One might be tempted to question the legitimacy of the assertion that there is Temple language to be found in Colossians. Admittedly, on the surface it appears to be a bit of an unwarranted leap. However, if one were to recognize the parallels between the second chapter of Ephesians, acknowledging it as something of an unspoken gloss on what is to be found in the first chapter of Colossians, then it is quite safe to tread this theoretical path.
What is it in Colossians one that may put one in mind of the Temple? Specifically, what may put a reader in mind of the Temple in conjunction with Paul’s attempts at opening wide the gates of the covenant to all peoples? It could be suggested that a leading contender for this role would be the words that close out the twenty-second verse of the first chapter, which are “to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before Him” (Colossians 1:22b). This study has already reviewed what precedes these words, where Paul wrote “And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, but now He has reconciled you by His physical body through death” (1:21-22a).
Also, the parallel in Ephesians has already been noted, with this parallel becoming increasingly important as a means to penetrate into Paul’s thinking and the issues which he is addressing in nearly all of the churches with which he has contact. It is worth quoting again at length: “you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility… and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed” (2:12-14,16).
The similarities between the two citations should be quite obvious. Given that, it is not at all unreasonable to suspect that the similitude will continue, especially as it appears to be an unbroken stream of thought that results in Paul’s talk of the church as the Temple, with Gentiles obviously included in those that compose the Temple. The same can be said of Colossians, in that it is an unbroken stream of thought that has Paul moving from strangers, foreigners, reconciliation, and death, to a holy, blemish-less and blameless presentation before Him (Jesus presenting His new covenant people, made up of people from all nations, before Israel’s Creator God).
Though there is no explicit mention of Temple or church, as can be seen in Ephesians, the talk of those that are holy, without blemish, and blameless in presentation that flows directly from reconciliation, and which occupies the same space reserved for Temple talk in Ephesians, serves as a functional allusion to the Temple. How so? More specifically, how does this function in relation to the wider concern of the first chapter, which is the strident, Gentile-inclusive “all”?