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Colossians 1:22 says,

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 [ESV]

νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ [MGNT]

This question is about the aorist tense of “παραστῆσαι/parastēsai/present” in Colossians 1:22. I don't know enough to understand if this is an inceptive, cumulative, or punctiliar aorist, or if such a distinction even applies here, so I'm here to ask: When did/does this happen?

From what I've seen, there are two general views:

  • Most teachers say that this is referring to our future presentation to God at the Judgement Seat of Christ, meaning that until that future day, we are not viewed as “holy, blameless and above reproach.” If this is the case, why wouldn't the author have used the future tense?

  • Some others says that this is how followers of Christ are currently viewed by God, as through Christ's blood, with the inherited righteousness of Christ, regardless of how we may be behaving in the moment.

I can't find a clear reason why most teachers take the “future” view other than that it's the historically accepted doctrinal view. In fact, some people I've spoken with about this have recoiled in objection to the idea that we are currently seen as “holy” by God, and that we can only see ourselves as “wretched sinners.”

Here's my ultimate question: Without relying on your preferred doctrinal view here, does the text definitively indicate whether or not we are currently viewed this way, or whether that is something we look forward to on some future day?

If the text here doesn't contain enough information to definitively answer the question, what other passages might add light to this from either point of view?

Edit: I recognize this might appear to be mining a single verse to establish an entire doctrine, but I'm not doing that. I'm just trying to understand what this particular verse is saying in it's own context.

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    I have always viewed this as a progression of sanctification, correction, chastening, purging afflictions and instruction : to perfect, such that, at the Day of Judgment, the process is seen as having been completed during this present life (thus an aorist). Up-voted +1. Good question.
    – Nigel J
    May 17, 2023 at 20:40
  • "Most teachers"?
    – user33515
    May 17, 2023 at 20:47
  • @user33515, from my point of view, which consists of sermons I've sat through, youtube videos I've watched and various writings over the years. There seems to be an unspoken wall of disagreement on this, with some falling on the "I am a wretched sinner" side and others on the "I am the righteousness of Christ" side.
    – pbarney
    May 18, 2023 at 18:26
  • I take this to mean that, at the moment we've been reconciled to God by the blood of His son, we are at that moment considered blameless, as all our past sins up to that moment are washed away. Whether we stay that way is another question. All our future sins we commit must be repented of, and forgiven, individually. But as long as we are continually confessing our sins and repenting, we remain in a blameless state, albeit not perfect.
    – moron
    May 20, 2023 at 21:18

3 Answers 3

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Excellent question that displays considerable thought!

First, the verb παραστῆσαι is an aorist infinitive. This form of the verb in Greek is essentially tenseless - no time is involved. It could be distant past, recent past, present or future. Such verb are almost always closely associated with another verb that implies the tense. Note the surrounding text from BLB with verbs bolded. Verses 21-23 form a single sentence in the Greek.

21 And you, being once alienated and hostile in mind, in the evil deeds, 22 but now He has reconciled in His body of flesh through death, to present you holy and unblemished and blameless before Him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, established and firm, and not being moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, having been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, of which I Paul have become a minister.

Note that none of these verbs in in the future tense. Paul is consistently discussing present realities as a contrast from being "once alienated". That is, the force of Paul's thought is simple:

  • we (as sinners) were once alienated
  • we (as sinners) have now been reconciled via the medium of the death of His body
  • we are now presented to God as blameless
  • we remain blameless if we continue in the faith, established if we are not moved away

This idea of present blamelessness or "justification" is a common idea in NT theology. Here is another example:

1 Cor 6:9-11 - Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice that Paul regards forgiven/justified sinners as sanctified, and that this sanctification is past completed act; "you were sanctified". That is, to present someone as holy is to sanctify them (same words in the Greek!) See appendix below.

