David B Curtis - Berean Bible Church

Pastor David B. Curtis

Complete in Christ

Colossians 2:9-10

02/29/2004

How many of you saw the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks? It was an interesting movie that to me strongly portrayed the idea of hope. Hanks was in what seemed to be a hopeless situation, but suddenly things change, and he is rescued.

During a Superbowl, FedEx ran a commercial that spoofed the movie, Castaway, in which Tom Hanks played a FedEx worker whose company plane went down, stranding him on a deserted island for years. Looking like the bedraggled Hanks in the movie, the FedEx employee in the commercial goes up to the door of a suburban home, package in hand.

When the lady comes to the door, he explains that he survived five years on a deserted island, and during that whole time, he kept this package in order to deliver it to her. She gives a simple, "Thank you."

But he is curious about what is in the package that he has been protecting for years. He says, "If I may ask, what was in that package after all?"

She opens it and shows him the contents, saying, "Oh, nothing really, just a satellite telephone, a global positioning device, a compass, a water purifier, and some seeds."

Like the contents in that package, the resources for growth and strength are available for every Christian. Jesus Christ alone holds the key to our every need. I'm convinced that the primary reason so many Christians unduly struggle in their Christian lives is twofold: we don't know, and we don't apply. We're either ignorant, or we're negligent, or both. You say, "What do you mean?". Well, I think we don't fully realize, or we forget, who we are in Jesus Christ. And we don't really believe that Jesus Christ is all we need. Now listen. If we really believed that Jesus Christ is all we needed, we would never be out there trying to fill voids and find answers to problems anywhere else but in Jesus Christ; voids and answers to questions that only He can fill.

The prophet Jeremiah put it this way:

Jeremiah 2:13 (NKJV) "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns; broken cisterns that can hold no water.

That's what it means to make Jesus Christ anything less than all-sufficient for everything that you need, for everything that is your life. It's forsaking the fountain of living waters for broken-down, polluted wells.

We spent our time last week looking at:

Colossians 2:8 (NKJV) Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Paul is calling the church at Colosse to be aware of hollow and deceptive philosophy that is masquerading as true Christian teaching. Rather than focusing on Christ, this teaching depends on human tradition and the basic principles of Judaism. This teaching can captivate them and lead them astray, if they are not careful. He is telling the church to beware!

One of the philosophies they were facing was an early form of Gnosticism, which was a cult based on a Greek dualistic philosophy. And this philosophy was that matter is evil always, and the spirit is good. Matter is evil. The spirit is good. Now there are several ramifications to that. There are ramifications as far as God, who is a spirit, creating things (matter which is evil). And so the Gnostics claimed that God used a series of intermediaries to create. Maybe they were spirit beings or angels. And so as God created these series of intermediaries, they were the ones who took part in creation. They did God's dirty work, kind of distancing God from his sinful creation. There are ramifications to this view as far as Christ the Savior. Since all matter is evil, including our humanity, then Jesus Christ couldn't have been God incarnate. What does it mean to be God incarnate? God in the flesh, God in human form. The Gnostics would have said, "That's impossible. Matter is evil. God cannot partake of evil matter". So the Gnostics either claim that Jesus wasn't God, or that He wasn't man. There are ramifications for salvation. For the Gnostics, salvation is accomplished through some mystical, secret knowledge. In fact, the word "Gnostic" means: "knowledge". A Gnostic teacher of the second century wrote, "Abandon the search for God. Look for Him by taking yourself as the starting point. You will find Him in yourself."

The church in Colosse faced a particular form of strange doctrine that was a mixture of Gnosticism and Jewish legalism. Today we face numerous forms of aberrant teaching. Some of that teaching is within the church. On one hand there is the aberrant teaching of liberalism. On the other hand there is the aberrant teaching of legalism. But perhaps the biggest threat we face comes from the most popular spiritual philosophy in our culture today. It is what is known as a "New Age teaching". It may be the most dangerous teaching we are facing. It is subtle and popular.

