Valentine’s Day is less than a month away. Don’t worry, if you forget, your local stores will be sure to remind you. It is very likely that in the next few weeks many of us will be visiting our local Hallmark store to purchase a nice card for that special someone in an effort to make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Walking into a Hallmark store reminds me of a bit by my favorite comedian, Brian Regan:
In the clip, Regan talks about the “Blank Inside” section of Hallmark. These are cards that must be filled in with a personal note from the buyer to the receiver. Regan jokingly says that he writes, “Sorry you feel so blank inside” on the cards. Sometimes, people need a blank-inside card. Their lives are empty. They are lacking. They need something to fill the void.
In Col 2:8-10, Paul addresses this problem:
Beware lest anyone spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.
In verse 8, Paul warns against being spoiled. The word in the Greek literally means “carry you off as a captive”. The implication here is that we can become a spoil of war through false teachings. How is it possible for false teachers to capture people? The “captives” are ignorant of the truths of the Word of God. They become fascinated by the philosophy and empty delusion of the false teachers. Not all philosophy is bad, however. Philosophy means the love of wisdom (Philo = love, sophy = wisdom). When a person does not know the doctrines of the Christ he can easily be captured by false religions. The NIV states that the philosophy of false teachers is “hollow and deceptive”.
Tradition is that which is handed down. Traditions aren’t all bad either. Traditions from God are good, but traditions from men are not all good. We need to make sure that any traditions that we might follow are godly traditions.
The phrase “rudiments of the world” meant the elementary spirits of the universe, or the angels that influenced the heavenly bodies.” It was an idea of the religious astrologers of the day (Col 2:16). Horoscopes, astrological charts, ouija boards the zodiac system and other spiritual practices are contrary to the teaching of the Word of God. We need to avoid these things at all costs.
In Verse 9, Paul presents the doctrine of Jesus Christ in contrast to false teachings. It is a magnificent description of the Incarnation, for it emphasizes both the true deity and true humanity of Jesus Christ. Let us examine each major word of the verse.
- “Him.” The antecedent is “Christ” (verse 8), or more fully, “Christ Jesus the Lord” (verse 6).
- “Dwelleth,” or lives. The word is in the present tense, meaning that the fullness of God continues to dwell in Jesus Christ. The union of deity and humanity in Christ is permanent.
- “Godhead” (theotes): the Deity. This Greek word appears only here in the New Testament. It is “the abstract noun for God . . . and includes not only the divine attributes but also the divine nature.” The word refers to the state of being God, to the sum total of God’s nature. The identity of Jesus as God would be established if verse 9 simply said, “In Him dwells the Godhead,” for by definition “Godhead” is the fullness of absolute deity.
- “Fulness” (pleroma): plenitude, totality. The same word appears in Colossians 1:19. To be as clear as possible, the verse says “the fulness” of the Godhead dwells in Jesus, although the Godhead can never be less than complete and absolute.
- “All.” To underscore the deity of Christ even further, the verse says “all” the fullness, although by definition anything less than all would not be fullness. Lightfoot explained that “all the fulness” means “the totality of the divine powers and attributes.” Thus verse 9 uses three words to declare the absolute deity of Jesus in the strongest of terms, although one would have been sufficient to express the point.
“In him” is emphatic. It is in Christ, and nowhere else, that one is to find “the fulness of the Godhead.” In him the fullness “dwelleth,” that is, has its permanent abode. This “fulness” means the unbounded powers and attributes of God. The word “Godhead” denotes the essence or content of divine being, that indeed which constitutes God. Here in most absolute terms Paul states not merely the divinity but the deity of Christ. The word deity, and its corresponding word in the Greek, denotes the “being God.” Christ is not only Godlike; he is God.
John 1:1, 14 is a parallel passage: “The Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
All the roles, titles, and attributes of God are invested in Jesus. Whatever God is, Jesus is. He is the incarnate God, Father, Word, Spirit, Lord, and Jehovah. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the one God, and this truth is foundational to our faith.
Now, we get to my favorite part of this passage, verse 10, the practical application of verse 9. The deity of Jesus Christ is not merely an abstract theological concept; it has profound implications for our daily lives. Just as Jesus is the fullness or completeness of God in flesh, we are “complete” in Him. “Complete” here comes from the same Greek root word as “fulness” in verse 9. Some translations use the same English word in both verses to make the connection clear: “And you have been given fullness in Christ” (NIV). “And you are in Him, made full and have come to fullness of life—in Christ you too are filled with the Godhead” (Amplified Bible).
Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest put it like this, “And you are in Him, having been completely filled full with the present result that you are in a state of fullness.”
When a person is born again into the family of God, he is born complete in Christ. Our growth does not come by addition, but by nutrition. We grow from the inside out. Nothing needs to be added to Christ because He already is the very fullness of God.
In short, we have everything we need in Jesus. If all we know is Jesus, we know enough to be saved, healed, delivered, protected, and preserved, for when we have Him we have everything that God is. Even if someone does not understand the doctrine of God or has never heard of the Holy Spirit, he can repent of his sins by confessing to Jesus, have his sins washed away in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus) by calling upon Jesus in faith. For example, Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit when they repented and believed the simple message about Jesus, and then they were baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 10:36-48). Repentance, the remission of sins at water baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit all come through the name of Jesus (Luke 24:47; John 14:26; Acts 2:38).
Just as John 1:1, 14 parallels Colossians 2:9, so John 1:16 parallels Colossians 2:10: “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Ephesians 3:17, 19 is
also a parallel: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith . . . that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
So as we open a new year, if you are feeling “blank inside”, perhaps you should examine yourself and find out if you are in Christ, and Christ is in you.