One of the most staggering, and infrequently understood, texts in all the Bible is found in Colossians 1:19-20. Paul says:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

I ponder this text a lot. What does it mean to "reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven" through the cross?

The word "all" has led to many interpretations of Christ's work and the way in which he has specifically reconciled all things on the earth. Because of the way Jesus spoke specifically about judgment, and because of the way Bible generally treats the subject, most exegetes agree that this text is not saying that all will be saved. But what is the text saying? Some say that everything will finally be brought under his power and will but this seems to me to only beg more questions. I do not see how the word "all" cannot have in view the whole cosmos when it includes "things in heaven."

Oswald Chambers had a great deal to say in his voluminous writing on the cross. I came across a quote of his recently that sums up something if what Paul must be saying here:

There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. He switched the whole human race back into right relationship to God and made the basis of human life Redemptive; consequently any member of the human race can get into touch with God now (italics his). It means not simply that men are saved from hell and put right for heaven, but that they are freed from the wrong disposition and can have imparted to them the very disposition of the Son of God, viz., Holy Spirit. . . .On that basis I can be forgiven, and through the forgiveness I can be turned into another man (Biblical Ethics, 109).

Regarding this very text in Colossians Oswald Chambers adds, "We do not worship an austere, remote God; He is here in the thick of it. The Cross is a Reality, not a symbol–at the wall of the world stands God with His arms outstretched" (Biblical Ethics, 109).

I think Chambers phrase, "he switched the whole human race back into right relationship with God" gets very close to the point Paul makes. This means there is a proper universalism in the New Testament even though judgment is a fearful and real thing. If we viewed ourselves, and others, as living in a world in which the human race has been "switched" I do wonder what this would mean in our dealings with others? I even wonder what it would mean for how we treat ourselves? I am sure of this much–any kind of Christianity that roots its doctrine of Christ and the cross in the condemnation of people and the world is not the Christianity of Jesus and the apostle.

Ask yourself: Do I believe Jesus came into this world to save it or to condemn it (cf. John 3:17)?

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  1. Patrick Mulhaney September 2, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Neal Punt suggests some similar ideas in his “evangelical inclusivism”

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