The Fullness – 2:9-15


9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Once again Paul returns to the theme of the fullness of God, echoing a line from the previously cited hymn (1:19): For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ]. Jesus is the embodiment of the fullness of the Deity. Everything that is true of God is also true of Jesus (excepting, of course, those attributes which cannot be contained in a body, such as omnipresence). Jesus is not, therefore, a second-level deity, or an exalted man, or anything less than God incarnate. “He is the embodiment and full expression of the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”[i] Jesus is, quite literally, Immanuel, God with us, God among us.


If what you believe about God does not fit the person of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, then what you believe about God is false.
The implications of this theological truth are astounding. We can only comprehend God by looking at Jesus, by reading about his life in the Gospels, by obeying his teaching, by participating in his suffering, and by placing our hope in his resurrection. If what you believe about God does not fit the person of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, then what you believe about God is false. “All the fullness” is a phrase the defies explanation, rationalization, or minimization. Paul’s language is extreme because he wants us to grasp the depth of the truth of the Incarnation, which is itself the most extreme event in history. (See the section on 1:15-20 for more on this subject.)

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Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays, but the reasons I love it have changed over time. When I was young, I loved Easter because of the chocolate baskets I received from a close family friend. We would go to her house Easter evening and I would anxiously await the chocolate boon to befall me. Each year, my basket contained a pastel rainbow of colored chocolate, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, and a large chocolate bunny.

The first time I got the bunny my brain melted. It was huge! And chocolate! It would take me at least an hour to eat this whole thing! I was overwhelmed by this bunny with its colorful packaging and the rich, milk chocolate poured all the way through. But then I took my first bite. My teeth sank through this bunny much easier than I anticipated. I pulled it away in horror. This bunny is hollow! I’ve been cheated! It’s not fair! There wasn’t even caramel inside.

Chocolate BunnyIn Colossians 2:8, Paul warns believers against “hollow and deceptive philosophy.” Any teaching that does not depend on Christ, he says, is hollow. Like that giant chocolate bunny, it may look significant and life changing from the outside, but inside there’s just nothing to it. Any teaching, doctrine, or theology that removes Christ from the center is hollow, because nothing else can ever fill the void left by Jesus.

But how can we tell the difference? How can we know when we encounter a hollow and deceptive philosophy?

The best way to answer this question is with a diagnostic question: What is the litmus test of true belief according to this teaching? If the answer is anything other than “the person Jesus Christ,” then it is a hollow and deceptive philosophy. There are many false litmus tests:

  • Political ideology or affiliation
  • Biblical literalism
  • Patriotism
  • Human sexuality
  • Expressions of spiritual gifts

But none of these can be the center of our faith. These are all chocolate bunnies. They are hollow. They cannot possibly hope to replace Jesus as the center, because in him lives the fullness of the Deity. Christ is the center, and everything flows from him. Your responsibility is to draw life from your personal encounters with Jesus. Always be on your guard against what seeks to remove him from the core of your life and belief.

Derecho

I used to live in the house across the street from the church where I now minister. When I look out the windows in the back of the church, I can still see our old home and the huge trees towering above it in the backyard. During stormy nights I would lay awake in bed, anxious that these trees would topple onto the roof and crush our family.

In June of 2012 we experienced a kind of storm that I had never heard of before: a derecho. A derecho is a massive thunderstorm system with damaging straight line winds, which in this case reached up to 85 mph. After the storm passed our backyard looked like a jungle. There were tree branches everywhere. Our trampoline was crushed under a massive branch that had fallen at least 30 feet. It was nearly impossible to walk from the back door to the fence at the end of our property. Fortunately, the trees themselves were all still standing. But there sure was a lot of cleanup to do.

DerechoThough parts of these massive trees came crashing to the ground, the trees themselves remained deeply and firmly rooted in the soil. For me, this became a picture of the strength we receive when we remain rooted in Christ. Little did we know at the time, but a terrible and deadly storm was looming on the horizon of our family’s life, and we would need those deep roots in Christ to keep us strong and steadfast.

