Colossians 1:13-20 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Years ago, one of the large circuses featured a Bengal tiger act. One night, the trainer went into the cage for his performance. All went well, until the middle of the act. With tigers moving everywhere, the power within the entire big top went out. For two minutes, that trainer was locked in darkness with a cage full of ferocious, man-eating tigers.
Being cats, they could see him, but he couldn’t see them. Even so, the trainer managed to survive. Afterwards, in an interview, when he was asked how he had managed to make it through unscathed, he responded: “I just kept cracking my whip and talking to them, until the lights came on. I gambled on them not realizing I couldn’t see them.”
Over the years, I have seen a lot of people facing the same situation as that trainer. No, they weren’t working with tigers, but they were in the dark, and they were surrounded by any number of forces that could bring them down and destroy them. They pretended they were O.K. and kept yelling into the darkness, but they realized that they couldn’t maintain the charade forever.
2015 definitely seemed like darkness had descended upon our world. We were fearful of the beginning of World War III because of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine and Iran being allowed to have nuclear weapons. We experienced terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. There were riots in our streets. Black Lives Matter were holding protests in shopping malls. Our university campuses erupted with shouts of “safe spaces.” We watched the sickening videos of the horrors that go on in Planned Parenthood clinics. Our president and congress didn’t seem to care and gave millions to this murderous institution. The Supreme Court declared legal what God calls immoral and an abomination.
You overlook the darkness hoping that it will get better.
That worldly darkness pales in comparison to the darkness you’ve felt within your own home. Mom is constantly stressed and easily irritated. Dad comes home angry and ready to verbally unload on the first victim he sees. The teens sulk in their rooms, connected to social media, but distant from living human beings. The children act out so that they get some attention with their naughty behavior. You can’t invite your brother to the house because of his unchristian lifestyle choice. Grandpa’s cancer came back with a vengeance. Grandma’s dementia is getting worse all the time.
You ignore the darkness pretending it isn’t that bad.
The church should be a haven of peace from all this turmoil, but it isn’t. Confirmands lie directly to God’s face when they make their confirmation vows, never once intending to step foot within the church again. Members flaunt their sin in God’s face with their drunkenness, their language, and their living together in sin. Other Christians fail to receive God’s mercy in their pietistic leanings and so won’t forgive or share God’s forgiveness with other sinners.
We avoid the darkness believing that it will improve.
We are living within the dominion of darkness. It feels like an empire of evil. A territory of terror.
What we need is to have the lights turned on. … And someone to get us out of our cage.
That is where our Lord comes in. After the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Lord looked down the corridors of the centuries and saw humanity wandering off into the darkness of damnation. But the idea of those countless souls moving into the hallways of hell touched our heavenly Father.
This is how the apostle Paul proclaims what God then did to save us: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Paul pictures humanity held captive by unbelief. We could not free ourselves. God rescued us.
But God did not free us so that we could go off on our own or be in a neutral condition in our relationship with God. The Christian faith is truly counter-cultural. For the genius of God is that what He declares to be is what He makes happen. That means we are not sinners defined by our sin and condemned to live in the darkness we have created for ourselves. God rescued us from the dominion of darkness. He brought us into the kingdom of light. We now have a new identity and a new life. We don’t have to live within the darkness anymore. We are children of the light.
God did this for sinful human beings by one mighty act of love in human history. In the fullness of time, God sent His Son into our world of sin and shame. God had called light out of darkness at the beginning of creation. But a greater darkness overcame the world. This was a spiritual darkness that covered all of creation. This darkness swept over God’s creation like a raging flood, swallowing up everything in its path. It distorted our hearts and minds, corrupted our desire and will, and made us God’s enemies – captives of death and hell.
But just as God did not leave the earth wrapped in darkness, so He did not abandon His creatures to sin’s darkness, either. He sent His Son into the world to overpower it. And who is this Son? “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” The word “image” means more than mere likeness. Jesus is more than like God. Jesus is God. He is the perfect expression, the very personification, of God. Adam lost the image of God, but in Christ, the Second Adam, God’s image is restored.
Jesus is not only the image of God who existed before creation. He Himself is the Creator of all things. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” All things in heaven were created by His power. So were all things on earth, both living and non-living things, with mankind as their glory and crown.
By Him all was created. Then He became like the created in order to save His fallen creation.
Because Christ is the Creator, all things in the physical and spiritual realms are subject to Him. The good angels are dedicated to His service. The fallen angels live in terror of Him. Their power cannot even begin to match the power of Christ, their Creator. Whether angels of light or the demons of darkness, Christ has rank and preeminence over everything that was created.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Christ created all things and He continues to preserve them. There is a continuing interaction between Christ and the entire universe. In Him all things hold together. The unity and order of the universe and the laws of nature are the expressions of Christ’s will and power. If it were not for that power, everything in the universe would fly apart and be thrown into chaos. But in Christ they all wonderfully cohere.
The supremacy of Christ that extends over the whole created universe also extends over His Church. “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” As a body cannot live without a head, so the Church cannot exist without Christ. He governs all things in the universe in the Church’s interest.
Christ is the firstborn from among the dead. Firstborn promises that many more people will be born from the womb of the grave. He is the first. All the rest will follow Jesus’ footsteps to a glorious resurrection from the dead.
Everything that Paul said about Christ’s supremacy leads to this powerful statement: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
The Son of God, in whom all the fullness of the divinity resides, came into this world of sin not to flaunt His glory but to humble Himself and to shed His blood on Calvary’s cross. He came to take the curse of mankind’s sin on Himself and to pay for its guilt. He did this so that the broken relationship between sinners and God might be repaired and reconciled. The relationship would go from one of hostility and enmity to one of peace and family.
What we needed was for someone to turn the lights on … and someone to get us out of the cage.
Jesus Christ is that someone!
The truths Paul has discussed are primarily doctrinal. They express wonderful objective truths about Christ and His Gospel. They are deep and can be difficult to understand. But they are also practical, perhaps more than we at first realize. Think again about what the great truths Paul has so forcefully emphasized here mean for our lives of living within the dominion of darkness.
Jesus is supreme in the world of creation. He created all things, and He governs all things and holds them together with His almighty power. This assures us that, contrary to what we may sometimes think, our world is not ruled by chaos. It is continually under the command of our all-sufficient Lord and Savior. There is an eternal plan for our lives. There is a divine purpose in all that happens in our world. A plan and a purpose determined and brought to pass by our Savior who loves us enough to rescue us from this present evil age.
Sin, evil humanity, and the devil are not in control of this world. Jesus is. He sets limits on their wicked activities. Nothing in this world – no terrorist menace, no military conflict, no economic downturn, no troubles within the home – nothing in our lives, including the worst imaginable tragedies, can separate us from our Savior.
Even so, sometimes we still feel like we are swimming through dark times. The more we focus on that darkness, the more we drown in our doubts and fears. But when we focus on Jesus, the Light of the world, and trust His saving power, He gives us new life. He turns the lights on. The darkness scatters. The demons shriek. The devil scurries.
Day after day, Jesus is moving this world forward to the end of the age. Then, by His almighty power, He will rescue us completely and forever from the effects of sin and the consequences of our evil.
There is a blessed assurance in the fact that Jesus is supreme in the world of salvation. Our rescue is complete. Our redemption is paid for. Our salvation is absolute. The dominion of darkness is broken and the lights are turned on.
Praise the one who breaks the darkness! Amen.