Before you can redeem culture rightly, you’ll need to know The Story that all culture echoes. And for my money, that story is best told in Colossians 1:15-23 and 3:4:
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 1:15-23, 3:4 ESV
This is brilliant and beautiful. I love looking at it piece-by-piece.
Through Him and for Him
The first two verses talk about Jesus’ eternality and divinity. He isn’t just like God, it says, He is God – made of the same stuff, with the same plans and goals and desires. He is the image of an invisible God. And He was there, with God, from all time, making the universe. And He made it perfectly.
All Things Hold Together
Christ didn’t just make the universe. He also, amazingly, holds the universe, and everything about it together: from the atoms in your body to the people of His church.
Firstborn from the Dead
Jesus came to die, but why? In verse 18, he tells us one reason: that He would take his right place as the preeminent before all other people. His death on the cross to reconcile everything – to redeem everything – is the single most important event in all of history, and it makes Him the single most important person in all of history.
Here we come to the turn. For the first half of this verse, it’s been talking about Jesus and how important He is. But the Bible is written to man, and now we come to the point: why did Jesus need to die to redeem creation?
Alienated and Hostile
The Bible talks at length about how wicked we are. In the Garden of Eden, our forefathers Adam and Eve turned their back on God’s perfection in the first ever action of cosmic treason, and we have followed suit ever since. As a result, our race is doomed to be sinners by nature (we are sinners when we’re born, unable to not sin) as well as by choice (sure, we are natural sinners, but we really want to, too). And because of this, our minds and bodies are hostile to God, doing evil deeds.
To Present You
Ah, sneaky. You thought the rest of this verse would be about humanity, but again, Christ is the real hero of this story. He created us, and when we fell, He redeemed us. And He didn’t just save us a little bit! “Above reproach” is a huge vindication for a fallen humanity with hostile minds. He died to make us holy and blameless, not just “good enough.”
Continue in the Faith
A lot has been made of this verse. Some would say this is proof that in order to be saved, we must “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast.” In reality, though, our continuation in the faith is the sign that the promises of this entire passage apply to us! A God who has sent His son to save us at great cost also gives us the ability to overcome our evil nature and glorify Him wholeheartedly. “If you continue in the faith, you prove that Christ died to present you blameless.”
I Became a Minister
Now we come to the most mind-bending part of this passage, for me. Here we see that God not only saves Paul (read Paul’s story if you think that’s not impressive), He also chooses Paul to become a minister for his side! This is the really amazing part of Christ’s work: He doesn’t just save people, he gives them a job to do. God fills the ranks of His army with the very people he’s battling against.
To see the last part of The Story, though, we need to jump ahead to Chapter 3. There, Paul discusses what will happen in eternity yet to come: namely, that Jesus will return and, with His people, glorify all of creation – that is, make us all a part of an eternal and perfect Kingdom, just like He intended in the first place. In that moment, we’ll lose all of our sinful nature and gain all of Christ’s perfection. And then we will join Him on His eternal adventure!
The Story, in reality is so much richer than that, though! To correctly redeem culture, you’ll want to know more about it than I could ever tell, especially in a single blog post. But for a bare-basics recap:
God Will Restore