Question: What does the first class condition in Col. 1:23 mean?

I have a question about the word “if” in Colossians 1:23 (and others). I understand that it is supposed to be a first class condition meaning “since” but I don’t know what that means. I also don’t know why it isn’t translated “since.” Would you enlighten me?

 This is a great verse.  It gives the believer great hope of future glorification just like the promise of Romans 8:29-30 where Paul uses five verbs to describe how God sees the believer already in a glorified state.  Those five verbs are: He foreknew; He predestined, He called, He justified and He glorified.  So how do we look at the “if” of Colossians 1:23?  The false teachers at the time said God is important, but they added works to the spiritual growth process.  Paul is helping the Colossians see that faith alone in Christ alone is all that is necessary to be presented in glory, holy and blameless.  Let’s get the context:
21And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled  22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight–   23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.  (Col 1:21-23)

 We should note that Paul contrasts our state as unbelievers in Colossians 1:21 with the Blessed Hope of Jesus presenting believers holy, blameless and above reproach in glory in Colossians 1:22.   Later, Paul will call this the “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  One day, we’ll be presented holy in glory! Even so, come Lord Jesus!  

When Paul uses the “if” clause beginning in Colossians 1:23, it seems like the presentation is dependent on us.  “If we don’t continue, then we won’t be presented,” some might say.  But Paul states that the believer is already complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). So what must be done?

There are passages like Philippians 1:6 that confirm our completion when we see Jesus.  Paul prays that God will sanctify the Thessalonians completely at the coming of Jesus (1 Thes. 5:23-24).  Paul says, “He will do it!”  In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he prays that God would “fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” in the believer (2 Thes. 1:11).  Paul also writes to the Corinthians, “[Jesus Christ], who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Co 1:8)   Peter prays, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (1 Pet. 5:10)

So, in Colossians, was Paul making them doubt?  No, God sees them as glorified positionally.  But, they weren’t perfected yet.  They still were exhorted in Colossians 3, because they were failing over and over with many types of sins.  The first class condition is a statement of fact, or “if and the following clause is a fact.”  There are three other conditional clauses in the Greek that are for another study.

They will be presented holy, and blameless, and above reproach.  Since they continue in that mode they will be because they are grounded (perfect passive participle), they will see that transformation in time, but ultimately all believers will be caught up to the perfect standard of righteousness.  To what level in time?  To the extent they pursue the holiness of God. 

Paul did not doubt that they would continue and was positively affirming them (yet also exhorting them in Colossians 3).   Paul sees their growth as being fulfilled. They are like a building set on a firm foundation.  As the building is on a firm foundation, so they should stand upright to verify the firm foundation on which they stand – live a holy life, because they were bought with a price of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  There was no earthquake (they were in a region of land movements) or storm that could shake them from their foundation on Jesus Christ.

We are not saved by continuing in faith.  We continue in faith to demonstrate we are saved.  We have assurance of salvation, because we continue to grow rooted in Christ (Col. 2:7).  Thus, every Christian should examine himself daily to ensure he is growing as Paul writes, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Cor. 13:5)

So, Paul uses “if” as a First Class Condition clause (ei + indicative of the verb) whereby Paul assumes the Colossians will continue in their faith growth to demonstrate they have salvation.

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Legalism vs. Law

Paul warned that there is one solution to legalism – knowing and living under the rulership of Jesus Christ, because he made us alive with Him having wiped out the requirements against us (Col. 2:11-15).  So Paul continues don’t let someone cheat you from your reward by imposing commandments and doctrines of men on you (Col. 2:16-23).   Therefore live by dependency on Christ, not man-made legalisms.

As you went over the questions on the back of the insert, did you understand the Laws of Liberty, Love, Sacrifice and Accommodation?  Did you understand how they are related to the Law of Christ?  And how they are not legalism?  These are important to understand, because you can almost get the idea that “law” is a bad word.  Context is key to understanding all principles of Scripture.

Legalism is not a word found in Scripture, like “trinity.”  Legalism refers to any addition, subtraction, twisting, or distorting of Scripture established by man that focuses a person on the action rather than his relationship with Jesus Christ.  We’ll look at this specifically on Sunday when we look at “What does Scripture teach about a legalist?”   We’ll also see how any Christian can fall into legalism.  Can you?

Set Free in Christ to Live for Him

What a great response to our message last Sunday, “You are set free in Christ to live for Him!” I love how God sets us free that we are no longer under law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14), which makes us want to love the Lord with all our heart. It motivates us to want to live for Him rather than for self! It makes us want to press to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, rather than the sinful ways of the world. You are free to please Him, not the requirements of the law. You get to live for Him, not something in the world. And you’ll see that love, by who is getting the attention in your life!

One of the topics in the message was the subject of baptism. Paul wrote that we are “buried with Him in baptism” and we looked briefly at baptisms in Scripture. I mentioned there are real and ritual baptisms. The three ritual baptisms are :
1) the baptism of John (Matt. 3:1-11)
2) the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17)
3) the believer’s baptism (1 Cor. 1:13-17).

A ritual baptism involves immersion and identifies the person with another subject, as in:
1) the kingdom
2) Christ’s public ministry on earth under the Father’s authority
3) identification with Christ’s burial and resurrection unto life, respectively.

By contrast, a real baptism is an actual identification with the object mentioned. For example:
1) the Baptism of Moses (1 Cor. 10:1-2) is Israel’s actual identification with Moses going through the Red Sea
2) the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) is the actual identification of the believer with the body of Christ
3) the Baptism of Fire (Matt. 3:11) is an actual identification of the unbeliever into Fire at the end of the Tribulation and Great White Throne judgment
4) the Baptism of the Cup (cross) (Mark 10:38-39) is Christ’s actual identification with the cross
5) the Baptism of Noah (1 Pet. 3:18-19) is an actual identification of the seven souls with Noah.

