For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, (1:13a)
A second cause for thanksgiving is our spiritual liberation. Delivered is from ruomai, which means “to draw to oneself,” or “to rescue.” God drew us out of Satan’s kingdom to Himself. That event was the new birth. We are not gradually, progressively delivered from Satan’s power. When we placed our faith in Christ, we were instantly delivered. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers do not need deliverance from the dominion of sin and Satan; they need to act as those who have been delivered (cf. Rom. 6:2, 7, 11).
Those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ have been rescued from the domain of darkness. Exousias (domain) could be translated “power,” “jurisdiction,” or “authority.” Our Lord used the phrase domain of darkness (exousias tou skotous) to refer to the supernatural forces of Satan marshalled against Him at His arrest (Luke 22:53). The triumph of the domain of darkness was short-lived, however. A few hours later, Jesus forever shattered Satan’s power by His death on the cross. You need not fear that power, for “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Through His death, Jesus crushed Satan and delivered us from his dark kingdom.
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1:13b, 14)
Paul continues the litany of blessings that draw out his gratitude by describing our new domain. Methistēmi (transferred) means to remove or change. It is used in Acts 13:22 to speak of God’s removing Saul from being king. It was used in the ancient world to speak of the displacement of a conquered people to another land. The verb speaks here of our total removal from the domain of satanic darkness to the glorious light of the kingdom of Christ.
Kingdom refers to more than the future millennial kingdom, when Jesus will reign on earth for a thousand years. Nor does it speak merely of the general rule of God over His creation. The kingdom is a spiritual reality right now. Paul gives us a definition of it in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The kingdom is the special relationship men in this age have with God through Jesus Christ. A kingdom in its most basic sense is a group of people ruled by a king. Christians have acknowledged Christ as their King and are subjects in His kingdom. They have been transferred … to the kingdom of His beloved Son. The Greek text literally reads, “the Son of His love” (tou huiou tēs agapēs autou). The Father gives the kingdom to the Son He loves, then to everyone who loves the Son (Luke 12:32).
Although Christ does not yet rule on earth, He is no less a king. In response to Pilate’s question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “It is as you say” (Matt. 27:11). He reigns in eternity, rules now over His church, and one day will return to rule the earth as King of kings.
There is a tremendous responsibility that accompanies being part of Christ’s kingdom. As subjects of that kingdom, we must properly represent the King. Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). Even their persecution was a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so they might be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed they were suffering (2 Thess. 1:5). The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).
Before we could be fit subjects for Christ’s kingdom we needed redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Apolutrōsis (redemption) is one of the magnificent New Testament words expressing a blessed aspect of the work of Christ on our behalf. Alongside such terms as sacrifice, offering, propitiation, ransom, justification, adoption, and reconciliation, it attempts to describe the riches of our salvation. It means “to deliver by payment of a ransom,” and was used to speak of freeing slaves from bondage. The meaning of apolutrōsis is expressed in our English word emancipation. The Septuagint uses a related word to speak of Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Apolutrōsis is used in several places in the New Testament to speak of Christ’s freeing us from slavery to sin. In Ephesians 1:7, Paul writes, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” To the Corinthians he wrote, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). In the midst of perhaps the most thorough soteriological passage in the New Testament, Paul writes that we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
Redemption results in the forgiveness of sins. Aphesin (forgiveness) refers to pardon, or remission of penalty. It is a composite of two Greek words, apo, “from,” and hiēmi, “to send.” Because Christ redeemed us, God has sent away our sins; they will never be found again. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19).
So Christ’s death on our behalf paid the price to redeem us. On that basis, God forgave our sins, granted us an inheritance, delivered us from the power of darkness, and made us subjects of Christ’s kingdom. Those wonderful truths should cause us to give thanks to God continually, as did Paul in his prayer. And when we contemplate all He has done for us, how can we do any less than pray to be filled with the knowledge of His will?
