Rescued and Transferred
Three verses introduce us to a new concept regarding the work of the Gospel—rescued and transferred (Galatians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). Within the context of the Gospel, Paul introduces the concept of rescue and, in the Colossians passage, adds an essential idea that is essential to our participation in Christ. These passages introduce us to the terms rescue and transfer.
The concept of rescue has no surprises in meaning, having the same idea as our English word. Our Lord used the term in Matthew 5:29 and 18:9 in reference to an offense, using the illustration of the eye. The term translated rescue in our passage is “pluck it out” in Jesus’ statement. Other occurrences carry the idea of remove or deliver from something (Acts 7:10, 34; 12:11; 23:27). In our passages, it holds the idea of select or set apart and save in Acts 26:17.2
The concept will give us the picture of being rescued from something. Each passage uses a different phrase, with all potentially holding the same general idea. Galatians and Colossians are very similar, and Thessalonians has more of an eschatological idea in it. In Galatians, we are rescued from the present evil age. In Colossians, we are recused from the kingdom of darkness. Both of these show a state opposed to God. God is good; God is light, in whom there is no darkness. Thus, these picture our current state in this world before coming into Christ. Paul will describe this in less favorable terms in Ephesians. He describes the Ephesians (and also us) as being “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). What a horrible place to be. No God, no light, no hope. The Thessalonian passage adds another concept to rescue. We are rescued from God’s wrath. As noted, this is an end of day context when the “Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). Thus, to qualify for rescue from an evil, dark kingdom, avoiding the wrath of God, the Gospel as agency must clean up our act!
Galatians and Colossians introduce the phrase forgiveness of sins into the Gospel agency. Finally, someone may say, we are talking about forgiveness of sins! Yes, it is time. Paul states unequivocally that Jesus gave himself, which is idiomatic for death on the cross. He states that the reason is for our sins. Listed below are other passages where this same idea is given:
Roman 5:6 “You see, at the appointed time, while we were still helpless Christ died for us.”
Roman 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us by this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-15a “For Christ's love controls us, because we have reached this conviction, that one died for all, which means that all died, And he died for all ... “
Galatians 3:13 “Christ ransomed us from the curse invoked by the law by becoming the accursed one for us, for it stands written, ‘A curse lies on everyone who is hung on a pole.’”
1 Thessalonians 5:10 “He [Jesus Christ] died for us so that, whether we a; awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
1 Peter 2:21 “For to this [the patient endurance of unjust suffering] you were called, because Christ suffered for you.”
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once and for all to atone for sins. - Righteous One for for the unrighteous, to bring you to Cod,”
1 John 3:16 “This is how we have come to know what love is: He [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us.”
In every case mentioned above, there is a beneficiary listed. Let’s pull them out of the text: “us,” “you,” and “the unrighteous.” This beneficiary may qualify our understanding of the preposition “for” by providing a dual sense.3 While all of the passages bulleted above are the statement of “one” for “another,” Peter gives us the clearest picture of the exchange. It is the righteous for the unrighteous. You see, Jesus is without sin (1 Peter 3:22; 1 Corinthians 5:21). Because this was his nature, he came to fulfill righteousness (Matthew 3:15). To do this, he had to be the substitution. Now, this does not mean “he died in our place.” If that were an accurate statement, it implies that we could have died for our sins, which we know is not possible. The reason is simple. God accepts only a blemish free sacrifice. We certainly do not meet that criterion. Thus, only Jesus could be offered for our sins. The imagery used in these passages is from the sacrificial system in the Tabernacle/Temple.
John describes Jesus as “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). John also pictures him as our “advocate (Lawyer) with (before) the Father” (1 John 2:1). “If we need an advocate with God, then our position is indeed a dangerous one. We are in dire peril.”4 Jesus’ relationship with the father puts him in a position to turn away the divine wrath. The reason Jesus can do this is, in fulfilling righteousness (Matthew 3:15), he fulfilled the law and the prophets by dying once for all (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). The law prophetically saw Jesus’ sacrifice every time a priest offered an animal sacrifice in the Tabernacle or Temple. He was foretelling the coming of a perfect Lamb of God. Jesus ended these sacrifices with his sacrifice.
Now, go back and pick up the “in Christ” idea of the earlier section. Ask yourself this: “Can that which is unclean enter that which is pure and clean by nature?” The answer is obvious. Thus, we must be cleaned up before we are transferred into Jesus Christ! This is the purpose of Christ’s sacrificial death for us. He is the perfect Lamb of God, taking away our sin, making us fit citizens of the Beloved Kingdom. The clarity of this is evident in the Colossian passage.
We are born into a dark kingdom that Paul describes in a variety of places (Ephesians 2:11-12; Colossians 3:5, 8 as two examples). The dark kingdom is one of only two possible groups of people in this world. Either you are in Christ or not in Christ. Either you are cleansed by his blood or you are not.5 It is just that simple. Those not in Christ are in their sins. Paul will call them “dead” (Romans 8:10.). This kingdom is dark because their deeds are done in darkness (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:11). Note in Colossians 1:13 that the rescue is from the domain of darkness. The word domain that holds the idea of power or authority.6 As pointed out earlier, death has power over us if we allow it (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus broke that power by his resurrection.
The Gospel is the call to be rescued. Think about it. Is it really logical for God to call someone he has already elected? If so, the Gospel becomes only an invitation with no innate qualities. It does not produce faith (Romans 10:17). Faith would be infused. However, our response to the Gospel call initiates the transfer into the Beloved Kingdom. Isn’t that a beautiful expression? It is especially impressive when compared to the dark kingdom.
Another picture of the need for forgiveness is in the picture of the living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). An Old Testament sacrifice had to be without blemish, and it was not able to fully cleanse the worshipper (Hebrews 10:2-3). Further, Jesus was without blemish so he could be the perfect sacrifice. How important is it for us to be without blemish if we are his Ambassadors? When forgiven, we are blemish free, ready to serve. I suppose there is some benefit to the bumper sticker that reads:
* This page is an excerpt from is my book Non-Negotiable: Focusing on the Essentials of the Faith. The book goes into more detail on many of these issues.
Last update: 5 September 2015
Gospel as Agency