redeemedPaul and the Christians in Colossae have something in common; they have each been redeemed from Satan’s kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The “we” includes everybody who has, is and will ever be a Christian. For the saints under the Old Covenant, Christ’s perfect and finished work has been retroactively applied (cf. Hebrews 9:15).

Giving thanks to the Father, who made you acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light, who rescued us from the kingdom of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we now have the redemption; that is, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:12-14).

Think about what the word “redemption” actually means. It gives the sense of being freed from an oppressive and harmful situation. It has overtones of being purchased and ransomed from the clutches of an evil taskmaster. It means to be released and absolved from bonds or a particularly terrible debt. It means to make good on an obligation, to set things right between yourself and an offended party. It’s really only a nuance or two away from the proper meaning of the all-important concept of “propitiation,” (1 John 2:2). This is who you are, who I am, who every single person in this world is – worthless sinners, criminal terrorists in God’s universe, rogue insurgents who live to rail against the Lord and against His anointed. Jesus Christ said, “He that hateth me hateth my Father also,” (John 15:23). Well, the truth is that we’re each born hating Him and His father, we’re each born “by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:2), and we’re each born as people who need to be redeemed.

Paul does not say that everybody has been redeemed, or even will be redeemed. Only those who repent of their sins and believe in the Good News which our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ died to bring will be redeemed. You are not born belonging to the family of God. You are a stranger and alien to righteousness; all of us are. We come into this world as members of Satan’s kingdom; we’re born under his jurisdiction, his power, his authority, his dominion and his control. We’re slaves of sin, “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” (Jude 1:6). But, for those who have obeyed Jesus’ cry, “[t]he time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel,” then this is nothing but a terrible memory, a nightmare on a dark and stormy night, a horrifying time before God shined in your heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Indeed, as the Apostle Paul wrote,

“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 6:20-23).

What does it mean to be “redeemed?” What is this redemption that Christians now have? Paul tells us that it is “the forgiveness of sins.” Your sins prove you’re a criminal. You live in this world God created, you breathe the air Christ provides, you live your life according to natural laws which Christ upholds and sustains, and you enjoy the blessings which the Lord showers on the just and the unjust alike.

If you are an unbeliever, you do belong to Satan’s kingdom, but make no mistake – everything in heaven and earth is ultimately under God Almighty’s power and control. Satan’s jurisdiction is like that of a metropolitan city within a state; its sovereignty is subject to the laws and regulations of the state it’s located in. You are under God’s jurisdiction, you are a proven criminal who has violated God’s holy laws, and you must be punished. It’s really as simple as that.

Because God is so holy, so perfect, so mighty, so awesome and so powerful, you deserve the greatest possible punishment. The Bible tells us that punishment is eternity “[i]n flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

You need to be forgiven. In order to be forgiven, certain criteria must be met. When a person commits a heinous crime in civilized society, people instinctively know that two things simply must happen when the perpetrator is caught: (1) the crime must be paid for, and (2) once that crime is paid for, things will be “set right.” This is what the word “propitiation” means. Your sins need to be paid for, wiped clean, atoned for. God’s righteous anger must be appeased, and things must be set right. You can either pay for your own sins yourself, as you surely deserve to, or you can confess and forsake your sins, and believe the life-giving and life-saving Good News which Jesus Christ preached and taught. You only have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

For Moses truly said unto the fathers, ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.’ Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, ‘And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’ Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities (Acts 3:19-26).

The Kingdom of Darkness (Colossians 1:13)


There is a host of misinformation and lies in the world about the human condition. The Bible makes things very clear. You need to be rescued. You need to be rescued from Satan’s clutches and from his fiery orphanage of the damned. That last bit isn’t hyperbole on my part; after all, a rescue implies some kind of mortal danger, doesn’t it? What on earth do you need to be rescued from?

12Giving thanks to the Father, who made you acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light, 13who rescued us from the kingdom of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we now have the redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins.[1]

The Bible tells us you need to be rescued and delivered “from the kingdom of darkness” (ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους). Some translations render this as “delivered,” but I don’t think this is brutal, stark or arresting enough. It’s too dainty, too proper, too high-brow. You don’t need to be delivered, you need to be rescued from Satan’s kingdom. 

