God's Rescue Operation (1:13)

Paul's confession of God's gracious decision to usher the church into the promised land continues by specifying its result: God rescued us . . . and brought us into the kingdom of the Son. God's action is described in the aorist tense (has rescued), which suggests that the defeat of demonic enemies and the church's entrance into God's kingdom have already taken place. The verb translated rescue (rhyomai) echoes the Old Testament stories of God's intervention to deliver an embattled Israel from its enemies, especially the master story of the exodus, when God delivered Israel from the pharaoh's tyranny and the avenging angel. For Paul, the climactic act of God's intervening grace, which constitutes the church's Passover, occurred when Christ trusted God even to death. In a sense, the saving result of Christ's death reoccurs whenever a person trusts in Christ for salvation (compare Rom 3:22; 7:24—8:1).

The perverseness of sin is such that those who live within the dominion of darkness will consistently choose against God's good intentions for them. Sin is not simply rebellion against God; rather, it is the refusal of God's grace, which aims to bring the sinner from death into life, from bad news into good news. It would be absurd to think that God desires the ugliness of death or the self-destructiveness of sin (see Jas 1:13-18); God wants to rescue us from the terrible results of sin.

God's salvation, then, is a rescue operation, because sin imperils the redemption of the sinner. Sinful humanity is seduced by the fictions and falsehoods of the secular order, which promise that good things result from individual effort aided by technological advancement and that military superiority assures our national sovereignty and economic prosperity. According to Paul's teaching, the spiritual struggle we routinely experience is prompted by invisible forces that belong to two competing kingdoms. The evil one works to separate us from God (and thus from the transforming power of God's grace), while the other works to reconcile us with God (and so to participate with Christ in the wondrous results of God's grace). For those who belong to Christ's kingdom, God has triumphed over the powers of the evil realm; the sense of personal well-being we now experience results from our liberation from the evil powers.

Paul's worldview prevents the separation of spiritual from historical. Whatever happens in the spiritual and invisible realm will have its historical consequence in human life. Thus, God's triumph over the evil powers at Christ's death and exaltation has its current effect in transformed human lives and will have its full historical effect at Christ's return, when all of creation will be restored. While Paul imagines the church's salvation to be an exodus from one spiritual kingdom into another, the results of conversion are experienced and very real. This emphasis by Paul throughout Colossians is a very important corrective to the false teachers, who insist on the importance of heavenly visions (2:18) and earthly asceticism (2:20-23) as the means of divine grace. In fact, God has already done everything necessary in heaven (through the work of Christ on earth) to transform human existence, both spiritually and materially, personally and publicly.

One final comment about the kingdom of the Son [God] loves, which is the church's destination as it is liberated from the evil kingdom. Several expositors have suggested that this phrase alludes to God's promise made to David about his eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:8-17, esp. v. 16) and to his subsequent coronation as Israel's king (see Ps 2:4-9). Paul recognizes that Jesus, not David, has established God's eternal kingdom and is the Son he loves (see Mt 3:17; 17:5). This implied meaning may be important to Paul's readers, if they have heard from messianic Jews in Colosse that the biblical David is the ordained pattern the coming Messiah would follow as David's son (compare Mt 1:1). Like David, Messiah would enjoy an intimate relationship with God and mediate God's rule over Israel. But messianic Jews believed that unlike David, whose disobedience prevented God from fulfilling the promise of an eternal kingdom, the coming "son of David" Messiah would mediate God's reign forever. Some Jews even believed that the Messiah's reign would be inaugurated by Israel's return from its spiritual exile in an "old age" of disobedience into a "golden age" of holiness. I think Paul understands the result of Christ's work in exactly this way (compare 1 Cor 15:24-28): those believers who are now in Christ have returned from their spiritual exile and participate daily in the "golden age" of grace, enjoying the pleasure of God.

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