In the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul restates the Christian story with the following statement in Colossians 1.21-23:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Taken from the New International Version, 2011)
It’s a story of separation and salvation. The Colossians were once a people alienated from God (separation) who now were reconciled (salvation) to God through the death of Jesus Christ.
As good as this story is, it apparently was difficult for them to believe. Someone(s) among the Colossians was doing their best to convince this church that God’s sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ on the cross was insufficient for their salvation. There are not many details given regarding what has traditionally been labeled the “Colossian Heresy.” What is known is that it involved believers submitting themselves to the observance of certain religious rules regarding food and festivals (Col 2.16ff).
The Apostle Paul wants the Colossians to know that Jesus Christ is fully sufficient for their reconciliation with God. The language Paul uses is pretty specific. In v. 22, they are told that God “has reconciled” which is in the past tense (aorist tense for NT Greek readers). It’s not that their reconciliation is fully experienced, as hinted by the infinitive “to present”, but that God has already rendered a decision in Jesus Christ on the cross regarding their reconciliation (see Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, 106). Therefore the Colossians don not have any need for any other than Christ. They do not need Christ plus… But can they accept that? Can they have faith in the decision God has made in Christ or will they turn also to some additional “spiritual” advise?
That’s a question we who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ must ask ourselves as well. Will we have faith in the decision God has made for us in Christ or will we turn to an additional spiritual/religious offering in addition to Christ? Or to put it another way, can we allow the story of separation and salvation to be our complete story or must we believe their is still a separation that needs Christ plus _________ to bring about salvation?
In a subsequent post, I’ll discuss ways in which Christians are still tempted to take a “Christ plus…” option. But for now we really need to wrestle with the stunning and glorious claim of the gospel…to believe that we have been reconciled with God by the death of Jesus Christ, that we can stand before God washed in the blood of Jesus as people who are holy and blameless.