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Colossians 1:21

ESV And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
NIV Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
NASB And although you were previously alienated and hostile in attitude, engaged in evil deeds,
CSB Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds as expressed in your evil actions.
NLT This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.
KJV And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

What does Colossians 1:21 mean?

This verse is the first of three (Colossians 1:21–23) which make a transition from speaking of Christ into a statement directly aimed at the Colossian Christians. Paul begins by speaking of their past, noting their condition before coming to know Christ. This is in no sense judgmental on Paul's part. In other letters, he speaks graphically about his own sinful, shameful past (1 Corinthians 15:9). This is a constant theme of the gospel: freedom from sin and transformation into a relationship with the living God (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:1–10).

Three traits of the Colossians' prior lives are revealed in this phrase. First, as unbelievers, they were "alienated." In other words, they were separated from God and did not belong to His family. Second, they lacked knowledge of God, and in fact stood opposed to Him. Third, not belonging to God and opposing Him led to evil actions. This sinful condition stands as the backdrop of the message of hope Paul proclaims for their lives in the next verse.
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