Thus, a person is made holy, or sanctified, or set apart for Christ, at conversion. This is not to suggest that we become perfect at conversion, far from it! Conversion or sanctification merely starts the process of growing into Christ which is a divine miracle in itself (the subject of another question!)

Thus, I read both from the grammar of Col 1:22 and the rest of NT theology, that Jesus, by the merits of His blood and body (ie, His sacrifice on Calvary) presents us holy, ie, sanctifies us to God, sets us apart for divine service. That is "holy" here means to be set apart; it does not mean perfect. Perfection only occurs by another divine miracle when the Lord returns.

APPENDIX - Sanctification = making holy

In the New Testament the word “sanctification” is a translation of the Greek hagiasmos, and is equivalent to the Hebrew qadesh. Both mean holiness, consecration, sanctification, from the verb form meaning “to make holy” or “to set apart from common use”.

Let us list the relatively few occurrences of the Greek word hagiasmos: According to W E Vine , the occurrences of this noun can be classified as follows: (a) separation to God, 1 Cor 1:30, 2 Thess 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2; and (b) the course of life befitting those so separated, 1 Thess 4:3, 4, 7, Rom 6:19, 22, 1 Tim 2:15, Heb 12:14. From these, we observe that the task of sanctification is accomplished by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2) and (via?) the Word.

The verb form, hagiazo, to sanctify or set apart, in the New Testament tells us that God’s sanctifying influence on the believer is via His Truth and Word (John 17:17, 19, Acts 20:32) by faith in Jesus (Acts 26:18, 1 Cor 1:2, 2 Tim 2:21, Heb 10:10, 29 ) through the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16, 1 Cor 6:11). Note that these verbs are past tense, and discuss sanctification as a completed act (see also Heb 13:12).

[However, in a few instances, the work of sanctification is set in the present as an on-going process. This process of setting apart is described as a washing of water of the Word (Eph 5:26) by the one who sanctifies (Heb 2:11, 10:14). Ceremonial sacrifices outwardly sanctify those defiled (Heb 9:13).]

Thus, when a person is converted and becomes set apart for Christ (ie, becomes a Christian) the person immediately becomes a “saint” or “holy one” (Rom 1:7, 1 Cor 1:2, Phil 1:1, etc.). Sometimes these saints are called “elect” or “chosen” (Matt 24:22, 24, 31, Mark 13:20, 22, 27, Rom 11:7, 1 Tim 5:21, 2 Tim 2:10, Tit 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1), or the pure or purified (Matt 5:8; 2 Cor 11:2, Titus 1:15, 1 Peter 1:22). That is, as far as the Christian is concerned, sanctification (in the Biblical sense) occurs at conversion as a decision to follow Jesus, and occurs at some point in (past) time.

A very similar situation exists in the Old Testament where various things are set aside from common use and thus as sanctified, eg, the Sabbath, (Gen 2:3, Ex 20:11, 31:15), Israelites (Lev 19:20:7, 26, Deut 7:6, 14:2, 21, 26:19), various parts of the tabernacle (Ex 30:10, 37, 39:30) and property (Lev 27:14, 23, 28, 30, 32, Eze 48:14). Notice that such things were holy or sanctified, not because of any innate quality but by decision of man or God to set the person or object apart from common use, even a city dump (Jer 31:40).

Lastly, notice that a state of partial sanctification is unknown in the Bible – an object or person is either sanctified or it is not (1 Thess 5:23).

In modern theology, the word “sanctification” is used in a quite different (extra-Biblical) sense of a growing into Christ, Christian development and character building. This is not to suggest that the idea is unbiblical, but rather that the Bible uses different terminology. That is, there is a difference between Bible sanctification and theological sanctification. Here is a sample:

  • But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2, 3
  • But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:9, 10.

Notice the developing pattern, the saved person continues to make the decision to be one of the elect or pure by keeping separate from the world: Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Phil 3:16. This text tells us to act in accordance with our decision to follow Jesus and to be one of the “saints”.