Let’s bring it back to you – you were buried with Christ, so you are free in Christ to live for Him. You are not under the law or requirements, so you are free to pursue with all your life to live in holiness and truth! By the way, Justin’s youth paintball expedition went fantastic! Great charge on the opposing forces! Too bad they nailed you so well! Only minor battle wounds and the old guys still have what it takes to whoop up on the younger soldiers! It was a great day of bonding!

Beware of Empty Deception

The miraculous life we saw in Colossians 2:8-10 is a reality for those who humble themselves to God’s will and His power. God is the potter and we are the clay; He will mold and make us while we are waiting, yielded and still. It’s better than any television entertainment or concert, because there is no explanation besides “it’s the Lord doing it.” I’ve seen it many times again and again.So we need to: Beware of empty deception. The key is we can’t fall back to the philosophies, empty deceit of the world or the traditions of men. They ruin any adventure with the Lord. And we need to: Let His fullness lead you against worldly powers. Jesus is fully God and true humanity in one person! God wants you to press forward in the completeness you have in Jesus Christ. Don’t let anyone tell you, if you are a Christian, that you don’t fit in the Body at Grace, or match up to His grace, or will ever get it right! You are complete in Christ and through God’s work of sanctification, you can experience that completeness on a daily basis. If you are a believer, you are complete in Christ and God fully indwells you to live a miraculous life!

This Sunday, Paul addresses the basis for how to deal with legalism. Legalism isn’t something that is as obvious today as it was 40 years ago, but it still exists. So how do we ensure legalism doesn’t press the wind out of you? How do you press forward with joy and anticipation of God’s work in your lives? I’ll tell you Sunday morning from Colossians 2:11-15! Can’t wait to see you. It’ll be a great morning!

Walk Rooted in Christ

“Walk rooted in Christ” can only be done if you are confident of your relationship with Him and you are pursuing that relationship through dependency on the Holy Spirit in the Word.  God will strengthen that root as you humble yourself and assimilate His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit and then God will build you up and cause you to be established in discipleship.  The result will be you springing forth, abounding in thanksgiving.   Your pure gratefulness to God for all that He has done and continues to do by His mercy is utterly astounding as you walk rooted in Christ!
Are you stretching in your faith?  Are you taking the risk?  From the human perspective, it seems like a risk to pray in public or serve in a leadership position, but that is what God wants to do in our lives, so we can worship Him in greater ways as a collective church, the Bride of Christ!  Keep pressing ahead, so you don’t have to pay for the same ground twice.  There is so little time before Jesus comes back!
This Sunday, we’ll press the objective to the last portion of this first topic of Paul in Colossians 2 – “Living a miraculous life.”   It’s Christ, not empty philosophy.  I’ve heard too many people question whether God can use them or wonder because they have messed up so many times if God still loves them.  I have GOOD NEWS for you this Sunday.  I trust I’ll see you there.
The deacons are heading up the work day on Saturday and many hands make light work.  I hope you’ll help us make it a short morning starting at 8am, so we can rejoice together at what God will accomplish!

Christ in You

Last Sunday, we looked at “Christ in you, the hope of glory” from Colossians 1 and the privilege each of us has to “warn every man and teach every man that we present every man complete in Christ.”  We just scratched the surface, so let me add a few more comments.
If Christ is in me, if Christ is in you, then He directs our thoughts, our words and our actions.  We will seek the holiness of God for the sake of the Body of Christ – His Bride.  We will see our part in helping each other get to living out God’s glory in our lives.  Let me give you three areas for additional application.  First, our attitude toward morality is sliding.  We Christians, maybe some at Grace, think it’s okay to try out the merchandise before marriage.  At least if someone is over 18 and they’re an adult, we think, “What can we do about it?”  That’s what Eli said about his sons in 1 Samuel.  God rebuked him and took his life.  Eli warned his sons, but he didn’t ensure they lived godly.  God took him (1 Samuel 3:13,14; 4:13-18).  If Christ is in you, you’ll do what is godly to ensure your family and the Bride of Christ is godly.  His glory says, I will not allow immorality to exist in my family.
Secondly, if you’re living “Christ in you” your words will be God-honoring, not earth-tolerated.  I’ve heard Christians talk the same talk as the world talks.  We hear trash so often in the media and around the world that we let our guard down. I used to be in the infantry, I accept how people talk, but I don’t want to use casual talk that I wouldn’t use from the pulpit.  If I wouldn’t there, why do it somewhere else?  If “Christ is in you,’ He rules my tongue to not allow careless or idle words come from my mouth (Matt. 12:36,37). 
And thirdly, care for the Body at Grace.  If Christ is in you, you’ll see the need Justin Williams has for the youth and maybe say, “Justin, I can help.”  There are simple, easy opportunities to serve as chaperones, transportation drivers and discipleship group leaders.  Justin has a great heart to love our young people, but he needs your help.  ‘Christ in you” means you can put aside some desires, time and even hobbies to help Justin reach the hearts of our young people who are in a spiritual battle most of us didn’t face in high school.  ALSO, over seeing our Children’s ministry, Pat Hillebrand needs your help to volunteer to serve in Sunday School and the nursery.  We have a boat load of people already involved and I’m grateful for their ministry to the children and parents of the children.  What we need is for more older people to ensure their name is on the nursery list and helper list for the Sunday School options.  These children are worth it!  “Christ in you,” the hope of glory says, “I can do this several times a quarter” to help my brothers and sisters who have children!  There are just a few ways to apply “Christ in you” the hope of glory!  THANK YOU to all who are helping to present every man complete in Christ!