The roles of God and Christ in the letter to the Colossians

This is an article in the series on the question: Is Jesus the Most High God? What view does the letter to the Colossians present of Christ Jesus? 

    • Is He God?
    • Are we saved by Christ Jesus, or by God?
    • Who created all things?
    • Who reconciled all things to God; God or Christ Jesus?

PURPOSE

This article is a study of the letter to the Colossians. The purpose is to understand who Christ Jesus is. The next article addresses that question more specifically. The current article lays the foundation.

The letter to the Colossians is important for this study because, of all the New Testament letters, Colossians has perhaps the highest view of Christ Jesus, apparently because Christ’s supremacy was challenged (Col 2:4) by the “deception” (Col 2:8) in ancient Colossae.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).


SUMMARY

This article comes to the following eight conclusions:

Jews questioning Jesus1) Colossians never refers to Jesus Christ as God. On the contrary, the letter presents Christ Jesus as strictly DISTINCT from God. For example, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), “is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), and was raised from the dead by “God” (Col 2:12; cf. 1:1).

2) In this consistent and clear distinction between God and Christ Jesus, Colossians uses “Father” as another title for God (e.g. Col 1:1-3, 17).

3) The letter uses the title “the Lord” ONLY for Jesus (e.g. Col 1:6, 17; 4:24); never for God. Thayer’s dictionary mentions that, in the view of some, except for certain verses where it is not entirely clear to whom the title “Lord” (kurios) refers, Paul NEVER refers to the Father as “Lord.” 

4) We often hear people say that we are saved by Jesus, but Colossians presents God the Father as the Savior. For example, the Father rescued us from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13), qualified us to share in the inheritance (Col 1:12), and canceled out the certificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).

5) In fact, this letter does not mention ANYTHING THAT Jesus do or did. The Father did EVERYTHING (cf. John 4:34; 5:19). Apart from salvation, God is also the active Force in creation (Col 1:16). Christ has a passive role. 

Worship Jesus6) However, everything that God does, He does THROUGH His Son. God created all things “through” Jesus (Col 1:16), saved us “through” his blood (Col 1:14), and reconciled all things to Himself “through” the Cross (Col 1:20; cf. 2:15). Therefore, we also thank God “through” His Son (Col 3:17; cf. Phil 2:10-11; John 5:23). In all things, Christ is the Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5).

7) God not only reconciled humans to Himself through Christ’s death; He also reconciled THE THINGS IN HEAVEN to Himself (Col 1:19-20). Through the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities … having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15; cf. Heb 2:14). These statements confirm that the Cross is something that the Father did (cf. John 3:16).  

8) Since believers are redeemed through Christ Jesus, Colossians, in several ways, describe them as IN UNITY WITH HIM. For example, believers have died with Christ, were made alive with Him (e.g., Col 2:20, 13; 3:1), are Christ’s body (e.g. Col 1:13, 18), subjects of His Kingdom (Col 1:12-13), and are “in Him” (e.g. Col 1:13, 14; 2:11).

– END OF SUMMARY – 


GOD AND JESUS ARE DISTINCT.

The title “God” appears 21 times in the letter, but never refers to Jesus. On the contrary, the letter presents Christ Jesus as strictly distinct from God. For instance:

image of the invisible GodHe (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) Some other translations read, “exactly like God, who cannot be seen” (Contemporary English Version), or as “the visible likeness of the invisible God” (Good News Translation).

God” raised Jesus from the dead (Col 2:12).
Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Col 1:1)

The letter, therefore, maintains a consistent and clear distinction between God and Christ Jesus.

FATHER IS ANOTHER NAME FOR GOD.

The letter refers five times to the “Father.” Two of these instances simply make a distinction between the Father and the Son:

Joyously giving thanks to the Father
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
(Col 1:11-13)

It was the Father’s good pleasure
for all the fullness to dwell in Him

Him” refers to “His beloved Son
in verse 13 (Col 1:19; cf. 1:13).

But the other instances confirm the distinction between “Jesus Christ” and “God” and show that “Father” is another name for God:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ
by the will of God …
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
We give thanks to God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
” (Col 1:1-3).

Whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father
(Col 3:17)

Our Father who is in heavenGod is also “our Father” (Col 1:2) because we are sons of God (e.g. Rom 8:14). We pray to “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6:9). He is our Father because He loves us and cares for us.

In Colossians, the word “son” is only found in Colossians 1:13, where Jesus is “His beloved Son.” This is not mentioned in Colossians, but Jesus is the Son of God in a different way: He is “the only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14).

