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FROM THE DOMINION OF DARKNESS INTO THE KINGDOM OF THE SON

Colossians 1:1-1:14
Key Verse: 1:13-14

Thank God for giving us a chance to study Colossians. It is our preparation for Easter Celebration and SBC. This epistle is about Christology, the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. Nowadays it seems to be a general tendency of belief that many religions can lead to eternal life. Surprisingly even many evangelical Christians believe that there are many paths to God and eternal life other than faith in Jesus Christ. We are living in times of growing apostasy. Loyal Jesus-followers are branded as narrow-minded. Is Jesus the only way to God? Is Jesus alone sufficient for our salvation? Do we need something more than Jesus? These were the questions that were plaguing the Colossians. They did not deny Jesus. But they were influenced by false teachings to think that Jesus was not sufficient for salvation. Their faith was mixed with many human ideas. Apostle Paul wrote to them to help them understand who Jesus is so that they might recognize the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, take deep root in his words, and grow.

Today’s passage is Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer for Colossians. In this study we can think of the essentiality of the faith, love and hope through the gospel, the importance of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will and God’s marvelous grace of rescuing us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the Son, Christ Jesus.

First, faith, love and hope through the gospel (1-8). In verses 1 and 2, Paul calls himself an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. And the he calls the believers at Colosse as the holy and faithful ones. “Holy” means set apart, different. They were holy set apart, so different from the world, and faithful to God. He greets them with the words, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father.”

Then in verses 3-6a, “we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we 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 that has come to you.” First of all, Paul thanked God for them in his prayer, especially for the spiritual blessings given to them. Paul mentioned faith, love and hope of the Colossians, which are three essential Christian virtues. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” In the Bible Hebrews 11 is known as “faith” chapter, and 1 Corinthians 13, as “love” chapter. Yet, there is no specifically known as “hope” chapter. However, we know that faith, love and hope are all necessary and interrelated in Christian life. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

As written in verse 4 “your faith in Christ Jesus,” our Christian faith is always in Christ Jesus, not just in a doctrine. Apart from Christ Jesus we cannot think of faith. It is our personal relationship with him like a marriage relationship. And in verse 4, “the love you have for all the saints/all God’s people.” And in verse 8 Paul said, “…your love in the Spirit.” This love is different from human love. As we studied in Galatians, love is the fruit of the Spirit listed first, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” And Colossians 3:14 says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Yet, Paul wrote in 1:5, “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.” Here Paul stresses the importance of hope, for hope is the source of power for our life of faith and love.

Two things regarding hope is written. First, hope is stored up for you in heaven. Without hope people can hardly live. In this world many people work hard and make money in the hope of having vacation. Students study hard in the hope of getting good grades and then after graduation having secure jobs. Young people have the hope of marriage and a good family. All these hopes are not necessarily bad; we all need such hopes. However, all these hopes are earthbound hope and end in death. They are dead hopes. But our Christian hope is exceedingly far from the earthly hope. Here Paul said in verse 5, “the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.” (not in bank.) This hope is the hope of the kingdom of God as written in verse 12, “to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Since this hope is in heaven, the hope is eternal. And it is stored up, not running out. This hope never runs out and nothing can take it away. How great and wonderful our hope is, stored up for us in heaven! Apostle Peter expressed it this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept--in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3,4). We should keep this living eternal hope in our hearts. For “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor 15:19). Paul said in Romans 8:24-25, “In hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” And Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

We need eternal perspective of life. We can say that our life in this world is preparation for eternity. The time of 1oo years or even several millenniums is just a dot in eternity. Do you have eternal perspective of life? If you have, that’s great (only old people?). In church history popes and bishops and ordinary believes were miserable when they did not have this eternal perspective of life. They were corrupt, fighting for more possessions and better positions in this world. Even there was such a horrible event of bloody crusades until they had 8th crusade during the period of about 150 years. It is easy to be concerned about only comfortable and secure life and success and prosperity in this temporary world. Actually when we live a life of faith with this hope, prosperity follows. Proverbs 13:21 says, “Misfortune pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” People who live in this perishing and fleeting world needs the hope stored up in heaven. This is the reason God’s Son Jesus came and died and rose against from the dead. From the beginning of his earthly messianic ministry Jesus planted this hope in the hearts of the people of this world. He said, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” And John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The whole Bible is full of the message of eternal life. In truth, Christianity is the belief of eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection. May God help us to have eternal perceptive of life and keep the living, glorious everlasting hope that is stored up for us in heave in our hearts!

