The Fullness: Colossians 2:9-15

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.)

From the fullness of the Deity that lives in Christ, believers themselves are brought to fullness. It is not the case, of course, that the Deity now incarnates us in fullness (though it is clear from Scripture that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit), but that we are brought to the fullness of our humanity. Because of Christ, and insofar as we are in him, we lack nothing. The fullness of God which fills Christ brings believers to the fullness of their humanity because he is both our Creator and Redeemer.

Jesus is able to bring his disciples to fullness because he is the head over every authority. Whatever authority that might exist, whether in the spiritual realm or on earth, is under the headship of Christ. Jesus has no rivals. We need not turn anywhere else for peace or security.

Jesus has no rivals.
Circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:11), and became one of the primary cultural identity markers of the Jewish people. Circumcision was so important to their understanding of the covenant that many Jewish converts to Christianity taught that even Gentiles must be circumcised. This is the main point of controversy addressed in the book of Galatians. But as with all things in Colossians, Paul brings us back to Christ. Gentile Christians need not be circumcised in the flesh because they have already been circumcised by Christ in their baptism. Christ’s circumcision is greater than the circumcision demanded by Torah because, in the circumcision performed by Christ, it is our whole sinful nature – our flesh – that is removed. Physical circumcision removes a tiny portion of our flesh; the circumcision of Christ removes our entire fleshly nature.

Paul now reminds the Colossians of their spiritual condition before encountering Christ. They were dead in their uncircumcision – both physical and spiritual uncircumcision for these Gentiles. But not only were they “dead” because they were outside of God’s covenant family, they were “dead” because of their sins. Even though they did not have the Law and Prophets, and so could not have known the commands of God, they were sinful to the point of death. But God acted on their behalf while they were still dead and uncircumcised. “Salvation is God’s action on behalf of sinners while they are still sinners.”[ii] When they were dead, God made them alive with Christ, forgiving their sins and accepting them in spite of their uncircumcision. As one commentator so aptly puts it: “Death calls for a resurrection, which believers have in Christ. Uncircumcision calls for circumcision, which believers also have in Christ.”[iii]

Physical circumcision removes a tiny portion of our flesh; the circumcision of Christ removes our entire fleshly nature.
God has forgiven us all of our sins, having removed every barrier between us and entry into his covenant family. N.T. Wright notes that there are two such barriers: the written code (the Torah) and the spiritual powers and authorities. “God has apparently cancelled the former and disarmed the later.”[iv] Our indebtedness to Torah was cancelled when Christ was nailed to the cross, taking with him, as it were, the very Torah itself. In Christ’s death, the Law’s power to condemn us has been nullified. Whenever we hear the voice of the Law condemning us, we must look and discover that the voice is coming from the cross of Christ, where the Law has been permanently impaled. This image is our reminder that the Law which condemns us has been removed by the power of Christ’s blood.

In the same way, the spiritual powers and authorities that also seek our condemnation are equally destroyed at the cross. In a fantastic turn of events, the crucified Messiah is the one who triumphs over the forces of evil by the very instrument with which they sought to destroy him! He has disarmed the powers and authorities by absorbing into himself all their dark power and might, succumbing to death, descending into hell, and then obliterating them from the inside by his resurrection. Jesus took the devil’s best shot and won.

The Takeaway

Jesus is up to something in your life far greater than you can comprehend or imagine. The fullness of God lives in his body, and out of that fullness he fills you. We spend much of our younger years looking for that special person to whom we can say, “You complete me.” While this is a lovely sentiment in a romantic kind of way, it is useless and misguided in a practical sense. We are more than half-empty. We are dead. No other person can fill us. We must, instead, be filled (or completed) by the one who is himself full with God’s fullness. Jesus is the one who completes us, who brings us into the fullness of humanity’s purpose for which we were created.

Jesus is the one who completes us, who brings us into the fullness of humanity’s purpose for which we were created.
All things – and all people – are under the headship of Christ. This does not mean, of course, that all people do what Christ wishes, or that all things go as Christ has planned. Rather, it means that Jesus is the head over everything. As the old hymn goes, “Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Jesus has no rivals. In the end, no one will be able to stand against him. While all things do not yet obey him, all things are subject to his wise rule and just judgment. It would be foolish of us, then, to look around at the fallen world and say, “All things are as Christ wills them,” for not even a wicked man would will all things as they presently are. But we can trust that final judgment rests in the hands of the One who is qualified to judge with justice, and who will set everything right.

[i] Wright, N.T. (1986). Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Colossians and Philemon (p.108). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
[ii] Melick, R. R. (1991). Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Vol. 32, p. 262). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Wright. Colossians and Philemon (p. 115).

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