Questions: Epistles of Paul

In exploring incarnational, Trinitarian theology, questions arise about specific passages of Scripture. This page addresses questions related to the books of Romans through Philemon.

Romans 1:18
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...

How can a loving God be a God of wrath? The answer is that God's wrath is an expression of his being, which is love (1 John 4:8). Because God is love, he loves us. And God finds the evil that hurts his children to be intolerable, and he, in his wrath, judges that evil. However, what Paul tells us in Romans is that God has already accomplished this judgment against sin and evil through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of his Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, God poured out his wrath on all sin. And through Christ, God's wrath is ended - the enmity humanity created between itself and God through sin, is ended.

God has reconciled himself to all humanity, through Jesus. Yet, in love, God continues to extend to all people the freedom to choose to accept or to reject God's love for them. To accept his love means accepting God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and to admit that we have been sinful creatures in hateful opposition to God. That’s what it means to “accept” Christ. We accept our sinfulness and estrangement from God and acknowledge our faith that through Christ and his redemptive work we have been given reconciliation, transformation and eternal life in God as a free gift – and that we are free from wrath.

Ephesians 2:1-10 describes the human journey from being the objects of God’s wrath to receiving salvation by his grace. God’s purpose from the beginning is to express his love toward humans in the forgiveness of the world’s sin through the work of Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-8) is instructive about mankind’s situation in relationship to God. It shows that there is an essential and, we might say, “built in” wrath by God against sinfulness in man that he purposed to eliminate through a real reconciliation he initiates and brings to fruition in Christ (Ephesians 2:15-18; Colossians 1:19-23). To say this reconciliation is real is to acknowledge that repentance and reconciliation come about not through human words, emotion or even our desire to do God’s will, but through the actual Person of and saving work in Christ by God on our behalf. That saving work was carried out as “loving wrath” against sinfulness and for us as persons. Because all humanity has been included "in Christ," no person is the object of God's wrath - God has reconciled himself to all.

Salvation is God’s rescue program in Christ –“who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). To repeat, human beings by nature are God’s enemies and this animosity causes a necessary and spontaneous countermeasure from a holy and loving God – his wrath. But from the beginning, God has purposed out of his love to end the human-caused wrath through sin by the saving work of Christ. It is through God’s love that we are reconciled to him in his own saving work in the death and life of his Son (Romans 5:9-10; John 3:16).

In summary, when speaking of “God’s wrath” it is important to consider how it is that God purposed to eliminate it. We thank God that God’s wrath disappears when sin is conquered and destroyed. We have assurance in the promise of his peace toward us because he has once and for all dealt with sin in Christ. God has reconciled us to himself in the saving work of his Son, thus ending his wrath through reconciliation, as it were. God’s “wrath” against sin and sinfulness is presupposed in his sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to personally win the final victory over this enemy of God. If God did not war against all forms of sinfulness – if he had no “wrath” against it – he would have seen no need to send his Son in human form as Jesus (John 1:1, 14) to destroy this enemy of his very Being and his purpose in man.

When we read the New Testament statement that God so loved the world that he sent his Son – and that whoever believes in him will not perish (John 3:16) – we are to understand from this very act that God is “wrathful” against sin. But in his war against sinfulness, God does not condemn sinful man, but saves him from it for reconciliation and eternal life. God’s “wrath” is not intended to “condemn the world,” (John 3:17) but to condemn and destroy the power of sin in all its forms so that humans may have an eternal relationship of love with him.

Romans 8:9
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

How can all be included when Paul here refers to some as not "belonging" to Christ? The sentence “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” is not meant to be lifted out of context and turned into a proof that some people do not belong to God. In the context of this passage, Paul is addressing believers; he is not making a statement here about non-believers. He is warning disobedient believers who are refusing to submit to the Holy Spirit in their lives. In effect, he is saying, “You say that the Spirit of God is in you, and you are right. However, your life should be reflecting the presence of the Spirit of Christ.” As Paul says in verse 12, “We have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature…” (see verses 10-17).

