The Supremacy Declared: The Supreme Reconciliation (Col. 1:21-23)
I love reconciliations. I love it when two people who have been enemies come together, forgive one another and embrace. Have you ever watched tv sitcoms and usually there is some conflict in the beginning of the show and just as it is about to end, some nice music plays and the people in contention talk about the issue and the problem is solved! I wish life worked that way and though it is unrealistic, that is my favorite part of the show. I love reconciliations. I like it when I am balancing my checkbook and I can account for all the income and expenses. I use financial software and there is a button called “auto reconcile.” I love clicking on that and having all reconciled items fade. Only if there was a button to press for reconciliation in life!
I love reconciliation. You perhaps have heard about it in terms of the divorce courts and perhaps when a divorce is begun there is an effort on the part of the court to try to bring about a reconciliation, that is, to put two warring parties back together again. I like to see husbands and wives work it out and come back together. You may have also heard of racial reconciliation, usually between African Americans and Caucasians to eliminate racism and live in harmony. I like to see people of different races accepting one another. In my life I have had to reconcile with my parents, my sister, my roommates, my friends, in-laws, and now my wife. I hate the tension that conflict brings. I hate the feeling of disunity, sleepless nights, loss of appetite, anger, hurt, bitterness that starts to spread in your soul. Sometimes hurtful words are exchanged. Sometimes terrible attitudes are portrayed. But I love it when we finally reconcile. I love the hugs, tears and the forgiveness. I love the feeling of feeling closer to the person afterwards. I don’t like the “before,” but I love the “after” and hopefully the relationship beyond is better than how it was prior.
In our text today, Paul is going to talk about the greatest reconciliation that has ever taken place in history. That is why the title of the message today is “The Supremacy Declared: The Supreme Reconciliation.” Having just provided for us an awesome portrait of who Christ is, Paul now talks about the awesome work of what Christ has done for us. There were seven supreme characteristics of Christ we looked at and he had ended that list with Christ as the PEACEMAKER between God and sinners. Remember that? Christ is the Ruler of Creation, but He came in skin into creation to bridge the gap from our greatest problem: being separated from God. In fact, Christ the mediator for the SUPREME RECONCILATION. Open your Bibles to Colossians 1: 20-23.
Now when we say reconciliation, it is actually one of the terms used to describe salvation. I want to give you five different angles or pictures of what Christ did for us on the cross:
a) Justification. With justification, the sinner stands accused and is declared righteous (Rom. 5:1).
b) Redemption. With redemption, the sinner stands as a slave and is granted freedom by ransom (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
c) Forgiveness. With forgiveness, the sinner stands as a debtor and is the debt having been paid, is removed and forgotten (Col. 2:13).
d) Adoption. With adoption, the sinner stands as an orphan and stranger and is brought into the family of God as a son or daughter (Gal. 4:4-7).
It is the last word “reconciliation” we want to look at in our message today. Let’s define it: Reconciliation is “the removal of hostility and restoration of fellowship between two parties.” Have you ever seen those pictures, usually in relation to weight loss ads, of people “before” and “after”? When they say “after” they mean, look at them now! In the after picture, they look stunning (of course the after picture is airbrushed or taken in better lighting and the women now have on makeup and the men comb their hair and everyone actually dresses better). The advertisers want us to convince us to use their method. But one thing we usually do not have is their end. How do they look at the end? Did they keep the weight off? And if they did, how did they do it?
Similarly, we are going to look at four truths about the greatest, the most supreme reconciliation in history!
I. THE MISERABLE CONDITION BEFORE RECONCILATION (v.21).
Paul now zooms in on the Colossian believer’s lives. God showed up in their lives! He says, “and
you.” These two words are emphatic, meaning Christ’s work is not just on one some cosmic,
“out there” scale, they were part of it! And believers we are a part of HIS STORY! But before
he mentions what Christ did for them, he says three things about their condition before Christ
showed up and it is true for us as well:
a) We were enemies of God. The word “alienated” means to be “cut off” or “estranged.” It implies isolation, loneliness and a deep sense of not belonging. It implies being an outsider, locked out, cut off, exiled. When you do not know Christ, this is what you are. “Fallen man is not,” CS Lewis said, “an imperfect creature who needs improvement. He is a rebel who needs to lay down his arms.” People do not like to hear this!