According to Colossians 1:19, it was God’s will for “all the fullness” to dwell in Jesus. In the first place, this means that “in Him (Christ) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9). In the second place, it means that the Son received “the fullness of Deity” from the Father: It is not His own. This concept is further discussed in God is the Head of Christ.

CHRIST JESUS IS CALLED LORD.

The title “Christ is found 26 times in this letter. The name Jesus is used 6 times, but never alone, always as Jesus Christ or as Christ Jesus. Jesus was a common name at the time. The addition of “Christ” was necessary to identify Him. In this letter, Paul actually mentions somebody else by the name of Jesus (Col 4:11).

The title “the Lord” appears 11 times; most often simply as “the Lord”, but also as:

      • Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col 1:6),
      • The Lord Jesus” (Col 1:17), and
      • The Lord Christ” (Col 4:24).

The title “Lord,” therefore, is not used for God; only for Jesus.

THE FATHER IS THE SAVIOR.

We often hear people say that we are saved by Jesus, but Colossians presents God the Father as the Savior:

Grace is from “God (Col 1:6).

He selects His messengers. Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (Col 1:1). He was made a minister of the church according to the stewardship from God bestowed on him (Col 1:25).

God is the Savior: The Father rescued us from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13) and qualified us to share in the inheritance (Col 1:12). God canceled out the Certificate of Debtcertificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:14; cf. 2:12-13). God raised the believers from death when He raised Jesus from death (Col 2:12-13; 3:1). We must thank “God the Father” through Christ (Col 3:16-17; cf. 1:3, 12).

God gives growth to the church (Col 2:19). He chose the believers (Col 3:12) and will open up a door for the word (Col 4:2). It was God’s will to make known to His saints what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles (Col 1:27-28).

GOD BROUGHT PEACE TO THE UNIVERSE.

Not only did God reconcile humans to Himself through Christ’s death; He also reconciled the things in heaven to Himself through Christ:

It was the Father’s good pleasure …
through Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
having made peace through the blood of His cross;
through Him, I say,
whether things on earth or things in heaven
” (Col 1:19-20).

This implies that the Cross is something that the Father did (cf. John 3:16). As I understand it, the Father knew what will happen if His Son comes as a human being to this world, filled with violence. God did not determine what would happen; it is simply the natural result of a clash between the forces of good and evil.

These verses also indicate that the Cross did not reconcile God to us: It reconciled us to God. Christ died to change us: His death did not change God.

Through the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities … having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15). Hebrews 2:14 similarly states: “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” “The rulers and authorities,” therefore, refer to “the devil” and his angels (Rev 12:7, 9).

For a further discussion, see:

The Father, also known as God, therefore, is the active Force in salvation.

GOD IS THE CREATOR.

By Him (Jesus) all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth …
all things have been created through Him and for Him

(Col 1:16).

The NASB reads, “by Him all things were created,” but later adds that “all things have been created through Him.” This means that God is the Creator, but God created through His Son. The basic meaning of the Greek word translated as “by” in this verse is “in.” This is made clear by other translations of this verse:

For in him all things were created …
all things have been created
through him and for him
” (NIV).

Through him God created everything
in heaven and on earth” (Good News Translation).

The Father, also known as God, therefore, is the active Force in creation. For a further discussion, see God created all things through His Son.

CHRIST HAS A PASSIVE ROLE.

Gethsemane

The letter refers to “Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24), which reminds me of Gethsemane, where “His sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44), indicating His severe emotional suffering. All evil forces gathered their focus on Him to make Him use His power to act against God’s will (Luke 22:42). But apart from these “afflictions,” this letter does not mention anything which Jesus does or did. The Father did everything. This principle, namely that God is the active Force, as opposed to Jesus, is consistent with what Jesus said, as recorded in John:

My food is to do the will of him
who sent me and to accomplish his work

(John 4:34).

The Son can do nothing of Himself,
unless it is something He sees the Father doing

(John 5:19).

I can do nothing on My own initiative.
As I hear, I judge … I do not seek My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me
” (John 5:30).

The words that I say to you
I do not speak on My own initiative,
but the Father abiding in Me does His works

(John 14:10).

Colossians presents God as the active force both in creation and in salvation, but He does everything through His Son. Therefore, we also thank God through His Son (Col 3:17; cf. Phil 2:10-11; John 5:23).

REDEEMED THROUGH UNITY WITH CHRIST JESUS

Since believers are redeemed through Christ Jesus, Colossians, in several ways, describe them as in unity with Him:

CHRIST AND THE BELIEVERS FORM A SINGLE BODY.

His beloved Son … is also head of the body,
the churc
h” (Col 1:13, 18, cf. v24).

