His Fulness and Our Fulness
A. E. Long, Nutley
The full Deity of Christ is clearly and explicitly taught in the New Testament. To Paul, this was an absolute truth, admitting neither diminution nor compromise. It was necessary that he should have taken so definite a stand, for some in his day held and taught that the Lord was but one of a whole series of mediators between God and men and not necessarily the highest or the most important of these. Their false teaching gave Christ a position in a chain of mediation, but not the position as the sole Mediator.
In the Epistle to the Colossians, Paul’s object was to establish the absolute priority of Christ in every sphere, among all things and over all God’s creatures, “that in all things he might have the preeminence”, 1. 18; “which is the head of all principality and power”, 2. 10.
There are also those today who deny that Christ is fully God. This is not surprising, since the truth of Christ’s deity is a revelation to faith, Matt. 16. 16, 17, and “all men have not faith”, 2 Thess. 3. 2. Carnal reason stumbles at truth which faith accepts. Thus while many accept that Christ was a great Teacher, even the greatest, they reject that He is both “Lord and Teacher”, John 13. 13, 14 R.V. marg. Likewise, many agree that Christ was a great Man, perhaps the greatest, but without due acknowledgment of His deity. They allege that He was subject to human limitations, both in knowledge and in the prejudices of His day, and withstand the authenticity of what He said. Some even presume to distinguish between what they suppose He spoke as God and what He said as Man. In short, men assert that His “divinity” was only higher on the same scale as that of man, that while He may have been “of God” and even “from God”, He was not God in His own right.
Since it is true that every effect must have a cause, man reasons backwards from effect to cause. Creation witnesses to God’s “eternal power and Godhead”, Rom. 1. 20; thus God is said to be the “First Cause”, a fact which the theory of evolution denies, affirming that the universe began without adequate cause outside of itself, a system which sparked itself off and keeps itself going without external direction or control. Customarily, the Bible reasons in the forward direction from the cause to effect. It presents us with a picture of God in full control and describes what proceeds from that fact. Hence, the Bible opens with the statement “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”, Gen. 1. 1. This is Paul’s approach in Colossians 2. 9-10. In verse 9, there is the clearest possible statement of Christ’s full deity, “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” and in verse 10 the effect in the Christian, “And ye are complete in him” (“in him ye are made full”, R.V.). There is reference to the pleroma in both cases. We shall consider these truths more particularly.
“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”. What God is, in all His being and attributes, Christ equally is, and was, even when a Man on earth, for He was God incarnate. John wrote “the Word was God” and “the Word was made flesh”, John 1. 1, 14. He did not cease to be God when He became Man, nor, as Man, was He only God in any isolated experience or sporadically, but habitually - “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”.
It may be asked, in this context, precisely of what Christ “emptied himself”, Phil. 2. 7 r.v. In his well-known hymn, Charles Wesley wrote “He left His Father’s throne above,... emptied Himself of all but love”. But did He, in incarnation, empty Himself “of all but love”? This we must seriously doubt, for it would imply that He “emptied himself” of at least some of His fulness. This He never did. If He “emptied himself”, we believe that He did so without loss or diminution of His Godhead, v. 6. How, then, are we to understand His self-emptying? It seems clear from what follows - He “took upon him the form of a servant (slave), and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Here, then, was the pattern of His self-renunciation and the measure of His self-emptying. He who was ever God became a Man, His obedience condescending even to “the death of the cross”, but always consistent with the truth “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”.
“All the fulness” dwelt in Him as of right and not merely as of consent; this latter idea might be implied by the Authorised Version rendering of Colossians 1. 19., “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell”. The Revised marginal reading is “For the whole fulness of God was pleased to dwell in him”, that is He was God in His own right, “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”, Phil. 2. 6. Conder’s well-known words aptly express the truth, “Of the full Deity possessed, Eternally divine”. Nothing less than this will suffice for a vital theology; to deprive Christ of full deity is to emasculate Christianity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are commonly referred to as the First, Second and Third Persons, respectively, of the Holy Trinity. There may be little harm in this, provided it is not supposed that these descriptions imply degrees of status within the Godhead, since Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally God. The Son is in no way inferior to the Father, or the Holy Spirit less than the Father or the Son.