Illus: my cousin’s reaction
Illus2: When a great seventeenth-century Christian woman and encourager of God’s servants, Lady Huntingdon, invited one of her friends, the Duchess of Buckingham, to hear George Whitefield preach, she received this reply:… It is monstrous to be told, that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding. 
In our “live and let live, personal-and-postmodern, politically-correct, don’t-you-dare-judge-me-or-my-lifestyle, world, it’s dangerous to call certain behaviors “evil”. But such is surely what they are.”
Everyone is ultimately looking for God. The problem is that not only has man lost the way, they have lost the address as well. Our greatest need is for reconciliation with God.
Jesse Jacobs has made it possible to apologize without actually talking to the person you’ve wronged. Jacobs created an apology hotline. People unable or unwilling to unburden their conscience in person call the hot line and leave a message of apology on an answering machine. Each week, 30-50 calls are logged, as people apologize for things from adultery to embezzlement.
“The hot line offers participants a chance to alleviate their guilt and, to some degree, to own up to their misdeeds,” said Jacobs. “I’m just hoping that these people will feel better themselves, just by getting whatever’s been bothering them off their chest.” One caller to the hot line remarked, “I hope this apology will cleanse me and basically purify my soul…God knows, I need it.”
Is. 59:2: our sins have separated us from God. Eph 2:12=without hope and without God. Remember God was walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden enjoying fellowship with them, but once they sinned, they were expelled from that garden and since then, all humanity has been separated from God. And now all of salvation history is about repairing or mending that separation.
b) We were erroneous in our thinking. How do we know if we are enemies of God? The thoughts of our mind. Enmity means hatred or hostility. Let’s read the parallel reading in Eph 4:17ff. That’s why when the Lord saves us, He renews our mind first. That’s why Paul often spends a good half of his letters dealing with thinking right first before he talks about how to act. A lot of people think they are lost because they have committed some terrible sin, but the fact is that we are lost because we are enemies toward God even in our thoughts.
c) Erroneous thought led to evil behavior. Sin begins in the heart—the root—and results in evil behavior—the fruit. Wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior. It is always this pattern. Wrong thoughts lead to wrong words which lead to wrong habits, which lead to wrong character, which lead to your destiny.
Humanity is in big trouble and we cannot save ourselves! Look at a parallel passage in Romans 5:6-11. Four reasons we can’t save ourselves (you can use this with unbelievers):
1. We don’t have the strength…we are weak (v.6a)
2. We don’t have the merit…we are ungodly (v.6b)
3. We are not good enough…we are unrighteous (v.7)
4. We have offended God…we are sinners (v.8)
5. We are not welcome in his presence…we are his enemies (v.9-10)
Application: We do well to pray for better memories. Do not forget who you were and were you came from. When you sit down to pray, remind yourself who you were. This past weekend I had the opportunity to see my spiritual father. I was reminded again of my salvation. I needed to repent of the fact that I do not remember enough of how my life was without God. You have heard my testimony before, but let me tell you again, I was alienated from God. I thought I was a good friend of God, not realizing my deeds were as filthy rags before Him (Is 64:6). I really did not care for God. I avoided thinking about him. I thought about myself and how to be happy. Even while He was sustaining my life, I was a rebel. I lusted, I was greedy, I have stolen and I have lied, I was self-seeking, proud, my words have hurt others, never thanked Him for anything, never cared for others…I was a religious hypocrite! A miserable condition! Even the night this rebel laid down his arms, I was trying to find a way to not go to the prayer meeting. Is 51:1: “remember which quarry you were dug from.” Beware of self righteousness, believers! Some of us think we are too sexy for our shirt. Go over the 10 commandments some time. We have broken them all! (Jesus said lust=adultery, anger and hatred=murder (Matt. 5:21-30).
