Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

May 17, 2005

Sufficient in Christ

I continue to dwell on Paul's use of the word "fullness" as it relates to the Christian. I'm thinking especially of his use of the term in Colossians 2:10, where he says that those who are in Christ (in whom "all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form") have themselves been given fullness. This word in verse 10 is the Greek verb pleroo, which in this context probably means something very much like "to render full or complete." So we might say, paraphrasing, that out of the fullness of Christ we have been given a fullness or completeness of our own. The Geneva Study Bible says in a note here, "the union of God in man is substantial and essential." I think of Peter's words (2Peter 1:3), "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

Indeed, life and Godliness is the focus and concern of Paul throughout the rest of chapter 2 and on into chapter 3, as he unpacks this concept of the fullness of the believer. He seems concerned to show the extensiveness of this gift. It is not a small thing, not merely a "warm fuzzy," it is salvation and freedom, dying to the basic principles of the world, putting on Christ, etc. In short, Paul exhorts the Colossians to live in a way that reflects the reality of their new birth. "Since you died and were raised to new life," he says, "then . . . [insert Pauline imperatives here]."

In his excellent commentary on this passage (IVP New Testament Commentaries) Robert Wall says that Paul "links the fullness of God with the newness of life; thus, as we become alive through faith in him, our humanity is made more complete. By the work of grace, every good intention of the Creator for the creature is realized in Christ."

The point is, we are not insufficiently equipped to obey these imperatives. As Peter said, "We have all that we need for life and godliness." We have completeness in the One who was completely God, and who made a public spectacle of all our enemies (the powers and authorities of this world) at the Cross. These enemies, which once ruled over us, would have kept us in incompleteness forever. But they lost the battle at Calvary in a most humiliating way! (2:15)

So we are speaking here of the gift of sufficiency. What we have been given through Christ is "enough." It is all we need. It is offered from the bounty of Christ, and for this reason (and for this reason alone) we are capable of doing what we could never have done under the old covenant or in our own power. In sum, we are capable of the following:

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (3:12-17)


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