  • But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Tim 6:11, 12.
  • We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Rom 6:4.
  • Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:1, 2.
  • Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Cor 7:1.
  • Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph 4:15, 16.
  • But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13, 14.
  • So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Col 2:6, 7.
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  • Thank you. This is a very complete answer, and I'm going to take a couple days to ponder it. Is it a general rule that the "timing" of an aorist tense can be discerned by tense of nearby verbs? I'll have to look into the reasoning to even have such a tense when other options could be used to better effect, because I am definitely not grasping it yet. Regardless, thank you for taking the time to answer this so well.
    – pbarney
    May 18, 2023 at 17:40
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    @pbarney - ordinary aorist verbs (eg, indicative) usually imply a past tense. However, aorist infinitive are the ones that are tenseless and must be read in conjunction with the tense of an associated verb.
    – Dottard
    May 20, 2023 at 22:45
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The very simple answer is set out in Col. 1:5-6,

"5 because of the hope that is laid up for you in the heavens, which ye heard of before in the word of the truth of the good news,

6 which is present to you, as also in all the world, and is bearing fruit, as also in you, from the day in which ye heard, and knew the grace of God in truth;" (YLT)

As the previous answer mentions conversion, the specific action was when you have been immersed into Christ, which was transliterated from the Greek "baptizo" as "baptism."

"to your walking worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, in every good work being fruitful, and increasing to the knowledge of God," (Col. 1:10, YLT)

Continuing action, without limit to either a future event or completed event of past action, it is always a present condition to be in Christ. We are reconciled through His sacrifice, covered by His blood, when we are immersed into His death, burial and resurrection. That requires immersion, not a simple washing of the flesh, but a spiritual symbolic event taking part in His death.

"who did rescue us out of the authority of the darkness, and did translate [us] into the reign of the Son of His love,

14 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of the sins," (Col. 1:13-14, YLT)

When do we come in contact spiritually with His blood? Jesus' action of going to the cross, dying on the cross is a past event, but to whom any / all are translated into His reign has an eternally, infinitive effect of continually washing away of sins if we are faithful to remain in Him.

"20 and through him to reconcile the all things to himself -- having made peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.

21 And you -- once being alienated, and enemies in the mind, in the evil works, yet now did he reconcile," (Col. 1:20-21, YLT)

We take advantage of the free gift of His actions (past tense) when we decide to convert to Christ through His blood sacrifice and are immersed into His body, His assembly, His kingdom reign, to continually tabernacle with Him.

At the moment you rise up, resurrected from the water you have put on Christ and the Holy Spirit anoints you, sanctifies you, and sets you apart for Christ (1 Pet. 2:9-10), who then presents you to His Father in heaven. You are then set apart as one of His children, priests, and ambassadors, IF -

"if also ye remain in the faith, being founded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the good news, which ye heard, which was preached in all the creation that [is] under the heaven, of which I became -- I Paul -- a ministrant." (Col. 1:23, YLT)

Because it is our present, or future actions which might cause us to step out of His assembly if we should turn our back upon Him and reject Him. If, however we are faithful to confess and repent of our sins at any time, He is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) if we have been baptized / immersed into His death. It is a continual offer and condition that originated from His past action, if we remain faithful to Him.

But, we are initially presented to our Father, reconciled to Him through Christ's blood sacrifice when we rise up resurrected from our baptism. And, then finally presented at the end of our earthly walk if we have remained faithful unto death as Christ was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8,Rev. 12:11; 14:13).

See the post Crossing Over here for more scriptural study.