The New Age movement is a strange mixture of science and Eastern mysticism with a liberal splash of the occult. An emphasis on the idea that "all is one", or that everything that exists composes one essential reality, can be found as a common belief. God is seen as an impersonal consciousness and power.

The New Age movement has at its heart a belief characterized as "monistic pantheism," meaning: "all is one and all is God". It believes in the divinity of all mankind, that we are separated from God only in our own consciousness, which needs to be altered through a variety of ways, including meditation, Yoga, chanting, drugs, visualization, and the like. Man will thus experience union with God. Belief in the law of karma is common, which means that whatever a person does, good or bad, will return in exact proportion in another existence. They must continue to return in new incarnations until the bad karma has been balanced by the good karma they accomplish. They see all religions as essentially saying the same thing, thus Hinduism is as true as Christianity. Jesus was just an avatar who attained a high level of attunement to the Cosmic Christ, thus enabling him to be a bodily vehicle for this Cosmic Christ for a period of three years. There is no such thing as sin, and we are our own saviors.

The New Age distortion of the teachings essential to Christianity ought to concern us. God becomes an impersonal force. Jesus is simply an advanced avatar. Sin no longer exists. Salvation is by our cyclic rebirth through reincarnation whereby we work off the bad karma we accumulated in previous lives. The Scripture is not true where it says that "it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment," because we die many times and just keep trying. We die and try, die and try. All humans are divine. The Bible is not the revealed truth, but only one truth. All religions are equal, and none is the true way. These teachings attack Christianity at its heart. So Paul deals with this very clearly by stating:

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

This 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.

"For in Him dwells" - the word "for" continues the thought of verse eight. In the Greek, the word "for" means: "because." This word is important, because it introduces another reason for abandoning false teaching. Verse eight presents the negative reasons for following false philosophy. This verse gives the positive reason - all the fullness of God dwells in Christ. That is why he is superior to any philosophy or theology. He is all in all.

The words "in Him" are emphatic in the Greek, indicating a mighty contrast between philosophy and the Son. The Son is superior to any philosophy.

The word "dwells" comes from the Greek word katoikeo, which means: "to settle down and be at home." The present tense indicates that the essence of Deity continually abides at home in Christ. 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.

Having seen that the word "dwells" means to permanently indwell, we now see what permanently indwells Christ - "all the fullness of the Godhead". The "fullness" is defined by the word "Godhead." The Greek word translated "Godhead" is theotetos, an ontological word. What that means is: "it has the idea of essential nature or essential being". The essential ontological nature of Jesus Christ is what? Deity. He is God.

The word "fullness" is from the Greek word pleroma, which is the same term used in 1:19. It was a term used by the Colossian errorists. They believed the divine pleroma 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 the Godhead, not a part of it, dwells in Christ. Jesus Christ is completely God. He is exactly what God is. Jesus Christ possesses the "fullness" of God, not certain aspects of God's essence. Jesus Christ possesses unbounded power, the totality of the attributes of God. He is not merely godlike. He is God himself.

The fullness of God, "the whole Godhead", comes into your life when you receive Jesus. What more do you need? That is Paul's question. What more can these false teachers add to that? What new experience, what other additional divine person can you receive than what you have already received when you have Jesus?

It may be that we need to discover more of what it means to have Christ as our Lord; that is a lifelong process. We shall always be growing in appreciation of what it means to have Him, but the point is (and it is a very important one) you do not need anything more than you already have. You merely need to understand more of what you have received.

How high is your view of Jesus Christ? Do you understand him as God almighty or as a glorified man? Paul points to Christ as the fullness of the Deity. In other words, Jesus Christ is the literal manifestation of the living God. He is the Son of God and God the Son. All of the fullness of God resides in him. He has and He is all we need. He is at the center of everything for the Christian, and He is at the center of true Christian teaching.

One evening Jesus was sitting around with His disciples. He asked them about people's opinions of him. Who were people saying that he was? The disciples gave him various comments that they had heard. Some people were saying that He was a prophet. Others were saying that He was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah. Then He turned the question to them:

Matthew 16:15 (NKJV) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

You see, the issue was what they had come to believe about Him. This is still the central issue of Christianity. Who do we say that Jesus really is? If He is anything other than our Lord and God, then we are not describing Christianity. This is the Christ test.

In the church at Colosse, they were facing a form of teaching that taught that Jesus was one of the many emanations sent forth from God, but he was not God. And there are many today teaching that Jesus is less than God. They say that He was a good teacher, a great moral philosopher, a prophet, and a good man. They want Him to be recognized as an example to follow - one way to God. Beware of this kind of teaching.

You see, Jesus was not just a good man or a good moral teacher. He was not just a moral philosopher. He was not simply a prophet pointing the way to God. And Jesus is not simply one way out of many ways to God. Jesus claimed to be the only way to God. He claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life:

John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

There are really only three opinions that a logical person can come to concerning Jesus. Based on what Jesus himself said, He was either a liar, or a lunatic, or the Lord. You see, if Jesus is not the only way, then He was either deceiving us, in which case He would be a liar, or He was self deceived, in which case He would be a lunatic. On the other hand, if He is indeed the only way, then He is in fact the Lord. One thing is for sure, if Jesus Christ is not the only way, then He could not have been a good teacher, or a prophet, or a good example.

Any teaching that does not place Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven is not Christian teaching. Jesus Christ is the only way, not because we say He is the only way, but because He says so. Often Christians are labeled as judgmental, because we say Christ is the only way. We are not trying to be judgmental. We are simply trying to share what we know to be the truth.

We are not prejudiced against other religions. We are simply saying that Christianity is the only true way to God. We don't say that in order to offend someone. We say that because we truly believe that it is true.

The key issue for Christians is Christ. We believe that he is the Savior. We believe that he is the only way. We have received salvation from him. He alone is sufficient. All else is insufficient. No other teaching is adequate to save us. This is the Christ test. And the current New Age teaching in vogue does not pass the test.

Be on the alert. Don't be deceived. Do be discerning. Put all the spiritual sounding teaching to the Christ test. Who does it say that He is? What place does Christ hold in the teaching? If He does not hold a central place as all supreme and all sufficient, then the teaching is not of God. Don't be taken in by it. Don't be misled.

Now look at the last word that Paul uses:

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

How does it dwell? In what way does it dwell? In what fashion? Bodily! Clearly, clearly, clearly! This verse proclaims the fact that God became a Man, bodily!

It was unthinkable to the Gnostics 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 word "bodily" is from the Greek word somatikos, which means: "corporeally or physically, in physical form," in the sense of material in contrast to being symbolic. The complete content of deity exists in Jesus Christ in real form. This was the interpretation of Augustine. This means that the deity is in Christ in reality, not apparently.

Jesus' deity is permanently manifested in the incarnation (in flesh).This does not refer simply to His existence in the past; it refers to His present position in heaven, at the right hand of the Father. Jesus sits in His humanity, but He exists as God almighty as well.

This is the only occurrence of this term (somatikos) in the New Testament. But this truth is taught in many other places:

Philippians 2:7 (NKJV) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

This verse is where we get the doctrine of the Kenosis. The word "reputation" is the Greek word kenoo, which means: "to empty himself." What exactly did Christ empty Himself of? Not His deity, or He would cease to exist. Not the attributes of deity - it is impossible to surrender an attribute without changing the character of the essence to which it belongs. God cannot change. He is immutable! What, then, did He empty Himself of? His Glory:

John 17:5 (NKJV) "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
John 17:24 (NKJV) "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

He surrendered His right to manifest Himself visibly as the God of all splendor and glory. He emptied Himself of His legitimate and natural desires and prerogative as deity. The natural desire and prerogative of deity is that of being glorified.

In the Kenosis, Christ veiled His pre-incarnate glory by taking on humanity, but He did not diminish or destroy any part of it. When the sun is obscured by a cloud, there is no real change of its glory, nor are its beams extinguished, nor is the sun itself in any measure changed. Its luster is only for a time obscured. The sun was never affected by that cloud, but our vision of it was. Christ was never diminished in glory, but He veiled His glory.

Now, if you know your Bible, you might be thinking, "Doesn't John say that they beheld His glory? Yes he did:

John 1:14 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Doesn't this say that His glory was manifest? Yes, and notice the two attributes - grace and truth. Through these attributes, Jesus glorified God in his humanity, which is what all of us are to do, but the glory of His deity was veiled. He looked like a man, like any other man, except for a brief time during the transfiguration:

Matthew 17:1-3 (NKJV) Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

Jesus literally lit the place up with His glory.

Philippians 2:7 (NKJV) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

In the Incarnation, Jesus took "the form of a bondservant.". The word "taking" is a circumstantial participle of manner. So the phrase explains how He emptied himself "by" taking the form of a bondservant. When He took the form of a bondservant, it veiled His glory. That is how He emptied himself.

The word "form" is morphe, which means: "essential nature." This is not a mask or Halloween costume, He didn't pretend He was a servant. In his essential nature, He became a servant. He took the essence of a dulos, a bondslave - He came to do God's will:

Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

This is God voluntarily becoming a servant for us.

Philippians 2:7 goes on to say, "Coming in the likeness of men" - the word "likeness" is homoioma, which suggests: "similarity, but difference". Though His humanity was genuine, He was different from all other humans in that He was sinless. We see this same Greek word in:

Romans 8:3 (NKJV) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

Jesus Christ had real human flesh - He felt pain, sorrow, wept, died, but He was sinless:

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Paul goes on in Philippians to say:

Philippians 2:8 (NKJV) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

The word "appearance" is schema, which means: "outer appearance." People saw him only as a man. Christ gave up the outward appearance of God (schema), but not the essence (morphe) of God. His glory was veiled and He looked like a man.

The reality of Jesus Christ's humanity is emphasized throughout the New Testament. He had a human birth, His conception wasn't human, but His birth was. He came through the birth canal and was wet and wrinkled like any other baby. Martin Luther wrote in his hymn, "The little Lord Jesus no crying He makes." Is that true? No! He was a normal baby - He cried. I'm sure He kept Mary up at night crying. It's not a sin to cry. He had human growth and development. He grew up just like any other human being.

Luke 2:40 (NKJV) And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Luke 2:52 (NKJV) And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

He had human experiences - emotions, feeling, desires and needs. He was hungry, thirsty, weary, He sorrowed and wept. He had a human relationship with God. Jesus said:

Luke 18:1 (NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,

Prayer is the necessary activity of a man who stands in a right relationship to God. Jesus prayed, why? He needed to, He was dependant upon God in His humanity. Jesus functioned in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of His deity. Why is that so important? His ministry was marked with the repeated necessity of making choices, and He always made the right choice. Of all men who ever lived, He alone could say, "I do always those things that please the Father" (John 8:29). These choices were very real and involved the exercise of His will. Was it His human will alone functioning on these occasions, or was His human will under the control of the divine nature? If the latter is true, then it is hard to see how Christians, who do not possess deity to control their human wills, can be called upon to look to Christ as their example. But if Jesus Christ did, indeed, divest Himself of the exercise of the divine nature, and lived among men in real dependence upon His Father, and found His strength and wisdom in a pure humanity empowered by the Holy Spirit, then we can understand that His prayers were real prayers, His decisions were real decisions, His actions and reaction were genuinely human, and He is, indeed, our example in all things.

If Jesus Christ was dependant upon God for all He did, how much more should we be?

Our Lord possesses true humanity, which is just as important as His deity. He is fully, completely, perfectly God. He's fully, completely, and perfectly Man. To make atonement, He had to be a Theanthropic person. There's no more crucial issue than this. Throughout history, this is the terminal issue where cultists have departed from the doctrine of God to doctrines of demons; a denial of Christ's Deity, a denial of His humanity, or a denial of both.

