dianoi<%) of the unsaved. As en-
emies (e]xqrou<j) of God (Col. 1:21), the unregenerate are definitely
"hostile" toward God, and this relationship is in some way recip-
rocated by God.34 In light of God's dealings with sin in the Old
Testament and His dealings with His enemies in the New Tes-
tament (e.g., He will put "all His enemies under His feet," 1 Cor.
15:25), the wrath of God is an active element against His enemies,
not just a passive attitude (Rom. 1:18). Acording to Romans 8:7,
the mindset (fro<nhma) of the flesh is enmity against God, and this
hostility manifests itself in deeds of wickedness.35 Just as faith
will manifest itself in a tangible way in the believer's overt ac-
tions toward others, so also will powerful and sinful states of
mind be revealed by "evil deeds" (e]n toi?j e@rgoij toi?j ponhroi?j,
Col. 1:21; cf. James 2:14-26). This enmity is in the mind (t^? di-
anoi<%). This word translated "mind" is used almost synony-
mously with kardi<a ("heart") in the Septuagint in referring to the
totality of the individual (Gen. 8:21; Deut. 4:39).36
Present condition. "Yet He has now reconciled you in His
33 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 66.
34 E. H. Gifford, The Epistle of
35 Hendriksen, Exposition of Colossians and Philemon, 83.
36 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 66.
336 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1994
fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him
holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Col. 1:22).
After establishing the extent of the believer's former condi-
tion (1:21), Paul then disclosed the purpose of the reconciliation
("to present," parasth?sai, a purpose infinitive giving the in-
tended goal of the reconciliation37), along with a description of the
means ("in His fleshly body through death"). By stressing the
fact of Jesus' "body of flesh," Paul blatantly renounced any of the
dualistic philosophies that might have seeped into the Colossian
church and fully upheld the integrity of Christ's Person, by link-
ing the Incarnation and the Atonement.38 As Eadie wrote,
The whole phrase makes plain that the reconciliation of the
Colossians was accomplished by one who was truly incarnate
(against a docetic understanding of Jesus' historical life) and who
really died (dia< tou? qana<tou; against a gnostic[like] interpretation
which glossed over his death as unreal (cf. Eph. 2:14, 16).39
The prepositions Paul used support this interpretation: e]n speaks
to the issue of the sphere of the uniting operation before death, and
dia< points to the instrumental cause.40 By identification,
believers are positionally holy (a[gi<ouj), blameless (a]mw<mouj), and
beyond reproach (a]negklh<touj). And they are to manifest these
qualities in their Christian walk. The three adjectives together
indicate faultlessness, in a somewhat liturgical formula.41
The conditional clause in verse 23 ("if indeed you continue
in the faith") at first glance may seem difficult to reconcile with
the truths Paul presented in the preceding verses. God the Father
reconciles sinners to Himself, based on His own sovereign will.
It is He who redeems believing sinners, qualifies them for an in-
heritance, transfers them to His Son's kingdom, and through
Christ presents them holy, blameless, and beyond reproach.
Does verse 23 place believers in the position of determining
their own destiny? The "if" clause has been rendered variously:
37 Bruce, Epistle to the Colossians, Philemon, and to the Ephesians, 78.
38 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 68.
39 John Eadie, Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians (1856; reprint, Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 82.
40 This verb can suggest presenting a sacrifice or it can convey a legal placement
of a case before a court (Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Jr., A Linguistic Key to
the Greek New Testament [
41 Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, 65.
The Doctrine of Salvation in Colossians 337
"if indeed you continue" (NASB), "if you continue" (NIV), "if ye
continue" (KJV), "provided that" (RSV), "as long as you persevere"
words ei@ ge ("if indeed") do not express doubt. This conditional
clause does not undermine the efficacy of the work of God, and
certainly the apostle did not oscillate between a theocentric grace-
oriented theology and an anthropocentric works-based theology.
The conditional clause is a first class condition, which assumes
the statement of the protasis to be true for the sake of argument.
The reality or actuality of the protasis cannot be determined by the
mere presence of the first class condition.42 Writing from a pas-
tor's heart, Paul assumed that those who respond to the call of the
gospel will continue in it. The basic idea here is that
"continuance is the test of reality."43 "The call is to a steadfast-
ness in the face of the danger of being drawn away from the apos-
Paul never vouched for his audience's salvation without good
reason, and he seems to have sufficient reason to be encouraged
by the Colossian believers' development of faith (2:5). Though the
gospel was flourishing at
Paul assumed everyone in the church was saved, especially
among those who were proliferating the heresy. In fact in this
epistle several crucial doctrinal questions are discussed that in-
dicate some source of tension.
whether he had labored over some of them in vain (Gal. 4:11). As
Charles Spurgeon said, "I believe not so much in the perseverance
of the saints as in the perseverance of the Saviour."45
The conditional clause in Colossians 1:23 seems almost
rhetorical, expecting a positive answer. O'Brien paraphrased it
in this way: "at any rate if you stand firm in the faith, and I am
sure that you will."46 The clause expresses the idea that if they
were reconciled, then their faith would in fact continue. Paul did
not hesitate to sort those who merely professed Christ from those
who evidenced their possession of faith in Christ. The latter are
those whose faith is "firmly established and steadfast"
(teqemeliwme<noi kai> e[drai?oi). In Jesus' analogy in Matthew 7:24
27, the house built on solid rock stood "for it had been founded"
43 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 69.
45 Cited by Johnson, "From Enmity to Amity," 147.
46 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 69.
338 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1994
(teqemeli<wto) on firm material. Similarly believers, those who
are in God's house, will stand firm, because its unshakable foun-
dation is Christ (1 Cor. 3:10; 2 Tim. 2:19).47 The Colossians were
exhorted to continue in "the faith" (t^? pi<stei). Their confidence
was to be in the objective apostolic doctrine of the gospel, not some
subjective experience. In other Pauline literature (cf. Rom. 6:1;
11:22-23; 1 Tim. 4:16) e]pime<nw ("continue") with the dative indi-
cates "to persist in or persevere."48 Faith then is used in the sense
of a place to stay or remain, more than just an activity.49 As doc-
trinal heresies crept in through religious syncretism, it was im-
portant that their faith remain undaunted, firm in Christ's work.
Though the Colossian heretics tried to minimize the Person and
work of Christ, the believers knew their salvation depended on the
gospel they had obtained.50
The doctrine of salvation is the core of Christianity, not a side
issue or a trivial theological subject. With passionate fervor Paul
wrote about the Person of Christ and described in detail the
means, methods, and motives of salvation. Salvation is a work of
the Father, accomplished by the Son of God, and is evidenced
through the faith and faithfulness of believers. The motivation is
the Father's love, and nothing else. All these theological tenets
intertwine in the marvelous doctrine of grace. In answer to the
false teachers and religious syncretism, Paul presented the only
means of salvation, namely, Christ's redeeming work wrought
on the cross. Thomas asked the Son of God Himself, "Lord, we do
not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" He
replied, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to
the Father, but through Me" (John 14:5-6).
47 Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, 66.
48 O'Brien, Colossians and Philemon, 69.
49 Wright, Colossians and Philemon, 84.
50 Gromacki, Stand Perfect in Wisdom, 79.
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