“The head, from whom the entire body … 
grows with a growth which is from God
” (Col 2:17-19; cf. 3:15).

The believers form the body and Christ is the head.

BELIEVERS ARE THE SUBJECTS OF HIS KINGDOM.

The Father … transferred us to
the kingdom of His beloved Son
” (Col 1:12-13).

When we are “rescued” (Col 1:12), we become the subjects of a spiritual kingdom of which His Beloved Son is King.

BELIEVERS ARE “IN HIM.”

The redemption of believers through unity with Jesus is also presented with phrases such as “in Him” or “with Him”:

In Whom (In His beloved Son) …
we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins
” (Col 1:13, 14).

In Him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision made without hands
” (Col 2:11).

In Him you have been made complete
(Col 2:10; cf. 1:28, 2; 2:6-7).

BELIEVERS DIED WITH CHRIST AND WERE MADE ALIVE WITH HIM.

The letter describes believers as united with Christ in His death and resurrection:

You have died with Christ” (Col 2:20).
He made you alive together with Him” (Col 2:13).
You have been raised up with Christ” (Col 3:1).

Having been buried with Him in baptism,
in which you were also raised up with Him
through faith in the working of God,
who raised Him from the dead
” (Col 2:12).

Believers did not literally die with Christ. Nor have they been literally made alive with Christ. But they are rescued through His death and His resurrection.

THE MEANING OF CHRIST’S DEATH

It is not Christ’s death that was important; it was His life. His entire life was a test, and the last days and hours of His life were the highest possible test. He lived a sinless life, even to death, and His resurrection was confirmation there-of. His “afflictions” (Col 1:24) were physical but mostly spiritual. Jesus said:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father,
and He will at once put at My disposal
more than twelve legions of angels
” (Matt 26:53)?

But He “disarmed the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15) by never sinning by going against God’s will. Even when God withdrew His presence from Jesus, leaving the disoriented Jesus to cry, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me” (Matt 27:46), He did not sin or use His power for His own benefit. For a further discussion, see – The Seven Seals of Revelation.

CONCLUSION

God reconciled all things—things on earth and things in heaven—to Himself through the death of His Son. Therefore, Paul presents believers as united with Christ.  They are united with Him in His death, they are united with Him in His resurrection, and “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28 – from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill).  This seems to be more than a symbol: it is a mysterious reality.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The letter to the Colossians:

      • Has the highest view of Christ Jesus of all of the New Testament letters.
      • Never refers to Jesus Christ as God.
      • Presents Christ Jesus as strictly distinct from God.
      • Uses “Father” as another title for God.
      • Uses the title “the Lord” only for Jesus.
      • Presents God the Father as the Savior.

According to Colossians:

      • God reconciled the things in heaven to Himself through Christ.  
      • God is the active Force in creation. Christ has a passive role.
      • Everything that God does, He does through His Son. 
      • Describe believers as in unity with Christ.

OTHER ARTICLES

Colossians 1:1-13: Verse by verse discussion

EXCERPT: The Colossian deception taught that Christians are incomplete without the higher-level knowledge and wisdom available from supernatural sources. Paul responds by saying that Christians are already complete in Christ.

Summary

Paul in chainsPaul wrote the letter to the faithful believers, with Timothy’s assistance, from prison in Rome around AD 60-63.  This was about 30 years after Christ’s death.  Paul was sent by Christ by the will of God our Father.  He, therefore, had the authority to write this letter.

Paul himself never worked in Colossae. While Paul was in a Roman prison, the gospel traveled through the earth and has reached Colossae via Epaphras; one of Paul’s faithful co-workers and a native of the city.

The gospel is the message of God’s merciful kindness; His free gift, particularly through the Person and teachings of Christ, as recorded in the four gospels.  The gospel includes the promise of the eternal inheritance which believers will receive from God when Christ is revealed.  Paul added clarity with respect to the relevance of the Jews and their Law, but Christ and His teachings are the core of the Christian message.

Epaphras, when he visited Paul in prison in Rome, informed Paul of the Colossians’ faith, but also of the Colossian deception that was threatening his church.  The letter does not describe the Colossian deception fully.  We only have Paul’s rebuttal of the deception.  From that we have to infer what the Colossian deception was.

Paul in prayerPaul was a man of prayer.  Through prayer, he was in constant contact with God.  He assures the Colossians that he is continually praying for them, asking that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is a key theme in the letter to the Colossians, from which we conclude that the Colossian deception claimed to have special knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.  This commentary assumes that the points which Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, are in response to the Colossian deception, and therefore indicate the nature there-of.