This phrase is usually translated two different ways; as “power of darkness” (Tyndale, KJV, NKJV, NET, ISV) or “domain of darkness” (LEB, ESV, NASB). The idea of darkness is very clear in Greek, but the word ἐξουσίας is expressing the idea of sphere of control or rule. Another interesting possibility is jurisdiction. Altogether, you have several good translation options, each of which paints a dark and forbidding picture of who we really are. We are, all of us, people who desperately need to be rescued from the jurisdiction, power, domain and kingdom of darkness.

Darkness is the domain of Satan. It isn’t any wonder that our popular culture depicts evil in sinister shades of black (for example, think Darth Vader and “the dark side”), and good in glowing robes of white. This is Biblical imagery.

  • People are trapped in the dark clutches of sin, their hearts and minds veiled by Satan’s cloak, and it is the “light of the glorious Gospel of Christ” which shines in unto His elect people (2 Corinthians 4:4-5), casting aside this vile net of iniquity and delusion “so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel.”[2]
  • An unbeliever’s understanding is “darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” (Ephesians 4:18). Thus, this darkness isn’t literal; it’s spiritual. An unbeliever cannot know God, please God, or understand God because of this spiritual darkness.
  • The Apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Ephesus, “for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8).
  • A Christian is somebody whom God has called “out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (2 Peter 2:9).
  • The Apostle John, echoing His Lord’s “new commandment” (Jn 13:34-35), wrote that external behavior revealed the true state of one’s heart. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now,” (1 John 2:9).
  • Jesus Christ Himself is depicted as the bright and shining light, sent from God with the precious message of salvation, redemption and reconciliation; “in him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not,” (John 1:4-5).

This is not good news. The Apostle Paul did not beat around the bush. Elsewhere, he made it clear that an unbeliever is spiritually dead, wallowing in his own trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Every single person in the world naturally lives according to the normal course of this sin-cursed and condemned word, according to the “prince of the power of the air,” who is Satan. People are born with Satan as their spiritual father (cf. John 8:44ff), their wills, minds, hearts and souls enslaved to him and all the wickedness he stands for. It is Satan who is working right now, every moment of every day, in his children’s lives, whom Paul calls the “children of disobedience,” (Ephesians 2:2). Even worse, the Bible tells us that everybody is born, by our very nature, makeup and constitution as sinners, as “children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:3).

This is what you need to be rescued from, and this is what Christ has, is and will infallibly accomplish (cf. John 6:37) for all those who are His. You are born under the jurisdiction of Satan, subject to his laws, his standards, his will, his character, his nature and his wickedness. You reflect those qualities, you live according to these characteristics and you echo your spiritual father’s criminal spirit. As the Bible says, you are inherently unprofitable and worthless to God the way you are (Romans 3:12). You are under his domain and power, subject to his control, his influence, his whims and his regulations. He is the rudder of the ship of wickedness, sin and rebellion that is you. You were born a citizen of his vile, unrighteous and evil kingdom – a kingdom of darkness – and you will remain a resident in that kingdom unless or until you repent of your sins and believe the Good News which Jesus Christ willingly and voluntarily suffered, bled and died to bring to you.

There is Good News (εὐαγγέλιον – “Gospel”) to combat this Bad News. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. You are a sinner. He came to save, reconcile, redeem and forgive people from every tribe, tongue people and nation on earth; to rescue them from the kingdom of darkness and transfer them to His own kingdom. You can be adopted into Jesus’ kingdom. This is why Paul told the Christians in Colossae to be “giving thanks to the Father,” because Jesus, “made [them] acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” Hopefully you, too, can join the saints from Colossae in thanking God for the wonderful gift of salvation in Christ Jesus!

[1] This is from my own translation; the exegetical work can be found here.

[2]  Article VII, in The 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith, in The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff (New York, NY: Harper & Bros, 1882), 3:774.

Colossians 1:12 – Acceptable, Meet or Qualified?!

