“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, for the forgiveness of sins.” ~ Colossians 1:13-14
Explanation of the Text: Common in the New Testament, Paul draws the typical comparison between light and darkness. In verse 12, he indicates that believers share an inheritance as saints in the light, while in verse 13 he notes that they have been rescued from the domain of darkness. This grand comparison is to say that if one is a believer, no longer are they walking in darkness, but they walk in light. Being in darkness indicates a relationship with the world, while the light indicates a relationship with God (1 John 1:5-10). In Ephesians 5:8-9, Paul not only compares light and darkness, indicating that believers are in the light of the Lord, but he also issues a command for believers to walk in the light. This comparison between light and darkness is so common, that often we lose the significance of it, to the point that light and darkness almost become clichés to us. However, if we continue on in this verse, we will see the depth of the language here and hopefully come to a better understanding of what this signifies.
First off, Paul indicates that believers have been delivered from the domain of darkness. Both the NIV and NASB translate this word as rescued, while others such as the KJV, ESV, RSV, and HCSB all translate it as delivered. With whatever word is used to translate, one cannot miss the power of this word here. By its nature, it is implied then that believers walked in both hopeless darkness and misery with no escape from it apart from the mercy of God, and yet in order to free (or emancipate) people from it, there was a redemptive work of Christ that was both laborious and formidable as well as glorious.
Note also, that this rescuing not only delivered us out of the domain of darkness, but it transferred us into something far greater. Specifically, it means that believers were transferred into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, who is the beloved Son of God. That is, no longer is the present earthly world, full of deceit and darkness, the concern for believers, but they have a hope of eternity in the light, which is the kingdom of heaven. Furthermore, not only does one have opportunity to live in the kingdom of Christ, but this was accomplished by the work of Christ. “Christ facilitates and effects deliverance for believers through His son.” The work of Christ allows us to live with Christ.
It is because of the work of Christ, people can have redemption in the forgiveness of sins. The concept of redemption in Paul’s day referred to someone freeing a slave by paying the price for that slave. Like slaves, we have been set free. However, there is an interesting concept here in that we are still slaves to something. Romans 6:16-18 states: “Don’t you know that that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey –either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness” (HCSB) (I would recommend taking some time to read the entire section of Romans 6:15-23 as part of your devotion today). Through the act of redemption, we are no longer slaves to sin, but rather are slaves to righteousness. However, as slaves to righteousness, there is still freedom to be found (which is a difficult concept to think about when we still claim to be slaves to something). Walking in the darkness of sin, one is enslaved into the bondage of despair that comes with it; however, walking in light one is set free to have a future hope of eternity. There can be no greater thing.
Examination & Application of the Text: Take a moment to read 1 John 1:5-10. Paul calls on believers to walk worthy of the Lord. In order to do that, one must be walking in the light rather than darkness. This does mean that one is completely without sin, but that one is being molded into the image of God (1 John 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). We have dwelled much during our devotions in Colossians about the need to have a relationship with Christ. This is very clear in our time in Colossians chapter 1, that in order walk worthy of God, one must have a relationship in Christ. Likewise, to obtain redemption and forgiveness of sins, one must have a relationship with Him. However, today we take that a step further by looking at the verses found here in 1 John. 1 John 1:7 notes “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” We would expect John to say we have fellowship with Him (which indeed we do). But instead, he writes that we have fellowship with one another. It has been rightly said, “Only when believers are walking in the light can we have fellowship with God, a fellowship that is embodied as fellowship with one another.” Having fellowship with other believers is character of walking in the light and being saved. It is for this reason the author of Hebrews writes that one should not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Therefore, not only would I suggest to you that one must have a relationship with Christ, but one should have a relationship with others. A relationship with one another allows for opportunities to teach one another, challenge one another, and hold each other accountable for the purpose of building up the body of Christ and be molded into Christlikeness (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Of final note in regards to this is the emphasis in the text on the overall work of Christ. We tend to personalize the work of the cross and make it about our own experience, and yet Paul is indicating the greatness of what Christ did here was not simply for one individual person, but for ALL persons that would come unto Him for salvation. Mark Johnston notes is best in the following way:
The bedrock of Christian assurance lies, not in when and how a person professed their faith in Christ, but on all that Jesus Christ did for His people once for all, supremely on the cross…..The Colossians were being steered towards what we might call an existential form of Christianity that was fixated with subjective individual experience, but the gospel (without minimizing the place of subjective experience) points to the cross as the objective focus of faith through which true experience is found.
Too often, people define the Bible, Christianity, etc, based on their own experiences. However, what truly needs to happen is that we define our experiences based on the Bible. To make Christianity simply about our own experiences is a selfish focus. It says that “I am only concerned about what Christ did for me and have no interest on what He has done for others or what I can do for Him.” When we recognize rather who God is and the significance of the work He has done, our worship becomes more meaningful because it is focused on the one, true God and not simply on ourselves. My constant urging to anyone is to think about this a little more deeply and evaluate it.
Please understand something though. This does not mean that we don’t acknowledge what God has done in thanksgiving. God is worthy of praise regardless of what He does or does not do for us, and we need to recognize that. However, we must be thankful (giving thanks joyfully as Paul put it in verse 11c-12) because of what He has done and should rightfully acknowledge that. In studying for today’s devotion, I came across the following poem in the Hendriksen New Testament Commentary. My hope is that is an encouragement to you because of what God has done, recognizing the significance of it all because of the depths of our depravity in light of His holiness:
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.
 William Hendriksen, Phlippians, Colossians, and Philemon, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964), 62.
 Todd D. Still, Colossians, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 285.
 Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Colossians 1:14.
 Karen H. Jobes, 1, 2, & 3 John, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 70.
 Mark G. Johnston, Let’s Study Colossians and Philemon (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 26.
 William Hendriksen, Phlippians, Colossians, and Philemon, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964), 63.