More Than Yellow Ribbons

Colossians 1:19-22 - For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.

It seems that yellow ribbons have become a nationwide symbol. Everyone recognizes that yellow ribbons pinned or tied on trees, fences, mailboxes, doors or whatever, communicate "Welcome Home." Whether it's an individual member of the family who's been away or the nation's armed forces returning from war, the meaning is the same: "We love you and we're glad you're home!"

God has His yellow ribbons too! As our heavenly Father He welcomes us home when we turn to Christ. Figuratively speaking, every tree and fencepost in heaven has a yellow ribbon tied around it. But the symbolism of yellow ribbons falls far short of God's "welcome home" communique. We use yellow ribbons to welcome friends and family home, but God welcomes home former adversaries and enemies. We put up yellow ribbons for our heroes and success stories, but God throws a party for bunglers and duds! Our yellow ribbons don't guarantee a permanent so-glad-you're-home attitude and atmosphere. In fact, in some cases our yellow ribbons are very short lived. But God says, "I love you without limit both now and forever."

"Reconciliation" is the theological word used in the Bible to convey the divine concept of "more than yellow ribbons." The Greek word which is translated "reconcile" basically means "to change completely." Reconciliation, then, is the act by which God brings us into a completely changed relationship with Himself. We were once enemies of God and alienated from Him. But now, because of Christ's work of reconciliation, we are not only friends of God but part of His family. The concept of yellow ribbons only begins to communicate what God has done for us. God's reconciliation of us sinners is far more than yellow ribbons.

The work of reconciliation which Christ accomplished at Calvary is the subject of Colossians 1:20-22. This passage is part of the glorious description of the Person and position and work of our Lord Jesus which begins with verse 15. Against a background of some false teaching concerning the Person of Christ which was threatening the church at Colossae, the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write this magnificent portion of Scripture about the Lord Jesus. The theme of the entire epistle to the Colossians is the supremacy and the all-sufficiency of Christ, and it is in this section of the first chapter of the book that the wonder of Christ's Person, the preeminence of His position and the magnitude of His work are clearly and concisely brought before us.

With our limited space, we can scarcely scratch the surface in discussing all that this marvelous section of Scripture has to say about the Person and position of the Lord Jesus, so we will primarily concentrate on His work of reconciliation. However, the following points concerning His Person and position cannot be passed over without comment. As to the wonder of His Person, the passage clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. He is not just like God or part God. He is the "image" or exact representation of God (as expressed in verse 15) because He is God. Verse 19 leaves no doubt that this Scripture is teaching the full Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. "All the fullness" means the full essence of God, including all the powers and attributes of Deity. The fullness of the triune God dwells in Christ. This same unfathomable truth is brought before us in Colossians 2:9 where we read that "in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." Using the Greek language, it would be extremely difficult to express the fact that Jesus is fully God in any plainer (or more lock-tight) way than the way it is written in these two verses of Colossians.

As to the preeminence of His position, verses 16-18 declare that Christ is over the universe and over the Church. He is preeminent over the heavens and the earth because He created everything (v16) and He sustains everything (v17). Quasars and quarks were created by Christ and for Christ. Modern science may not agree with such an "outrageous" claim, but the Bible clearly teaches that nothing in this material universe created itself or controls itself. (A quasar, by the way, is a "radio star," and a quark is a subatomic particle.) In any case, Christ created all and sustains all. Furthermore, every spirit being in the universe, even if now fallen, was created by the Son of God for the purpose of His glory. Do we bring our Creator glory?

Christ is also preeminent over the Church. Verse 18 teaches that he is over the Church because He began the Church and the Church is His body. And as the first one resurrected out from among the dead, He is the Church's living Head. The Head of the Church is not in Rome, or in some other headquarters on earth, but in Heaven. As the risen, ascended Head of the Church, our Lord Jesus has the first place in every area. The scope of His preeminent position is universal. The extent of His preeminent position is eternal.

Now in verses 20-22 the magnitude of Christ's work of reconciliation is brought before us. In His work of creation we learn of His infinite power and wisdom, but in His work of reconciliation we learn of His infinite grace and love. However, before this section of text focuses on God's great grace and love which is directed towards us, we are made aware of the fact that the reconciling work of Christ has affected the material universe as well. Our own reconciliation is certainly the main point of these three verses, but verse 20 teaches that the things of the universe are also reconciled. What things? All things! Quasars and quarks? Yes! Rocks and trees? Yes! Verse 20 says all things on earth and in heaven. Things as well as people need to be reconciled.

