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The Puritan Exegesis Project: Nicholas Byfield on Colossians 1:21

“And you hath he now also reconciled, that were in times past strangers, and enemies, because your minds were set on evil works.â€

Nicholas Byfield’s (1579-1622) Exposition upon the Epistle to the Colossians (1615/1628 3rd ed.) was regarded by Spurgeon as wordy but worth consulting. He’s right on both counts. Writing in the context of controversy with the Roman Catholic church, Byfield’s exposition of Colossians 1:21 is now as applicable to certain modern day controversies over assurance of faith, such as the NPP, as it was then. Such controversy orbits each generation of the church. Byfield’s commentary on vs. 21 begins with the assertion that vv. 19, 20 describe Christ as the redeemer of the  universal  Church in general and the Colossian Church in particular. He then draws out a few (six) general considerations for application intended for any Christian church. The profit of reconciliation, writes Byfield, “leyes in application.†Experience in meditation, the catechism, prayer and avoiding “securitie and objections (presumption, debate) is testimony to reconciliation and therefore assurance of faith. Assuming one is saved without pursuing the knowledge of Scripture is the stuff of “drowsie Protestants†and no good for anyone. Reconciliation is a work in progress, what we today call an eschatological shift from a former way of life to a new one (Dunn, NIGCNT, p. 107). Byfield’s paragraph on the phrase also (nunide) applies the emphatic, non-temporal meaning to the ‘corporal’ and ‘spiritual’ progress of the Kingdom for all time. Reconciliation and kingdom work are not static or achieved by repetition (although faith and the ordinances are linked together) but is instead tied to 1. Education (hearing the Gospel preached) and 2. Raising kids. “Getting within the Covenant ourselves†is in part a, ‘laboring to amend what by propagation we have marred.â€

The grace of reconciliation, originally extended to the Colossians--which freed them from hundreds of years of dead works and alienation to God--is the same reconciliation extended to sinners who come to Christ today through the ordinary means of hearing the Word and taking the ordinances rightly administered.

Byfield is also remembered for his The Rule of Faith: or, An Exposition of the Apostles Creed. You can purchase a 1626 edition for a very good price here.

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