This is a series of brief looks at Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. My purpose is not to write a full exposition but to show how much can be gained by looking carefully at what the text says. Too often we skip quickly from glancing at the text to parroting what we’ve heard before and believed already. That is no way to learn anything new from the Bible. Learning comes first and foremost from looking, looking attentively, looking for a long time.
We look now at the final two verses of Paul’s 6-verse hymn exalting Jesus Christ in truly superlative terms. The key word here is at the very beginning of verse 19: for. It could be translated at “because.” The function of this small word is to tell us that what follows is the ground for what Paul has said already. And this foundation is awesome.
Paul has sung Christ’s praises in such strong terms because (i.e., by cause of the fact that. . .) “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” These are even stronger terms than Jesus himself used when he said:
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:6-9).
In Jesus Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. That’s an astounding claim! If you want to know God, entrust yourself to Jesus Christ. If you want to see God, look at Jesus Christ.
We must be careful here. Paul does not mean that Jesus exhausts the self-revelation of God. There are other ways in which God reveals himself but none so fully as in Jesus Christ. He reveals himself Spirit-to-spirit in prayer. He certainly revealed himself to his beloved Hebrews. Think, just for outstanding examples, of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and especially David. They knew God. They understood a very great deal about the character of God. Martin Luther was baffled for years by the fact that David understood God’s forgiveness and grace so deeply without ever having seen Jesus.
Not only has God dwelt fully in Christ but through him has reconcile everything in heaven and on earth to himself, “making peace by the blood of his cross. Pause for a few moments to meditate on these two verses and you’ll find your mind and heart starting to expand to the point of bursting. All the fullness of the Creator of the universe dwells in Jesus Christ, by whose bloody cross we are forgiven and reconciled. This just won’t fit into our hearts and skulls. All the fullness of the Lord bleed on the cross.
On the cross we nailed Jesus and poured out all our hatred of God, inflicted on him all our sinful ways and thoughts and feelings, murdered him just to release onto him all that we in fact have deserved to be given to us. And he did not defend himself from the immeasurable injustice of what we were doing. He simply accepted, defenselessly, the full blow of our rebellion. It was a rebellion that began in the Garden of Eden and has been renewed by every generation and every individual since then.
And, since the Lord accepted it all, there was no longer any barrier to our peace with him. His love for us was uninterrupted, unstopped. Justice, we would think, would have required of him that he stop us by crushing us, by forcing us to accept all the consequences of our own sin. But, no, he simply accepted it all himself.
To the Corinthians Paul wrote, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21).
With such thoughts in mind, such monumental thoughts, Paul will now begin to help us understand both the motivation and the means for continually growing and bearing fruit. Find yourself from time to time slipping into thinking you’re good enough to get by? Paul will remind that there was no limit to the grace of God which was to be seen – and still is – on the cross of Jesus Christ. He did not love us part way and we must not love him part way. So we’ll read on, prepared to be pulled out of any complacency which might be limiting our growth.