“Transferred to the Kingdom of His Son” (Colossians 1:13-20)
Have you ever been transferred? People get transferred or relocated due to their work from time to time. The transfer can be a good thing or a bad thing; sometimes it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Just this past Friday, the third baseman for the Cardinals got transferred from St. Louis to “Los Angeles of Anaheim.” There will be plusses and minuses in this for Mr. Freese. On the downside, he won’t be a hometown hero out there, and the team he’ll be playing on is not as good as the one he left. On the upside, the climate will definitely be better–it’s going to be close to 70 degrees today in Anaheim–and the pizza has got to be better than the provel-laden “Square Beyond Repair” that you get in St. Louis. So this transfer will be a mixed bag.
That is not the case with the transfer that you and I experience as Christians. This kind of a transfer is all good. Even the stuff that seems to be bad at the time turns out to be for our ultimate good. The transfer I’m talking about is the one described in our reading today from Colossians, namely, that God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
“Transferred to the Kingdom of His Son.” This morning, then, we’ll look at, first, the domain we’ve been delivered from; second, the kingdom we’ve been transferred to; and third, the Son whose kingdom it is.
First, what is the domain we’ve been delivered from? St. Paul describes it as “the domain of darkness,” that this is what God has delivered us from. And thank God he has. For this is a domain from which we could not rescue ourselves. “The domain of darkness” describes the lost condition and state in which we were born and were stuck and would still remain, if not for God’s rescue. The domain of darkness is a domain of doom and death. It is the devil’s domain, where he deceives and entices us into being our own gods, independent of and rebelling against the will of our Creator. And we all too easily go along.
The domain of darkness. The world is lost in the darkness of sin and unbelief. The people of this world are groping around in the dark, unable to find their way to God. They know that there must be a god, or gods, up there somewhere. They can observe from nature that there must be a God. All of this could not have come about by accident. Their reason tells them that must be a Creator who is behind all of this. They feel in their conscience that there is a standard of right and wrong–this is the law God has written in human hearts–that there is a God to whom we are accountable, and that somehow things are not right between us and God. The question, though, is–the questions are–who is this God, how does he regard us, how do we get right with him, and how do we solve the death problem? These are questions that the people of this world have no answers for, not right answers, anyway. They’re just groping around in the dark, guessing, grasping at straws, making things up as they go along.
The domain of darkness–it’s a bad place to be. And you and I would still be there, if God had not intervened. He undertook the big rescue mission. It involved sending his own Son into this hall of death, this domain of doom and gloom and darkness. Jesus took on the devil on his own turf. At least the devil thought it was his own turf. It isn’t, but it was under his temporary sway. Like Pharaoh enslaving the Israelites, so Satan held us in slavery and bondage. But also, like Pharaoh, Satan was about to get knocked down to size.
And so Christ came, doing the big rescue job. Born as our brother, sharing our humanity, the very Son of God came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. The devil went after him from the get-go, trying to kill him, along with the other baby boys of Bethlehem. It didn’t work. The devil went after him again at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, right after his baptism in the Jordan. The devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, just like he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden and the Israelites in their wilderness. But again, it didn’t work. Jesus withstood the temptation. Jesus then went on the offense, driving out demons and healing diseases, fulfilling the law and forgiving sins, unmasking hypocrisy and teaching the truth to his disciples. This did work, and it worked beautifully. But Satan hadn’t given up. He’d give it one more try. Yeah, get someone to betray Jesus, hand him over, get him railroaded into a shameful, humiliating crucifixion. Ah, Satan, this time you’ve won!
Uh, maybe not. Satan is pretty stupid, when compared to God. Actually, even this crucifixion was part of God’s rescue plan. But it looked good at the time. It looked like the domain of darkness was winning. Indeed, darkness came over the land, the mockers mocked, and Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But as I say, this was God’s rescue plan, his daring and dramatic rescue plan, put into action. It was the only way for humanity to be rescued, to be delivered. The price, the penalty for sin, had to be paid, and we couldn’t pay it. We’re not righteous enough. Our sacrifice wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans. But Christ’s death does measure up, and then some. For he is the very Son of God, able to pay the full price for all persons who have ever lived. He is the holy, righteous one, the sinless one, who kept God’s law in perfect righteousness. His death, his blood, has infinite worth. And so this rescue, this deliverance, did work. “It is finished!” Christ cries out. Mission accomplished, big-time. The resurrection shows forth the victory. Death is overcome; the death problem is solved. God and man–back together, the way it oughta be. Peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, all accomplished in the cross of Christ. Life, new life, eternal life, springing forth from an empty tomb.
And this is for you. You, dear friend, you have been delivered from the domain of darkness. No more are you groping around in the dark. As a Christian, you know who God is, the true God, the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You know how God regards you: In mercy. He loves you with an everlasting love. You know how you are put right with God: Not through you own works, which could never suffice. But through the saving work of Christ, for you, on your behalf. And you know the answer to the death problem: It is, quite simply, Jesus Christ himself. Through faith in him, you are moved from death to life.
God has delivered us from the domain of darkness “and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Here is the big transfer, and it’s all good. You have been transferred, relocated, to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. This is Christ’s kingdom, the one he came to establish. At his baptism, and again at his transfiguration, God declared about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son.” And so he is.
In this kingdom, we have redemption. “Redemption” is a word of liberation, freedom. Redemption means release from a state of bondage, by means of a payment being paid to set the person free. That payment was the blood of Christ, which is all-sufficient. And in the kingdom of Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness means that our sins have been removed from us. God has sent them away, lifted them off of us. He doesn’t hold those sins against us. For Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
God has “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Luther summed it up like this, in his explanation to the Second Article of the Creed: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” And this is most certainly good news, for you! Living under Christ in his kingdom forever–this is the great transfer we will get to enjoy for eternity, and we rejoice even now, living in this kingdom.
So now Paul, in the rest of this passage in Colossians, tells us more about who this Son of God is, into whose kingdom we have been transferred. And this part of Colssians is often called the “Christ Hymn,” because it looks like it may have been a very early poetic hymn of praise to Christ, used in the church. It goes like this: “He,” that is, Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Take it in! Drink it in! Look at who it is who has rescued us! Look at who it is, this king in this kingdom to which we belong! The eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, by whom all things were created. The one who holds all authority in heaven and on earth. The one who is the head of his body, the church. Yes, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ, who right now is ruling all things for the sake of his church–and that’s us. He is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, meaning that you too are going to rise, on the day when Christ returns. He is the God-man Savior, both true God and true man, all powerful and, at the same time, our sympathetic and merciful brother. Jesus Christ–through him God has reconciled all things to himself, “making peace by the blood of his cross.”
This great gospel of Christ–who he is, namely, the very Son of God, and what God has done for us through him, delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of his beloved Son–this gospel will sustain you to the end, through all adversities, trials, and obstacles. And this gospel, which even now fills you with hope and confidence, will carry you on into the age to come, in the kingdom of God’s Son.