Col 1:1-3 and 12-13 focus on God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Father who qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints, through Jesus Christ. It is the Father who rescued us from the domain of darkness (supernatural beings hostile to God) and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  Christ is the Means, but it is the Father that accomplishes all these things.

The Colossians deception judged the Christians “in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16) and told them that they are incomplete and that they will only become spiritually complete if they submit their teachings, such as “decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2:20-21).  Paul responds with a three-fold message:

      1. In Christ, all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Col 2:9).
      2. Therefore Christians, since they are “in Christ” are already complete (Col 2:10-15).
      3. Therefore they do not have to submit to the demands of the Colossian deception (Col 2:16-23) to become complete.

These are the three main points of the entire letter.  They are particularly clear from chapter two, but chapter one contains aspects there-of.  In Col 1:12-13 we see that the believers are already qualified, already rescued, and already transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  This is the second of the three points above.

Verse by Verse Discussion

Col 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother

Paul: According to the custom of the day of writing letters, the author’s name is given first. Paul wrote the letter probably from Rome at around AD 63, which was about 30 years after Christ’s death.

An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God: Paul was qualified to write this letter of instruction to the Colossians because he was an apostle.  Literally, apostolos means ‘one sent’.  At its deepest level, it denotes an authorized spokesman for God; one commissioned and empowered to act as His representative.  Paul is an “apostle of Jesus Christ”, which means he is sent by Christ, but it is “by the will of God”.

And Timothy our brother: Timothy was an honored companion of Paul, but he was not an apostle because he did not receive direct instruction from Christ.

Col 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: grace to you and peace from God our Father.

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ:Saints and faithful brethren” are the same people; not two different classes of Christians.  Every true Christian is a saint. It is possible that Paul adds “and faithful brethren” to contrast the saints with those who embraced the false teaching that concerned Paul so much in this letter.

Who are at Colossae: The city of Colossae is not mentioned in the Book of Acts. All our Biblical information about the church there comes from this letter and a few allusions in the letter to Philemon.  Historically, Colossae was a prosperous city, yet by Paul’s time the glory it had as a city was on the decline.  The city of Colossae was probably the smallest and least important city that Paul ever wrote to.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father: Grace is God’s unconditioned goodwill and mercy.

Col 1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

We give thanks to God: We receive grace and peace from “God our Father” (Col 1:2), and in return, we thank “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Col 1:3).  That is the true circle of life: He gives us everything we need and we love and praise Him.

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: The focus in Col 1:1-3 is on the Father, not on Christ.  For instance, Paul was an apostle “by the will of God” (Col 1:1) who is identified as the “Father” in Col 1:2-3.  As in the prayer which we received from our Lord, God is “our Father” (Col 1:2), which means that He cares for us deeply and continually protects us.  The Father is the active Force behind Paul’s work (Col 1:1) and behind Christ’s sacrifice (Col 1:12; 2:13, 15).  God is also “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  As Jesus said, “‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).  See the article Jesus is the Son of God, but is He in all respects equal to God? 

Praying always for you: Although he probably had never met them, the Christians of Colossae were on Paul’s prayer list. He prayed for them not only often, but always.

1:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints:

Genuine faith in Jesus will always have a true love for God’s people as a companion.

1:5 Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel

The hope laid up for you in heaven:Christ in you” is “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27), namely the hope for “the inheritance of the saints” (Col 1:12).  “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col 3:3-4). These were not merely theological ideas for Paul but dominated his thinking as a Christian. It is also our privilege to have this hope.

In Col 1:4-5 we notice the familiar triad of faith, hope, and love:  “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13)

Of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel: The four gospels were written decades after the Cross as tools to teach the believers what Christ taught. The gospel of John was one of the last books of the Bible to be written; about 50 years after the Cross. To teach Jesus means to teach what He taught, as recorded in the gospels. Some people today hold the letters of the New Testament up high, but the basic teaching in the first century was what Jesus preached.  Paul added clarity with respect to aspects such as the relevance of the Law of Moses and the relationship between Jew and Gentile, but his teachings are not core; what Christ taught is the core of the Christian message.

Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians to oppose a specific distortion of the truth (Col 2:4, 8, 16, 18).  Perhaps for that reason, we find early on in this letter an emphasis on “truth” (Col 1:5, 6).  Because we do not live in that time and place, we do not know what the Colossian deception specifically was. Paul, in his letter, only gives us one side of the story; we only have his rebuttal of the deceptions.  From this we have to infer what the Colossian deception was.