II. THE MEANS OF RECONCILIATION (v.22a).
In verse 21, Paul says our “before” picture was a miserable one! Look at verse 22. He says the “after” picture is, on the other hand, a glorious one! We have been reconciled! And he gives us the process or method of how it happened. Literally verse 22 reads, “YET NOW.” What glorious words! As John Newton wrote, “I once was lost, BUT NOW I’m found, was blind BUT NOW I see!” He is about to talk about a sharp contrast with his previous description. How did the reconciliation take place? Notice a couple of things:
a) GOD INITIATED THE TRANSACTION. Notice it starts with God. HE HAS RECONCILED. We were not drowning and He threw us a life raft. We were at the bottom of the ocean, dead. He rescued and resurrected us. He breathed life into our soul and made us alive. The word reconciliation means an exchange. An exchange of hostility for friendship. No longer enemies, but friends!
b) GOD CARRIED OUT THE TRANSCATION BY CHRIST’S DEATH. God carried it out, by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to come and be our substitute. We were separated from God. The chasm between us and God is immeasurable. The payment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). According to God’s law, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). In order to reconcile humans to God, Christ had to become truly human (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:17). So Christ’s real physical body and death were necessary for our salvation (Rom. 7:4; Heb. 10:10). Jesus died to pay for sin. Jesus died in our place. He became the bridge that closed the gap between us and God. There was an exchange. Christ’s robe of righteousness was given to the believer and our sin was placed on Christ.
See parallel passage 2 Cor. 5:17-21.
Look also at Colossians 1:20. Jesus made peace by the blood of the cross. Some people make a big deal about “the blood.” They appeal to the blood and the blood this and the blood that. Some groups think during communion that it turns literally into the blood and body of Christ. Those are extremes. I don’t have time here to deal with this, but when Paul is talking about the blood, he is saying life comes from the blood and when that blood is shed, there is death. Here, Christ’s death was the means to bring about our reconciliation.
John Macarthur: He didn’t die as an animal, nope. He didn’t die as a spirit. He died as a man
for men. You see, that’s what v. 22 means. He died as a sacrifice in verse 20. He died as
a substitution in verse 22. He paid the penalty as a substitute. A perfect substitute. And so
you know what happened? God said, that takes care of my wrath. That substitutionary
death takes care of my wrath. And then Jesus Christ came flying out of the tomb three days
later and moved into the lives of His people so that they might be transformed and that
takes care of that side of it. And I can say with Paul, “For to me to live is (what?)Christ.” God has been appeased and I have been transformed. All because of the Cross. Our salvation is possible only through the death of Christ.
Illus1: On January 26, 2001 Seiko Sakamoto, a plasterer working in a Tokyo subway station, fell into the path of an oncoming train. Lee Su Hyun, a Korean student in Japan for language studies, leaped down on the tracks to save Sakamoto. Both Hyun and Sakamoto were unable to exit the path of the oncoming train and were killed.
This selfless act by the Korean student on behalf of the Japanese laborer has caused many people in Japan to reconsider their long-held prejudices directed toward Koreans. Strong feelings of distrust between the two countries go back to World War II atrocities inflicted upon Koreans by the Japanese. Many Japanese people, including the Prime Minister of Japan, have openly expressed sorrow over their previously held stereotypes of Koreans and have begun to talk about reconciliation. Nobuaki Fujioka, a 62- year-old Japanese said, “I felt a kind of shame. A young foreigner sacrificed his life for a Japanese. This is not an easy thing to do.”
Reconciliation rarely occurs without sacrifice. By giving his one and only Son, God took the initiative in healing our broken relationship with him. He made the supreme sacrifice for us that we might be reconciled to him. 
