Redemption and Remission

From Commentary on Colossians (1265-1273) 

Knowledge by itself is not enough, because whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17). And therefore, it is necessary to act according to virtue. He touches on this when he says, “that you may walk worthy of God,” for one lives unworthily if he does not live as is fitting for a son of God to live: “as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships” (2 Cor. 6:4) … 

Second, he touches on a correct intention: in all things pleasing: there was one who pleased God and was loved by him (Wis. 4:10). Third, he brings in the desire to make progress: “being fruitful in every good work,” for one should always try for a further good: “my blossoms became glorious and abundant fruit” (Ecclus. 24:17); “the return you get is sanctification and its end eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). … 

And after one has borne fruit, an increase in knowledge follows, and increasing in the knowledge of God; for, as a result of eagerly accomplishing the commands of God, a person is disposed for knowledge: “I understand more than the aged, because I keep your precepts” (Ps. 119:100; “wisdom will not dwell in a body enslaved to sin” (Wis. 1:4). He says, increasing in the knowledge of God, and not of the world: “she gave him a knowledge of holy things” (Wis. 10:10). … 

He says: “we pray for you, giving thanks to God,” as our Creator, “and the Father,” namely by adoption, “who has made us worthy to be partakers.” Some people have said that the gifts of grace are given because of a person’s merit, and that God gives grace to those who are worthy, and does not give grace to those who are unworthy. But this view is rejected by the apostle, because whatever worth and grace we have was given to us by God, and so also were the effects of grace. And so Paul says, “who has made us worthy”; “not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). … 

Since sin is a darkness, men are in the power of darkness, i.e., either of the evil spirits or of sins: “against the world rulers of this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12), “even the captives of the mighty shall be taken” (Isa. 49:25). “And has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,” i.e., that we might be the kingdom of God: “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). This happens when we are freed from our sins: “you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God” (Rev. 5:10). Or literally, we are transferred to this kingdom so that we may obtain eternal life: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). And this is what he says: “the kingdom of the Son of his love.” … 

Then when he says, “in whom we have redemption through his blood,” he shows the way we have been transferred. For humanity in sin was held down in two ways: first, as a slave: “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), and second, as deserving punishment and as turned away from God: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:2). 

But these two things are taken away by Christ, because, as man, he became a sacrifice for us and redeemed us in his blood; and so Paul says, “in whom we have redemption”: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20); and from Christ, as God, we have the remission of sins, because he took away our debt of punishment. 

St. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274) is sometimes described as the greatest thinker of the medieval Church. His various theological treatises, above all his Summa Theologica, seek to reconcile inherited Christian teaching with the newly rediscovered metaphysical writings of Aristotle. His Commentary on Colossians is a text reconstructed from lectures he gave at the University of Paris. His modern feast day is January 28. This text has been slightly adapted for contemporary readers. 

 

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