In Colossians 1:1-12 we learn about the wonderful effects of God's authority in the lives of those whom He has saved by grace. Colossians 1:13-14 explain what God did to make the effects described in verses 1 through 12 possible. In terms of the theme of authority, we can say that these verses answer the question, "How did Christians come under the authority of Jesus?"
Colossians 1:13, "Who hath delivered us"
Why is it that the Colossians had a reputation for "faith in Christ Jesus" and "love to all the saints" (Col. 1:4)? How is it that they were so different from the rest of the citizens of Colosse, so different from who they were before? Verses 13 begins the explanation with the fact that they were "delivered." This deliverance is the basis for the wonderful effects of Jesus' authority in their lives.
The words "hath delivered" are a translation of a verb in a grammatical form that describes a one time past action with present effects. Also, the words "hath delivered" are a translation of a verb in the middle or reflexive voice. A reflexive verb describes an action performed by the subject of a sentence that is directed back upon that subject. The phrase "the man hit himself" describes a reflexive action. Therefore, the idea in verse 13 is that God, by means of one act, has delivered Himself.
With all of this in mind, we can understand the words, "hath delivered" or rescued, in two ways. One way is that God Himself, alone, delivered or rescued His people from sin. He had no assistants. Another way is that, in the deliverance of "us," He also had to deliver or rescue Himself. This second idea is a statement of the fact that, although Jesus Christ was innocent in Himself, He bore the guilt of His people and was condemned to endure the punishment they deserved (II Cor. 5:21, I Peter 2:24). However, Jesus was not utterly and forever consumed by the wrath that descended upon Him as payment for the sins that He bore, otherwise the payment for our sins would not be complete. Jesus was delivered from that awful wrath to which He was subject (Psalm 16:10, 116:4,8,13, John 17:4, 19:30, Rom. 8:3, Gal.3:13). That was what His resurrection revealed.
"from the power of darkness"
The word "from" is better rendered "out of." It highlights an extraction or relocation. The word "power" means authority, as in Matthew 7:29 or 9:6. The picture is that God entered into where darkness had authority, found some people and then took them out (Psalm 107:14).
Our understanding of the whole phrase depends upon our understanding of the word "darkness." On one hand, we could connect the word "darkness" with the evil of sin. The Bible does not directly equate "darkness" with sin or evil deeds, but it does describe "darkness" as a place where people cannot see to do what is right and so sin (John 3:19, Rom. 1:21, 11:10, Eph. 4:18). The idea is that "darkness" refers to the environment of sinful deeds. It is where sinful deeds belong because that is where they are found (Eph. 5:11). The idea is that we are delivered out of a place of darkness (and therefore into a place of light).
If we rewrite the phrase "power of darkness" as, "darkness' power," then the focus is upon "darkness" as an agent in control. That reminds us of Satan who has authority to dominate unsaved men so that they continue to live blindly in sin (Acts 26:18, Eph 6:12, Heb. 2:15). With this view of "darkness" in mind, we understand deliverance as an issue between two authorities, God's and he who is master of darkness. The idea is that there is a wicked authority which opposes God's redemptive plan, in the sense that the evil authority tries to preserve its control over its subjects and resist God's plan to capture those over whom it rules. That is the picture in Matthew 12:29, where we read of deliverance as spoiling the house of the "strong man," or Satan.
Another view of "darkness" is based upon its association with the evil of God's judgment, which He brings in response to man's sin (Isa. 45:7). Darkness, in this sense, reminds us of the complete darkness of Hell and eternal death (Matt. 22:13, Jude 13). Again, it is the environment of sin. But in this case, it is not where people practice sin, but rather where they are assigned to pay for their sin. With this in mind, the word "darkness" refers to the Law of God and the word "power" refers to its authority to condemn men to death for their disobedience (Gal. 3:10), as well as to sentence them to eternal darkness. We understand deliverance, then, to be salvation from the condemnation of God's Law. According to Colossians 1:14, that means Christ shed His blood in order to satisfy the demands of the Law and bring us out of its condemnation. That is the picture in Psalm 107:6-14.
