Colossians presents an all-embracing picture of reconciliation. The whole cosmos–things in heaven and things on earth–are reconciled to God through Christ (Col 1:20). And people participate in this reconciliation.
Before the Christ hymn, Paul says that God rescued us from darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the beloved son (1:13). And immediately after the Christ hymn we read, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies… But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death.”
The focal point here we too often miss: the place of our reconciliation is not our own hearts when we come to rest in Christ. The place and time of our reconciliation is Jesus’ death on the cross for us.
Similar things appear in Romans, for example, when Paul says, “Having now been justified in his blood…” and “Having been reconciled to God through the death of his son.” The Christ event itself, not the application of it to us, is the transformative reality of the Christian story and the “center” of Paul’s theology.
Reconciliation happens on the cross–and it transforms us. The purpose is to make us before God what we could not be in God’s presence in any other way: holy, faultless, blameless (Co 1:22).
This is one of those points in Paul’s letters where the sweeping power and transformative breadth of the Christ event seems to encompass each and every individual. But to my mind, Paul always seems to step back from this possibility.
This purification and holy standing before God is to be had, “If indeed (εἴ γε) you abide, in faith.”
The person’s union with Christ, and persistence in Christ through faith, hope, and love, seems a necessary prerequisite to participating in the reconciliation won by Christ. God has done the work, in Christ, of reconciling an alienated humanity to Himself. But for as cosmic as its scope is, there is still, it seems, a need to be united to that saving Christ, a reconciliation to be had by faithfully responding to and living into the gospel by which we are called.
The main point, however, is not to limit the application of the salvation or to downplay its breadth. The significant factor is that God has acted to create a reconciled cosmos, and invites us into that cosmic space. It is a place where we stand, not as reconciled individuals, but part of a reconciled humanity freed from enslaving powers that work against God, God’s good, and God’s people.
Cosmic freedom is won, and God transfers us into the space that is once again one with himself.