13 Not only has God qualified the Colossians to share in the saints’ inheritance, he has also “rescued [them] from the dominion of darkness.” This light/night dichotomy is found elsewhere in Paul (cf. Ro 13:12; Eph 5:8; Php 2:15; 1 Th 5:5) and is not uncommon in the NT, especially in the Johannine literature (cf. Jn 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 11:10; 12:35–36; 1 Jn 1:5–7; 2:8–11; see also 1 Pe 2:9). This contrast, of course, is present at creation (Ge 1:1–5) and is given insightful expression in Isaiah (e.g., 9:2; 60:1–2). Although Colossians contends that Christ is superior to and more powerful than any other and all else (see esp. 1:15–17; 2:10), it nevertheless acknowledges the sinister power of lesser authorities that Christ, and through him Christians, must overcome and conquer (see esp. 1:20–22; 2:13–15; cf. 2 Co 10:3–6; Eph 6:11–12).
God facilitates and effects deliverance for believers through his Son. Paul describes this divine rescue mission as a transference from one “dominion” to another. God has brought Christians out of the orb of darkness “into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (lit.), into the realm and rule of God’s beloved Son. (Basileia, “kingdom,” GK 993, appears one other time in Colossians [4:11] and only fourteen times in all the Pauline letters; the term occurs some 162 times in the Greek NT and with some frequency in the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.) This precise description of Jesus is unparalleled in Paul (cf., however, Eph 1:6) and occurs only occasionally elsewhere in the NT (cf. Mk 1:11; 9:7 [and Synoptic par.]; 2 Pe 1:17). The Father loves his Son and demonstrates his love to humanity through the sending and giving of him (Jn 3:16; Ro 5:8; 1 Jn 4:10). The Colossians (and all Christians) are called to clothe themselves in such love (3:14; cf. 1:4; 2:2; 3:19).
13 This inheritance is established in the realm of light; it is irradiated by the brightness of the Sun of righteousness, shining in his people’s hearts. It is contrasted with the realm to which they formerly belonged, the “dominion of darkness.” There is no need to see here a reflection of Zoroastrian dualism. Nor should we think in terms of Qumran influence, although parallels to this kind of language abound in the Qumran texts.55 The statement of an ethical antithesis in terms of light and darkness (light being the correlate of goodness and truth, darkness of evil and falsehood) is too widespread for us to assume in such a reference as this the influence of any one system of thought in which these terms played a prominent part. It may indeed be that the teaching to which the Colossian Christians were being exposed made play with “light” and “darkness” as it apparently did with “wisdom” and “knowledge”; but there is good biblical precedent for their use, going back to the separation of light and darkness in the creation story of Gen. 1:4. Other Pauline instances are 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 5:5; Eph. 5:8–14.
The phrase “the dominion of darkness,” which is used here, appears in Luke’s account of our Lord’s arrest in Gethsemane, where he says to the men who have come to apprehend him, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the dominion of darkness” (Luke 22:53). These words refer to the sinister forces marshalled against him for a decisive combat in the spiritual realm. The dark power did indeed have its brief hour of opportunity against the Son of Man, but it was only a brief hour, and it ended in the defeat of the dark power. By virtue of his conquest then, Christ vindicated his authority to raid the domain of darkness and rescue those who had hitherto been fast bound under the control of its guardians.58 Those guardians, “the world rulers of this darkness,” as they are called in Eph. 6:10, are probably the principalities and powers to which the Christians of Colossae were tempted to pay some meed of homage. But why should they do any such thing? They had already been rescued from the sphere dominated by those principalities, and translated into the domain of the victorious Son of God. No longer was there any need for them to live in fear of those forces which were believed to control the destinies of men and women: their transference to the realm of light had been accomplished once for all.