A Potpourri of Translations:

Here is Colossians 1:12 from a variety of English translations:

col112 table

Colossians 1:12 from Codex Sinaiticus (4th century)

I chose these translations deliberately, because I think they’re each excellent and they reflect different translation philosophies:

  • I did my own pitiful translation for my own edification, and because I’m a nerd. You can read it here, if you wish.
  • The NASB is famous for being very formal in it’s translation. The preface stated, “[w]hen it was felt that the word-for-word literalness was unacceptable to the modern eader, a change was made in the direction of a more current English idiom,” (iii). You can count in this translation to not be interpretive when it redners Koine Greek into English
  • Tyndale, KJV, ESV and the LEB are not quite as formal as the NASB, but they each stick very close to the original language. Tyndale was a linguistic genius who produced the first complete New Testament translation in English directly from Koine Greek in 1526 (revised for the last time in 1534). The KJV essentially followed Tyndale in many places. The ESV is a very popular, excellent new translation. The LEB, from Logos Bible Software, began it’s life as an interlinear.
  • The ISV and the NET are a bit more interpretive. The ISV’s New Testament was edited by David A. Black, a well-known teacher and author of several books on Koine Greek. The NET was produced largely by a team of scholars centered around Dallas Theological Seminary. Neither of these translations are particularly “well known,” but they’re excellent. I would put their translation philosophy in the same class as the NIV.
  • As far as Greek text goes, Tyndale and KJV used what would become known as the Textus Receptus. The ESV, NET, NASB and ISV used the current version of the United Bible Society critical text (UBS-4 for each, I believe). The LEB used the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Greek New Testament.

God Made You . . . What!?

The first issue I want to focus on is the words I translated as “made you acceptable,” (ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς). What does it mean? The standard Koine Greek lexicon defines the word, in this context, as, “to cause to be adequate,” (BDAG, s.v. “3692 ἱκανόω”). Different English translations take this different ways:

  • “Acceptable” (Me, KJV, Tyndale)
  • “Qualified” (NASB, LEB, ESV, NET)
  • “Enabled” (ISV)

Now, the average reader has to admit that there isn’t a lot of difference between these three options. We read either one, and we get it. Paul’s point is that we are not acceptable to God. In order to give His elect eternal inheritance, salvation, redemption and forgiveness, He must first make us acceptable to Him. We cannot do this; God must do it to us. This verb is in the simple active voice, and God is performing the action. We have no part to play here. God’s chosen and called out people simply receive an action God does to them.

Each of these translations are glosses suggested by major lexicons (e.g. BDAG, Gingrich, Friberg, Danker, etc.). They each capture a different nuance or shade of meaning. They each convey subtly different meanings, but the same basic concept. When I translate from Koine Greek, I always have a Merriam-Webster dictionary and a good thesaurus at hand. I need to make sure I chose an English word which actually says what the Koine Greek meant, and I need a thesaurus to help me find synonyms to give the translation some stylistic flair, or else the whole thing will be as dry as a stale saltine cracker.  Consider the nuance each translation option brings to the table:


This was my choice, and I obviously think it’s the best one. Merriam-Webster tells us that this means “capable or worthy.” This is good stuff. We’re not worthy, but God can make us worthy “according to the good pleasure of His will,” (Eph 1:5). We’re not capable of doing this; we have no capacity to right the hostility between ourselves and God, to earn His grace, mercy and forgiveness, or to stop our willful rebellion and hatred of Him. We will always be trying to “break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us,” (Ps 2:3). I like “acceptable.” I think it gets the point across very well.

However, the word “acceptable” can also conveys a sense of bare adequacy, not excellence. Like being told by your boss, “Well, your performance these past six months has been adequate, nothing more, nothing less.” It’s not a word that really conveys a sense of security. It’s like getting a “C-” on a final exam.

But, context is always key. The context is God making us competent and acceptable to share in the inheritance of the Kingdom of Light. God doesn’t do things half-way or merely adequately – He always does them well. He created creation and pronounced it “good!” Therefore, the word “acceptable” is an excellent choice. It gets the point across.


Merriam-Webster says this means to be “fitted for a given purpose.” It’s clear that there really isn’t much difference between “acceptable” and “qualified.” In fact, I almost translated this as “made you fit.” We are not fit for salvation and we do not deserve mercy, love, grace or kindness. Yet, for a Christian, God has changed all that. He qualified us to share in the eternal inheritance in the Kingdom of Light! He made us fit, because we cannot make ourselves fit.