Actually, sin, Satan's dominion and the Law's authority are all in view here, as they are in the rest of Colossians. Adam entered into the dominion of darkness when he listened to and obeyed Satan rather than God. Adam abrogated his position as ruler over God's creation in the Garden of Eden and submitted to Satan's words. God honored Satan's usurpation as a legal right, even though Satan obtained it through deceit. From then on, all of Adam's descendants were bound by Satan's authority. Also, when Adam obeyed Satan, he became liable for God's promised wrath against sin and the destruction that will come upon Satan and all who are under his dominion.
"and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."
How we understand the words "translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son" depends upon how we understand the word "darkness." If we think of the power of darkness as the environment or the country where sin and Satan rule, then the idea is that God has the authority of a conquering King who has the right to enter a vanquished country and take the spoils of battle. In this case, the spoils are people whom he captures and puts into His own kingdom (Isa. 49:25, Matt. 12:29). It is not that because God is so strong He bullies His way in and does whatever He pleases. Rather, it is that God properly addressed the claims of Satan upon his slaves and so designed a plan to properly rescue them. God sent Jesus to earth as a second Adam, who perfectly obeyed the demands of the Law. He was a worthy sacrifice for sin and paid for the sins of His people. Therefore He could legally release His people from the dominion sin and Satan had over them, to whom they previously listened and obeyed.
On the other hand, if we think of the power of darkness as the authority of the Law to judge sinners, then the words "translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son" mean that God has the right to release His people from the just condemnation of the Law. Men who live in darkness are not innocent victims of a violent and illegal kidnaping. Rather, men who live in darkness are in need of mercy (Eph. 5:8) because they are rebellious and wicked people who willingly serve Satan and hate God (Rom. 1:21, 3:10,11). They are in need of "forgiveness," as verse 14 states. Only when their legal problem is resolved, can they be moved to God's kingdom.
Notice that the Kingdom of Jesus is a present reality. At the time a person is saved, he is "translated into the kingdom of his dear Son." Jesus is a King now, and His Kingdom is real now. We must never think that Jesus' Kingdom is some future reality. Jesus' Kingdom may not be earthly (John 18:36) or physical (I Cor. 15:50), but Jesus is a real king (Psalm 47:7,8, Jer. 10:7,10, Heb. 1:8) over His subjects (Luke 17:21, I Thess. 2:12) who presently display His authority in their lives on earth (Col. 3:1).
Also notice that a person is either in the dominion of darkness and out of the Kingdom of God or he is out of the dominion of darkness and in the Kingdom of God. He cannot be a citizen of both. As he lives his life, he will eventually show to whose authority he is subject and loyal. A person cannot continue to live a self-centered life of sin and also be under Jesus' authority. A man who seeks to serve God shows that he is a citizen of Jesus' Kingdom.
Not only that, the transfer of a person's citizenship from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of Jesus is both one way and permanent. It is a work of God that cannot be altered or reversed. It is forever (John 10:27-30).
Colossians 1:14, "In whom we have redemption through his blood"
A redemption is a very special kind of purchase. One important thing to keep in mind is that the objects which are redeemed, or purchased, are those that originally were owned by the person who redeems them. The emphasis is upon the restoration of objects to their original owner.
The Bible discusses the rules of redemption in many places, such as in Leviticus 25, especially verses 23-27. The rules are shadowy and involved pictures of the redemption found in the Gospel. For our purposes, in trying to understand Colossians, we will focus upon the basic idea of redemption, namely, a restoration of an object to its original owner upon the payment of a price. Briefly, the rules stated that, when an object was transferred from the possession of its original owner to a new owner, it remained there until payment of the price of redemption was made. The new owner did not possess the object in the same way that he owned other things. The new owner had limited rights to the object. The new owner was obligated to honor the privilege of the original owner to purchase the object when the original owner was able and willing to do so. It is as if the original owner had pawned the object, rather than really sold it. That is, it is as if when the original owner gave the object to the new owner, the object was held in bond awaiting redemption.
Now let us try to understand the idea of redemption in Colossians. It is easy to identify the objects to be redeemed. They are people, the "we" of this verse. It also is easy to identify the original owner. He is Jesus. Jesus owns all people because He is their Creator (Eph. 3:9, c.f. Ezek. 18:4). But Jesus especially owns the elect, people who were given to Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:2,24). It is not so easy to identify the new owner, for it depends upon our view of the words "power of darkness." We could think the words "power of darkness" refer to Satan's control over unsaved people. Or we could think the words "power of darkness" refer to Law's authority to condemn sinners and send them to Hell.
