Rev. Moore is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa.
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1:13, 14
Blessed redemption! The text that we consider in this article reminds us of a most precious promise that is given us in Christ. Paul instructed us that we are delivered from the power of darkness in the redeeming work of our Lord as He died upon the cross. Now the apostle goes on to point out that not only are we delivered from the power of darkness, but we are translated into the kingdom of Christ. This is the amazing wonder of grace of which we need often to be reminded as we pass through this life as strangers and pilgrims. This is so because we must daily fight the battle of faith, and we are in ourselves incapable of obtaining the hope of deliverance and glory.
Our text speaks of darkness as the characterization of that in which we were held. The term in our text pictures darkness as shrouding us like a black cloud. We are clothed in a deep blackness. It is in this way that the Scripture defines the terrible abyss into which we plunged ourselves by sin. It paints in a most striking way the picture of the darkness that pervades our souls. From a simply natural point of view, there is hardly a greater darkness and gloominess known on this earth than a mist-shrouded night. There are no stars, there is no moon, only a close, even foul-smelling, cold mist that surrounds one on such a night. Even the most bold will, in the middle of nowhere, experience a terror in his inmost being on such a night.
By this picturesque language we are led to consider what it is from which we are delivered: the deepest darkness imaginable. That darkness is caused by our sin. It is the most horrible darkness imaginable to man. It is the darkness of death, death which strikes fear into the heart of man!
However, the reason that death is to man such a terror is the fact that it is not just a going to the grave, where, says Job, the worms shall consume the flesh. But death is the judgment of God against man for his disobedience in sin. Adam was told, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Clearly, death is said of God to be the penalty of sin. This is repeated in Romans 6:23, where the apostle points out that the “wages of sin is death.” This judgment of God against the sinner no man can deny, nor is there any way for man to remove this testimony from his conscience. Death is the punishment of God that sends man into deepest darkness, where there can be no hope, no joy, only suffering and misery. For death is to be cut off from the living, and thus it is to be cut off from God’s fellowship. God is a light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. To be separated from God is to lack all light, and to know no fellowship. This is the fruit of sin. The sinner must die.
Now our text makes it clear that we are come under death’s power. The power of death has the complete mastery over man. This is the idea of the term used in our text. The fruit of the fall is that man became completely obsessed with sin and was given over entirely to its judgment. The apostle Paul points out to us in the second chapter of Ephesians that we are dead in sins and trespasses. Jesus points out that we are so dead that we cannot even see the things of God’s kingdom.
This is our experience. It is very real to us. All that man can do, by nature, is increase his indebtedness to death. He has no light or hope. Natural man stands in enmity against God and can bring forth no good. He is consumed daily by the judgment of God that is come upon him.
This is our personal confession, is it not? In the light of the Word of God we too must say that all we can do naturally is walk in sin, and we are unworthy of entering God’s fellowship. We have sinned even when we did not desire to. We have come far short of the glory of God. Our confession is the same as the apostle’s: even the good that we would, we have not done. We have sinned, and our sin has been against God! We must make the confession that the psalmist David did in the 51st Psalm. Indeed, darkness has dominion over us, and as we stand by nature, this alone can be the testimony.
How we need grace! How necessary that we see Christ as our salvation.
We need to see Christ as our salvation because one thing is so very clear to us as we stand before the testimony of the Scripture, namely, that we cannot save ourselves. There is no work that we can bring forth to make us worthy of God’s fellowship and communion! We are debtors before God, and we cannot satisfy this debt. Rather, we can only increase the judgment that stands against us. And that judgment is that sinners must die.
To be delivered from the dread dominion of darkness, we must be redeemed by another. But who can stand under this judgment? Certainly no mere creature. Certainly not a sinner! It is God alone who can save the sinner. It is only a work of grace and mercy that enables us to have confidence that there is fellowship for us with God. That grace is the unmerited favor of God that makes us to be beautiful as He is beautiful. To be beautiful is to dwell in His image. It is to live. And it is to live in holiness, righteousness, and with true knowledge before God. Therefore it is to come to know God and to fellowship with Him.
This grace is given to us through God’s coming in our flesh. It is bestowed upon us by the sending of His own dear Son to redeem us. He has chosen us from eternity in Him, to be holy and without blame before Him. In love He predestined us unto the adoption of sons to be heirs of the kingdom of His dear Son (Eph. 1:3-6). When it was wholly impossible for man to deliver himself from the power of darkness, God provided the way. His Son becomes our Head, very righteous man to bear our debt, to take our guilt, and to redeem us. Wonder of grace!
Indeed it is of grace, for redemption requires that the ransom be paid in full. This required that one enter the suffering of death willingly for us. And that one could have no sin of His own, for a debtor cannot pay the debt of another. But also, He must be able to bear the debt of those who are the debtors. And the debt against us, the debt that holds us under the power of darkness, is the eternal wrath of an infinite God. We can therefore be delivered from the power of death only if there be a Mediator who is not only very man, but also very God.
Jesus has, according to our text, redeemed us in the obedient death of the cross. He has fully satisfied before the throne of God’s judgment the penalty of our sin. We understand, then, that Christ has completely taken away the guilt of His people before the throne of God’s judgment. There remains nothing more to be accomplished for us to be delivered from the death that had so completely enshrouded us that we had no hope.
This redemption obtains for us the forgiveness of sins. So speaks Paul. Forgiveness means that there is a dismission from mind, from the consciousness, of the guilt of sin. This is true first of all of God. His justice is fully satisfied, so that He looks upon His children in Christ as cleansed, cleared of all guilt, worthy heirs of the kingdom of Christ. Secondly, it is true of us, as Christ is proclaimed unto us our Savior. We see in Him the power of God’s grace to deliver us from our sin, and we are given the assurance that our sin and its guilt is removed, so that we may enter the presence of God as heirs of the kingdom of His dear Son.
The fruit, then, of our redemption by Christ is that our guilt is no longer imputed unto us, for it was imputed unto Christ, and He paid once and for all the penalty for our sin. This reveals to us that the authority of darkness is defeated completely, and the fear of death is taken away. Thus all the blessings of that redemption become our portion. By grace we are made heirs of eternal life.
We are translated indeed! The term translation is one that we are familiar with in regards to the translation of the Bible from the original languages, or to translation that takes place when one does not speak our language, so we need a translator to interpret for us. This is also the idea of our text. The term means to transfer, or exchange. We are translated from one state to another and one condition to another. A little different from a translation of mere words this is, in that the fruit of this translation is a radical change. It would be like having a language that is fully foreign or unintelligible to us become perfectly clear and easily recognizable. This is what takes place spiritually as a fruit of our redemption by God’s beloved Son. There is an absolute change in our state and life.
Our state changes from that of absolute guilt to that of innocence. And on this basis Christ gives to us His Spirit and makes us new creatures, so that our condition is changed from that of totally depraved sinners to that of the children of God, heirs of righteousness and partakers of the life of Christ.
We are translated into the kingdom of God’s dear or beloved Son. He is the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). This means that we are become sons with Him. As Paul points out in Ephesians 1: 3, He has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”