In the affirmation that believers have already been brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son we have an example of truly realized eschatology. That which in its fullness lies ahead of them has already become effective in them. “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). The fact that God has begun a good work in them is the guarantee that it will be brought to fruition on the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 1:6). By an anticipation which is a genuine experience and not a legal fiction they have received here and now a foretaste of the glory that is yet to be revealed. The “inheritance of the saints in light” has not yet been received in its coming fullness, but the divine act by which believers have been fitted for it has already taken place. The divine kingdom has this twofold aspect throughout the NT. It has already broken into the world through the work of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:28 par. Luke 11:20); it will break in on a coming day in the plenitude of glory which invests Christ’s parousia. Those who look forward to an abundant entrance in resurrection into that heavenly order which the present mortal body of flesh and blood cannot inherit are assured at the same time that this order is already theirs. This assurance they derive (as Paul says elsewhere) from the indwelling Spirit or (as it is said in v. 27 below) from the indwelling Christ.
It appears that Paul tends to distinguish those two aspects of the heavenly kingdom by reserving the commoner expression “the kingdom of God” for its future consummation, while designating its present phase by some such term as “the kingdom of Christ.” Thus, in 1 Cor. 15:24 Christ, after reigning until all things are put under his feet, delivers up the kingdom to God the Father; his mediatorial sovereignty is then merged in the eternal dominion of God.
13 As noted in our schematic in the note at verses 10–12 above, Paul keeps unpacking in a series of subordinating clauses their prayer, and in v. 13 he parallels the Father’s work of qualification (v. 12b) with the Father’s work of rescuing and relocating in the kingdom of the Son in a way that evokes the exodus. In fact, one might say the parallel is precisely that: an exodus typology parallels the previous qualifying work. That is, the Father qualifies by rescuing. YHWH is the Redeemer (Isa 63:16; cf. Rom 11:26) and rescues, delivers, or saves someone—in particular, Israel (cf. Exod 6:6; 14:30; Matt 6:13). It may well be that the idea of redemptive rescue itself derives from a standard Jewish petition, with the gravity of meaning always shifting to the peril from which someone is rescued. In Paul’s letters, one is rescued from God’s wrath, or the judgment of God against the wicked (1 Thess 1:10), from wicked and evil people (2 Thess 3:2), the deadly peril of persecution (2 Cor 1:10; 2 Tim 3:11; 4:17–18), unbelievers (Rom 15:31), and death (7:24). But Col 1:13 fashions the peril in cosmic terms—“from the dominion of darkness”—and this cosmic rescue work of God emphasizes what has already happened. When redemption comes up, so does atonement, and the theory of atonement at work in this clause emerges from an exodus-from-exile theology.224 The same verb (ruomai) is found in two classic exodus formulations as translated in the LXX:
Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem [lutroō] you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. (Exod 6:6)
That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. (Exod 14:30)
Hence, the “theory” at work is the classic theory, namely, that God ransoms us by Christ’s entrance into enemy territory to recapture the captives and take them into freedom—transporting them from enemy territory back home. We will include a full discussion of the principalities and powers below at 2:15, so for now all that needs to be said is that the “dominion of darkness” is the deep, cosmic, demonic personal realities capturing structures and society and people in this world systemically to thwart the good plan of God. That plan is to rescue people from darkness in order to relocate the rescued into the realm of the kingdom of the Son.