If “all the fulness” dwells in Christ as the embodiment of Godhead, all the divine qualities and attributes also reside, in all their fulness, in Him. In Christ, wrote Paul, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, Col. 2. 3. Wisdom and knowledge are commonly associated one with the other in the Old Testament. Solomon’s wisdom and knowledge were proverbial. When God said “Ask what I shall give thee”, he requested “wisdom and knowledge”, the better to judge the people over whom God had set him; God gave him both, 2 Chron. 1. 7-12. “Wise men”, Solomon wrote, “lay up knowledge”, “the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge”, “the lips of the wise disperse knowledge”, Prov. 10. 14; 18. 15; 15. 7. The exiled princes of Judah, among whom were Daniel and his three friends, were chosen to stand before Nebuchadnezzar because they were “skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge”, Dan. 1. 4. Wisdom first, then knowledge to inform wisdom, for knowledge without wisdom is a doubtful asset. Such old Testament examples of wisdom and knowledge exemplify such qualities on the human level, at best. In Romans 11. 33, Paul exclaims “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God”, for there is a “depth” in both qualities that is found in God alone. And these are qualities found in “depth” in Christ also, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. What is true of God in these respects is equally true of Christ.
John wrote that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth”, John 1. 14. “Grace and truth” not only “came by” Him, v. 17, but both remained in all their fulness. Grace and truth, rarely seen as complementary qualities in man, even in small measure, were seen in their fulness without measure in Christ.
The Lord Jesus told His disciples that their authority to evangelize was “All power (authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth”, Matt. 28. 18 - not only “authority” but also “power”, executive authority reinforced with power to enforce it. “Authority and power” were seen in perfection in Him, Luke 4. 36.
“In him ye are made full”, Col. 2. 10 R.V. It was Paul’s object to show that all that Christ was, and is, is for the believer. Reverently we may say that Christ is no “museum piece”, to be respectfully admired from afar, but lacking practical relevance to our present condition and needs. Although “all the fulness” dwells in Him as of right, it does not do so only for its own sake; it is for us. What Christ is, as fully God, is for the Christian, namely all His resources, “the depth of the riches” and His “treasures”, Rom. 11. 33; Col. 2. 3. Thus John Fawcett wrote “A fulness resides in Jesus, our Head, And ever abides to answer our need . . . Our every petition His mercy will hear; His fulness shall yield us abundant supplies”.
Are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” hidden in Christ? Then these are resources available to us. “Christ Jesus”, wrote Paul to the Corinthians, “is made unto us wisdom”, 1 Cor. 1. 30. By Him, likewise, they were “enriched . . . in all knowledge”, v. 5. The Christian has no need to resort to “the knowledge which is falsely so called”, 1 Tim. 6. 20 r.v., specious “philosophy . . . after the tradition of men . . . and not after Christ”, Col. 2. 8, in whatever “enticing words” it may be couched, v. 4.
Is Christ “full of grace and truth”? John 1. 14. Then it is also true that “of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace”, v. 16. John Newton accordingly wrote, “My never-failing treasury, filled with boundless stores of grace”.
Has Christ “all authority”? The New Testament teaches that such is for us - “All authority hath been given unto me... Go ye therefore”, Matt. 28. 18, 19; we go in His Name, with His authority. Has He all power? It is “to us-ward who believe”; it is “the power that worketh in us”, Eph. 1. 19; 3- 20.
In conclusion, we may say that as Christ is the embodiment of all the virtues of deity, existing in Him as of right in their totality and completeness, so these very virtues are made available to the Christian, by right of grace, so that they may be freely drawn upon in a world which denies His deity and is the negation of all that He is and represents. Thus the Christian may live therein in their good and power so as to “shew forth the praises (or virtues) of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”, 1 Pet. 2. 9.