A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – Colossians 1

As my church is reading through the New Testament together, I’m pointing out how you really can read it from the perspective of the belief that God is going to triumph and save everyone. It’s promised right in Colossians 1!

Now, I learned from my Concordant Literal New Testament that the original Greek version of Colossians 1 does not have the word “things.” That was inserted to make the English easier to read. I think it helps English readers, though, read it as if the “all” here isn’t talking about people. So I’m going to type out this passage without using “things.” Notice, though, that even if you use the word “things,” the ALL that is created is the same ALL that is reconciled. Here’s Colossians 1:15-20:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over ALL creation. For in him ALL were created: in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL have been created through him and for him. He is before ALL, and in him ALL hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself ALL, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Again I ask, does “all” mean ALL? Imagine for a moment that it does!

Some try to say that Philippians with “every knee shall bow” is talking about forced submission. Well, how do you explain away all being reconciled? How can reconciliation be forced? This isn’t talking about subjugation.

I’m not saying there won’t be judgment. But the judgment is for correction — for the ultimate goal of reconciling ALL to Jesus.

In fact, the very next verse emphasizes a point that George MacDonald makes many times in his writings. There’s not one word in Scripture of God needing to be reconciled to us. We need to be reconciled to God. He is always ready to forgive. Here’s how Paul puts it in Colossians:

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 were enemies in our minds. We were alienated from God, not God from us.

But back to “through him to reconcile to himself ALL, whether on earth or in heaven.” I’m going to quote a section from Thomas Talbott’s book, The Inescapable Love of God, talking about Philippians 2:10-11 and Colossians 1:15-20:

When Paul suggests that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, he chooses a verb that throughout the Septuagint is used to imply not only confession, but the offer of praise and thanksgiving as well; and as J. B. Lightfoot points out, the verb has such implications of praise “in the very passage of Isaiah [45:23] which St. Paul adapts . . .” Now a ruling monarch may indeed force a subject to bow against that subject’s will, may even force the subject to utter certain words; but praise and thanksgiving can come only from the heart, as the Apostle was no doubt clear-headed enough to discern. Quite apart from the matter of praise, moreover, either those who bow before Jesus Christ and declare openly that he is Lord do so sincerely and by their own choice or they do not. If they do this sincerely and by their own choice, then there can be but one reason: They too have been reconciled to God. If they do not do this sincerely and by their own choice, if they are forced to make obeisance against their will, then their actions are merely fraudulent and bring no glory to God; a Hitler may take pleasure in forcing his defeated enemies to make obeisance against their will, but a God who honors the truth could not possibly participate in such a fraud.

There remains an even more important exegetical consideration. In Colossians 1:20, Paul himself identifies the kind of reconciliation he has in mind; he does so with the expression “making peace through the blood of his cross.” Similarly, in Philippians 2:6-11, Paul himself explains the nature of Christ’s exaltation; he does so by pointing to Christ’s humble obedience “to the point of death — even death on a cross.” Now just what is the power of the cross, according to Paul? Is it the power of a conquering hero to compel his enemies to obey him against their will? If that had been Paul’s doctrine, it would have been strange indeed. For God had no need of a crucifixion to compel obedience; he was quite capable of doing that all along. According to the New Testament as a whole, therefore, God sent his Son into the world, not as a conquering hero, but as a suffering servant; and the power that Jesus unleashed as he bled on the cross was precisely the power of self-giving love, the power to overcome evil by transforming the wills and renewing the minds of the evil ones themselves. And Paul not only endorses this idea; he also tells us exactly what he means by “reconciliation” in the two verses following Colossians 1:20, citing as an example his own readers: “And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him” (1:21-22 — emphasis mine). So the blood of the cross does bring peace, but not the artificial kind that some tyrannical power might impose; it brings true peace, the kind that springs from within and requires reconciliation in the full redemptive sense. It seems to me without question, therefore, that Paul did envision a time when all persons will be reconciled to God in the full redemptive sense.

Amen. And what glory to God if He actually is able to save everyone! Hallelujah!

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