God in Christ
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col. 2:9-10).- Colossians 2:9-10
The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, is well known for the scene in which Dorothy and her entourage discover the truth about the seemingly great and powerful Oz. In attempting to scare the wizard, the Lion gives a roar that causes Toto the dog to jump in fright and knock over a screen in the room where Dorothy and the others are speaking to the wizard. To their amazement, instead of the supposedly powerful being that had formerly spoken to them, “they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden, a little old man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face, who seemed to be as much surprised as they were.”
Dorothy and her friends learned that Oz was not all he was cracked up to be, but we never need fear that Jesus will turn out as less than He has been revealed in the apostolic gospel. He is fully God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13), possessing all of the attributes that make up the character of our Creator, and He is sufficient for life and godliness. The “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world” being preached in Colossae when Paul wrote to the Colossians said otherwise (Col. 2:8), which explains why the apostle in today’s passage refers again to the fullness of deity dwelling in Christ (v. 9; see 1:19). In effect, Paul is contrasting the truth of Jesus with the empty lies of the erroneous teachers in Colossae. Empty deceit and philosophy according to human tradition view Christ as insufficient and therefore less than the one, true God. We naturally add other intermediaries to the list of what must be pursued for growth in grace (2:16–23). Scripture, however, affirms that Jesus is sufficient for true holiness because He is, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance of the Father, by whom all things were made.”
In Christ we have been filled (v. 10), and since He is fully God, Paul means that all believers have been filled with the very fullness of the Almighty Himself. We have been filled with the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God who gives life to the dead and the desire and ability to live in the Spirit, not the flesh (Rom. 5:1–11; 8:1–11). Thus, indwelt by the Spirit, we have the power of God to conform us to godliness, and we do not need anything or anyone else to make us holy.
To say that all we need is Christ for growth in grace is not somehow to make the Word of God, the sacraments, or the church superfluous. Jesus, by His Spirit, dwells in us, but remaining sin means that we are often deaf to His leading. Through His proclaimed Word, our Savior speaks, teaching us how to discern His direction in our lives. By faith, to have His Word is to have Christ, for it is an expression of Himself.
Passages for Further Study
2 Peter 1:1–2
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