How could the Colossians have such hope? It was through the gospel. They heard about the hope in the word of truth, the gospel. The gospel is the word of the truth. For the gospel solves the fundamental problem of mankind, sin and death, through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel offers forgiveness of sins and the eternal glorious hope in heaven through Christ Jesus who died for our sins and rose again from the gospel. And Paul says in verse 6, “…All over the world the 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.” Not any other thing but the gospel bears fruit and grows in every place as long as the gospel, the word of truth, is preached and believed and understood. The gospel is to bear fruit inwardly and outwardly. This is a challenge to me. If a person or a church is not bearing fruit and growing, it means lack of gospel faith and shallowness in understanding gospel. May God help each one of us to have firm and deep faith in the gospel until the gospel bears much fruit and grows in and through us.

Also, we cannot forget that God worked powerfully through the gospel among the Colossians, because there was a faithful gospel servant, Epaphras, who taught the gospel to them and who was always wrestling in prayer for them (7, 4:12). And we cannot forget that Epaphras heard and learned the gospel through Paul, most likely during his ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).

Second, being filled with the knowledge of God’s will (10-12a). After sharing the reason Paul thanked God for Colossians, now Paul shares his prayer topic for them: “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” (9) This is Paul’s one clear prayer topic for them. In Ephesians Paul’s prayer for the believers is that God may give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know him better, and that the eyes of their hearts be enlightened to know the hope to which he has called them (Eph 1:17-18). And Paul’s prayer for Philippians is that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that they may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless…” (Ph. 1:9-11). Compared to these two prayer topics, Paul’s prayer for Colossians does not seem to be that great. But let’s think over his prayer for them, to constantly pray asking God to fill them with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

We see a sense of urgency in this prayer of Paul. Why? When Colossians heard the gospel, they began to grow well. However, false teachers came and presented fine-sounding arguments. Then the Colossians were confused by many human ideas which could lead them astray. They needed correction. This prayer topic of Paul would give them a right direction. When we know God’s will, we can discern right and wrong, good and evil. He prayed that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will. Paul did not pray that God would remove all the cults and false teachings from the Colossian church. Rather, he prayed for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all wisdom and understanding. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” And Spiritual wisdom is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate …submissive, and sincere, different from the wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil bringing envy and disorder (James 3:15-17).

How important it is to know God’s will in the lives of Christians! Without knowing the will of God, they remain selfish, and self-centred believers. Even they become enemies of God as Paul said in Philippians 3:18, “For as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” When Peter did not know the will of God for him and for Christ, he only became a great hindrance to Jesus who was on his way to Jerusalem to die on the cross in obedience to God’s will of the salvation of mankind. Then Jesus said to him, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mt 16:23; Mk 8:33). In one’s life of faith it is very important to know the will of God in each significant event, especially at the time of marriage. Most women, even those whose faith have been known great, marry their own choice, following their human desire. Although they say that they prayed even fasting several days, they cannot distinguish their desire from God’s desire and will. When we insist our own desire and our own way, God just let us go, although he knows that we will face many trials in life suffering loss. But we learn from Mary, who said, “May it be to me as you have said!” (Lk 1:38) When Mary said this, she denied her own desire and her own choice and submitted herself to the Lord, entrusting her marriage to the hands of God. In the end her decision of faith turned out to be right and wise and the best. It is true that God gives us the best, when we discern and obey the will of God. And when we pray for and really obey the will of God, God gives us peace in our hearts and things eventually go smoothly with inner conviction.

Also, in a church her members should know the will of God very clearly. Then they can have one heart and mind and spirit. Yet, in reality it is easy for a Christian community to be divided when they are not clear about God’s will. To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will involves sincere Bible study and much prayer.

Then Paul said in verse 10-12, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way.” This is the purpose of Paul’s prayer for them with the prayer topic that God may fill them with the knowledge of God’s will. It is not to make them suffer but to help them to live an excellent life. And to live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way is explained concretely, “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.” The life is fruit-bearing in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God (to overcome pluralistic and relativistic world) and being strengthen with God’s power (to fight against the spiritual forces of evil) and joyfully giving thanks to God: This is really a beautiful Christian life.

Third, from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the Son (12b-14). Verse 12b says, “the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” No one can have the qualification to inherit his kingdom. But God has qualified us. How? It is through what God has done for us. Verse 13 says, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” In this verse the verbs “rescued” and “brought” are very meaningful. These are action verbs. God did not sit down in a high place in heaven and save us by words alone. God took the initiative and acted on our behalf. And in verse 13 we see that two powers are contrasted, the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of the Son.

