The Complete Christ

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“Yet it is in him that God gives a full and complete expression of himself (within the physical limits that he set himself in Christ). Moreover, your own completeness is only realised in him, who is the authority over all authorities, and the supreme power over all powers.

“For in Christ the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily… “ (Colossians 2:9)

If ever there was a key verse for how you thought about Jesus, then surely this is it. Every word is loaded with significance. Paul was coming up against different kinds of fake teaching by upholding the genuine article. He was bringing real currency to the table to expose the counterfeits.

And it’s a powerful truth, expressing who God is; who Christ is and -by extension- who we are.

The central term is tes theotetos which is translated “Godhead” or “deity.” That word is not the same word as is found at Romans 1:20, theiotes. This difference is striking and purposeful. It’s the difference between attribute and essence. That is to say, Jesus was not merely like God. He was God. Paul couldn’t have put it more decisively.

Here’s the point made by an old scholar long ago: “St. Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fulness of absolute Godhead. They were no mere rays of divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up his person for a season and with a splendour not his own; but He was, and is, absolute and perfect God and the Apostle uses theotes to express this essential and personal Godhead of the Son.” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament).

And the Godhead “dwells” in Christ. The idea of the verb is of the permanent residents of a town as compared with a transient community. That is to say, God was not living in Christ like a visiting relative, but as an inhabitant in his own home.

But does this matter to us today? Does Paul’s attack on an ancient heresy called Gnosticism have any relevance now? The answer is yes, simply because most of the false teaching today find its roots in the heresies of Paul’s day.

The verse lays down a standard by which we can test all teaching. Does a certain group or teacher admit and proclaim that all the fulness of Deity dwells in Christ Jesus bodily? If they do not, they are placed by Paul right alongside “philosophy and empty deception.”

So how does this discussion on the person of Christ relate to us as believers?

Here’s an insightful paraphrase by J.B.Phillips that takes us into that:

“Yet it is in him that God gives a full and complete expression of himself (within the physical limits that he set himself in Christ). Moreover, your own completeness is only realised in him, who is the authority over all authorities, and the supreme power over all powers.

Once you understand just who Christ is, you begin to see who you are too, for “your own completeness is only realised in him.”  “And you are complete in him who is the head of every principality and power.”

Literally, it says you have been made full. You have been made full in him. There is nothing missing. Christ fills you up. There aren’t any other things to add to that. You have been made full with the fullness of him who fills all in all. It’s a comprehensive concept!

When Jesus healed the sick, He made them “whole.” It’s the same idea. When Jesus died on the cross the last thing he said is, “It is finished.” and when he said it he meant it; not only in terms of his own deed, but in terms of securing the fullness of salvation by that deed.

“And this one who rules all principality and power,” that is all other beings, all created authorities, all created rulers, particularly referring here to the angelic ones. He rules them all. They have nothing to add to his work.It was an important corrective to the “New Age” kind of thinking prevalent at Colossae.

Paul was critiquing the heresy of human philosophy and religion which tried to deny that Christ has the power to give complete salvation. His point was simple: Christ is the completer.

He makes anything he touches whole.

The physical and the spiritual aspects of wholeness are combined in 3 Jn 2. John is writing to his beloved Gaius whom he loved “in the truth” and he says in verse 2, “I wish above all things, that you might prosper and be in health.” Now watch this, “even as your soul is healthy.” John is simply saying: “Oh Gaius, if only your body could only know the health that your soul knows!”

Sometimes there’s a disjuncture between what we know and what we experience. God has more for me!  “You’re complete in him, you have been made complete.” We have complete salvation (verses 11 & 12),   complete forgiveness, (verses 13 & 14) and  complete victory (in verse 15).

Isn’t it time to stake our claim on all that God has for us?

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