The fact that the things of the material universe need to be reconciled to God is not because trees and stars have sinned but because they've been affected by the consequences of sin. Romans 8:19-23 teaches that because of oursin, God has temporarily allowed the created universe to be subjected to the bondage of decay. Right now the whole creation groans while it anxiously and eagerly awaits its liberation. We know that new heavens and a new earth characterized by righteousness are coming. (See 2 Peter 3:13.) The second law of thermodynamics involving death and decay was not part of God's original creation and will not be part of natural law in the eternal state of the future. Romans 8:21 indicates that the universe itself will be brought into the "glorious freedom of the children of God." Because the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with all the effects of sin on the cross, all things on earth and in heaven will be reconciled to their Maker. Once again there will be perfect harmony and peace between the Creator and His creation. There will be no jarring note throughout all eternity because "peace has been made through the blood of His cross."

We have a beautiful picture of this aspect of the reconciling work of Christ in the regulations for cleansing under the Mosaic Law. Not only were the priests to be sprinkled with the blood of the atoning sacrifice, but things as well. (See Hebrews 9:19-23.) The death of Christ has dealt completely with the problem of sin, and through the cross of Christ the effects of sin in this material universe will ultimately be completely erased. The majesty of the Creator in the eternal future will not be compromised by a backdrop of a fallen creation. Forever we will delight in a universe which fully displays the glory of God.

What about the angelic hosts? Are they covered in the "all things" of Colossians 1:20? Probably not. The holy angels do not need to be reconciled. They were never alienated from God. The fact that the phrase "under the earth" appears in Philippians 2:10 and not here in Colossians does not necessitate the conclusion that the good angels are included in the "all things" of Colossians 1:20. As to the fallen angels, there is no indication anywhere in the Bible that any of them will ever be reconciled to God. They've already been judged and will ultimately be consigned, with Satan, to Hell forever. (See Matthew 25:41.) Philippians 2:10-11 indicates that the fallen angels will be forced to "bow the knee" before Christ, but subjugation is not reconciliation. Although redeemed people may be included in the "all things" of Colossians 1:20, this verse refers primarily to the things of the material universe.

Now in verses 21 and 22 the focus is on people. In these two verses a number of significant truths about our reconciliation are mentioned. First of all, we are informed that formerly we were not only alienated from God but against Him. This was not said of the trees and the stars! The things of the universe are not against God but people are. People are "hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds." Bad attitudes and bad actions (which are inseparably linked in verse 21) characterize every person who is not reconciled to God. Some people may object at this point and say that they have never been against God and have never done anything so bad that it would be classified as wicked. They don't seem to realize that rejecting God's Son as their only hope of salvation is equivalent to spitting in the face of God! What could demonstrate a more hostile attitude and evil action than such behavior? While that was our former position, whether we realized it or not, it is not our present position. Praise God, we have been reconciled!

The fact that we have now been reconciled is another very important truth for us to appreciate. Quasars and quarks will be reconciled in the new heavens and new earth but we are already reconciled. In Christ, we are in a wonderful and beautiful and harmonious relationship with our Creator right now! We may not feel reconciled but we are reconciled. We will definitely feel more reconciled when we have our resurrection bodies (Romans 8:23), but it's wonderful to know that this is our position now. Our appreciation of this more-than-yellow-ribbons truth goes a long way during times of discouragement and depression.

Another important point to remember about our reconciliation to God is that it is in one direction. He reconciles us to Himself, and not vice versa! Because we normallly use the word "reconciliation" in reference to marital strains and family feuds where each side gives in a little in order to be reconciled, some Christians tend to view God in the same way. He gives in a little and we give in a little until we reach a settlement together. No way! We are reconciled to God only because He reached down and changed us completely. God in no way gave in to us, or changed His mind, or swept our sin under the rug in order to come to some "middle ground" with us. And we in no way helped Him work out a plan for our reconciliation. He did it all! And it was not without great cost to Himself. Verse 22 concisely states the cost of our reconciliation. The Creator had to become human in order to die. This was the only way that God could remove our hostilities and evil deeds and reconcile us to Himself. God's yellow ribbons were not bought with money, but with His own blood. (See 1 Peter 1:18-19.)

In verse 22 we see that the goal and purpose of our reconciliation to God was not just to rescue us from the clutches of Satan and redeem us from the bondage of sin. That would have been fantastic enough, but God has gone much further than that on our behalf. We are going to be presented before Him as "holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Talk about more than yellow ribbons!

The story of the lost son in Luke 15 illustrates for us the idea of reconciliation. The run-away son was not just forgiven for his bad attitudes and actions. He was welcomed home by the father and given all the rights and privileges of sonship--a most prestigious and favored position in the first century home. In the same way, we who were once run-aways have been welcomed home by God Himself and placed in the most-favored position of holy sonship--unblamable and irreproachable for ever. Such a reconciliation goes far beyond yellow ribbons!
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