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Sunday, December 11

Reconciled … if we continue (Col 1:21-23)

I was asked about the interchange of tenses in Col 1:21-23. It is part of a much larger theological question that I can’t get into right now, but it is worth looking at the Greek.

Paul writes, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled (ἀποκατήλλαξεν, aorist) in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present (παραστῆσαι, aorist) you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue (ἐπιμένετε, present) in the faith, stable (τεθεμελιωμένοι, perfect) and steadfast, not shifting (μετακινούμενοι, present) from the hope of the gospel” (ESV).

Everyone’s theology, Wesleyan and Calvinists, have to struggle with this passage. And remember, if our theology can’t honestly handle this passage, then our theology is wrong.

Paul says that the accomplished fact of our reconciliation is for the purpose of presenting us holy before God (presumably at the final judgment), but this is “dependent” (and this is the controversy) upon our continuation in the faith, having been established and not presently shifting from the gospel. Whew!

I say this is a controversy, but to my mind the meaning is so abundantly clear that I wonder why there is so much of a controversy. It is one thing to acknowledge the accomplished work of Christ on the cross, but that reconciliation has not been applied to me if I do not remain faithful. Hard to get around that plain meaning.

My way of saying this is that changed people live changed lives. At conversion, I was transformed, changed, made into a new creation, and the fact of that change will and in fact must affect my life. If I don’t remain faithful, then I was not (or “am” not) reconciled.

Did I “lose” my salvation, or was I never saved in the first place? Again, my answer is that the question is irrelevant. In either case, I end up in hell. How can we know whether our friends were truly reconciled or not? Frankly, we can’t, and judgment is not our prerogative. For myself, if I do not remain faithful, then what I know for sure is that I have lost any assurance of my reconciliation.

Anyway, that’s how I handle the interchange of tenses. And the interchange is real.