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He Has Rescued Us
Key Verses: 1:13,14
“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.”
The Book of Colossians. One of most beautiful books to ever be written. We call this a prison letter because Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Colosse from prison. He would address the different heresies that plagued this first century church. But in essence he would also lay down for us some foundations for the Christian faith that have become a cornerstone for the Christian church and the Christian life. In this introductory section, we see several things. We see Paul’s view of himself especially his calling. We see Paul’s view of the Christian believers in the Colossian church. He greets them; he commends them; he prays for them; and he reminds them of who they are and what Jesus done for them. If you listen with the ears of your heart to what he is saying to them, you might also discover what he is saying to you as well.
Read verse 1. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.” The author of this letter is Paul who identifies himself as an Apostle of Christ Jesus. Apostle literally means “One who is sent out”, or in other words, a missionary. Paul was first and foremost a missionary of Christ Jesus, a man dedicated to the carrying the gospel of life wherever God would send him, and to anyone who would listen. How did Paul become an Apostle of Christ Jesus? He tells us in verse 1. He tells that it was by the will of God. “By the will of God” is an enormous statement. It means that Paul’s calling was not based on some human choice or decision but on the sovereign will of God. God is a sovereign God. He chooses and calls whomever he so wills. It also means that Paul’s calling was not based on human merit or spiritual qualification, but based entirely on the grace of God. By the will of God, Paul was called to be an Apostle. He was a man who deeply knew the value of such a calling and submitted himself to God in faith and in humility of heart. When Paul submitted himself to the will of God in faith and in humility of heart, he also recognized the value of his coworker Timothy. So he included Timothy as a co-author of this magnificent book. Timothy was Paul’s Bible student. Through Bible study, Paul raised Timothy from a sheep to shepherd status. But Paul did not lord it over him. He did not consider Timothy inferior to himself. Rather he deeply respected him as a coworker in the gospel. Timothy who now shared in Paul’s suffering for the gospel was no longer a mere young shepherd. He was now a “brother” in the Lord. So he wrote: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.” But who did he write this letter to?
Read verse 2. “To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” Paul addressed the church members at Colosse as “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ”. These were not the Christian church fathers who had weathered the relentless persecution laid upon them on account of preaching the name of Jesus Christ where it was forbidden to mention the Name. These were the church members at Colosse who after receiving the gospel of Jesus and tasting the grace of the Lord Jesus, had become plagued with heresies— heresies that shook the church to the core. Yet Paul addresses them as “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ”. It is a remarkable attribute of Paul to regard the church members as such. Paul regarded them with the respect and honor that was due them— as holy and faithful— not based no their good Christian or righteous behavior, but based on what Christ had done for them. In his eyes, they were holy because they had been washed in the blood of Jesus, and made part of the holy church of Christ for which Christ died. It is the blood of Christ shed for their sins that made them the holy children of God— the saints whom Paul was appointed to shepherd and to serve. In Paul’s eyes they were also faithful because in spite of the struggles they were going through, they remained true and faithful to the Lord Jesus and were ready to cleanse their church of any heresy which opposed true gospel faith. So he addressed the letter not to weak members who needed discipline and re-education, but “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse.” Paul also extended his apostolic blessing on them: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father.”
After stating the author of the letter and its recipients, Paul proceeded with an elaborate introduction before getting into the finer details of his purpose for writing this letter. And he begins with a word of thanksgiving to God on their behalf— not a one time thanksgiving but a thanksgiving that comes from his heart every time he bows his head in prayer for them. Its interesting to note what was he so particularly thankful for! Let’s read verses 3-5. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.” Paul seems to give thanks for three Christian virtues these Christians at Colosse possessed. He gave thanks for their faith in Christ Jesus, their love for the saints, and their hope in heaven. Paul did not give thanks to God for these Christian virtues which they possessed just one time, but as often as he prayed. Why then were these Christian virtues of such great value?
