Can Salvation Be Lost?—Colossians 1:19-23.

Paul main concern for Colossae was that subtle heresies had crept into the midst of the Church there. His Epistle to the Colossian Christians was written to address this.

In this first chapter, Paul speaks largely of the reconcilation found in the Gospel, as well as its attendant benefits (see vv. 3-5, 12-14).

Vs. 19 says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him (Christ) all the fullness should dwell.” This means that ALL men require for salvation is found in Christ. All the attributes of divinity required to make redemption possible are found in the son of God—In Him all the fullness dwells!

God made this so, to reconcile all things to Himself, “And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (vs. 20).

The phrase “to reconcile” translates the Greek “apokatallaxai” (ἀποκαταλλάξαι) which means “to reconcile completely, to draw to one’s self.” This is what God did in Christ—He drew sinful men back to Himself.

All things” here refers to all persons who believe. These persons make up the Church of Christ, whether those alive (“things on earth“) or those who believed and are dead currently (“things in heaven“). God has “made peace” with them through the blood of His cross. Little wonder that Jesus is called “the Prince of Peace” (Isai 9:6).

Note as well that reconciliation for God is one-sided. Man had no intention of drawing near to God, so God drew near to Him. Vs. 21 says, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now HE has reconciled.” So God made the first move. He took the first step.

Man had an enmity in his mind towards God. Ephesians 2 speaks about this, “And you He made alive, who were DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS, in which YOU ONCE WALKED ACCORDING TO THE COURSE OF THIS WORLD, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in THE SONS OF DISOBEDIENCE” (vv. 1-2).

Romans 8 intimates similarly, concerning the carnal mind of the sinner.

Romans 8:6-8 (NKJV)

6 For to be CARNALLY MINDED IS DEATH, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because THE CARNAL MIND IS ENMITY AGAINST GOD; for IT IS NOT SUBJECT TO THE LAW OF GOD, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh CANNOT PLEASE GOD.

Psalm 5:9 describes sinners this way, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul describes to the Corinthians who they were, BEFORE salvation.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NKJV)

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU…

The sinner is opposed to doing God’s will. The world HATES God.

John 15:18 (NKJV)

18 “If the world hates you, you know that IT HATED ME before it hated you.

So man was completely hopeless (alienated from God), till God came in to rescue him. He reconciles the sinful through the work of Christ for sin.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

21 For HE MADE HIM who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus offers His body (His very self/life) as the sacrifice for man’s sin. Vs. 22 (Colossians 1) says we have been reconciled “in the body of His flesh through death.

The writer of Hebrews says, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10).

That offering is pleasing to God. Ephesians 5 calls it “a sweet-smelling aroma.

Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

So the work of Christ frees all who believe from sin. The one who puts faith in Him will NOT be judged for his sins anymore, for Christ was ALREADY JUDGED in his place. He is blameless and without reproach before God, the Father. Thus, Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

Christ has become the righteousnesss, sanctification and redemption of all who are found in Him.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NKJV)

30 But of Him you are IN CHRIST Jesus, who BECAME FOR US wisdom from God—and RIGHTEOUSNESS and SANCTIFICATION and REDEMPTION.

These are the benefits which accrue to us, because of God’s reconciliation with us, found in Christ (Col 1:19-21). This is God’s work, without man’s input, given freely on a platter of grace (Eph 2:4-9, Titus 3:4-7). Man’s works do not come into play here, only God’s unmerited, underserved favor.

Then the rest of vs. 22 (Col 1) deviates a little, and speaks of the believer’s works, his sanctification on the Earth (that is, his holy living). That phrase “to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” does not refer to realities (what Christ has done) but RESPONSIBILITIES (what the Christian is supposed to do).

Reconciliation in Christ has two goals. The first is to save sinful man and grant him God’s own righteousness and life. This happens IMMEDIATELY at salvation.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.

Our Lord, speaking in the sixth chapter of the same book, says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me HAS everlasting life” (vs. 47). This happens instantly, at the point of salvation.

But there is also a second goal of reconciliation, which deals with how the sinner lives afterwards. This second goal is the sinner’s sanctification (sanctification here refers to HOLY CONDUCT). This is what Paul refers to as being “presented holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Col 1:22). Paul speaks of being holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight, in terms of CONDUCT. This “presenting” hasn’t happened yet.

The New Testament speaks of a separate future judgment for believers. This is called “the Judgment Seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NKJV)

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 FOR WE MUST ALL APPEAR BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST, that each one may receive THE THINGS DONE IN THE BODY, according to what he has done, WHETHER GOOD OR BAD.

The Judgment Seat is where believers will receive REWARDS for their good conduct on the Earth. This is where the “presenting” will take place (Col 1:22). So Paul uses the words “holy, blameless, and above reproach” in His sight to refer to the believer’s lifestyle/conduct/works/behaviour/character (in Col 1:22).

Those words (holy, blameless, and above reproach) can be used in the context of salvation (what Christ has done), but also in the context of works (what WE do). Usually, a single word can have SEVERAL meanings/implications in the Greek and Hebrew, this meaning is often determined based on the context of its usage.

For example, the word “holy” (“hagios” in the Greek) is often used in the New Testament to describe the believer’s current state in Christ. The believer in Christ is HOLY (set apart to God).