However, the word “qualify” can also open the door for a more synergistic view of salvation, whereby God and man cooperate in some form or fashion to achieve redemption. Somebody could interpret “qualify” to mean something like “eligible.” For example, “You’re qualified for a 30-year home mortgage with a low 25% interest rate!” Indeed, Merriam-Webster notes that a second definition for “qualified,” depending entirely on context, is, “having complied with the specific requirements or precedent conditions.” Therefore, God qualifies people to have eternal inheritance, but it is up to the individual to take advantage of God’s grace and repent and believe the Gospel. This is, in fact, what the concept of prevenient grace teaches – that as a result of Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the Cross, the Holy Spirit works on everybody’s heart, mind and will so they can either accept or reject the Gospel message.

Now, this is not what Colossians 1:12 teaches, and it is not the sense in which the word “qualified” ought to ever be taken here. After all, is it the translator’s fault if a preacher spends his time doing English word studies instead of opening his Greek New Testament!? Not at all! However, I think the potential theological landmine with the word “qualified” makes it an “acceptable” choice (see how much context matters!), but not necessarily the best choice.


This is a very good word choice. After all, if somebody enables you to do something, it means that you are made able to accomplish what you could not formerly do. Merriam-Webster defines “enabled” as, “to make (someone or something) able to do or to be something.” We cannot ever gain or earn the privilege to share in the saints’ inheritance in the jurisdiction of light. We’re not acceptable to Him. We’re terrorists and criminals in God’s universe, naturally serving our father, the Devil. This is the message of the Bible. David wrote, “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” (Ps 52:2-3). But, God has enabled Hs children to share in that inheritance.

However, the word “enabled” could also open the door for an un-Biblical and synergistic view of salvation. “God enabled us to choose, and now we decide to choose Him.” This could imply a two-step process in salvation where God and man work together. After all, God makes us able to choose Him, and the rest is up to us! This made me hesitate to use the word “enabled.”

Let me emphasize this very strongly – anybody with an agenda can take any English word or phrase and twist it completely out of context. That is not any translator’s fault. It is the reader’s fault. Most English-speaking Christians don’t know Koine Greek. They’re not going to consult BDAG, Danker, Gingrich or Friberg. Even if (heaven forbid!) an enterprising Christian has a copy of Strong’s Greek Dictionary handy, the information is next to useless if him if he does not understand how it works in the grammar and syntax of a particular sentence. This is where good English translations come in. Let me explain . . .

The Story of Diligent Christian

Pretend an average man, Diligent Christian, loves and likes the KJV. He reads Colossians 1:12 and is puzzled; God “hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” What on earth is “meet!?” Diligent Christian is an enterprising fellow, so he logs onto to compare different English Bible versions. He sees that many English versions use the word “qualified.” He immediately leaps to an erroneous conclusion about what the Apostle Paul meant by this statement. Diligent Christian is a member of an Arminian, independent, fundamental Baptist church with roots in the Sword of the Lord tradition. He has been conditioned by years of preaching and Bible study to interpret salvation synergistically. He sees no problem with “qualified.” By default, however, he interprets this “qualification” as prevenient grace.

But now, Diligent Christian is a bit confused. He looks at the ISV, and sees the translation “enabled.” This is a tad bit different, because it seems to have slightly more deterministic overtones. By some remarkable coincidence, he actually stumbles upon this pitiful little blog, and sees my own translation of “acceptable.” Diligent Christian is now having to grapple with the idea that God alone makes elect sinners “acceptable” to Him. We contribute nothing to this transaction.

He returns to the KJV, because that is his favored version, and decides to figure out what “meet” actually means once and for all. He reaches for his bookshelf, and pulls down Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, which his Pastor recommended he use when he wants to figure out archaic words from the KJV. It defined “meet,” in this context, as “fit; suitable; proper; qualified; convenient; adapted, as to a use or purpose.” With this meaning firmly in mind, Diligent Christian now completely understands the sense in which “qualified” and “enabled” should be taken in these English translations. Indeed, he even browsed Merriam-Webster and found that this is still a valid use for the word “meet” (as an adjective) even today.

Now, Diligent Christian leans back in his chair, sips his coffee, and ponders the mercy and love of an infinite God who would qualify criminal sinners, enable them to be partakers of such a marvelous inheritance and make them acceptable and fit to be His servants. He is particularly happy to have so many good English translations to help him interpret the Scriptures!