Does Jesus not love the person who "does not belong to Christ"? Of course, Jesus loves this person - he died for all people. But because this person is not controlled by the Spirit (is not a believer), they do not subjectively "belong" to Jesus. However, in an objective sense, the person certainly does belong to Jesus, who created them and died to reconcile them to the Father.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:11: "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." Ephesians 4:6 adds: "One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." All are included—all belong to Christ; but not yet all know it and believe it and therefore do not experience and live out their new life in him.

Romans 8:29
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

What does Paul mean by "predestined"? Let's first remember that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Our salvation does not rest on what we do, but on what Christ has done. Through the Incarnation of his only Son, God redeemed no less than the whole creation (not just some part of the creation, nor just some people and not others). When we talk about the redemption of the creation through the Incarnation of the Son of God (Jesus’ conception, birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension), we are not talking about just some logical argument or some finely tuned set of propositions. We are talking about the mystery of ultimate Truth itself, the mystery contained in the being of God’s own Son.

When the Son of God takes up the created order into himself by becoming something he was not (that is, human), what he takes up into himself cannot fail to be redeemed, because it has been taken into the One who “upholds the universe by his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3). When we trust in Christ, we are not just hoping things will work out all right, we are in communion with the Reality who eternally makes all things all right. It’s all summed up in Romans 8:31-39.

We have been predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. It was God’s great plan from the beginning, the mystery of the ages revealed in Jesus Christ at the fullness of time, to redeem wayward humanity (all of us) to himself. Some people are called to faith in Christ and taste his redemption before others (Ephesians 1:12). Those called to faith early are a living testament to the grace God has poured out on the world, a grace that will come fully into view at the appearing of Christ (Titus 2:11-14). And it is all done according to the foreknowledge of the God of grace who has been working out in Christ his gracious plan for humanity from the beginning (Matthew 25:34).

The creation cannot fail to be redeemed and transformed when the Son of God takes it up into his own being. It becomes a new creation. As the original creation was declared “good” by God, then spoiled by rebellion, so the new creation is made “good” in Christ, and cannot be spoiled, because it dwells in the uncreated light of the Son. What God makes is good. Human freedom is good. What humans have done with that good gift of freedom is not good. But, in Christ, God redeems sinners. In Christ, God chooses all.

The doctrine of predestination is sometimes referred to as “election,” in the sense that God chooses some people out from among others for his own purposes. Abraham was chosen, or elected, by God, for example, as were his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob. Other chosen ones included Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, and of course, the people of Israel were chosen from among the other nations.

The apostle Paul wrote about predestination in several passages. In Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul emphasizes that election is specifically “in Christ” and that it is solely a matter of God’s own choice for his own purposes.

Then, in Romans 9-11, Paul takes the question of election further by exploring the question of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. In the course of his argument in Romans 9-11, Paul asks the question, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory – including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-24).

As you might expect, this passage has been much debated over the centuries. Taken out of its context, it sounds a lot like double predestination – some predestined to be saved, the rest predestined to be damned. But we should take note of two important factors. First, Paul is not making a statement. Instead, he is asking the question What if? The point he is making in Romans 9 and 10 is that:

1) Israel has failed to be found righteous before God because they sought after righteousness their own way instead of putting their trust in Christ.

2) This does not mean that God’s covenant promises have failed, however, because God is free to have mercy on whomever he chooses.

3) God has had mercy on the gentiles by bringing them into the kingdom through faith, and he has had mercy on Israel by saving a remnant though faith.

Second, Paul answers in chapter 11 the dilemmas he set up in chapters 9 and 10. “So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (verses 11-12).

Yes, Paul argues, Israel has rejected Christ and therefore, except for a believing remnant, falls under the covenant judgments. But… then comes the biggest and best But statement in the world! “And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23).

That’s right. Initial unbelief is not the end of the story, after all. These people rejected Christ, yet God still holds out hope for them, hope rooted in his eternal purpose for humans and manifest in his gracious love and power to bring people, in Christ, into his kingdom. The God who is forever faithful to his covenant love provides opportunity for unbelievers to become believers, and he can do it even for dead, unbelieving Israelites. Through Christ, unbelief can turn into belief!