Illus2: Knowing God has reconciled us should give us confidence when we feel assaulted with our sins from the Enemy. Martin Luther, the great German theologian, had a dream once where the devil was writing down all his sins and telling him unworthy he was. “Devil,” he said to the Accuser, “ you are right and you have forgotten some!” He then took the pen and wrote across his list, “PAID IN FULL.”
Application: Believer, are you down because of your sin? Do you hear the words, “unworthy, unworthy” over and over in your ear? Look up, you have been reconciled! BUT NOW we are reconciled.
III. THE MISSION OF RECONCILIATION (v.22b)
We have a purpose statement in verse 22b: “in order to.” Christ did not make peace with us so that we can continue to be rebels! The cross is not the end of the believer’s life…it is the beginning. God has an end goal in mind. He has an “after” picture. The end goal is a presentation…implying a formal bringing forward for acceptance and acknowledgment. It is before God….”before Him.”
Three words are used to describe believers that day:
a) Holy: set apart, consecrated to God. Like fine china as opposed to regular daily plates. It is a word that describes our relationship with God.
b) Blameless: imagery from OT sacrifice (Num. 6:14). Before a sacrifice was accepted by the high priest, it had to be without blemish. How can we have no blemish/no stain/ no sin on that day? It is because of the righteousness of Christ! The spotless Lamb of God became sin for us! (Heb. 9:14). Here God is the examiner. This word describes our relationship with ourselves. Both “holy” and “blameless” are used in Eph. 1:4.
c) Above reproach: This goes beyond blameless. Paul is mixing metaphors here. This word is a legal term. No one can accuse us of anything (Rom 8:33). This is a legal term. God is the examiner and a judge here, acquitting us of judgment. Not even the accuser of the brethren, Satan himself (Rev. 12:10-11). This word describes relationship with others.
This will happen when the Lord comes. This is called glorification. Our salvation will be complete.
Our bodies will be transformed in a twinkling of an eye. Our sin nature eradicated. There will be a
display from Christ of His trophies of grace. I can picture Christ looking at all believers saying, “You
are the reward of my sacrifice!” What a glorious day that will be! No sin to be found on believer’s
anywhere! No accusation to hurl against us! No doubting ourselves! No guilt, no pity party…pure
Illus: I like Luther’s analogy:
He described the condition of a patient who was mortally ill. The doctor proclaimed that he had medicine that would surely cure the man. The instant the medicine was administered, the doctor declared that the patient was well. At that instant the patient was still sick, but as soon as the medicine passed his lips and entered his body the patient began to get well. So it is with our reconciliation and justification. As soon as we truly believe, that very instant we start to get better; the process of becoming pure and holy is underway and its future completion is certain.7
Now when we read this, we might be tempted to think, “well, I don’t need to worry about my walk with Christ really, because I’m going get glorified at the end!” Paul quickly answers this wrong thinking in verse 23.
IV. THE MAINTANENCE OF RECONCILIATION (V. 23)
See the word, “if.” Here is the proof of the pudding, so to speak. There is no presentation (v.22) without continuation (v.23). How do I know I am reconciled by God? I continue in my Christian walk. There is no trophy without running the race. Sure, we trip at times, but we get up and keep going. We continue. Abiding faith is the evidence of reconciliation. Abiding faith in what? Look at the rest of the verse: the glorious gospel Epaphras (Col. 1:3-8) had preached to them and Paul has been preaching as a servant of God.
Remember in the parable of the soils, Jesus said those who had the rocky soil as “ ‘those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away’ ” (Luke 8:13). Because they fell away after a while, it revealed that they never truly knew the Lord. In John 8:31, “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.’ ”
After hearing some difficult and challenging teaching from Him, many of Jesus’ so called disciples “withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). By so doing, they gave evidence that they had never truly been His disciples.
See the words, “stable and steadfast.” These words are used as metaphors that refer to strength and security, in connection to a house. Remember in Matt. 7:24-27, Jesus talks about the wise man who built his house on a rock and though he was hit in every direction with wind, flood and rain, his house remained. This was in contrast to the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Do you know what else is in context with that story? Just before Jesus shares this he had talked of professing believers who were not possessing believers (Matt. 7:21-23). Which one are you today?