Firstly, he rescued us from the dominion of darkness. God had rescuing plan and carried it out until he sent his Son Jesus into this world. Ever since man sinned in disobedience to God, which is rebellion against him, the power of darkness, that is, the power of Satan, began to rule the world. This world has become the fallen world, whose prince is Satan (Jn 12:31; 16:30). The kingdom of this world has become under the dominion of darkness, as death came to all men through sin. According to Ephesians 2;2, this is the kingdom of the air. The ruler of this kingdom is ruling all those who are disobedient. In this dominion of darkness the law of sin and death rules (Ro 8:2). The power of darkness and the power of death are the same as the power of Satan. No human being can get out of this power, the dominion of darkness. Living in this dominion, Paul cried out, “What a wretched man! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” This is the cry of every human being under the dominion of darkness.

The Israelites were suffering greatly under the power of Pharaoh for 430 years. They were groaning in their suffering day by day, and day and night. No power could deliver them. Then God sent Moses and struck Egypt with ten plagues. At the ninth plague total darkness covered all Egypt for three days, during which no one could see anyone else or leave his place (Ex 10:22-23). At the tenth place all the firstborn of Egypt died; there was not a house without someone dead (Ex 11:29-31). But this power of death plague could not touch the Israelites who put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their houses according to God’s command. Likewise God rescued us from the dominion of darkness through his Son Jesus, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” God let his Son Jesus shed his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He paid the full ransom price for our redemption. In Jesus there is redemption. In this way God rescued us from the dominion of darkness as we put our faith in his Son Christ Jesus. Praise God for his rescuing work!

After rescuing us, God did not leave us. God brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He did not bring us into a desert or a neutral zone (in the middle between the two). God transferred (In NASB, ESV, RSV) us to a totally different world. What kind of world did he bring us to? The kingdom of the Son he loves. The kingdom of the Son he loves is the kingdom of God the Father, and this expression shows how much God is pleased with this kingdom.

This kingdom of the Son has been promised and prophesied. Through the study of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel lesson 1, we remember that David defeated the Philistine champion Goliath and then received God’s much training and became king over Israel. His kingdom would be the shadow of the kingdom of Messiah. When David’s kingdom was firmly established, God gave David his promise concerning the Messiah and his kingdom, saying, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam 7:12-16). In the book of Daniel King Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream an enormous dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. It had the head made of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. Then a rock cut out, not by human hands, struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken, to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. The meaning of this dream was that the kingdoms of this world, the kingdom of Babylon present at that time, the kingdom of Medo-Persia, the kingdom of Greece and of the Roman Empire that were coming would be totally destroyed, and all the following kingdoms of the world as well. But the rock that struck became a huge mountain and filled whole earth. According to Daniel’s interpretation, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will itself endure forever.” (Da 7:31-45). When the baby Jesus was conceived in Mary, the angel Gabriel said, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1:32-33). At that time the kingdom of Rome was ruling the world and seemed to be forever, and the kingdom of the Son born in a manger, so tiny even to be recognized. But as the gospel of the Son’s death and resurrection has been proclaimed, the kingdom of the Son has been growing bearing fruit in the hearts of believers all over the world, while the kingdom of Rome was gone. Now this kingdom is invisible to the eyes of the people of this world, but this kingdom will become visible on earth when Jesus comes again. Revelation 11:15 says, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” This will be fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).

The kingdom of the Son is the kingdom of light, and the kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy (Ro 14:17). And this kingdom is eternal (2 Pe 1:11). Is this kingdom real to you? Do enjoy this kingdom? We should not take this grace of being conferred of this kingdom for granted, but full of thanks to him. Paul, after crying out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?, cried out anew, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (R7:24). When a man was very much disappointed at what was going on in his country with injustice and disorder, he said, “I am very ashamed of being a citizen of this nation.” But this kingdom of the Son never discourages or disappoints us. Rather it makes us ever thankful and praising him as we know and live in this kingdom more and more. Some are so thankful and knowing the preciousness of this kingdom that they spend several hours to taste this kingdom every early morning. Without this they cannot start a day, for them each day is a spiritual battle between two powers. We should be aware that since we have been brought and transferred into the kingdom of the Son, we are to commit ourselves to him and to reside and flourish in this kingdom. Without this active effort, one can fall back to the dominion of darkness. Paul reminded Colossians of this kingdom so that they might know this amazing blessing and privilege that they were transferred into the kingdom of the Son and live as the members of this kingdom in this world. For this he asked God to fill them with the knowledge of God’s will in order that they might live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.

We thank and praise God who rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves through the redemption him. May we be deepened in this marvelous grace of our God and live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way being filled with the knowledge of his will, keeping in our hearts the hope stored up for us in heaven.

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