Paul continues: “So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, ‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (verses 25-27).

God works in his own ways and in his own times, but his work is aimed toward one final outcome, his will for all people to be saved: “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (verses 32-33).

Even if God were to pre-consign some to damnation and some to salvation, we would have no room to complain, because pots don’t tell the potter how to make them. But the good news, the gospel truth, is that even though God has every right to destroy us all, he instead takes our sins on himself in Christ and so redeems us and saves us. God knows what he is doing – giving us his kingdom – regardless of how it sometimes looks to us, and we can trust him to do it.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Why does Paul speak of some losing their reward? Paul makes a similar point in Galatians 6:7-8: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." Paul's point is that God gives his free gift of reconciliation in Jesus to all, but those who, through the Spirit, embrace it and live in Christ will experience rewards now and into eternity.

Note what Michael Jinkins writes:
"This leads us to understand that the life God desires us to live is the quality of life we see in Jesus Christ, the 'passionate' life, as Moltmann described it, the life freely poured out for the sake of others, abandoning any self-filling security, trusting instead to be filled by God, the eternal source. This life, which is by definition life in community, reflects the inner life of God, the perichoretic life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the mutual penetration of divine persons in self-abandonment and mutual participation. It is this life of perichoresis, or coinherence, which forms the center of our ethics because it is also this life eternal that provides the meaning of our justification and our sanctification" (Invitation to Theology, p. 244).

Ephesians 1:13
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  

Reading this, one might ask, "How can we say that the whole world is already included in Christ, when not everyone has yet heard the gospel?" To answer, we need to note the larger passage in Ephesians chapter one (vv3-14, with v13 bold-faced):

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory.
Note that the primary subject here is what God predetermined to do, and now has done, in order to make us his children through adoption (v5) - an act that makes us "holy and blameless in his sight" (v4). God predestined us for this "before creation" (v4), thus the choosing for adoption has nothing to do with our action (including our personal belief). Moreover, the steps taken to make us his children were taken by God at no cost to us (from our perspective, this status is given to us "freely", v6).

Also note (and this is critical), that this status is granted to us "in Christ." For Paul, the phrase, "in Christ" sums up a large and glorious truth about what happened to humanity through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. By joining our humanity to his divinity, then living, dying, rising to new life and taking that life to heaven, Jesus re-created our humanity; as Paul says in v7, he accomplished humanity's "redemption." And when did that occur? "When the times..reached their fulfillment" (v10a), a time Paul pinpoints here as occurring when Jesus gave his life for us ("through his blood," v7). And that event occurred nearly 2,000 years ago! Thus it is for us (all humanity), an accomplished fact.

However, not all people know of this accomplished fact. And thus not all have come to believe in, and thereby embrace their true status as dearly loved, adopted children of God, in Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit on this side of Jesus' ascension to heaven is to make this adoption/redemption known to humanity. That is why Paul here addresses these first-century Ephesian believers as among "the first to hope in Christ" (v12). And speaking of these believers (those who know of their adoption/inclusion), he says in v13 that they came to know of it (and subsequently believe in it) when they heard "the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (v13b).

Given this flow of Paul's logic, we are not justified in reading v13 as though it says that it is our belief that causes (or leads to) our inclusion/adoption in Christ. Unfortunately, the way the NIV translates this verse might lead us to this erroneous reading. The more literal NASB translation is to be preferred:
13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
It is not our belief that makes us God's adopted children. However when the Holy Spirit leads us to personal belief, he begins a special/new work in our lives by which we are "sealed." Through this sealing (the sealing of this knowledge in our minds and hearts), our adoption becomes "real" to us - it becomes our new, defining identity. Through the Spirit's work in our lives we come to understand and embrace who we actually are in Christ (God's adopted children). For us, this realization changes everything. It is one thing to be a child of God and not know it. It is quite another to be a child and know and embrace it - thus allowing that knowledge to redefine and thus transform our lives. It''s tantamount to being born again!

