21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 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— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved 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. (Colossians 1:21-23)*
Many Christians have a favorite book of the Bible. A few have a favorite chapter or a favorite story. Quite a few have a favorite verse. Me, I have a favorite word, and it’s in this section.
It’s not a big word—three letters. Matter of fact, it’s a word you almost skip over most of the time. Unless it’s Paul wielding the pen.
Then the tiny word “but” becomes life-changing.
He whipped it out in his letter to Titus in what is, IMO, the most powerful description of salvation in the Bible. He used it in Romans as the linchpin in the most important argument in all of his letters. And he uses it here.
In each case, he starts by elaborating just how hopeless we were before Christ came into the picture. Here in Colossians he reminds us, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:21). In Titus, we “were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)
And in Romans, Paul spends almost three chapters proving why everybody on earth is hopeless and heading for hell—the immoral Gentiles, the good Gentiles, even the good Jews.
Then he whips out the word.
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known” (Romans 3:21). “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us...” (Titus 3:4-5). “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. (Colossians 1:22)
See why I love the word? It’s the introductory word for God’s grace. It sets in stark contrast my hopeless condition before Christ and my hope-filled future with Christ.
And it’s a word you can pull out anytime you need it. When you’re feeling bad about your past, the things you did then that you’re ashamed of now, instead of hiding them, you can lay them out on the table, face up, name them, and then proclaim proudly, “This is what happened when I was in control of my past, BUT Christ has control of my future.”
When circumstances look bleak, you can say, “My life right now sucks, BUT with Jesus my prospects are guaranteed to be outstanding.”
You can even use it to share your faith with others. “Here’s what my life was like without Jesus, BUT here’s what it looks like with Him.”
Pretty cool word, huh?
*All Scriptures from the New International Version.