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  • Thank you for taking the time write. I really do appreciate it, although I don't think you've answered the question in terms of the provided verse, as this seems more like a discourse about baptism being the be-all-end-all of conversion, without actually referencing any verses to support that claim. I don't necessarily disagree with you, and I'm open to hearing your view, I just think you've answered a different question.
    – pbarney
    May 18, 2023 at 17:45
  • I thought that I did answer by pointing to the continual present state of being in Christ, and that we have put on Christ when we are baptized. My answer is we are presented at our baptism. It is not something we are waiting for.
    – Gina
    May 18, 2023 at 19:34
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Verbal Aspect is the primary value of tense in Greek, and time is secondary, if involved at all. In other words, tense is that feature of the verb that indicates the kind of action or state presented by the verb, such as whether it is ongoing or completed, rather than when the action or state occurred. I reject both of the given options of interpretations (future perfection, and present-false-perfection). The passage is consistently calling believers to be perfect now, in reality obviously, as God cannot falsely justify someone, that would make God to be the liar; and I don't find appeal to "tradition" a valid criterion for hermeneutics. The goal of the church or believers is to present themselves perfect and holy now until the coming of Christ. Just as the commandments doesn't suggest pretending to be holy, or that you should be perfect in future as your father is perfect.

The cross-references like (TSK) Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is helpful in finding similar verses.

the body. Rom 7:4; Eph 2:15; Eph 2:16; Heb 10:10; Heb 10:20
to. Luke 1:75; 2Cor 11:2; Eph 1:4; Eph 5:27; 1Thess 4:7; Titus 2:14; 2Pet 3:14 Jude 1:24
in his. Job 15:15; Job 25:5; Ps 51:7; Heb 13:21

Cf. Luke 1:75; Eph 1:4; Eph 5:27; 2Tim 1:9; Titus 2:12;

[Eph 5:25-27 RV] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

[Phil 2:15-16 RV] that ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labour in vain.

The reconciliation of the Colossian church is unto perfection and holiness, not unto sinfulness or the Gnostic imaginary false righteousness.

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  • Two thoughts: the question draws a distinction between how Christ sees us, and how we see ourselves (often incorrectly). So while I realize we are called to righteousness, the question arises in the instances where we fall short of our calling. In those cases, does God see us a holy and blameless even then? I think calling this state "present-false-perfection" is unfair and not inline with what Christ sees in us. Chris is truth, so if he believes that about us, then it must be true, regardless of whatever I think. I need to humble myself and hear Him, not my own experience.
    – pbarney
    May 18, 2023 at 18:10
  • We are of course not in a perpetual easy state of perfection, rather we strive for it even more. Philippians 3.12. The complete cleansing and forgiveness is described in detail in John's epistle. Christ or God cannot see falsehood or fake righteousness, that is against truth and an insult to justice. Luther taught about the false justification. I disagree with this traditional Gnostic doctrine. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/83651/…
    – Michael16
    May 18, 2023 at 18:44
  • I think you're looking at it wrong when you say "God cannot see falsehood." For example, see 2 Cor 5:21, where it says God made Christ "to be sin." Christ was not actually transformed into a sinner, right? He was reckoned or counted as a sinner. That's not an insult to justice, it is the language of substitution. I think in the same way that, he reckons or counts us as righteous, despite our failings.
    – pbarney
    May 19, 2023 at 16:54
  • substitutionary sacrifice isn't falsehood or injustice, it's plain legal restitution system which exists in all courts of the law even today. The phrase used in 2Cor5:21 in Greek is "made sin" which is a short for made sin offering, see LXX and my answer on this que What is the correct translation of ἁμαρτίαν in 2 Corinthians 5:21? What did God make Jesus?. I explained the forged justification under reformed theology in that question where Luther uses dung analogy, and his followers use impropriety for God where god does injustice. This is not acc to biblical religion, but gnosticism.
    – Michael16
    May 19, 2023 at 17:40
  • to use a modern analogy of falsehood or false justification in Lutheranism is spraying perfume over the dunghil inside the home, and pretending it is clean. This is what it teaches, and his followers fail to address the sin of injustice or falsehood ascribed to God under this.
    – Michael16
    May 19, 2023 at 17:43

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