First, the Colossians’ faith in Christ Jesus. Paul thanked God for the faith of the Colossian Christians. But why was their faith so commendable and praiseworthy? We know that faith is in the heart of every human being created by God. We may even say that faith is a gift of God given to every human being created by God to serve his or her purpose in this world. When God made man God gave man a measure of faith that he might find salvation during his lifetime, for man cannot be saved by his own works but by faith in God who alone can save him. When God chose Abraham and called him to the godly life, Abraham chose to direct that faith to God. He chose to live by faith. So for more than 25 years God helped Abraham to grow in his faith until his faith was honed to God. Then over the centuries God allowed the faith of this one man to live in others and to grow in its depth until the coming of Christ— for Christ Jesus is the true object of man’s faith. God had intended that the faith of Abraham be honed in on Christ— directed to that one person in history who would eventually save the human race from sin. How gracious was God to finally give us his Son Jesus who became the object of our faith. In this world there are all kinds of faith simply because God has given every man a measure of faith to do with as he sees fit. So some choose to put their faith in their own righteousness, and others choose to put their faith in some philosophy or another, and still others choose to put their faith in the prophets and charlatans that have come and gone from this world. But none of these faiths is saving faith. The only faith recognized by God as saving faith is the faith that is in Christ Jesus. To choose to put one’s faith in Christ Jesus who died for our sins, and who rose from the dead for our justification is the only faith that saves men from the wages of sin and the wrath of God. Paul was deeply thankful for these few Christian believers in Colosse. They had been given the gift of faith as every man has ever been given. Yet when they heard the gospel of our Lord Jesus, they believed it, and put their faith in Christ Jesus. For that Paul was deeply thankful to God.
Second, the Colossians’ love for the saints. Paul also thanked God for the love the Colossians had for the saints of the Lord. It is hard to separate the three Christian virtues from one another, for they are interrelated interdependent on one another. Love. Loving the Lord Jesus. Loving his saints. Galatians 5:6 tells us: “… The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” The Colossians had faith in Christ Jesus. But their faith was not static. Rather it was dynamic. In other words, their faith was active in every way, especially in expressing itself— and expressing itself in love and through love. Love is the very essence of the Christian faith. Christ Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the human race, not because he had to but because he loved us enough to sacrifice himself on our behalf. No human being ever loved the way that the Lord Jesus loved us. No human being has ever been willing to forfeit all privileges in order to walk this earth in misery and in sorrow, in suffering and in death. But Jesus did. Jesus loved us so much that he sacrificed himself on the cross for our sins. And Jesus called us not only to put our faith in him, but to also love as he loved. He commanded his disciples— whoever those disciples may be in any given generation— “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) And this was no casual command. It was a command that was in the depth of Jesus’ heart when he gave it to his disciples of all time. Love one another. It is not easy to love God nor is it easy to love each other. But Faith is Christ Jesus compels us to love him more than we love anything or anyone else in this world. Faith in Christ Jesus also compels us to love each other. Faith also compels us to love his sheep, the weak and helpless, those thrown down by the devil’s scheme and left helpless. What binds us together in Christ is Christ himself, faith in him, and love for him. Because of that, we must love each other. So did the Colossian Christians. They had faith in Christ Jesus. By virtue of their faith in Christ Jesus they also had intense love for Jesus and they loved each other deeply. They loved even other than their coworkers and church members. They loved all the saints around the world. They loved the saints because each saint had been bought with the precious blood of the Savior. That made each saint more than worthy of love. Some people only talk about faith, but their lives neither reveal true faith nor are they capable of loving the saints. Even those they love they abandon in time for the love of other things. Paul thanked God for the Colossians’ love. It was faith expressing itself— it was a deep and genuine love.