It is vital for believers to be, as Paul said in Colossians 2:7, “rooted and built up in Christ.” This means that we need to have a nourishing, life-giving relationship with Christ, while also being deeply connected to others within our churches. Your root system is your personal relationship with God and your relationships with others. It is crucial for you to invest in these relationships so that your roots will be deep in Christ. When the trials and tragedies of life come, it will be too late to give attention to the relationships that are meant to sustain and nourish you.

One of the most important ways that you can deepen your relationship with God is through prayer. Jesus taught us to pray relationally, addressing God not by his proper name, but with the word Father. Prayer is relational, not transactional. It is not an opportunity to present your grocery list to the heavenly farmer; it is your opportunity to have a heart-level conversation with your heavenly Father. Being rooted in Christ means having a deep and vibrant relationship with God through prayer. Do not wait for life’s derechos to pray. Begin today.

Rooted in Christ – 2:6-8


6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. 

These three verses offer, first, an encouragement to continue to live faithfully for Christ, and second, a warning against being taken in by false teaching. It is never enough that someone simply “prayer the prayer of salvation” and then go on about their business as though nothing significant had actually happened. Embracing Christ is a cosmic event with eternal ramifications. It is not simply a one-time transaction, but rather the beginning of an eternal relationship with one’s Creator and Redeemer.


Embracing Christ is a cosmic event with eternal ramifications.
As we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so should we continue to live in him. He is not an object that we might purchase and then discard after we grow bored with it. No, he is a person – The Person – that has been received as Lord and King. This One, whom Paul has already named The Image of the Invisible God (1:15) and The Mystery of God (1:27, 2:2), is the world’s rightful Ruler. The essence of faith is to recognize the Crucified Messiah as the Risen Lord, and the practice of faith is to continue to live in such a way as to be “in him.”

Paul is fond of using variations of the phrase “in Christ.” To be in Christ means to be intimately connected to Christ. The larger idea is familial. To be in Christ means to be a member of his family. No doubt this phrase, for Paul at least, carries with it intonations of God’s covenant with Abraham. When someone receives Jesus as Lord, they enter into a long-standing covenant family, borne out of God’s promise to Abraham, consummated by Christ Jesus at the cross, and extended by the Church to all peoples as an offer of grace through faith.

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Fine Sounding Arguments

I love movies about con men. Two of my favorites are Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Matchstick Men. There’s something fascinating about watching a character try to pull off an ever-increasing ruse on his unsuspecting victim. More often than not, in the movies the con man reaps what he sows, and himself becomes the victim of a con, often with hilarious results. But there is nothing hilarious about being deceived in the real world.

In Colossians 2:4, Paul tells the believers that the reason he works so hard in the ministry is “so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” There are con men at work, he warns, and what they say might sound very reasonable, but it isn’t true. Paul is focused on pouring wisdom and understanding into the believers so that they won’t be taken in by these charlatans.

Fine Sounding ArgumentsWhat about you? Are you able to discern between “fine sounding arguments” and orthodox belief? Have you tapped into the riches of complete understanding in Christ, so that you are able to judge between truth and error?

The devil’s cons always have the ring of truth. The best liars know how to make their lies sound true, and the devil is the world’s greatest liar. You need to be wise to his game, which means that you must be grounded in Christ. The truth is always centered around Christ.

Is what you believe about God centered on Christ?

Is what you believe about yourself centered on Christ?

Is what you believe about history centered on Christ?

Is what you believe about politics centered on Christ?

Satan’s long con is to move Christ, inch by inch, away from the center of your belief and actions. He wants nothing more than to make you Christ-askew. It’s okay by him if Jesus is a part of your life, so long as he’s not the center, the source and driving force, of your life. So beware of his fine sounding arguments and anything that removes Jesus from the center of your faith.

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