They have been rescued out of the “dominion of darkness.” The ancient world of both Greco-Roman and Jewish authors, including the New Testament, knows of a moral dualism depicted in terms of light and darkness (1 Thess 5:4; 1 Cor 4:5; 2 Cor 6:14; Rom 2:19; Wis 17:20; 18:4), but the imagery of light vs. darkness can come just as easily from apocalyptic thinking that divides the cosmos into those in the light over against those in the darkness. For instance, 1 Enoch 92:4–5: “The Righteous One … they [or he] shall walk in eternal light. Sin and darkness shall perish forever, and shall no more be seen from that day forevermore.” The imagery of light and darkness reflects boilerplate thinking, so it should not be pinned to any specific group in the first century. God’s rescue operation entails liberation for all believers from the “dominion of darkness,” the qualifying act of God that “transferred us” (CEB) or transported us into “the kingdom of the Son he loves.”230
What does Paul mean by “kingdom”? To begin an answer we ask, When is the kingdom? Paul’s usual emphasis is on the futurity of the kingdom, though at times the kingdom is present.232 In v. 13 “kingdom” is the inaugurated/realized reality of the eschatological plan of God, now at work in the world but that will be completed at the eschaton in the new heavens and the new earth. Some contend that the expression “kingdom of the Son he loves” expresses a basic tension between the now and the not yet of the New Testament, where it will be the fuller kingdom of God. This discussion about the now vs. the future does not go far enough in asking the even more important question. We come to another question, How is the kingdom present? This question is answered by nearly all with certitude: the kingdom becomes present in God’s redemptive act in Christ. Hence, “kingdom” is all but synonymous with “salvation.” But this conclusion leads to a further question: Where is the kingdom today? It is my contention, about to be defended, that the presentness of the kingdom, or the inaugurated reality of the kingdom, must be located in the church. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the Where question has sometimes been answered with “wherever good deeds are done.” Hence, kingdom becomes all but synonymous with ethics and social justice.
But the word “kingdom” in the Hebrew Old Testament through the Septuagint and into Josephus entailed more than the rescuing or redeeming act of God (salvation) and more than the justice of the kingdom (ethics). One can easily argue that the term never directly means either salvation or justice, though both are implicated in what kingdom means in the Jewish world. This term “kingdom” entailed five elements, without which we lose contact with what kingdom meant for Israel, for Jesus, and for the apostles:
- a king (here the “Son”),
- a rule (which includes governing, saving, rescuing, guiding, and protecting),
- a people (hence the term is often synonymous with “nation” and “Israel” or “Judah”),
- a land or place, and
- a law.
All five elements are present when Paul says they have been rescued from darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the Son. Robin M. Wilson says much the same in the following words: “It has been argued that the primary significance is that of sovereignty, the rule of God in the hearts and lives of men and women, rather than that of a realm or kingdom. This, however, may be to introduce a false contrast: sovereignty implies a territory within which that sovereignty is exercised, a community over which the sovereign rules, people who accept that rule.”
And Dale Allison has recently observed that “in both this age and the age to come, God’s kingship cannot be separated from the people of Israel, who in turn are inextricably bound up with the fate of their land and its capital, Jerusalem.” That is, this kingdom is more than a saving dynamic or the saving rule of God unleashed in the here and now in pursuits of justice, but the concrete reality of the redeemed people in fellowship under the King’s benevolent and protective rule. Witherington asks where Christ has “overruled” and poses two answers: through his death he now rules over the principalities and powers, and in the lives of believers he rules morally.240 I add a third: in the body of Christ, the church both universal and local. We speak here yet again however only of the inauguration of that rule, not the full realization of it.
The kingdom of the Son is the Son God “loves.” Undoubtedly we have echoes here of Ps 2:7 and Isa 42:1, both brought into view christologically in the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:11; Matt 3:17). Son refers to Jesus as King.
1:13 / The second reason for thanksgiving is their deliverance from darkness and their transference to the kingdom of Christ. Darkness, in the nt, is a metaphor for evil, and those in darkness are without God and live under the rule of Satan, the evil one (Matt. 6:13). Paul, as a messenger of the gospel, was himself told: “I am sending you to them to open their [the Gentiles’] eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17–18). Christians are described as those who at one time lived in darkness but in Christ have become people of light (Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 John 1:5–7). In Colossians, Paul reminds his readers that they have been rescued from the dominion of darkness.
The positive side of God’s action is that he brought us (lit., “transferred”) into the kingdom of the Son he loves. The idea expressed by kingdom is that of a “rule” and is used as a counterpart to dominion. In other words, as the realm of darkness had a certain power, the transference is to the rule (power, authority) of the Son God loves (lit., “Beloved Son,” as used at the baptism and transfiguration, Mark 1:11; 9:7, and parallels; cf. also Eph. 1:6). The Colossians have been rescued from the sphere of darkness dominated by evil powers and transferred into the realm of the victorious Son of God.
