Commentary on Colossians, 1:23 (Faith Must Continue)

Colossians 1:23

22 yet now has He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before Him,
23 if so be that you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached in all creation under Heaven; of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”

“if”

“if” here actually means “if” in the Greek, or assuming or provided.

“continue”  (Gr. epimeno – 1961)

Abide, remain, persevere.

Whether we use the word “if” or “assuming” or “provided,” Paul plainly states a condition for our salvation, which is a “continuance” of faith in Christ. Paul was telling the Colossian Christians that they had been “reconciled” to God, and would continue to be as long as they remained in the faith. In other words, assuming that they remained firm in their faith in Christ, they would be presented to God as “holy and without blemish and unreproveable.” Or even stronger, “if” they remain in the faith, they would be presented to God as such.

“grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard”

The way we continue or endure in our faith, is to be “grounded and steadfast.” As Paul said in Ro 10:17, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” If our faith in Christ is to remain strong and immovable, we must be continuously in the Word of God. It’s only through God’s Word that we become firmly established in our faith and in our relationship with God. If we’re not in the Word, our faith can become weak, and if our faith becomes weak, we leave ourselves open to deception, to false teaching that can lead us away from the truth. Just as faith came through the hearing of God’s Word, so faith continues through the hearing of God’s Word.

“which was preached in all creation under Heaven”

As I mentioned earlier in verse 6 (Col 1:6), this fulfills what Jesus said during the “Olivet Discourse,” that before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the gospel would be preached to the whole world (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10). The gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached throughout the known world by the time Paul had written this letter.

“of which I, Paul, was made a minister”

Paul was a minister, appointed by Christ to preach the gospel that bears His name. That was his calling and purpose in life. Paul had received a clear call to a specific area of service, and he was faithful to fulfill that calling (2 Tim 4:6-8; Col 4:17). He was fully aware that there is an eternal reward for faithful service to Christ. He knew that his labor was not in vain, and that he would one day enjoy the full rewards of all that he had endured for the name of Christ, and for those whom Christ had died (1 Cor 15:58).

Just as God had a plan for Paul, He has a plan for each one of us as followers of Christ. It’s important that we walk in harmony with God so that we may clearly hear His voice when He calls us or leads us into a particular area of ministry. We were saved to serve, so we must be willing and watchful and discerning about how and where the Lord would have us serve Him.

I want to finish with some further discussion about what this verse teaches about the requirement of enduring faith. Those who believe the Bible teaches unconditional security, must, of necessity, view verses like this one through the lens of that position. Whenever we hold a certain doctrinal position, there is always the danger of filtering God’s Word through that position. So those who hold to unconditional security, will tend to view this verse in a way that supports their position.

Instead of accepting the meaning of this verse according to its natural reading, they assume that “if” really doesn’t mean what it’s really saying, but will conclude that it must mean:

“if you’re really saved, you will continue in the faith.”

But that’s not what Paul actually said. They’re simply making an assumption based on what they believe to be true regarding eternal security.

Furthermore, they don’t consider carefully enough the weight of the words that follow that word “if”:

grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard”

This sentence provides an elaboration of what Paul meant by the word “if.” He tells us plainly that in order to “continue” in the faith, we must be “grounded and steadfast” (in the faith, in the Word of God, in our relationship with Christ), or we will (or may) “move away” from “the hope of the gospel.” Not to follow this exhortation may result in a dis-continuation of faith. The only sure way to guard against “moving away” from “faith” and the “hope of the gospel” is to become established or rooted in what the Christian faith teaches. The consequence of not following Paul’s instruction here, may certainly result in walking away from our original faith in Christ. I don’t know how anyone can honestly deny that this is what Paul is saying here.

The argument for those who support unconditional security, is that it’s not possible for a regenerated person to be unborn. I agree that the Bible does not say that, but it does say that we can die. Furthermore, they say that since we’ve been given a new nature, a new heart for God, a new love for God’s Word, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we will always bear the fruit of that.

While that is indeed the initial experience and evidence of salvation, we can, over time, weaken in our faith and stray from Christ if we don’t cultivate our relationship with Him. If we don’t stay close to the Lord, we will dry up spiritually, as Jesus Himself taught in John 15:1-6. Paul confirms what He taught in that passage, that our faith must be nurtured….or it’s possible that we will dry up and die and become disconnected from the Vine.

A Christian who has abandoned true faith is revealed in two ways:

One way is through a lifestyle of sin, where we again take the helm of our lives and live according to our own will. This is where we become disinterested in the things of God; we get to the point to where we don’t sincerely want Jesus ruling our lives anymore. Our focus at this point is no longer on Christ and His kingdom, but on ourselves and this world. This type of mindset, and associated lifestyle, can be described as practical unbelief. They may still profess Christ, but they deny Him by the type of life they lead (Tit 1:16). A denial of Christ is to deny faith in Him. It’s not that faithfulness saves us or keeps us saved, but true saving faith is revealed by a life of faithfulness to Christ and to His will.

Sincere faith in Christ is characterized by faithfulness. Genuine faith, a genuine heart for God, will reveal itself in a life that is unmistakably Godward, or Christ-centered. True faith follows what it knows to be true. It’s not that faithfulness saves us, but true saving faith is revealed by faithfulness. The fruit of genuine faith will always be evidenced in our lives. If the fruit isn’t there, then it’s not true, biblical faith. The life we live reveals our true heart.

Once a professing believer gets to the point where their life is all about themselves and all about this world, they’re no longer living according to the faith that saved them. They have, in a practical manner, abandoned the faith they once knew and live by. Whatever faith got us saved, must keep us saved. Those who fit this description may always repent and get things right with God.

The other way a Christian abandons true faith is more obvious. That’s where one slips in their faith so far that they no longer believe. Period. They no longer believe and embrace Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. They have at this point completely rejected Christ and the Christian faith. This is called total apostasy. For those who have known the truth, and who have walked in fellowship with Christ, and then to fully reject Him, there is no repentance available. Furthermore, it will simply never be in their heart to return. It just won’t be there anymore.

There are Christians who support conditional security, but don’t support the position of total apostasy. They believe that God’s grace for repentance is always available for any Christian who wanders, no matter how far away they stray, no matter how extreme their rejection of Christ may be. I acknowledge that they may be correct in their viewpoint. However, I don’t believe that Heb 6:1-9 supports that idea.  Furthermore, as I discussed in my commentary on Col 1:20-22, we have an example of total apostasy in Satan and his demons, who were once holy angels and who lived in the presence and glory of God, but ended up rebelling against Him. For them, there is no repentance available.

For further discussion about this subject, click on the link below: