Fullness in Christ- Colossians 2:8-10

In Colossians 2:10, Paul tells us that as believers we have “been given fullness in Christ”, and in verse 9 that in Christ “all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form”. The question immediately arises as to what Paul means by the use of the word “fullness” here, so we look first to verse 8, which establishes the context of its usage here. There Paul tells the Colossians not to be taken captive by any “hollow and deceptive philosophy”, and the philosophy which was prominent at that time and in that place was known as Gnosticism, and the term “fullness” (Greek pleroma) was a fundamental concept in Gnosticism, so we must look briefly at what Gnosticism teaches in order to understand what Paul means by fullness here. Gnosticism taught that there was a sort of “god”, known as divine wisdom, and this divine wisdom both is and dwells in the pleroma (fullness). Emanations flow out from the divine wisdom in the form of progressively lower gods, the lowest of whom is called the demiurge, who has something missing in him because he is the farthest from the fullness. This lack in him causes him to need something, so he creates a material world with physical beings to “love” to fill what he is missing. This is seen as a mistake in Gnosticism, and the demiurge is equated with the God of the Old Testament. Human beings are seen as primarily souls, who were at one with the divine wisdom in the pleroma, and this oneness was broken by the demiurge’s placing them in physical bodies, which is seen as the fall of mankind in Gnostic teaching. The physical body is seen as the prison house of the soul, and all of the material creation is seen as inherently evil, only the soul is good, and salvation comes through knowledge, the Greek word gnosis, from which the term Gnosticism is derived. The knowledge which then brings salvation is the recognition of our own divinity, through which bodily passions are overcome, and freedom is found from them so that the soul may become one with divine wisdom again in the pleroma. This being one with God is not a biblical oneness of being united with God, but is rather being part of god, for something is now missing in god that is filled only by human beings, god is somehow incomplete without us. Fullness, then, equals salvation in Gnosticism, which equals being one with god as the god that you really are, it is being freed from all of your lower desires to be what you are truly meant to be, and this is what the believers in Colossae were seeking in their dabbling with Gnosticism, by which they were being “taken captive” and led astray. They sought “fullness”, they sought to be what they were truly meant to be, and Paul here tells them that they “have been given fullness in Christ”, they are not awaiting fullness when they are released from the body and ascend to the pleroma, they do not achieve fullness by overcoming bodily desires, they have been given fullness, it is something they already have in Christ. They have been made one with God, they already lack nothing, and salvation is not the awareness of their own divinity but of the divinity of Jesus Christ, that they are one with God, not part of Him, and salvation is found not in being what we choose to be but in being all He created us to be. So what Paul ultimately does here is take the Gnostic idea of fullness and “apply” it to God and to Jesus Christ. We become one with God not as part of Him but as subject to Him, and the knowledge (gnosis) needed to find “fullness” is not the knowledge of our own divinity, but of our place in God’s kingdom under His lordship. As we follow His chosen path for our lives, we will discover who we truly are and why we are here and what we are meant to do. We do not ascend up some ladder to achieve fullness, but we live out the fullness we already have in Christ. Fullness has been given to us, we already lack nothing, we have been given all we need to be what God created us to be and to do what God calls us to do . Just like Jesus, we already have been made one with the Father, and we also live out that oneness by doing the will of the Father in our lives, just as Jesus did, not achieving “fullness” (becoming one with God) by our efforts, but directing our efforts to live out the fullness (being one with God) which we already have.

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