The phrase kingdom of the Son he loves or the “kingdom of Christ,” is not common in the nt. Perhaps the apostle uses this expression to emphasize the present reality and sphere of their possession in Christ rather than the more common “kingdom of God,” which has a connotation of the future (1 Cor. 6:9; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; 2 Tim. 4:1, 18). Or, Paul simply may be preparing the way for the Christ hymn that follows. At any rate, it serves to remind the readers that they are no longer subject to evil forces; they have been delivered from these powers and are reminded to live victoriously in the power of Christ (3:1–4).
13, 14. Verses 13 and 14 summarize the divine work of redemption. The details follow in verses 15–23. This reminds us of Romans, where 1:16, 17 summarizes what is described in greater detail in Rom. 1:18–8:39.
Paul’s heart was in his writing. He never wrote in the abstract when he discussed the great blessings which believers have in Christ. He was ever deeply conscious of the fact that upon him, too, though completely unworthy, the Father had bestowed these favors. Hence, it is not surprising that, deeply moved by what he is writing, he changes the wording, from “you” to “us”: verse 13, “who qualified you …”; verse 14, “and who rescued us.…” Besides, note how all the main ideas of verses 12–14—darkness, light, inheritance, remission of sins—occur also in Acts 26:18, 23, passages that record Paul’s own experience and predict the experience of the Gentiles to whom he was now sent. The apostle, accordingly, in describing the kindnesses which had been conferred upon the Colossians and upon himself and his associates, yes, even upon all rescued sinners, echoes the very words which the Savior had used in addressing him, even “Saul,” the great and dreadful persecutor:
“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet since for this purpose I have appeared to you … delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power [or: jurisdiction] of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:15b–18, quoted in part).
So Paul writes: and who rescued us. He drew us to himself, delivering us from our condition of wretchedness. The verb rescued in the present context implies both the utterly hopeless darkness and misery in which, apart from God’s mercy, “we” (the Colossians, Paul, etc.) had been groping about, and the glorious but arduous redemptive work that was necessary to emancipate us from our wretched state. The Father rescued us by sending his Son into the flesh (Col. 1:22; 2:9; cf. Gal. 1:15, 16; 4:4, 5) in order:
- to die for our sins on the cross (Col. 1:22; 2:14; cf. Gal. 2:20; 6:14), and
- to rise and ascend to heaven, whence he poured the Spirit into our hearts (Col. 3:1; cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; John 16:7), so that we, having been called (Col. 1:6, 7; cf. Gal. 1:15, 16; Phil. 3:14), were “made alive” (Col. 2:13; cf. Eph. 2:1–5; John 3:3; Acts 16:14), and by an act of genuine conversion accepted Christ Jesus as Lord and were baptized (Col. 2:6, 12; cf. Acts 9:1–19).
This entire process is covered by the words, “He rescued us,” and this, out of the domain of darkness, the sphere in which Satan exercises his usurped jurisdiction (Matt. 4:8–11; Luke 22:52, 53; cf. Acts 26:18) over human hearts, lives, activities, and over all “the powers of the air,” “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:2; 6:12). (For the meaning of light and darkness see above on verse 12.) Helpless, hopeless slaves were we, chained by our sins in Satan’s prison … until the Conqueror came to our rescue (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14). It was God in Christ who rescued us and transplanted us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. He brought us out of the dark and dismal realm of false ideas and chimerical ideals into the sun-bathed land of clear knowledge and realistic expectation; out of the bewildering sphere of perverted cravings and selfish hankerings into the blissful realm of holy yearnings and glorious self-denials; out of the miserable dungeon of intolerable bonds and heart-rending cries into the magnificent palace of glorious liberty and joyful songs.
“Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
“Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.”
