Kevin W. McFadden

The Hope of the Gospel Is Someone, Not Something

Written by Kevin W. McFadden |
Monday, November 20, 2023
The Father is indeed our source of peace (Col.1:2). And his work of reconciliation through the death of his Son is the foundation of our future and final hope. Thus the hope of the gospel is Christ. The Father has accomplished our redemption and reconciliation through his Son in order to present us blameless at the final judgment. When he appears, we will appear with him in the glory of his resurrection (Col. 3:4). But until that day he remains hidden in heaven at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1), and our lives are hidden with him as well (Col. 3:3).

Christ, Our Hope
What is the hope of the gospel according to Colossians? In a word, it is Christ. Paul tells the Colossians that “the hope of glory” is “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27). Those who have Christ dwelling in them (by his Spirit) have the hope that they will one day share in the glory of his resurrection (cf. Rom. 5–8). Hope is by definition oriented toward this unseen future reality, “for who hopes for what he sees?” (Rom. 8:24). But the hope of the resurrection is also rooted in the past reality of the cross of Christ through which the Father has accomplished our redemption and reconciliation.
Redemption in Christ
In his opening prayer, Paul reminds the Colossians that the Father has accomplished redemption in his beloved Son (Col. 1:14). While redemption can be used to describe salvation generally, here it specifically refers to a payment for our release from captivity.1Paul’s reasoning is fleshed out in Ephesians, a letter probably written at the same time, in which he says that this payment is the cross: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
What was the captivity from which Christ’s blood redeemed us? Paul defines this redemption as “the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). So the cross has redeemed us from the captivity of the debt of our sins against God. And as a result we are also freed from captivity to “the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13) or the evil kingdom of Satan. Satan has authority over fallen humanity because of his role in our sins: he tempts us to sin as he did with Eve (Gen. 3:1–5), and he accuses us of sin as he did with Job (Job 1:6–12). People today tend to reject or forget about Satan and demonic powers, but the Colossians were acutely aware of the presence of angels and demons. Perhaps the philosophy promised them deliverance from the threat of demonic powers. But Paul reminds them that the Father had already delivered them “from the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13), because he had forgiven their sins in Christ (Col. 1:14).
He has also “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). In Christ, believers are bona fide citizens and heirs of the kingdom of God, for the Father has qualified us “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).2 The redeemed, then, are rightly called “saints” or God’s “holy people” now, in the present (Col. 1:2, 4, 12, 26). And we also have hope for the future that at the final judgment he will “present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Col. 1:22), provided of course that we continue in the faith (Col. 1:23).3
Reconciliation through Christ
In the famous poem about Christ in Colossians 1:15–20, Paul teaches that the Father has also accomplished reconciliation through the cross of Christ. The word “reconcile” implies the problem of rebellion.
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What Is Distinct about the Theology of Colossians?

Written by Kevin W. McFadden |
Thursday, November 16, 2023
We can be grateful that Paul was forced to counter this false teaching in Colossae, for it gave him an opportunity to clarify the preeminence of and sufficiency of the ascended Christ for the believer. This Christ dwells in us below, and we are hidden with him above. This should give the believer hope for the future in the midst of the struggles of daily life, for “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).

The theology of Colossians is distinct because it arises from Paul’s response to a false teaching that was threatening the church in Colossae. It is difficult to know the exact nature of this false teaching, but the most important evidence comes in the polemical section of Colossians 2:16–23. Here Paul warns the Colossians, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col. 2:16). And he further warns, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind and not holding fast to the Head [i.e., to Christ] . . . ” (Col. 2:18–19). Putting these two warnings together, perhaps the false teaching taught that the true Christians should follow the food and calendar requirements of the Mosaic law as ascetic disciplines that would open up the door to spiritual visions of angels. People in the ancient world would sometimes call on angels for help with the daily struggles of life.
Does that sound worlds away to you? In one sense it is, since modern people do not tend to think about angels in their day-to-day life. Modern people, however, do still face the struggles of daily life and often look for spiritual experiences to help them cope. We live in a pluralistic society with many different views and religions, not unlike the Colossians. And we may sometimes wonder if we need something more than, or in addition to, what we currently have in Christ. Paul writes this letter to teach Christians that we need not and should not look for anything more, for Christ is preeminent over everyone and everything and sufficient for everything in our lives. The main point of the letter is summarized well in Colossians 2:6: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him . . . ”
A Focus on Christ
Paul’s response to the false teaching has led to a noticeable focus on Christ in this letter. It may sound odd to hear that the theology of Colossians is distinct because of its focus on Jesus Christ. Doesn’t the whole New Testament focus on Jesus Christ (not to mention the whole Bible)? Yes, but most interpreters still recognize something distinctive and transcendent about the Christology of Colossians.
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