Col 1:6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it: and understood the grace of God in truth:

The Gospel is represented as a traveler, whose object it is to visit the whole earth.  So rapid is this traveler in his course, that he had already gone nearly through the whole of the countries under the Roman dominion, and will travel on until he has proclaimed his message to every people, and kindred, and nation, and tongue (Rev 14:6).  The phrase “in all the world” was a legitimate hyperbole, for the gospel was spreading all over the Roman Empire.

Grace is God’s merciful kindness; His free gift.  Everything we receive from Him is His free gift.  The kindness of God leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4).  We are saved by His merciful kindness; we can never earn it as a wage.

1:7 Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf:

Learned it from Epaphras: Paul himself had not worked in the area of Colossae (Col 1:4, 7-9; 2:1).  Apparently, Epaphras, one of his helpers, and a native of the city (Col 4:12), established a group of believers there (Col 1:7; 4:12, 13).

Who is a faithful servant (KJV – minister): The word “minister doesn’t mean that Epaphras was superior to the other Christians in Colossae. The word minister means servant.  Paul probably wrote the letter because of a visit from Epaphras from Colossae.

1:8 and he also informed us of your love in the spirit:

It seems as if, while Paul was in prison in Rome, Epaphras visited him, and informed him of the spiritual growth of the Colossian church (see also Col 2:5), but also of the “deception” (Col 2:8) troubling his church.

Col 1:9 for this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you:  and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding:

Paul in prayerNot ceased to pray for you: Paul was a man of prayer (Col 1:3, 9).  Through prayer, he was in constant contact with God (Col 1:9).  “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding: Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is a key theme in the letter to the Colossians.  It is important to note that Paul wrote that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col 2:3) “so that no one will delude you” (Col 2:4). This is understood to mean that some people in Colossae were trying to delude the believers, claiming that they have special knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. The interpretation in this commentary is based on the assumption that the points which Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, indicate the nature of the Colossian deception (Col 2:8).

Col 1:10 So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord: to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Paul also prayed that they would walk (live) according to the knowledge which they received.  Our life is based on our knowledge of God and our understanding of His will.

Col 1:11 Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously:

His strength is there to help us meet all of life’s challenges and to endure and overcome problems with patience and joy. God is the source of all power. Whatever power we have, or hope to have, we only have because He gave it to us.

Col 1:12 Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light:

The Father is mentioned as the active Force of redemption. He initiated the plan of the ages.  It is the Father who qualifies us, through Jesus Christ.  The ESV and other translations render 2:18 as “Let no one disqualify you”.  It is there quite possible that Paul, in Col 1:12, is contradicting the Colossian deception.

Col 1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

He rescued us from the domain of darkness: The domain of darkness is Satan’s domain.  Jesus referred to “the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53) that led to His arrest, suffering, and death. The power of darkness is the supernatural beings marshaled against God and His followers for combat in the spiritual realm.  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12).  These “rulers and authorities are a particular emphasis in the letter to the Colossians (Col 1:15; 2:15, 18), implying that the Colossian deception involved such supernatural beings.

Note the contrast between the light in Col 1:12 and the darkness in Col 1:13.  Light allows us to see; to receive “knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9).

And transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son: According to Barclay, the word translated “transferred” had a special significance in the ancient world. When one empire conquered another, the custom was to transfer the entire population of the defeated empire to the conqueror’s land. It is in this sense that Paul says we have been transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

His” in these verses (Col 1:9, 11, 13) consistently refers to “the Father” (Col 1:3):

Verse 9, for instance, refers to “knowledge of His will”, which is explained by verse 1 as “the will of God”, who is “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Col 1:3).

His glorious might” (Col 1:11) refers back to “God” in Col 1:10, who is identified in verse 3 as “the Father”.

Col 1:12 and 13, therefore, continue the focus of Col 1:2 and 3 on the Father. Some Christians think of Christ as their Savior, but these verses inform us, as already indicated by Col 1:2-3, that the Father is the Active Force that “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (Col 1:12). The kingdom belongs to “His beloved Son” (Col 1:13), but it is the Father that “rescued us from the domain of darkness”.  In Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:14), but it is the Father that “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (Col 1:12).

Note Christians are already rescued and already transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  This is another emphasis in the letter to the Colossians. It is again emphasized in Col 2:10, where Paul states that Christians are complete in Christ.  The Colossian deception judged the Christians “in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16) and told them that they are incomplete, and that they will only become spiritually complete when they submit to “decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2:20-21).  In response Paul wrote that they are already qualified (Col 1:12), already rescued and already transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (1:13).

TO: Colossians Table of Contents

TO: General Table of Contents