1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a HOLY nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Christians are called “saints.” Ephesians 1:1 says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus” (the word “saint” means “holy one“).

But the SAME WORD (“holy“) is also used in 1 Peter 1 for godly conduct.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)

15 but as He who called you is HOLY, you also BE HOLY IN ALL YOUR CONDUCT, 16 because it is written, “BE HOLY, for I am holy.”

So holiness can be understood in different contexts in the New Testament—either as the product of what Christ did (the set-apartedness of the believer) or the believer’s holy living.

Similarly, the word “blameless” (“amomos” in the Greek) is used to describe the believer’s reality in salvation.

Jude 1:24 (NKJV)

24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you FAULTLESS (“amomos”) before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

But the same word was also used to describe Jesus’ sinless life (i.e. His conduct).

Hebrews 9:14 (NKJV)

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself WITHOUT SPOT (“amomos”) to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 Peter 1:19 (NKJV)

19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH (“amomos”) and without spot.

To be without blemish,” just like holiness, can therefore be understood in two different contexts also.

The phrase “without reproach” is also used in like manner. “Anegklétos” in the Greek, it means to be unreproachable. This word actually shows very clearly that Paul is referring to the Christian’s conduct (in Col 1:22), not his salvation.

The same word is used for the bishop’s conduct in Titus 1:6, “If a man is BLAMELESS (anegklétos), the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.

Also for the deacon, in 1 Timothy 3:10, “But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found BLAMELESS (anegklétos).”

So simply put: We are made holy, blameless and without reproach by faith in Christ ALONE, IN SALVATION. The work of Christ has made us holy and blameless before God.

But knowing that our lifestyle/conduct will be judged (at the Judgment Seat of Christ), we are also to SHOW that holiness (which we have in Christ) in how we live (i.e. our conduct). This is how we will be presented holy, blameless and without reproach before God AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT, when our WORKS are judged.

So the believer is to strife to lead a holy life because every aspect of his life will be examined and judged (at the last day). If he is found wanting in any area, he will suffer a loss of rewards (not salvation).

This leads us into vs. 23 (Colossians 1). It tells the Colossians (and all Christians, by extension) that they will be presented holy, blameless and without reproach before God, “IF indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…

To continue in the faith and the Gospel is to continue in sound doctrine; to hold on to the same. This does not guarantee salvation, but it DOES guarantee our rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Christians will be judged and rewarded for steadfastness in the faith.

Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

9 And let us not grow weary WHILE DOING GOOD, for in due season WE SHALL REAP if we do not lose heart.

This admonition (Colossians 1:22-23) was particularly important for the Colossians because (as earlier stated) false teachers had come into their midst. The Colossian Christians were already being led astray by their destructive heresies.

Hence, Paul warned them against the worship of angels (one of these heresies).

Colossians 2:18 (NKJV)

18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and WORSHIP OF ANGELS, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.

He also cautioned them against legalism (another doctrinal error).

Colossians 2:20-23 (NKJV)

20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, DO YOU SUBJECT YOURSELVES TO REGULATIONS— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? 23 These things indeed have AN APPEARANCE OF WISDOM in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but ARE OF NO VALUE against the indulgence of the flesh.

False doctrine is dangerous. A Christian who is swayed by the same stands in jeopardy of losing his reward. And this is why the Epistles are VERY LOUD (or emphatic) on doctrinal purity (see Rom 16:17, 1 Corin 1:10, Gal 1:8, Eph 4:14, Phil 1:27, 1 Tim 1:3-4, 4:6, 13, 16, 6:3-5, 2 Tim 1:13, Titus 1:9, 13-14, Heb 13:9, 2 Jn 1:9, Jude 3-4, cf. Acts 2:42).

So the believer would be judged for SEVERAL things at the Judgment Seat (e.g. his love-walk, his commitment to the Gospel, his holy living, his generosity etc), and one of those things will be whether or not he stuck with, clung to and proclaimed sound doctrine. If he is found wanting here, he won’t be COMPLETELY holy, blameless and without reproach before God (at the Judgment Seat), in terms of his conduct. Hence the conditional conjunction “if” in vs. 23.

Colossians 1:22-23 may therefore be better understood this way:

…to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight (in your conduct)— if indeed you live rightly (by continuing in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…). This is one of the things you will be judged for, at the Last Day.” Paul uses doctrine here (“faith,” “the Gospel”) because the Colossians had erred the most in this area.

So Paul is simply saying to the Colossians, “Stick to the message you have received, continue in the faith (“sound doctrine”), grounded and steadfast. IF you do so, you would be found blameless (in this regard) at the last day.

So Colossians 1:22-23 does not teach that salvation is to be maintained by “continuing in the faith.” Rather, abiding in the faith (which is sound doctrine, and the “Gospel of Christ”) is CRUCIAL for one to have a good report before God, at the Judgment Seat.

That Judgment is not for punishment (Jesus already bore all punishment for our sins, on our behalf). It is for rewards. Those rewards are called “crowns” elsewhere (1 Corin 9:24-25, 1 Pt 5:4). The one who abides in sound doctrine would receive a reward. This is why Paul tells the Colossians, “Let no one cheat you of your reward” (Col 2:18). They were in danger of losing the same because of those heretics in their midst.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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