Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 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—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move 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.
We have lived through a period of history in which the gospel has been presented with two options: the basic package and the deluxe package. The basic package would include Jesus Christ as Savior. The deluxe package includes Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, one can check the box for Jesus Christ as Savior and not go for the upgrade with Jesus as Lord. Through another lens, the Jesus Christ as Savior package was like a fire insurance policy. The Jesus Christ as Lord package was more like a complete home renovation project.
What do you think most people bought? Yep, the insurance policy. Jesus can be my Savior, and maybe I will get around to make him my Lord someday. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is not the good news. The gospel makes one offer. I like the way missionary E. Stanley Jones put it: “Jesus Christ will be Lord of all or he will not be Lord at all.”
So, what does all of this have to do with today’s text? Did you notice the big, fat, two-letter word right in the middle of the Scripture today? Yes, it’s “if.”
The big if of real Christianity is this one: “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel” (v. 23a).
With every good “if” comes a “then,” so what is the then?
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. (v. 22)
What’s going on here? How is something that seems to have unequivocally happened in the past—and doesn’t even contain the word then—now conditioned by something that must keep happening in the future? Is our salvation dependent on our own persistence? No, Scripture makes abundantly clear that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
The issue is not God’s grace. It is our faith. Colossians 1:22 is all grace:
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.
Colossians 1:23 is all faith:
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
The gospel is forensic in its nature, with a definite transactional sense. God cancelled the debt, reconciling us to God. However, the gospel is relational in its character and essence. The sign of grace from God is the immovable cross. The sign of faith from us is the movemental cross. Because God has moved once and for all in Jesus Christ, we can move now and forevermore through Jesus Christ. The sign that we have been moved by grace is that we are moving in faith. People for whom Jesus is Lord are necessarily living and moving in faith.
If a person is not moving in faith, chances are he or she is/was not moved by grace but by something else. Real Christianity demands that we become brutally honest with ourselves and one another about matters of such gravity.
So, am I saying that many people who claim to be Christians may not be real Christians? I’m saying the real question is the one we must ask ourselves: Am I a real Christian?
So can Jesus be one’s Savior and not one’s Lord? For what it’s worth, I say no—not and still be a real Christian.
Nothing tips until one surrenders to Jesus as Lord. Until then one just stands there. Domino #1/23 is a super tipping point.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is himself the embodiment of grace and the activity of faith. Teach me that yesterday’s faith is like yesterday’s manna—enough for yesterday. Lead me to the faith of today, to stretch and grow and reach for more of you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- How do you sort out this big “then” and “if” if verses 22–23 in today’s text?
- How do you relate to this notion of grace as the “immovable cross” and faith as the “movement cross”?
- Is salvation for you more of a past transaction or a present and ongoing movement? How can we help others with this distinction?
For the Awakening,