Third, the Colossians’ hope in heaven. There was a time when the Colossian Christians were not Christians at all. Like all other Gentiles they had been worldly. Their hopes and dreams were mundane. They hoped for the perishing things of the world. But when they heard the gospel of Christ, they also heard of heaven. They heard of the kingdom of God which is the reward of every Christian whose hope is in Christ Jesus, for Christ Jesus came not only to forgive sinners but to restore the lost kingdom of God to God’s children. When they heard this they believed. They believed the hope of heaven. They believed that death is not the end of life. They believed that those who are washed in the blood of Jesus will be judged to inherit the kingdom of God. Paul had once said to the Roman Christians that: “hope that is seen is no hope at all.” (Romans 8:24) it is true, for who hopes in what he already has. The kingdom of God has been forever the greatest and surest hope of humanity. No hope in this world can be a real hope. Only the hope of heaven is real, for it is the one hope that we hold to in our faith in Christ and in our love for the saints. How great is this hope! It is so great that our Lord Jesus’ message from the beginning of his ministry until the day he was taken to heaven was centered around the hope of the heavenly kingdom. We pray in the Lord’s prayer, that “His kingdom come”. it is our prayer that God’s kingdom grows in the hearts of all men until the kingdom of God consumes all things and is ready to be revealed and given to the children of God. Once upon a time we lost the kingdom because of Adam’s sins. But Christ through his death and resurrection restored it for us. This was the Colossians’ hope. And their hope was not futile. They were ordinary people living in difficult times. But they did not let the world consume them. Rather, they let the hope of heaven consume their own hearts.
Where did they hear about the hope of heaven? Read verses 5-6a. “the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.” Again, where did they hear about the hope of heaven? They had heard it from the Word of Truth— from the Gospel— from the gospel that had come to them. This is remarkably true. Paul had once said: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Salvation comes through faith in Christ Jesus. But faith, where does it come from? According to Paul, faith comes from hearing the gospel message. It is true. How precious it is that God had made the gospel available to everyone. The gospel of our Lord was given to this world for the salvation of the world. Upon hearing it, faith is strengthened, and faith is put in it— particularly faith in Christ Jesus himself. So we cannot disregard the power of the gospel, the written word given to all people that all people might believe and receive the gift of faith, the salvation of their souls. But in another place Paul tells us— warns us: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15) Paul was a missionary at heart. He understood the value of the written word, and the spoken word, particularly the value and power of the gospel of life. He preached it. And the Colossians were the recipients of this gospel. They had heard. They had believed. They had been brought into the family of Christ Jesus. Now Paul commends that they had heard the message of the gospel, and had received in turn the hope of heaven planted solidly in their hearts. In fact, through the word of Truth they had grown in faith, in love and in hope of the kingdom.
But it was no empty faith nor love nor hope that had filled their lives. It was a living active faith and love and hope based on the word of truth that had been preached to them. In verse 6 Paul emphasizes the fact that the gospel in their lives had borne fruit in and through them. He says: “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” The gospel they had heard had been a living active gospel. It has penetrated their hearts and had worked in them a work of salvation. After salvation, the gospel had also grown in them, enough to manifest itself in faith and in love and in hope. The gospel is a living message that has the power to bear fruit wherever it is given or heard. No doubt the gospel that had reached the Colossians had also been bearing fruit according to Paul’s testimony. What kind of fruit has the gospel been bearing through this Colossian Christians then?
Read verses 9-12. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” It is a remarkable thing what great fruits the gospel had borne in their lives. They bore the fruit of good works. In other words, they worked hard to serve the gospel cause and not their own selfish interests. They also bore fruit of the knowledge of God. in other words, the fruit bearing life brought them closer to God, and they grew in the knowledge of God. When their knowledge of God grew, they were also strengthened with the power of God until they were able to learn greater patience and deeper endurance. It is a joy to know that the fruit of the gospel helps the Christian believers to grow in so many ways. The gospel was given not only for salvation but for growing in the image of Christ, until the Christian brother or sister can actually accomplish all that God had destined them to accomplish. The Colossians were not ordinary Christians for they did not live a life fro day to day in the world, and met every Sunday only to show their faces in the congregation. They lived lives that bore the fruit that God had appointed the gospel to bear in each believer’s heart. Growing in the knowledge of God is no small thing. One cannot grow in the knowledge of God by education nor by indoctrination. One can grow only when he or she give their hearts to the lord in faith and offer their lives to the Lord in love and hope. So did the Colossians, as they bore all kinds of fruit. There are also other fruit they bore which we should not miss. Look at verses 9-12 again. They bore the fruit of joyful thanksgiving. Among all the fruits that a Christian can bear in his or her life, the fruit of joy and thanksgiving may be the greatest of all fruit. For a joyful heart is a content heart before the Lord and a thankful heart is a heart that deeply knows the grace of God. when we know the Grace of God, and are content with what God has given for us to do, we can also be joyful, and thankful— the fruit of the living gospel in our lives. Otherwise, we are pretenders. The Colossians had many issues to deal with in their church, but truly they were commended because in spite of their issues, they did not fail to bear the fruit that God demands that we Christians bear regardless of our circumstances.
