Colossians 1:12

Sermon preached on February 9, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a beer ad on the Internet that was really moving. It was an ad for Guinness Beer. Even though it was a beer ad, it had nothing to do with beer. The ad was about twin sisters Tracy and Lanny Barnes. They are both great athletes and they were both trying out for the U.S. Biathlon Team at the upcoming Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Biathlon in the Winter Olympics combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The ad had a picture of them standing together with their skis in their cross-country outfits. They looked beautiful—identical twins. At the Olympic Trials in Italy, Lanny was sick and couldn't compete in most of the races. Her sister Tracy did compete and won a spot on the U.S. team. It was undoubtedly a dream come true for her. Lanny, because of her illness, missed making the team. I can only image how disappointed she was. But what happened next surprised a lot of people. Tracy gave her spot on the U.S. Olympic team to her sister Lanny. I didn't know you could do that but that's what she wanted to do and that's what she did. So now Lanny is going to get to compete in the 2014 Olympics and Tracy is not. Wow. What an incredible gesture. The ad ended with the words,

"The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character."

It was really moving. Lanny Barnes didn't qualify, but she's going to participate in the Olympics. She's on the U.S. team even though, in a sense, she doesn't deserve to be there.

We have something like that in our text. In ourselves, we are not qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints. But what our text tells us is that someone else has qualified us. It highlights the work of the Father on our behalf. We usually think of Jesus as accomplishing salvation. And He certainly did much for us. But here the focus is on the activity of the Father. John Calvin says that Paul, while preparing to point us to the preeminence of Christ, speaks of the Father here,

"because He is the beginning and efficient cause of our salvation."

Or as Douglas J. Moo puts it, Paul is taking a step back and, (The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, PNTC; p.100)

"reminding the Colossians of the foundation for their new life in the redemptive work of the Father through the Son."

Through the work of Jesus the Father qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. And what he is doing is telling them that they are to be joyfully, (Colossians 1:12-14)

"giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you
to share in the inheritance of
the saints in the kingdom of light.
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."

The main thing we are going to look at here is that

the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints.

Last week we looked at our adoption. Adoption is a wonderful teaching of the Bible. But there's a problem with our adoption—not with adoption itself—but with the fact that some Christians don't believe it applies to them. Our hearts can deceive us. Sometimes certain Christians don't feel worthy of adoption. And they're right. They're not worthy. None of us are worthy. Sometimes certain Christians don't feel that they deserve to be adopted into God's family. And they're right. We don't deserve it. We're sinners. Sometimes we feel that we're not good enough to be adopted into God's family—and that's true too. We're not good enough in spite of our best efforts. We'll never be good enough. A lot of Christians feel that they're not qualified to belong to God's family. (R. L. Green and W. Hooper, C. S. Lewis, Collins, 1974, p. 234)

"Even such a stalwart as C. S. Lewis apparently faltered here."

It's true that, in ourselves, we're not qualified. If we look at ourselves, our sins, we can have doubts that we really belong to God. When we consider our faults, we wonder how we can possibly be among the number of the redeemed. We do good works. But we know that they're not really that good. They're tainted by sin. We're proud of them and we know that pride is a sin. We know the truth of Isaiah 64:6 that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

So when we hear about adoption, about God the Father 'qualifying' us, it's one of those things that seems too good to be true. We all know the saying,

"If it seems to good to be true, it probably is."

And that's the way it is with a lot of things on this earth. But our adoption by God is a great exception to the rule. It seems too good to be true—yet it is true.

The Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

What a truth! How we should rejoice in this. God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. What He did for us was one of the greatest things He could do for us. He qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. He made us joint-heirs with His Son, Jesus. He qualified us for glory. This is a truth that we should hold close to our hearts and rejoice in. This is a truth that should fill us with thanksgiving to God. It's something that He did for us. It's a free gift.

This is obvious from two things in the context here.

First of all, in this section the apostle Paul is urging the Colossian Christians

to joyfully give thanks to God the Father for qualifying us.

Getting back to our opening illustration about Lanny and Tracy Barnes—can you imagine what Lanny said to Tracy when she found out that Tracy had given up her spot on the U.S. Olympic team for her? One of the things had to be a huge "Thank You."