Now Paul gets to the heart of the letter. And the key verse, not only to this section, but perhaps to the entire book, is:

Colossians 2:10 (NKJV) and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

In Jesus Christ, if you know Him, if you've been born again, if you're a new creation in Jesus Christ, trusting Him, you have been (past tense) made complete. You're complete. I don't care how you feel; this is the facts, this is the truth, you are complete. You have been made complete. Christ is sufficient. And your sufficiency isn't in yourself, it's in Him.

"And you are complete in Him"

We can translate this phrase: "You have come to fullness of life." The emphasis in the Greek is upon the abiding results of our position in Christ. The believer permanently holds that position before God from the moment of his salvation.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are in Christ. And because you are in Christ, and because He is complete, you have been made complete. Get that? Because Christ is who He is, we have been made complete in Him. His fullness is imparted to us. The word "complete" means: "entire, finished, made full, perfect." Essentially, it is the same word used in verse 9, where Paul says, "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." As all the fullness of the eternal God is Christ's, all the fullness of Christ is yours and mine. This is astonishing; grace indeed! Our fullness of life comes from Christ's fullness:

John 1:16 (NKJV) And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

We need no outside help from any other source. We need no supplementary wisdom.

Every Christian, at the moment of salvation, receives this fullness. This is God's estimate of us. God views us as pardoned and as righteous as Christ is righteous. We are with Him in His life, sonship, heirship, glory and merit. God accomplishes this at the moment of salvation. We do not receive Christ on the installment plan. We receive a complete Savior and complete results of our salvation at the moment we come to know Him. We may appreciate Him more as we grow in Him, however, we do not receive more of Him.

"In Him" means: "in union with Jesus Christ". This is the believer's position before God. As God views us, He looks at us exactly like He would look at Christ - perfect. We are not perfect in our experience, but in our position or status quo before God forever. We share His fullness. From God's viewpoint, nothing is wanting in us because of Christ. Jesus fully meets every demand of God for us.

This is true of every Christian, no matter what their experience of living may be like. Jesus Christ is our substitute not only at the point of salvation but as an ongoing status before God. We stand judicially right before God forever. God's estimation of us is equivalent to His estimation of Christ. God identifies us with him in everything.

Do we believe the Word of God as penned through the apostle Peter in:

2 Peter 1:2-3 (NKJV) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

Do you believe, as God's Word says, that Jesus Christ has granted to you "everything (past tense) pertaining to life and godliness"? When you were saved, you received all you needed to live the Christian life. Everything. There's no other experience you need. Nothing.

The Living Bible is worth reading at this point, because of it's simplicity in rendering Col 1:10 as, "...you have everything when you have Christ..." Which says it all. If believers have everything, then there's no good reason why they should seek anything additional to "add on" to their experience.

The second half of Colossians 2:10 reads: "...who is the head of all principality and power". The word "head" is the Greek word kephale. It is used three times in Colossians. It's used in chapter 1:18, here, and in chapter 2:19. It's a word that's used of a literal head, such as a person's head (Matthew 5:36). But it can also refer to a symbolic head, such as the head of a family (Ephesians 6:23). But when it's used that way, it has the predominant meaning: "authority over." To be the head is to be the one in authority. And here it says that Jesus Christ is head over all rule and authority. Now what does that mean? What's "rule and authority"? Rule and authority could refer to the angelic, created beings. It's used that way in Ephesians 3:10, 6:12, and also in 1 Peter 3:22. Or "rule and authority" could simply refer to Christ's supremacy over earthly authorities. You can take this anyway you want to, because Christ is the Head over ALL authority, whether it be angelic, demonic or human.

A story is told about William Randolph Hurst, the late newspaper publisher. Randolph Hurst invested a fortune in collecting great works of art. One day he read about some valuable pieces of art and decided that he must have them for his collection. So he sent his agent out to locate them and purchase them. Months went by, and then the agent returned and reported to Hurst that the items had at last been found. In fact, they were stored in Hurst's own warehouse. Years before, William Randolph Hurst had purchased them. This story is analogous to the Christian who is in a desperate search for what he already has. Don't be held captive by anything other than the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. He is sufficient for our every need.

Media #289b

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
2000 Centerville Turnpike
Chesapeake, VA 23322