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If "before" we were alienated, then "after" we are reconciled. What a wonderful word, reconciliation. But what does it mean? Perhaps more than any other word in the language of the New Testament, reconciliation highlights the personal and relational nature of our salvation. Justification points to the forensic (or legal) declaration that we are righteous in Christ. Redemption emphasizes our being ransomed from bondage to sin. Sacrifice has in view the Old Testament ritual order. But it is reconciliation that speaks of the restoration of a relationship formerly characterized by animosity and rancor and lack of trust.

There are several senses in which we use this term. For example, there is the situation where you persuade your friends Mike and Tom to give up their anger against each other. You, in this instance, are the one who "reconciles" the other two.

Then there is the case where you persuade Mike to forsake his anger against you. This is what Jesus has in mind in Matthew 5:23-24. A final form of reconciliation is when you choose to give up your anger against Mike.

But none of these scenarios describes what God did for us in Jesus. Paul clearly envisions another category in which God removes from us that which is the cause of his anger against us. Of course, that would be our sin! In this case, the initiative clearly lies with God. In order to restore peace and fellowship between us and God something must be done about the cause of the alienation. In our unregenerate state, we neither can nor want to do anything about it. But God both can and will. He removes the cause of alienation by redirecting his wrath against us to a willing and sufficient substitute: Jesus Christ (see especially Romans 5:10 and 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

Paul makes it clear in Colossians 1:22 that the means by which reconciliation has occurred is the death of Jesus on our behalf: we have been "reconciled in his body of flesh by his death" (v. 22a). In that death is the wrath of God against our sin satisfied, and thereby are we reconciled or put right with God.

But to what end? What is the purpose for this act of reconciliation? It was "in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him" (v. 22b).

Almost identical language appears in Ephesians 1:4 where Paul describes the purpose for our election. God chose us "that we should be holy and blameless before him." Some think the words "holy and blameless" refer to the daily experience of each believer, what we call progressive sanctification. If that is true, the goal of both election and reconciliation is to secure for Jesus Christ a people whose lives are characterized by purity and obedience to his will (an idea that is certainly substantiated by other passages in the New Testament: see Titus 2:14; 1 Thess. 4:7; 1 Peter 1:1-2).

No one doubts that the word “holy” is frequently used to describe the character of Christian living, but what about the word “blameless”? It sounds like “sinless perfection,” although in Philippians 2:15 Paul urges believers “to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (cf. Rev. 14:5). Therefore, it is surely possible that in Colossians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:4 Paul is referring to the holiness and blamelessness of the Christian in the here and now of daily life.

On the other hand, the word translated “blameless” is used in Ephesians 5:27 of the church in its final state of perfection and glory. This is also the case in Jude 24. The only other occurrences of this word in the New Testament are in Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 1:19, both of which refer to the blamelessness of Jesus Christ. We should also note that in our text, as well as in Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; and Jude 24, we find the notion of being presented blameless and without reproach “before him,” that is, before God.

All this persuades me that Paul is referring to that absolutely sinless, holy, and blameless condition in which we shall be presented to God at the second coming of our Savior. Of course, this by no means excludes the notion of progressive sanctification. Indeed, experiential purity and holiness in this life are but a prelude to our ultimate glorification in the next. The latter is but the consummation of the former.

Before I close, note again the words “before him” (v. 22b). This is incredibly encouraging to struggling Christians. To think that we will stand in God's presence, regarded by him as "above reproach," that is to say, as people against whom no legitimate charge can be brought, is breathtaking. Note well: it is "before him," face to face with infinite righteousness, that this verdict will be rendered. As John Eadie put it, “the phrase denotes the reality or genuineness of the holy and blameless state. God accounts it so. The elect are not esteemed righteous ‘merely before men,’ . . . Their piety is not a brilliant hypocrisy. It is regarded as genuine, ‘before Him’ whose glance at once detects and frowns upon the spurious, however plausible the disguise in which it may wrap itself” (22-23).

Still trying to catch my breath,