We are not saying here that if you continue, you will be saved. We are saying if you are saved, you will continue. Look at 1 John 2:19: Speaking of apostates, the apostle writes, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”
Illus: Those who came forward to receive Christ at a Wheaton College concert were unsaved Wheaton College students.
See, it doesn’t matter if you signed a card when you were 11 or raised your hand at a conference or said a prayer with your mom, the question is where are you now? If you are not continuing, you are not saved. Sure we backslide and we fall into sin, but the true believer, enabled by God’s grace, repents, gets up and continues serving the Lord, living out the gospel, which is the supreme message about a supreme reconciliation offered to all people on earth from a supreme Christ.
Are you continuing beloved?
D. L. Moody related this incident between his sister and her son:
My sister, I remember, told me her boy said something naughty one morning, when his father said to him, “Sammy, go and ask your mother’s forgiveness.” “I won’t,” replied the child. “If you don’t ask your mother’s forgiveness I’ll put you to bed.” It was early in the morning—before he went to business and the boy didn’t think he would do it. He said “I won’t” again. They undressed him and put him to bed. The father came home at noon expecting to find his boy playing about the house. He didn’t see him about, and asked his wife where he was. “In bed still.” So he went up to the room, and sat down by the bed, and said: “Sammy, I want you to ask your mother’s forgiveness.” But the answer was “No.” The father coaxed and begged, but could not induce the child to ask forgiveness. The father went away, expecting certainly that when he came home at night the child would have got all over it. At night, however, when he got home he found the little fellow still in bed. He had lain there all day. He went to him and tried to get him to go to his mother, but it was no use. His mother went and was equally unsuccessful. That father and mother could not sleep any that night. They expected every moment to hear the knock at their door by their little son. How they wanted to forgive the boy. My sister told me it was just as if death had come into their home. She never passed through such a night. In the morning she went in to him and said: “Now, Sammy, you are going to ask my forgiveness.” But the boy turned his face to the wall and wouldn’t speak. The father came home at noon and the boy was as stubborn as ever. It looked as though the child was going to conquer. It was for the good of the boy that they didn’t want to give him his own way. It is a great deal better for us to submit to God than have our own way. Our own way will lead us to ruin; God’s way leads to life everlasting. The father went off to his office, and that afternoon my sister went in to her son about four o’clock and began to reason with him, and, after talking for some time, she said, “Now, Sammy, say ‘mother.’” “Mother,” said the boy. “Now say ‘for.’” “For.” “Now just say ‘give.’” And the boy repeated “give.” “Me,” said the mother. “Me,” and the little fellow fairly leaped out of bed. “I have said it,” he cried; “take me down to papa, so that I can say it to him.” What a picture of how we are! Just those words, “Father, forgive me,” said from the heart, bring us to God. 
 Mere Christianity.
Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Volume I (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books), p. 132 quoted in Hughes, R. K. (1989). Colossians and Philemon : The supremacy of Christ. Preaching the Word (39). Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books.
 Sam Storms, from the sermon, “before” in Enjoying God Ministries.
 Samantha Gross, “Hot Line Offers ‘Sorry’ Service,”
http://www.WashingtonTimes.com (5-31-04); submitted by Greg
Miller, Madison, Mississippi to preachingtoday.com.
 From the sermon, “Reconciled to God,” gty.org.
 David A. Slagle, Lawrenceville, GA; source: from article in the Washington Post, by Shigehiko Togo and Doug Struck with Joohee Cho submitted to preachingtoday.com.
7 7. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1985), p. 214.
9. Clyde S. Fant, Jr. and William M. Pinson., eds., 20 Centuries of Great Preaching, Volume 6 (Waco, TX: Word), pp. 312, 313.Hughes, R. K. (1989) quoted in Colossians and Philemon : The Supremacy of Christ. Preaching the Word (40). Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books.