If the words "power of darkness" refer to Satan's control, then the idea of redemption is as follows. Adam and all his descendants became slaves of Satan when Adam submitted to Satan in the Garden of Eden. God eventually sent Jesus to pay for the release of those people among Adam's descendants whom He had chosen from before the foundation of the world. After Jesus made the necessary and sufficient payment with His life, He had the authority to loose His people from the control of Satan and bring them into His kingdom (Matt. 12:28-29, Acts 26:18).
The idea that Satan is not the original owner of unsaved people but instead is identified as the new owner might be a little puzzling. After all, it seems that all people, born as sinners, begin life under Satan's dominion. That would seem to identify Satan as the original owner. However, people cannot have originally belonged to Satan, for Satan cannot receive credit for their existence. It is true that as soon as a person is conceived he is under the dominion of darkness. There doesn't seem to be any span of time between people's creation in their mothers' wombs and their infection with sin. Yet, from God's point of view, who had His people in His mind before the foundation of the world, they belong to and were given to Jesus first (John 17:2, Eph. 1:4). Their conception and birth began a series of events that eventually would lead them out from "the power of darkness" and "into the kingdom of his dear Son."
If we think the words "power of darkness" refer to the Law's condemnation, then the idea of redemption is as follows. Because of the sin of Adam, all people became subject to the punishment demanded by the law and deserve eternal death in Hell. But Jesus came to redeem them from the law by means of His blood, that is, His death. Then He arose from the dead to prove that the price of redemption had been fully paid. Also, He arose so that He could claim them as His possession (Acts 20:28, I Cor. 3:23, Rev. 5:9).
Whether we think of redemption from Satan or from the Law of God, both views repeat our explanation of the words "translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Therefore, at the very least, the idea of redemption in verse 14 supports and reinforces the idea of translation in verse 13.
The words "in whom," are equal to "in Jesus Christ" (Rom. 3:24). They mean that the price of the redemption of the believers is in Jesus Christ. That is, if you want to locate the currency used to satisfy the price of redemption, you must go to Jesus. It is "in Him." He doesn't have a purse which contains the currency. Rather, He Himself is the currency used for the redemption. And that gets us to the words "through his blood."
Why does the Bible bring up the word "blood?" For many people it is an uncomfortable subject. Blood is unsightly. It makes a stain in our clothes that stands out and, once set, is almost impossible to remove. Blood also is alarming. It is evidence of a wound. And to lose a lot of blood is a mortally serious matter. But God created blood to be noticeable for a more important reason than any physical concern. Red blood should remind us of our conspicuous sin (Isaiah 1:18). Spilt blood should remind us of death (Lev. 17:11).
To that we can add the picture of the alter in the tabernacle or temple upon which the Old Testament sacrifices were placed and upon which blood was sprinkled. It must have been a physically offensive place. The blood would smell bad after a while. The alter probably looked terrible with the sticky, brown oxidized blood all over it. There was nothing attractive or cheerful about the blood on the alter, but it provided the proper picture of Jesus' sacrifice. Blood reminds us that Jesus' redemption was a horrible experience for Him (Luke 22:44). Jesus shed blood because "he was wounded for our transgressions" or "he was cut off out of the land of the living" (Isa. 53. 5,8). We don't gladly think that, "He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" as He bore the wrath of God for "us." Therefore, "we hid as it were our faces from him." (Isa. 53:3). Jesus' sacrifice was as gross, as stark, as serious, as frightening as the sight of blood.
"even the forgiveness of sins:"
The word "forgiveness" is a translation of a word that means "to send away" or "to let go." In Luke 4:18 it is used as "deliverance," or in another form as "liberty." The Old Testament picture of this is found in Leviticus 16 (verses 7-10, 21-22). The law commanded the priest to put his hands on a goat, which ceremonially transferred the sins of the people to the animal. After that, the priest sent it away into the wilderness, as a figure of removing sin from the people, which was the basis for forgiveness.