Why would Tracy give up her spot on the Olympic team for her sister? I'm guessing here, but I suspect that Lanny was more skilled than Tracy. They're twin sisters. I'm sure they spend a lot of time training together. I'm sure they've competed against each other many times. They know each other so well. I suspect that Tracy realized that Lanny had a better shot at a medal than she did so that's why she gave up her place on the team for her sister. I can't imagine Lanny accepting the place on the Olympic team if her sister was better than she was.

Now, if that's the case, one of the most appropriate things for Lanny to say to Tracy has to be, 'thank you'. It's a free gift from her sister.

In any case, Paul tells us here that joyful thanksgiving should be our response. Why? Because this is something that God did for us. He has qualified us.

Our thanksgiving to God ought to be even greater than that of Lanny to Tracey because

God didn't pick us because we were better than others.

Tracy Barnes chose Lanny because Lanny was better than her. God doesn't choose like that. God did not choose the best people who ever lived to be adopted into His family. Jesus told the Pharisees that prostitutes and tax collectors were entering the kingdom of heaven head of them. (Matthew 21:31) We know that, (John Calvin on Colossians 1:12)

"adoption depends on free election."

When the Bible speaks about election, it clearly states that God did not choose the best, the most holy, the most qualified. In 2 Timothy 1:9–10 the apostle Paul urged Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,

"who has saved us and called us
to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because
of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus
before the beginning of time,
but it has now been revealed
through the appearing of our Savior,
Christ Jesus,"

We see the same thing in Titus 3:4–7 where Paul wrote,

"But when the kindness and
love of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because
of righteous things we had done,
but because of his mercy.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us generously
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that, having been justified
by his grace, we might become heirs
having the hope of eternal life."

We are taught this in Romans 9:11–15 as well, where God told how He chose Jacob and did not choose Esau. Paul said that it was so that God's purpose in election might stand, that it was not by works, but by him who calls. God declared,

"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion
on whom I have compassion."

So we should give thanks because God's adopting us was not because of anything good in us. His adopting us as His sons and daughters was an incredible and wondrous act of love for us. 1 John 3:1 says,

"How great is the love the Father
has lavished on us, that
we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!"

God's qualifying us to be His sons is not on the basis of any worth in us. That's why we ought to be joyfully giving thanksgiving for it.

The second thing from the context that shows us that God's qualifying us is a free gift is the fact that

what is in view here is God's activity, God's work on our behalf.

We share in the inheritance of the saints because the Father has 'qualified' us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. God has done this. We haven't qualified ourselves. This privilege, this status, this entitlement—has been given to us by God the Father. Douglas J. Moo writes, (The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, PNTC; p. 100)

"God the Father has himself provided what sinners need to be considered worthy to join the people of God…"

Again, think of Lanny Barnes. She was sick and so missed some of the races in the Olympic trials and because she missed those races she didn't qualify. On her own she failed. But her sister earned a spot and then gave it to Lanny.

That's the way it is with our being qualified to have a share of the inheritance. God qualified us.

It's great to have someone else do something for you, to put you in a place of privilege. One time in the late 70's Marg's father said to me one day,

"Larry, how would you like to go to Halifax?"

I was a teacher at the time and Marg and I were in Corner Brook, Newfoundland on our summer vacation. I asked him what he meant. At the time he was the Vice President of a large company, in charge of their automotive group. He told me that they had a real shortage of new cars to sell because their was a huge backlog in shipping the cars to Newfoundland. Newfoundland is an island and sometimes it happened that there would be problems with the boats breaking down etc. and suddenly there would be a shortage of new cars on the island. So Marg's father told me that rather than waiting for all the cars to be shipped, that they were trying to get some of them over early. So he offered to fly me to Halifax, pick up a new car, and drive it to North Sydney and take it across on the passenger ferry. Since my mom and dad lived in Halifax at the time I thought it was a great idea. I could fly over one afternoon, spend the night with them and the next morning pick up the new car and take it to Newfoundland. I wouldn't have to pay anything. It was all free to me. So that's what I did. I didn't have to pay for the airline ticket. I didn't have to pay for the bus into town from the airport. The next morning, I went to the facility where they kept the new cars. It was a huge fenced in facility with a locked gate and security guards. I went in and told who I was and they gave me the keys to a new car and told me where it was. It was a really nice sporty car. I got in it and drove off.

It was great. I felt so privileged. Marg's father arranged it all. It was all free and a lot of fun.

