The Sufficiency of Christ
rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; (2:8b–10)
This is one of the most blessed passages in all of Scripture. It presents the glorious majesty of Christ’s Person and His complete sufficiency. Verse 9 is perhaps the most definitive statement of Christ’s deity in the epistles. It is the rock upon which all attempts to disprove Christ’s deity are shattered. Obviously, these heretics were saying Jesus was not God, and that was the most damning and disturbing element of their “satanology”—as it still is in any false system.
The false teaching just described was part of the satanically devised and humanly propagated religious system, and it was not according to Christ and what Scripture reveals about Him. It, like all false systems of religion, cannot save. That is the peak of its deadliness. In Christ alone all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form. He alone has the power to save. Plērōma (fulness) is the same term used in 1:19. As noted in the discussion of that passage, it was a term used by the Colossian errorists. They believed the divine plērōma was divided in its expression among the various emanations. Each got a decreasing share as they descended the ladder from good to bad. Paul, however, insists that all the fullness of Deity, not a part of it, dwells in Christ. Katoikeō (dwells) means “to settle down and be at home.” The present tense indicates that the essence of Deity continually abides at home in Christ. Deity is a word emphasizing divine nature. That nature of God that continually abode in Jesus Christ was not some divine light that merely lit Him up for a while, but was not His own. He is fully God forever. And as the One possessing all the fullness of Deity, Christ is the head over all rule and authority. He was not one of a series of lesser beings emanating from God, as the false teachers maintained. Rather, He is God Himself and thus the head over all the angelic realm.
As we have noted, the Colossian false teachers also apparently taught a form of philosophic dualism, believing that spirit was good and matter was evil. Hence, it was unthinkable to them that God would take on a human body. Paul counters that false doctrine by emphasizing that all the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form. The One who took upon Himself human nature at Bethlehem will keep that humanity for all eternity. He will forever be the God-Man.
Because Christ is who He is, we have been made complete in Him. His fullness is imparted to us. Peplērōmenoi (been made complete) is a form of the verb plēroō, from which the noun plērōma is derived. Christ is the plērōma of God, and we are filled with His plērōma. John wrote, “For of His fulness we have all received” (John 1:16). The perfect tense of the participle peplērōmenoi indicates that the results of our having been filled are eternal.
As a result of the Fall, man is in a sad state of incompleteness. He is spiritually incomplete because He is totally out of fellowship with God. He is morally incomplete because he lives outside of God’s will. He is mentally incomplete because he does not know ultimate truth.
At salvation, believers become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and are made complete. Believers are spiritually complete because they have fellowship with God. They are morally complete in that they recognize the authority of God’s will. They are mentally complete because they know the truth about ultimate reality.
To maintain, as the Colossian errorists did, that those who were made complete in Christ still lacked anything is absurd. Those who are “partakers of the divine nature” have, through “His divine power,” been “granted … everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). All true believers are complete in Christ and do not need the teachings of any cult or false teacher.
Everyone has a choice, whether to follow human wisdom or to come to Christ. To follow human wisdom is to be kidnapped by the emissaries of Satan and his false system, which leaves a person spiritually incomplete. To come to Christ is to come to the One who alone offers completeness. May those of us who have found Christ never doubt His sufficiency by turning aside to follow any human wisdom. (For a more thorough treatment of the matter of our sufficiency in Christ, see my book, Our Sufficiency in Christ [Dallas: Word, 1991].)
9–10 Whereas the “philosophy,” according to Paul, is a vacuous deception built on human tradition and linked to worldly principles and oppressive powers, “in Christ,” the apostle proclaims, “all the fullness of the Deity lives [dwells or resides] in bodily [sōmatikōs, GK 5395] form” (cf. 1:19; Jn 1:14). Some exegetes take the adverb sōmatikōs to mean “in reality, truly” (so Garland, 146; Fowl, 136; cf. 2:17) as opposed to “in bodily form.” Regardless of how one construes the term, Paul’s point is clear: Jesus is fully God, and the “philosophy” is therefore folly. The Colossians are called to live in Christ because in Christ lives the whole fullness of God. If this is the case, and Paul insists that it is, then it is wholly unnecessary for the Christians in Colossae to supplement their spiritual lives with anything or anyone else, including the “philosophy.” Such supplementation of faith could result in the subversion of faith. Paul wants the Colossians to perceive the “philosophy” and the gospel as contradictory, not complementary.
The fullness of God dwells in Christ, v. 9 informs. In v. 10 Paul contends that the Colossians have been made full in Christ. Bruce, 101, observes, “If the fullness of deity resided in [Christ], his fullness was imparted to them.” The perfect passive participle peplērōmenos (GK 4444) suggests that this filling occurred at a point of time in the past and that the results of this infilling remained. In Christ the Colossians have been and will be made complete (1:28). The assembly’s fullness results from their connectedness to him who is “the head over every power and authority.” Christ is sovereign not only over his body, the church (1:18; 2:19), but also over the very principalities and powers that were created through, reconciled to, disarmed by, and triumphed over by him (1:16, 20; 2:15). If the Colossian philosophy was concocted in part to pacify various spiritual beings and cosmic forces, then it is rendered redundant, Paul contends, by Christ’s rule and reign over all (cf. Lincoln, 623). Why devise and devote yourselves to an elaborate religious system, Paul wonders, when you have all that you could ever want and need, along spiritual lines, in one Person?
9 The teachers of error may have talked of the fullness of divine being as distributed among a hierarchy of spirit-powers, through which it was filtered down to this world: Christians had something better. They had Christ, the personal revelation of the Father, the one mediator between God and human beings, in whom (truly man as he was) the plenitude of deity was embodied. Far from there being any inherent impossibility in the nature of things for God to communicate directly with this world, he who shared the divine nature had become flesh and made his dwelling with men and women. The adverb (meaning “corporeally”) at the end of v. 9 no doubt implies his incarnation, but probably carries something of the sense which the noun “body” bears in v. 17—the substance as opposed to the shadow (hence the rendering above: “in bodily reality”).
9 The opening word of our verse—“For”—translates the Greek hoti as a causal conjunction. The Colossians are not to fall captive to the deceptive, human-based philosophy and tradition (v. 8) because “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Christology alone renders the philosophy false.
Colossians 2:9 affirms four convictions about Christ: (1) that “fullness of the Deity” expresses what in other places is called God’s glory; (2) that all the fullness of Deity is in Christ—and either nowhere else (“all the fullness with nothing left over”) or all in the sense of all of God’s glory is present in Christ. This is a breathtaking claim because it implies that in Christ we see God most clearly and that theology proper from now on must be approached through Christology.61 (3) All of God’s fullness is now dwelling “in Christ,63 and (4) this indwelling of God occurs in Christ’s embodied condition—the creator and covenant God who became present in Israel’s history (from the days of the covenant with Abram to the presence in the tabernacle and temple and Wisdom and Spirit and Torah) is now fully present in the embodied (and glorified) life of Jesus. Some think the body in this dwelling of God’s fullness in “bodily form” refers to the ecclesial body, while others see here an adverb expressing “actually” or “substantially” or “personally.” The more likely view is that this refers to the incarnation: it refers to God’s fullness indwelling the body of Jesus himself both in his earthly and in his glorified existence. Somatic existence, as Dunn has commented, creates “accessibility (come-at-ableness)” and potential for direct encounter and relationship. And he adds, “To be a Christian is to recognize Christ as the point and means of that access.”66 Marianne Meye Thompson puts nuance to what has been said:
Paul’s statement does not simply collapse God and Christ into one, but Paul does deny that there is some remnant of deity to be found or known in another form or through means other than Christ.… While some philosophers of religion label (and also reject) as “exclusivist” this claim of Christian faith, others have pointed out that it is properly called “particularist.” That is, the primary claim of the Christian faith is a positive one, namely, that God has become manifest in the particular person of Jesus of Nazareth and is therefore known in the particular narrative of this man’s life, death, and resurrection. Therefore a Christian understanding of the identity and character of God is inseparably linked to and with this particular human being and his story.
It seems reasonable that the indwelling of God in Christ is at threat in the deceptive philosophy the Colossians are hearing, which means that there was probably a denigration of the body in some kind of dualistic philosophy. Mirror reading, as has been said, needs to be done with cautious eyes, but it needs to be done nonetheless.
A challenge to veracity (vv. 9–10)
The aim of the ‘spoilers’ philosophy is to weaken trust in the Son of God. Paul sounds a warning call to vigilance, but what is the real truth? It is that ‘in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in him’. This is what the ‘spoilers’ were opposing and denying. Paul once again points to the greatness of Jesus Christ and tells them again that when they look at Jesus Christ they see God in human flesh (John 14:9; 1 Tim. 3:16). Thus all that God is, in his divine essence, Christ is also. So Paul emphasizes that ‘all the fullness’ of the divine essence dwells in Jesus Christ. There must be no doubt about who Jesus Christ is. The word ‘fullness’ indicates that our Saviour is so complete of the divine essence and grace that nothing can be added to him.
What has all this talk about ‘fullness’ to do with the Colossian believers? Does it have some effect, some power, some meaning? Yes, it results in believers being ‘complete in him’ (v. 10). When Christ is in you (1:27) there is no room for another on the throne of your heart. The Colossians need to grasp three things:
believers are complete at conversion. It is not by works but by faith alone that sinners are saved (Eph. 2:8–9).
believers are complete only in christ. Spirituality has a location and it is ‘in Christ’.
all believers are complete. There is no class or ‘caste system’ in Christ. ‘God completed believers through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who applied the positional benefits of Christ’s redemptive work to them’.
Paul challenges the Colossians to believe that they are ‘complete in him’ and to reject anything less than this, for Christ ‘is the head of all principality and power’ (v. 10). Two of the four classes of angels are given here. In 2:15, these celestial beings represented fallen spirits that needed to be disarmed. The ‘spoilers’ asserted that God’s rule over the church was by angels; the cross, however, has brought victory and an end to their power.
2:9 / In this verse Paul returns to a theme already developed in the Christ hymn (1:15–20) and reemphasizes that the Colossians do not need any additional source of revelation or authority for their spiritual life. Christ is not simply another of the spiritual forces that make up the fullness (plērōma) of the universe (cf. 1:19). He is superior to all others because he alone is God incarnate and the whole fullness of deity is found in him.
2:10 / But there is more to this wonderful message: The one who is the fullness of the Godhead is likewise the fullness of each believer. The community is fulfilled in him. The Colossians do not need to look beyond Christ for their understanding of the universe; nor do they need to supplement him in their personal lives, because those who are “in Christ” participate in his fullness now (the Greek present tense este, “you are”). In other words, there is nothing lacking in their relationship to God. Paul ends by reasserting (cf. 1:15–20) Christ’s preeminence over all alien powers (who is the head over every power and authority). There is no need, therefore, to pay homage to them!
9. For in him dwelleth. Here we have the reason why those elements of the world, which are taught by men, do not accord with Christ—because they are additions for supplying a deficiency, as they speak. Now in Christ there is a perfection, to which nothing can be added. Hence everything that mankind of themselves mix up, is at variance with Christ’s nature, because it charges him with imperfection. This argument of itself will suffice for setting aside all the contrivances of Papists. For to what purpose do they tend, but to perfect what was commenced by Christ?2 Now this outrage upon Christ is not by any means to be endured. They allege, it is true, that they add nothing to Christ, inasmuch as the things that they have appended to the gospel are, as it were, a part of Christianity, but they do not effect an escape by a cavil of this kind. For Paul does not speak of an imaginary Christ, but of a Christ preached,4 who has revealed himself by express doctrine.
Further, when he says that the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply, that God is wholly found in him, so that he who is not contented with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is this, that God has manifested himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.
Interpreters explain in different ways the adverb bodily. For my part, I have no doubt that it is employed—not in a strict sense—as meaning substantially. For he places this manifestation of God, which we have in Christ, to all others that have ever been made. For God has often manifested himself to men, but it has been only in part. In Christ, on the other hand, he communicates himself to us wholly. He has also manifested himself to us otherwise, but it is in figures, or by power and grace. In Christ, on the other hand, he has appeared to us essentially. Thus the statement of John holds good: He that hath the Son, hath the Father also. (1 John 2:23.) For those who possess Christ have God truly present, and enjoy Him wholly.
9. For—“Because.” Their “philosophy” (Col 2:8) is not “after Christ,” as all true philosophy is, everything which comes not from, and tends not to, Him, being a delusion; “For in Him (alone) dwelleth” as in a temple, &c.
the fulness—(Col 1:19; Jn 14:10).
of the Godhead—The Greek (theotes) means the essence and nature of the Godhead, not merely the divine perfections and attributes of Divinity (Greek, “theiotes”). He, as man, was not merely God-like, but in the fullest sense, God.
bodily—not merely as before His incarnation, but now “bodily in Him” as the incarnate word (Jn 1:14, 18). Believers, by union with Him, partake of His fulness of the divine nature (Jn 1:16; 2 Pe 1:4; see on Eph 3:19).
Ver. 9.—Because in him dwelleth all the fulness (or, completeness) of the Godhead bodily (ch. 1:19; Phil. 2:6–8; Rom. 1:3, 4; 9:5; John 1:1, 14). In ch. 1:18–20 we viewed a series of events; here we have an abiding fact. The whole plenitude of our Lord’s Divine-human person and powers, as the complete Christ, was definitively constituted when, in the exercise of his kingly prerogative, “he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” “From henceforth” that fulness evermore resides in him (comp. note, ch. 1:19). The undivided pleroma of ch. 1:19 now reveals its twofold nature; it is “the fulness of the Godhead,” and yet “dwells corporeally in him.” “Godhead” (θεότης) is the abstract of “God” (θεός), not of the adjective “Divine” (θεῖος: the Vulgate therefore, wrongly, divinitatis: comp. Rom. 1:20; Acts 17:29; Wisd. 18:9), and denotes, “not Divine excellences, but the Divine nature” (Bengel); see Trench’s ‘Synonyms.’ Schenkel and others, guided by a conjecture of Theodoret, have found here the Church, supporting their view by a very doubtful interpretation of Eph. 1:23. Still more groundless is the identification of this pleroma with the created world. The apostle unmistakably affirms that the Divine nature, in its entirety, belongs to the Church’s Christ. The literal sense of “bodily” (maintained by Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Hofmann, after Chrysostom and Athanasius) has been avoided by those who render it “wholly” (Jerome); “essentially, substantially” (Cyril, Theophylact, Calvin, Klöpper), as opposed to “relatively” or “partially;” “truly” (Augustine, Erasmus, Bengel, Bleek), as opposed to “figuratively” (ver. 17). The adverb σωματικῶς (always literal in classical usage, along with its adjective) occurs only here in the New Testament; the adjective “bodily” in 1 Tim. 4:8; Luke 3:22. “The body of his flesh” in ch 1:22 affords a truer parallel than the language of ver. 17, where σῶμα bears an exceptional sense (see note). Elsewhere St. Paul balances in similar fashion expressions relating to the twofold nature of Christ (see parallels). The assertion that “all the fulness of Deity” dwells in Christ negatives the Alexandrine “philosophy,” with its cloud of mediating angel-powers and spiritual emanations; the assertion that it dwells in him bodily equally condemns that contempt for the body and the material world which was the chief practical tenet of the same school (comp. notes on ch. 1:22 and 2:23).
8–10. There is a very close connection between verses 6, 7, on the one hand, and verses 8–10, on the other. What has been stated positively in verses 6, 7, namely, “Continue to live in Christ Jesus the Lord,” is stated negatively in verses 8–10, the sense of these three verses being, “Do not allow yourselves to be carried away by any teaching that is not according to Christ, for he will supply all your needs, since in him all the fulness of the godhead dwells bodily and since he is the supreme Ruler of all.” We have a restatement, therefore, in somewhat different form, of what the apostle had said in verse 4, “I say this in order that no one may mislead you by persuasive argument.” It becomes clear, therefore, that in this entire section (verses 1–10) Paul indicates that he was deeply concerned about the false teaching of those whose speculative theories, cleverly presented, might tend to undermine the confidence of the Colossians in Christ as their complete Savior. He calls this subversive system of thought and morals, of rules and regulations “philosophy and empty deceit.” He uses words like “man-made tradition” and “worldly rudiments” to describe it.
There is, however, another interpretation of these verses, differing rather sharply from the one set forth in the aforegoing summarizing paragraph. It is to the effect that the apostle here sets Christ over against “the elemental spirits of the universe,” the words between quotation marks being the R.S.V. rendering of the Greek phrase which in both A.V. and A.R.V. is translated “the rudiments of the world” (verse 8). For comments about this interpretation which, with due respect for the erudition of those who advocate it, I cannot adopt, see footnote at the close of my treatment of the entire passage (verses 8–10).
The apostle, accordingly, continues as follows: Be on your guard lest there be any one who carries you off as spoil by means of his philosophy and empty deceit. Let not those who were rescued out of the domain of darkness and transplanted into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (see Col. 1:13) be carried off as so much booty and become enslaved once more (cf. Gal. 5:1).
Brought under bondage by someone’s “philosophy”! As Josephus has shown, any elaborate system of thought and/or moral discipline was in those days called a philosophy (cf. our term “moral philosophy,” when the scientific aspect is not stressed). Thus he states, “For there are three forms of philosophy among the Jews. The followers of the first school are called Pharisees, of the second Sadducees, and of the third Essenes” (Jewish War II.viii.2). When it is borne in mind that in several of its traits the body of error which Paul here opposes resembles Essenism, the relevancy of this quotation from Josephus becomes all the more clear. Philo also, when speaking about Hebrew religion, uses such terms as “philosophy according to Moses” and “Jewish philosophy.” Paul is warning against the kind of philosophy that amounts to nothing more than empty deceit. It is empty, futile. It is deceptive, for, while it promises big things to those who obey its ordinances, it cannot redeem its promises (see on verse 23). Paul continues: according to the tradition of men (see footnote above). This was not apostolic tradition, nor was it tradition that belonged to the main stream of Judaism, though it did have something in common with Judaism and embraced some of the latter’s tenets. It was rather a mixture of Christianity, Judaistic Ceremonialism, Angelolatry, and Asceticism, as verses 11–23 indicate. It was a philosophy according to the rudiments of the world. Rudiments are elements, either in the physical or in the non-physical realm. The original uses the term stoicheia, indicating elements or units in a row or series, like the figures (1, 2, 3, etc.) in a column, or the letters (A, B, C, etc.) in the alphabet; then also the basic elements of which the physical world is held to consist (cf. 2 Peter 3:10, 12). The ancients sometimes spoke of earth, air, fire, and water as elements. By an easy transition the meaning advances to rudiments or elements of learning; hence, elementary teaching (Heb. 5:12). We speak of “Rudiments of Grammar,” “Elements of Arithmetic,” etc. The expression “rudiments of the world” also occurs in Gal. 4:3 (cf. Gal. 4:9). This is admittedly a very difficult passage, proving the correctness of 2 Peter 3:15, 16. It is true, indeed, that “our beloved brother Paul” sometimes wrote things “hard to understand.” One thing should be borne in mind, however, namely, that in Galatians and in Colossians we are dealing with rudiments of the world, a modifier that does not occur in Hebrews and in II Peter. Now in Col. 2:8, in harmony with the immediate context which speaks about “the tradition of men,” the term world (kosmos) must probably be taken in its ethical sense (as often in Paul’s epistles), as indicating “mankind alienated from the life of God.” These are rudiments of worldly men. They are worldly rudiments. In all likelihood that interpretation of the modifier of the world also holds for Galatians (cf. Gal. 4:9, “weak and beggarly rudiments”). Worthy of serious consideration, in the light of the contexts (in Gal. 4:3 and 4:9), is therefore the view according to which in Galatians the expression “rudiments of the world” indicates rudimentary teaching regarding rules, regulations, ordinances, by means of which, before Christ’s coming into the flesh, people (Jews and Gentiles, each in their own way) tried by their own efforts to achieve salvation. With the coming of Christ and the work of his apostles this sinful, autosoteric tendency and teaching continued, sponsored now by enthusiastic Judaists. In their teaching the latter tried to combine faith in Christ with trust in Mosaic-Pharisaic ordinances. And this same danger of trusting in ordinances to supplement faith in Christ asserted itself also at Colosse (see Col. 2:11–23), though in a somewhat different, more complicated, form. That some of these regulations dealt with angel-worship need not and should not be denied (see verses 15 and 18), just so it be borne in mind that the term rudiments itself does not therefore necessarily mean angels. It is the erroneous teaching that is here condemned.
It thus becomes evident that when the meaning rudimentary instruction is ascribed to the word rudiments, as used in Col. 2:8 and 2:20, this sense cannot be quickly discarded as if it were definitely out of line with the use of this same word elsewhere in the New Testament.
Now if people will but see the implications of faith in Christ in all his glorious fulness and adequacy, they will die to these rudiments, as verse 20 makes very clear. Cast aside then will be these crude notions regarding regulations and ordinances with respect to such things as circumcision, feasts, food and drink, angel-worship, etc., as means toward the achievement of salvation in all its fulness. It is evident that at least in one respect the rudiments mentioned in Galatians and those against which the apostle warns in Colossians are alike, namely, in being “weak and beggarly” (Gal. 3:9). This philosophy is definitely “of the world,” as any system must be that does not give Christ all the honor. It is empty, deceitful, and not according to Christ. It has a tendency to take men away from Christ, to weaken their trust in him as all-sufficient sufficient Savior. It is not in harmony with the fulness which believers have in him.
Hence, Paul continues: for in him all the fulness of the godhead dwells bodily. For the interpretation of all but the adverb (“bodily”) see also above on Col. 1:19. When the apostle thus describes Christ he has in mind the latter’s deity, not just his divinity. He is referring to the Son’s complete equality of essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, his consubstantiality, not his similarity. He is saying that this plenitude of deity has its abiding residence in Christ, and this bodily.
Many different interpretations have been given of this adverb; such as, personally, essentially, universally (in a manner that embraces or affects the entire universe), ecclesiastically (in a manner that affects the entire church), antitypically, genuinely, etc. Now all of these can be rejected without much argumentation since they are out of harmony with the immediate context, attach a connotation to the adverb that is out of harmony with the main clause, invest that adverb with too much meaning, and miss the main purpose which the apostle had in mind in writing as he does.
There are, however, two theories that deserve more than passing notice:
- The view of Lightfoot (op. cit., pp. 182, 183), etc.
According to him bodily means “with a bodily manifestation,” that is, “as crowned by the incarnation.” Expositors of repute have endorsed this attractive view. They appeal to such arguments as the importance which Paul attaches to Christ’s incarnation (Gal. 4:4), the possible parallel in John 1:1, 14, the reference in Heb. 10:5 to Christ’s body (“a body didst thou prepare for me”), etc.