Part of what this gift of knowledge from the Holy Spirit brings to us is the great and abiding hope of our coming "inheritance" as God's children (v14). We are God's children already, however, there is a glory as his children that is our inheritance coming in the future. And only those sealed by the Spirit have this hope. And with that hope, this assurance, comes a sacred calling from the Father to join with Jesus who, through the Holy Spirit, is helping more and more of God's children come to know who they truly are.

Philippians 2:12-13
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

What does Paul mean, “work out your salvation"?  Paul writes this from prison, and he knows well the implications of carrying the Gospel message into a hostile world. It is becoming very dangerous to be a follower of Jesus. And Paul wants to encourage the Christians in Philippi to continue to put their faith into action, working whatever good work their salvation inspires them to do despite the fear of persecution.

Paul is not saying that we are to work for our salvation as though it is attained by our good works. At about the same time that Paul wrote this to the church in Philippi, Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 2:5-8 he says that God, "made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." Paul is not undoing in Philippians what he wrote at about the same time in Ephesians. Salvation is of grace from first to last, and we "work out" or "live out" this gift, or live out of this gift, as we share in the love and life of Jesus, which is our salvation.

Colossians 1:15
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Does this mean Christ was created? No. In Colossians 1:18, Jesus is called the “firstborn from the dead.” In Romans 8:29, he is called the “firstborn among many brethren.” “Firstborn” is from the Greek word prototokos, and, when used of Jesus, it is a title rather than indicating when he was “born” in the sense of the Greek word gennao.

Jesus held the title “firstborn” from eternity. In Colossians 1:15, he is called the “firstborn over all creation” by virtue of having created all things under the Father’s direction. The title “firstborn” signifies Christ in his relationship to the Father—he was before creation and produced all creation. This title indicates the preeminence of Christ in relationship to the church. He also is the first to rise permanently from the grave, but this is not related to gennao. It was a resurrection, not a birth. Jesus Christ is firstborn in many capacities.

“Firstborn” is used as a title in Exodus 4:22, where Israel is called God’s firstborn. This does not assert that Israel was the first nation or that others would be born later; the Jews did not understand it in that way. Rather, “firstborn” signifies a special relationship with God. We see the same in Psalm 89:20-27—David will be God’s firstborn, higher than other kings of earth. He was not the first king God appointed to be over Israel, nor was he his father’s first child. He was the first in his royal line, but this prophecy in Psalm 89 had nothing to do with birth.

The title “firstborn” often goes to the oldest male child, but not always (Genesis 48:14-19). In reference to Christ, it is a title of preeminence and privilege over creation and the church.

The church has a special position and relationship with God. In Hebrews 12:23 we are called “the church of the firstborn,” and this word is plural, indicating that we are all reckoned as firstborn, as inheritors. Again, this is used as a title of honor and preeminence.

When you read Col. 1:15 and the surrounding passage in its entirety, it actually contradicts the idea that Christ is a created being. In fact, Paul wrote his letter, in part, to combat an apparent heresy in the Colossian church that deprecated the person, nature and work of Jesus Christ. Paul here proclaims the unqualified supremacy of Christ in everything. It is clear that Paul proclaims Christ to be uncreated and divine, and of the very being of God. Elsewhere, he says of Christ Jesus that he is “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:15).

Paul explains that Christ is the “image of the invisible God” (verse 15). That could only be true if he himself is of the same nature as the Father—and with the Father (and Holy Spirit) is uncreated God. The nature and being of God could only be perfectly revealed or imaged in Christ if he was deity in nature and essence.

Christ was not a created creature as the angels or some undefined “super creature,” but, as Colossians 1:15 states, “By him were all things created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” Christ himself created the heavenly angelic beings, no matter how exalted they may be; he was not one of them.

