Colossians 1:13-14

Painting by Stefan Robinson; photo by Trina Robinson.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. –Colossians 1:13-14

One of the classic storylines from literature, movies, and even video games is rescue. A person is trapped in some “dominion of darkness,” unable to break free, crying out for help. A hero hears the cry for help, and overcoming great odds, pressing through overwhelming adversity, at great personal sacrifice, comes to the rescue, bringing the captive into freedom, into the light of day and the wonder of love.

This is the narrative Paul uses to describe our lives in the opening chapter of his letter to the church in Colossae. We are hopelessly trapped in “the dominion of darkness.” God comes personally to rescue us through “the Son he loves.”

For he has rescued us: To rescue in the Greek literally means to “snatch away,” as a child is snatched away by a loving parent, snatched from the street just before being hit by a passing car. It can also mean to draw out or deliver, as a drowning person drawn out of the sea. This same verb is found in The Lord’s Prayer, “deliver us from evil.” We are vulnerable, and unable to rescue ourselves. Our world culture tells us to simply call upon the powers within and rescue yourself, to pull ourselves upward out of darkness by yanking on our own shoestrings. The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us something very different. We are helpless, and need a radical rescue. At any time, day or night, we can call out for help, and God loves to come to our aid, to snatch us away from destruction, to draw us out of dangerous seas.

from the dominion of darkness: What forces of darkness trouble your life at this time? How has your life been trapped or imprisoned by some dark, corrupt, dangerous force? Some get trapped in some form of addiction: alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, stealing, food, sleep, etc. Others get imprisoned by fear, anxiety, or shame. There are many dark, unseen forces that can entrap a person in this life, often hidden from others in the dark recesses of our soul where few may enter. We often hide those parts of ourselves from everyone, afraid if we let anyone know about our shadow self, they will reject us. That deeper self, our “inner captive” lives in the darkness, wondering if anyone cares, or if anyone will ever come to our rescue. Ultimately, the dominion of darkness is spiritual darkness of the enemies of the God of Light and Love, the dark forces of evil and corruption from evil spirits and the devil.

and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves: Our hero comes to rescue us. God sends the Son he loves to come into the dominion of darkness to find his captive bride and bring us out of the dark dungeon, out into the kingdom of light. In the sentence just before Colossians 1:13, in verse 12, we hear Paul tell us he gives joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. The “kingdom of light” is God’s eternal realm breaking into our lives, into our dark dungeon. The Greek verb translated here as “brought,” is μεθίστημι, meta + histemi; literally, “another place to stand,” translated as transferred, caused to change to a new place, brought out to stand in another place. The One who transferred us out the dominion of darkness, the One who came to rescue us is the person of Jesus, as Chris Tomlin wrote in his song Here I Am To Worship,

Light of the World
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You

in whom we have redemption: In Jesus, we have redemption, meaning a release from prison by someone paying the ransom price. Jesus paid our ransom price, buying us from our captor, setting us free from slavery, free from sin, free from the dominion of darkness, bringing us out and transferring our lives into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of God’s beloved (agapes) Son! We are under a new authority, a new King who rules with love and sovereign grace and truth.

the forgiveness of sins: Only in Jesus, through his death on the cross are our sins forgiven. This forgiveness is a true and authoritative “sending away,” (aphesis), a dismissal, a release, a full pardon. The Judge has declared us pardoned, not-guilty, free to go. By the shedding of his own blood on the Cross as he died, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)