Delivered out of the power of darkness

More than 30 years ago, we wrote an evangelistic study which we still use today, among others. In that study, the very first text we teach others is Genesis 1.1-3. A main point of this reading emphasizes God’s power as he created the universe with a word. His power is unlimited. He is more powerful than any other. He is omnipotent.

His power overcomes all others. This is what Paul affirms in a prayer in Colossians 1:

who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love;, v. 13 WEB.

Most modern versions, even supposedly literal ones like the NASB, make this verse into an independent clause. That’s fine and good. But it’s actually part of Paul’s prayer for his readers. It serves as one of the bases for his and their thanksgiving. Read the whole prayer here:

9 For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, for all endurance and perseverance with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; 13 who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love; 14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; 15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, WEB

1. Such a rescue from the control of darkness provides a powerful motive for thanksgiving! Let us never lose sight of this truth. We ought to rise from our beds every single day giving thanks to God for such a deliverance.

This change of location into Christ’s Kingdom is one of several phrases that causes a saint’s gratitude to break forth. God’s power, for the one who decides to submit, does not inspire cringing fear or cries of terror, but gladness, rejoicing, and celebration, because by this translation God becomes Father and we his inheriting children, v. 12. We have not jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, but have allowed ourselves to be rescued from the deepest depths of perdition and welcomed into the warm climate of original communion with God.

2. This deliverance is a done deal for Christians. It has already happened. Brethren rightly use this verse to show the folly of premillenialism. Our transference into the Christ’s Kingdom has already been accomplished. The verb is in the past tense.

Besides showing how this damaging doctrine is false, it also opens the door to the nearness of the eternal Kingdom. We are but a step away from heaven. Our hope focuses on the imminent coming of Christ. When he comes at that unknown hour, he will usher us past the judgment bar into the wide-open doors of our eternal rooms. In this Kingdom the Lord Jesus Christ now reins.

Its major feature is love. For love we were created and all mankind seeks it, in one form or another.

3. The saving power of God wrenches us from the dark domain. Behind the word “power” in v. 13 lies the surprising Greek word, exousia, often translated “authority.” This Greek word means “the power which decides” (TDNT II: 566). The dark master has decided our fate. He destined us for destruction. But that decision has been removed from his hands. The overwhelming power of God has changed our destiny.

Some versions translate this word here as “tyranny,” “dominion,” “domain,” “control,” and even “kingdom.” (See the various translations here.) The dark lord stole our ability to decide our future. God has restored it. The choice is now ours. We may now allow God to remove us from his “sphere of power” (TDNT II: 567).

God exercises all power. His power is benevolent. He desires our salvation. Let everyone trust in him and place our lives in his hands. He will care for us and rescue us.

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