To summarize,Christ is said to be the “firstborn over all creation.” Notice that the passage does not say Christ is the firstborn of all creation. He is not simply the highest form of God’s creation; he is God who has created all things. In this context, the word “firstborn,” or protokos in Greek means both priority in time and supremacy in rank. The word finds its meaning in the cultural setting of the times in which Paul wrote.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 2, says the following of the “firstborn” concept on page 182:
"Some see in the word an allusion to the ancient custom whereby the firstborn in a family was accorded rights and privileges not shared by the other offspring. He was his father’s representative and heir, and to him the management of the household was committed. Following this line of interpretation, we may understand the passage to teach that Christ is his Father’s representative and heir and has the management of the divine household (all creation) committed to him. He is thus Lord over all God’s creation."

The phrase “firstborn over all creation” tells us that Christ has dominion over the creation. He is firstborn or Lord over the creation because he made it. Christ stands apart from the created order because he is uncreated God and he stands over all creation—including the heavenly order of angels. The context itself tells us that we are to understand “firstborn” when it is referenced of Jesus in Colossians 1:15 as meaning priority and supremacy. Jesus Christ, as eternal God and creator of all that exists—who exists outside of creation—would have such utter priority and supremacy.

The logic that states Christ must be a creature in order to have supremacy over creation or be of “first rank” among all that exists is faulty. To begin with, we establish a priori from Scripture that Jesus Christ is true God of true God. Secondly, the conclusion that Jesus Christ is a created creature is a false one. Why would the Creator have to be creature in order to create that which is created? He wouldn’t, of course. That is a spurious construct meant to deflect our eyes from the truth that Jesus Christ is divine, of the very nature, essence and being of God.

Further, it is only God himself through his being and his acts who can save us. Therefore, if Christ were merely a creature—no matter how exalted—he could not save us. Yet, we know that Jesus Christ does save us. This is the foundation of our Christian faith. Therefore, Christ must be true God of true God—a hypostasis or Person within the triune being of the one God.

Colossians 1:16-20
16. For by him [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20. and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

How is it that "all things" are reconciled to God through Christ? The apostle Paul first explains that God created all things in heavenly and earthly realms through Jesus Christ. He also sustains everything that exists because all things that exist are “held together” by him. Something happened then, which Paul does not go into, which required all things in the created order came to need “reconciliation” to God. Whatever this reconciliation was, it brought about “peace” between God and everything that exists, ending alienation between the created order and God. This reconciliation of "all things" was accomplished by Christ’s redemptive work, specifically “through his blood shed on the cross."

From talking about the reconciliation of all things in Christ’s blood, Paul turns to explaining how the members of the church in Colossae had been reconciled to God through Christ’s blood. Paul explains this, continuing in Colossians 1:21 - "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22. 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— 23. if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

Here Paul explains to the Colossian Christians that God had reconciled them by Christ’s blood. They had once alienated themselves from God through their sinfulness—by their “evil behavior.” Christ’s “physical body through death” reconciles our minds and hearts—our being—to God. Prior to the faith that the Colossians had exhibited in Christ, though they had already been reconciled to God through Christ, they had been “alienated from God and were enemies” in their minds toward God, which alienation was expressed by “evil behavior” (verses 21).

So there is a time, then, when people are ignorant of the gospel, live a life of alienation from God, and says Paul, can be considered even to be God’s enemies. This condition changes upon their hearing of the gospel and accepting Christ in faith which comes through his calling in the Spirit (John 6:44) who upholds our belief and makes it authentic and real.

Further, in verses 21-22 Paul speaks of a once/now situation. Once they lived in an alienated state, but only now (after having and expressing faith) do they enjoy the reconciliation of Christ has already won for them. Not only that but the continuing of this reconciled state is contingent on continuing “in your faith,” says Paul. They must continue to hope in the gospel that brings the message of salvation and to be established in reconciliation through continuing faith.

The death of Christ has made it possible for them to be “free from accusation” and to be considered holy and free from any “blemish.” Christ’s redemptive work has been creatively sufficient to clear away any alienation and to make us one with him through his perfect righteousness with us (Gal. 2:20-21, KJV).