That's the way it is with our being qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints. God did it for us. Our salvation is God's work. He did it for us.

It's just like when God led his people out of Egypt. Indeed, many commentators see an allusion in our text to the rescue of God's people from Egypt. In Exodus 6:6–8 we read,

"Therefore, say to the Israelites:
'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out
from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
I will free you from being slaves to them,
and I will redeem you with
an outstretched arm and with
mighty acts of judgment.
I will take you as my own people,
and I will be your God.
Then you will know that
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out from
under the yoke of the Egyptians.
And I will bring you to the land
I swore with uplifted hand to give
to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.
I will give it to you as a possession.
I am the Lord."

In the Exodus passage God 'rescues', and 'redeems' people taking them out of a situation of slavery and bringing them into an inheritance. We also see that in our text. In verses 13 and 14 Paul tells us that God 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."

Just like God brought His people out of Egypt, so He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness. It is His work.

Salvation is God's work. It is true that we have to believe. We have to exercise faith. Yet Ephesians 2 tells us that even faith is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8) It says,

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—
and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works,
so that no one can boast."

It is also true that we have to do good works. James tells us that faith without works is dead. He wrote, (James 2:17)

"faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead."

And Hebrews 12:14 says,

"without holiness
no one will see the Lord."

So we need to do good works. Yet our good works do not save us. (Romans 3:20) Rather they are evidence that our faith is genuine. They are proof that God is at work in us. As we read in Ephesians 2:10,

"For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus
to do good works, which God prepared
in advance for us to do."

All these things show that salvation is God's work. He has made us alive when we were dead in trespasses and sins. Here's what Romans 8:29 says about the work of God the Father.

"For those God foreknew
he also predestined to be conformed
to the likeness of his Son,
that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.
And those he predestined,
he also called; those he called,
he also justified; those he justified,
he also glorified."

From beginning to end, salvation is God's work. He accomplishes it.

What does mean for us?

First of all, this means that

you should have a great sense of well-being.

As a Christian God has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. You belong to God and He is going to take care of you. He is going to lead you to glory. You are already qualified for it.

Of course we need to have faith. After the people of Israel left Egypt God had them camp by the Red Sea. Pharaoh marched out after them to bring them back. The Israelites were terrified and said to Moses, (Exodus 14:10–14)

"Was it because there were
no graves in Egypt that you
brought us to the desert to die?
What have you done to us
by bringing us out of Egypt?
Didn't we say to you in Egypt,
'Leave us alone;
let us serve the Egyptians'?
It would have been better for us
to serve the Egyptians than
to die in the desert!"

They had no idea that it was to destroy the Egyptians in the Red Sea that God brought Pharaoh out. They should have had faith. But Moses knew that God would bring them to their inheritance. He said to the people,

"Do not be afraid.
Stand firm and you will see
the deliverance the LORD
will bring you today.
The Egyptians you see today
you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you;
you need only to be still."

Christians, you have been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints. No matter what happens you're going to enter the promised land. You're in the hands of Jesus. He is going to take care of you. Trust Him to do so.

Secondly, this means that

your lives should be full of thanksgiving to God.

God has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints. This is a present reality. It's something that God did for you,.

The only appropriate response is to joyfully give thanks to God. Rejoice in this.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, this means that

you need to go to Jesus today.

Today God can qualify you to share in the inheritance of the saints. If you go to Jesus you will belong to that number. That is open to you right now.

But know that if you delay that one day that door will close. Time change things.

Let me give one example. Hamilton Jordan was chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter. On the day that Carter's presidency ended he was constantly checking on the release of the American hostages in Iran. Ronald Reagan was going to become President and the Iranians were going to release the hostages that day. So that day Jordan was constantly going to the operations room in the White House and checking on the news of the release of the hostages. He would then leave to make preparations for the transfer of power. At one point he watched President Reagan being sworn in, taking the oath of office. Immediately he raced down to the operations room and asked about the news on the release of the hostages, as he had been doing that all day. Only this time it was different. When he asked this time, they said,

"Sorry, sir. You're not cleared for that information."

As soon as the new President was sworn in he lost access to that information. He was no longer Chief of Staff to the President. The time had come and things had changed.

Time changes things. The time for you to go to Jesus is now. Ask Him to save you.