In this verse, the words, "the forgiveness of sins" are linked to the words "redemption through his blood." That is, it is only because of the redemption that forgiveness is legally possible. Forgiveness does not mean that God says, "O well, I'll just be a nice guy and forgive you." God must provide a legal basis for pardoning or separating His people from their sins. That He did that in Jesus is the basis for His people's confidence and relief that there will be no horrible surprises in eternity. That is, God's forgiveness is complete and enduring.
Even though sin still easily besets God's people (Heb. 12:1) and they struggle with sin all their lives (Rom. 7:17,22-23), from God's judicial point of view, their sins are gone and forgotten (Heb. 10:17). They continue to sin and struggle to gain victory over their sins. Of that God is aware, and for that He provides counsel (Col. 3). However, their sins are no longer a barrier to fellowship with a Holy God because their sins have been completely forgiven (Col. 2:13). And when they eventually go to heaven, there will be a total separation from the presence of sin.
As a general comment upon verses 13 and 14, we see that the Bible does not paint the picture of salvation as a romantic drama in which Christ plays the part of a brave knight with shining armor riding upon a white stallion, who assaults the evil enemy's castle, rescues the fair damsel from her distress and carries her off to his kingdom to live happily ever after. The problem with people is not "out there" somewhere. It is in their own hearts (Jer. 17:9). People have a spiritual problem that needs a resolution. If we wished to retain the drama of a rescue, then the damsel is as ugly as sin and unwilling to be rescued, even fighting against the Savior, for sinners are willing servants of sin and Satan. To continue with the drama, the knight is stained by blood because He dies a horrible death, for He is a redeemer. Jesus redeems sinners from death's claim upon them (Hosea 13:14, Heb. 9:12,14,22-28).
Additional notes for Colossians 1:13 concerning the words, "and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."
Paul was an illustration of the message he brought. Paul had been an arrogant and aggressive opponent of the Gospel, as he described himself in Titus 3:3, "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." But then he could say in I Corinthians 15:9-11, "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed." He who had been an unwitting servant of sin and Satan (John 8:34,44), defended the Gospel (Phil. 1:7,17). Paul's new obedient life was a testimony to others that he was under Jesus' authority and could be trusted.
The dramatic and conspicuous contrast in Paul's life also revealed and highlighted the difference between the character of the master whom he used to serve and the character of One whose authority to whom he afterward became subject and who controlled his life. Paul's new obedient life was a testimony to the kind of person Jesus is and the nature of the authority that He exercises. The fruits that Paul displayed in his life revealed Jesus' objectives, methods and power and therefore reflected the beauty of His character.
Finally, Paul's new obedient life was a testimony to himself. It gave him assurance that he was saved. Paul was certain that Jesus was his Savior because it was clear that Jesus was his Lord. Based upon the evidence of his obedience, Paul was confident that although he had been the citizen of an enemy country (Col. 1:21), he had been transformed into Jesus' kingdom and would avoid the destruction that will come against the dominion of darkness on Judgement day. His ready submission was a mark of being under Jesus' authority, of being saved.
It is true that obedience is not equal to salvation. People are saved by grace alone, apart from anything they do. Also, people who are not saved outwardly can conform to what the Bible says for a while. However, over time, a person's allegiance, whether to self and Satan or to Jesus Christ, will show. In other words, obedience is a necessary companion to salvation because Jesus is either a person's Lord or He is not.
The exchange of authority in Paul's life illustrates the fact that people are always under some authority. People are never autonomous and independent (Rom 6:16-18,22). Whose authority people are under will be revealed in their lives because their authority commands obedience and their authority has the power to enforce compliance.
Additional notes for Colossians 1:14 concerning the words, "even the forgiveness of sins."
Interestingly, Leviticus 16 discusses two goats (v7). One goat was slain, whose blood was shed as a sin offering. And the other which was let go into the wilderness, as we mentioned in the main part of this study. That double picture matches the double message of Colossians 1:14. Colossians 1:14 first states that God's people have redemption through Jesus' blood, which coordinates with the first goat that was slain. Colossians 1:14 then follows with the forgiveness of sins, which coordinates with the scapegoat. The idea is that the sequence is the same in both the picture found in Leviticus 16 and the fulfillment of that picture described in Colossians 1. First there must be the payment for sin, only then can people's sins be sent away.
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