Paul explains the central role of faith in receiving Christ’s reconciliation. The Colossian members must “continue in” their faith for this reconciliation to continue to be effective in their individual lives. Presumably, then, for them to receive the reconciliation that Christ had already won for them—and for all things—they also had need to repent, to believe, and follow Christ in faith. Christ’s reconciliation on the cross is totally sufficient for the salvation of all, but such reconciliation is effective individually only upon faith.

How does reconciliation apply to all creation, apart from its covering for human beings? Paul doesn’t explain that here in Colossians. However, Paul does elsewhere speak of the “whole creation” as “groaning” and “subjected to frustration” (Rom. 8:20, 22) at the present time. But this will change and the creation will experience the already won reconciliation to God under which it now exists. “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

Some wonder if Satan and his demons are included in the "all things" reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Christ’s reconciliation applies to the entire created order. What would it mean, then, for the devil and the demons to experience reconciliation with God through Christ? Scripture testifies that “the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). He works as the “god of this age” to blind the minds of unbelievers so that they are unable to understand the gospel of Christ’s reconciliation that he has already won for them (2 Cor. 4:4). At every turn, the devil is pictured as the continuing and sworn enemy of God, not someone who is his friend, in fellowship with him. The devil and his demons refuse to have faith in Christ, to follow him as Lord and Savior, to be obedient to his purpose and will. This means they have rejected the reconciliation that Christ has won for all things in heaven and earth. It is, therefore, a foregone conclusion in the testimony of Scripture that the devil and his angels have rejected God and will receive the self-inflicted punishment of their faithlessness (Matthew 25:41).

2Thessalonians 1:6-9
6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power...

Doesn’t this teach that some will be condemned forever? If so, how can we say all are now reconciled? In Daniel 12:2 we read that "multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” Then in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Paul writes about "everlasting destruction" for those "who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."

Both of these passages refer to the time of the final judgment when Jesus is “revealed” (sometimes referred to as the Second Coming, or Jesus’ “return in glory”). This is the time when all humans will see clearly who Jesus is and thus who they are in union with Jesus. And this “revealing” presents to them a choice—will they say “yes” to their inclusion in Christ, or will they say “no”?

Their decision neither creates nor destroys their inclusion, but it does determine their attitude toward it—whether they will accept God’s love for them and enter the joy of the Lord, or continue in alienation and frustration (and thus in shame and everlasting contempt and destruction). The destruction is a self-destruction as they refuse the purpose for which they have been made, and the redemption that has already been given to them.

In the Judgment, everyone will face Jesus, the Judge who died for all, and they will have to decide whether they will trust him. Those who trust their Savior take part in the joy of the life God has given them in Christ. Those who reject him continue in their hostility and the hell that goes with it.

1Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...

This verse is often used to speak of the "vicarious humanity" of Jesus. What does that mean? Scripture tells us that the eternal Son of God became human through his incarnation, and remains human forever. Note here in 1Tim. 2:5 that Paul refers to Jesus, after his resurrection and ascension, as "the man Christ Jesus." The resurrected, ascended Jesus remains fully God and fully human (now glorified in his humanity). And the one who will return in glory will be fully God and fully human.

Jesus is the permanent union of God and humanity in his own person: one person with two natures. Thus to say that Jesus is the "vicarious human" is a statement concerning the meaning of his humanity for the benefit of all humanity. Because Jesus in his divinity, is humankind's Creator and Sustainer, his humanity has profound import for all people everywhere in all times. In his humanity, he is the unique representative of and substitute ("stand in") for all humanity. This is what we mean by referring to Jesus as the "vicarious human."

Here's what this means: what happened to Jesus in his humanity, happened to all of us. When Jesus (who became sin for us) died to sin, we all died to sin. When he rose victorious from the grave, we all experienced in him victory over death and sin. When the man (resurrected and glorified) Jesus ascended to heaven, we all ascended with and in him (Eph. 2:5-6). Paul says that the lives of all humans are "hidden" in the life of Jesus (Col. 3:3) - we don't now fully see who we are in him, but one day we shall. And forever our lives will remain in him, because forever he remains human - the vicarious human - God with us and for us, as one of us - the one for the many, the many in the one.