Why is the fruit bearing life so important? Look at verse 9-10. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” The fruit bearing life is important to every Christian because it is the will of God that every Christian bear fruit. Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians may be filled with the knowledge of the will of God in their lives. The fruit bearing life is important because the fruit bearing life is the only life worthy of the Lord— and mostly because the fruit bearing life is the life that pleases God. Every Christian must live a life that pleases God. Every Christian must strive to find the will of God. Then he or she will learn that the will of God is simple— live by faith, and follow the way of the cross— love one another— sacrifice oneself for the greater good of the church— and so on. Then when we have found the will of God, every Christian must come to know that it is the will of God that every child of God live a life pleasing to God— a life worthy of the gospel they had received when they were dead in their sins and made alive through faith in Christ. But not every Christian knows how to please God. Not every Christian is convinced that they must live a life worthy of the gospel, and bear the good fruits that God demands. Jesus our Lord gave us so many parables denoting the importance of living a life that pleases God in fruit bearing. John the Baptist commanded those who came to him, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8) Repentance is not the only way to bear fruit. But a heart that has faith and is filled with love and has the hope of heaven in it, is a heart that knows how to begin bearing fruit to the Lord. The Colossians were fruit bearing Christians. They were good examples to their brothers and sisters all over the world who had been living a gospel life wherever Christians congregated to serve Jesus. We ought to pray as Paul did that we may be filled with the knowledge of the will of God— so that we too may live a life worthy of his calling, and in order to please him with our lives.
Read verses 12-14. “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 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.” Paul urges that the Colossians give thanks to the father for many reasons. But mostly he urges that thanks be given because of what God had done on their behalf.
First, God had qualified them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. There was a time when the Colossian Christians were not Christians at all, and as such they were objects of God’s wrath. They had been living for their desires, lives without hope, lives that are apart from God’s promises. But God had given them the message of the gospel. And through the message of the gospel they had been transformed from objects of wrath to objects of God’s fatherly love. Then they were also given an inheritance in the kingdom of God. they were not worthy of this. Yet God had qualified them to be worthy in sharing all that belongs to Christ Jesus. for that Paul was thankful to God, that God had qualified them for sharing in the kingdom.
Second, Paul was thankful that God had rescued them from the dominion of darkness. Most people do not believe nor see that there is a world a dominion of darkness that covers the whole world. It is the domain of the devil and his minions. No one can escape this dominion, at least not by human power. Men have tried and failed. But what man could not do, Christ had done. Christ by his death and resurrection, shattered the walls of the dominion of darkness and had made a passage for those who would come out. By faith in Christ Jesus and by his grace any one can escape this world’s darkness and the life and deeds of darkness by invoking the name of Jesus, by claiming the blood that was spilled on the cross for the sins of the world.
Third, Paul was also thankful that Christ not only rescued them from darkness but had invited them to share in the kingdom of his son, in the gift of redemption, in the forgiveness of sins. How blessed were these Colossian Christians who had been ferried out of the kingdom of darkness and brought to the kingdom of light. For that Paul was so thankful. He was thankful for the grace of our Lord Jesus, the forgiveness of their sins. He was thankful for their redemption. By reminding them of all that Christ had done for them, Paul hoped that they could stand by faith and defeat whatever had come to tear them apart. We too must remember what Christ has done for us. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has brought us to the kingdom of the Son he loves; he has given us redemption for our souls; he has forgiven our sins. We need to thank him for that with all our hearts, and begin to live a fruit bearing life, a life that is pleasing to God and worthy of the gospel we have received. Amen.