Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame. But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard. (Colossians 1:21-23a CEB, emphasis mine)
I saw a quote on Twitter a while back that went something like this: “If you watch what you think, you won’t have to watch what you say.” Sin begins in our minds, and culminates with our actions and the chain reaction of consequences that results from those actions. So even if we could “be good” without being cleansed by Jesus, we’d still be enemies of God, because our sin originates on the inside of the cup. Thankfully, because of Christ’s death on the cross, we’re reconciled to God and we don’t have to be his enemies anymore.
Did you notice this passage has a second but?
Part 1: Once you were God’s enemy… (bad news)
Part 2: Now he has reconciled you through the death of Jesus (good news)
Part 3: You need to remain established, rooted in faith, and not shift… (this one’s open-ended)
The first sentence in the passage puts us in a hopeless predicament. Then the first but gives us a way out of the darkness. Jesus has done something for us that we can’t do for ourselves. But the second but brings the ball back to our court. It tells us that Jesus paid the price, however, we have to appropriate the power of what he did on the cross by connecting (and staying connected) to the vine. Our faith should be an active faith, not a passive one.
We leave out parts 1, 2 or 3 at our peril. Omitting part 1 denies the need for parts 2 or 3. Omitting part 2 leads us into the error of works salvation, and leaving out part 3 makes Christianity nothing more than cheap grace and fire insurance.
The Word of God is full of checks and balances to keep us from wandering into theological extremism– this passage is just one example.