(W. T. Sleeper)
It is probable that the underlying figure is one which those addressed—both Gentile and Jew—readily understood. These people knew that earthly rulers would at times transplant a conquered people from one country to another (2 Kings 15:29; 17:3–6; 18:13; 24:14–16; 25:11; 2 Chron. 36:20; Jer. 52:30; Dan. 1:1–4; Ezek. 1:1; see also above: Introduction, II. The City of Colosse, C). So also “we” have been transplanted, and this not from liberty into slavery but from slavery into liberty. Let us then stand in that liberty. Let us not think that our deliverance is only of a partial character, or that by means of mystic rites, painful ceremonies, worship of angels, or any other means (then or now) we must slowly work our way up from sin to holiness. Once for all we have been delivered. We have been transplanted not out of darkness into semi-darkness, but out of dismal darkness into “marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have even now arrived in “the kingdom of the Son of his (the Father’s) love.” Here is what may truly be called “realized eschatology.” In principle we already in this present life partake of the promised glory. God has already begun a good work in us, and as to the future each one of us is able to testify:
“The work thou hast in me begun
Shall by thy grace be fully done” (cf. Ps. 138:8; Phil. 1:6).
“We” have received the Holy Spirit. And his indwelling presence is the “earnest” (first instalment and pledge) of our inheritance (Eph. 1:4; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). It is the guarantee of still greater glory to come. This follows also from the fact that the Christ who merited this glory for us is “the Son of the Father’s love.” He is both the Object of this love (Isa. 42:1; Ps. 2:7; Prov. 8:30; Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Luke 3:22) and its personal manifestation (John 1:18; 14:9; 17:26). How then shall not the Father “together with him” freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32). We have been transplanted into the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love, in whom we have our redemption, that is, our deliverance as the result of the payment of a ransom. Just as according to Israel’s ancient law the forfeited life could be ransomed (Ex. 21:30), so our life, forfeited through sin, was ransomed by the shedding of Christ’s blood (Eph. 1:7). Besides, as A. Deissmann remarks, “When anybody heard the Greek word λύτρον, ransom [on which the word ἀπολύτρωσις, redemption is based] … it was natural for him to think of the purchase-money for manumitting slaves.” Hence, “in him,” that is, through spiritual union with him (Col. 3:1–3), redemption full and free is ours. This redemption is, accordingly, emancipation from the curse (Gal. 3:13), particularly from enslavement to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 7:14; 1 Cor. 7:23), and release to true liberty (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1). Through Christ’s payment of a ransom and our faith in him we have obtained from the Father the forgiveness or remission (cf. Ps. 103:12) of our sins. The chain that held us fast has been broken. Though the apostle uses this expression “forgiveness of sins” (which is of such frequent occurrence elsewhere in the New Testament), only here and in Eph. 1:7 (forgiveness of … trespasses), and though he generally conveys a similar idea by words and phrases that belong to the “justification by faith” family, he was, nevertheless, well acquainted with the idea of forgiveness of sins, as is shown by Rom. 4:7; 2 Cor. 5:19; and in Colossians by 2:13 and 3:13. In fact, in Colossians the idea of forgiveness is even emphasized. See footnote .
Justification and remission are inseparable. So are also redemption and remission, though this was at times denied. Thus Irenaeus in his work Against Heresies I.xxi.2, written about a.d. 182–188, tells us about certain heretics in his day who taught that here in this life salvation occurs in the following two stages:
- Remission of sins at baptism, instituted by the visible, human Jesus;
- Redemption at a later stage, through the divine Christ who descended on Jesus. In this second stage the person whose sins have already been forgiven attains to perfection or fulness.
It is possible, in view of such passages as Col. 2:9, 10; 4:12, that the errorists at Colosse were already spreading this or a similar notion. In any event, it was through the Holy Spirit, who knows all things even before they happen and is therefore able to issue warnings that apply to the future as well as to the present, that the apostle wrote these words. They clearly indicate that when a sinner is transplanted out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of light, he is to be regarded as having been redeemed, and that this redemption implies the remission of sins.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 40–42). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 285–286). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 50–52). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 124–129). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 61–65). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.