(1) Paul uses the present tense. He does not say that the Word became flesh but that the fulness of the godhead dwells or is dwelling in Christ. And surely that indwelling did not just begin with the incarnation. It is an eternal indwelling. Moule, who is inclined to favor Lightfoot’s view, nevertheless correctly observes: “The chief objection to taking σωματικῶς [the adverb] thus, as representing a stress on the fact that the godhead became really embodied, is the present tense κατοικεῖ [“is dwelling”], which is not easy to treat as a reference to a past event in history (like John 1:14, σάρξ ἐγένετο [became flesh]” (op. cit., p. 93). That is exactly the point!
(2) Lightfoot’s argument to the effect that the main clause (“for in him all the fulness of the godhead dwells”) refers to the pre-incarnate Christ (“the Eternal Word in whom the pleroma had its abode from all eternity”), but that the adverb (“bodily”) which modifies this clause refers to the incarnation, would seem to involve contradiction.
(3) If the adverb “bodily” is interpreted literally, and we should allow this adverb really to modify, in a natural way, the main clause with its verb “dwells” or “is dwelling,” would not the objection arise that the Son of God is surely not so dependent upon a physical body (or even upon the human nature) that apart from it the godhead cannot dwell in him?
It is, therefore, not surprising that among the earliest writers few adopted this interpretation, and that even today, with some prominent exceptions, it is widely rejected by scholars.
- The view of Percy (op. cit., p.77), and, in the main, also of Ridderbos (op. cit., pp. 176–178).
They interpret the adverb to mean “in a concentrated, as it were visible and tangible, form.” Faith clearly sees that the fulness of the godhead dwells from everlasting to everlasting in Christ, this fact having been thus visibly and tangibly demonstrated by Christ’s works both in creation and redemption. It sees that the entire essence and glory of God is concentrated in Christ as in a body. It is in that sense that it can be said that this fulness of the god-head is embodied, given concrete expression, fully realized, in him. This is but another way of saying that from everlasting to everlasting he is “the image of the invisible God” (see on Col. 1:15).
I believe that this gives the proper sense, a meaning which is also in harmony with the context, both preceding and following. Since, therefore, all the fulness of the indwelling essence of God is thus completely concentrated in Christ, there is no need of or justification for looking elsewhere for help, salvation, or spiritual perfection. Hence, the apostle immediately adds: and in him you have attained to fulness; that is, in Christ you have reached the Source whence flows the stream of blessings that supplies whatever you need for this life and for the next. Abide, therefore, in him (John 15:4, 7, 9), and you will continue to experience that “out of his fulness we all receive grace upon grace” (John 1:16; cf. Eph. 4:13). To the very utmost limits of human capacity the church that remains in vital union with Christ receives love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Gal. 5:22), yes, every Christian grace. Christ is the Fountain that never fails. Why, then, O Colossians, commit the folly of hewing out cisterns for yourselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13)? Why trust in circumcision when you have been buried with Christ in baptism (verses 11–14)? How foolish to resort to principalities and authorities when in him you have attained to fulness, namely, in him who is the head of every principality and authority (cf. verse 15). For the meaning of “principality” and “authority” see on Col. 1:16. He is their head, not in fully the same sense in which he is the head of the church (see on Col. 1:18), which is his body, but in the sense that he is supreme Ruler of all (1:16; cf. Eph. 1:22), so that apart from him the good angels cannot help, and because of him the evil cannot harm believers. It seems that it was especially this last thought which the apostle wished to emphasize (see below on verse 15).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 103–104). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 312). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 100–101). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 229–231). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 McNaughton, I. S. (2006). Opening up Colossians and Philemon (pp. 42–43). Leominster: Day One Publications.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 52). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 182–183). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 376). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Colossians (pp. 86–87). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 108–113). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.