And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21–23 (ESV)
As R.C. Lucas points out, these three verses fall out into a very natural outline:
1. What we once were (verse 21);
2. Where we now stand (verse 22); and
3. How we must now go on (verse 23).
Let’s consider just the first issue: What we once were. Lucas writes:
In view of Ephesians 2:12 this reference to estrangement from God suggests that the Colossian Christians had formerly been Gentiles. A ‘hostile mind’ toward God was no Gentile preserve, however, as the crucifixion proved. Such are the appalling consequences of the fall, that all people everywhere are known by a mentality that is naturally antagonistic to the truth of God. The unbeliever’s normal reaction to the view that this verse takes of him will often prove the point. Antagonistic, please note, not merely apathetic. We deceive ourselves if we imagine that human apathy is the problem, and not, deep down, an enmity which resists the claims of God. Fallen man is not therefore ‘good at heart,’ if Jesus is to be believed [e.g. see Mark 7:21-23]. ‘Evil deeds’ are the inevitable result of an evil heart, and persist in every human culture and reappear in every new generation, presenting man in society with his most intractable problems.
Such is the stark and grim description Paul gives of what the Colossians once were, and there is no reason to think that they were have dissented from the verdict, any more than an enlightened Christian would wish to disagree today.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 63
Q. 63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.