A four fold Completeness
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
C4.1 All things necessary
In the previous article we saw that the second danger is vain philosophy, which is not after Christ. This philosophy attempts to find ‘salvation’ by man made schemes. These philosophies reject the all sufficiency of Christ and attempt to find fulfilment in and by their own efforts.
The Gnostics’ idea of sin and salvation was not what the Bible calls sin and salvation. To them salvation was the release of the Divine spark from within. This was achieved, in their thinking, by obtaining secret ‘gnosis’, and not to have that ‘gnosis was the sin.
Paul in this section not only warns of its dangers, but also shows that true salvation is not what the Gnostics, or any Philosophical system, says it is. He also shows that there is nothing else to do or strive for because Jesus has completed the true work of salvation. In Christ we have a COMPLETE salvation. On new birth we receive His life and have all things necessary to live that life.
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Note what Peter says. He has given us ALL things that pertain to life. All means all and that means nothing else is required. Secondly, Peter says that through these precious promises we have escaped the world’s corruption. And this corruption is through lust. I Jn.2:16 The world’s system is based on the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life as we pointed out earlier in this series.
Paul then goes on to describe this complete salvation: we are circumcised in Christ (Col. 2:11); we are baptised in Christ (Col.2:12-13); we are freed in Christ (Col.2:14) and finally we are victorious in Christ (Col.2:15). We shall consider each in turn and in some detail, but here we shall paint a broad brush of these truths.
Before we look at these four things generally we shall consider this word ‘complete’.
C4.2 Filled up in Christ
The word complete can be translated as ‘filled up’. We see in Col.2:9 that the fulness of God dwells in Christ, and that we, having received Christ, have Christ within us the hope of glory Col.1:27. Further Paul in Ephesians exhorts us to be filled with the fulness of God Eph.3:19. That is to be filled with Christ.
The implication is that if we are filled up with Christ there is no room for anything or anyone else. Further, if we are seeking other things to find satisfaction and fulfilment in then we are not filled with Christ! To put it another way, if we are filled and complete in Christ why do we need to go after the vain philosophies of the world?
To as many as received Him to them gave He power (= authority or the right) to become sons of God even to them who on His believe on His name which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God……and [out] of His fulness have all we received and grace for grace.
John’s gospel was also written against the backdrop of Gnosticism, though some three or so decades after Paul. In the Gospel’s preface we read that those who receive Christ have the authority to become sons of God and have received of His fulness.
Here it is stated that salvation, in the true sense of that word, is the work of God, and not of man’s will or the will of the flesh. This excludes all efforts to find salvation by any other means, and that includes Vain Philosophy. The NT could not be clearer on this, salvation is of God and of God alone. No amount of human effort can achieve anything in this realm.
Receiving special secret gnosis won’t do it. It is by receiving Him. He is the fulness, and to partake of this we need only belong to Christ, and not to any special elite group.
One brief comment of Christ being the head of the principalities and power. According to Gnostic thinking Jesus was the last emanation of the plethora. That is the lowest and furthest one away from the divine. In this short statement of Christ’s headship Paul deals a hammer blow to this error and puts the record straight. Christ is the head, He is above all principalities and powers, not the last of them! This we shall consider further later on.
C4.3 A Fourfold completeness
In this section Paul shows this completeness in Christ in four ways. Each of which shows a different aspect of this complete work of salvation. It may be worthy of note to say that the word for complete is also translated as ‘accomplished’ in Lk.9:31, where the context is of Jesus and the two heavenly visitors on the Mount Transfiguration talking of the Lord’s decease (=exodus). This completeness is all because of His atoning redeeming work at Calvary.
We repeat the summary in teh danger and Answer overview. the importance of teh message cannot be overstated.
Firstly, circumcised in Christ. This picture, taking OT physical circumcision as its basis, refers to the dealings of God with the heart. As we shall see it is a picture of new birth. To come into the life of God being born from above is foundational. This alone is the work of God as seen in Jn.1:12.
Secondly, baptised into Christ. This metaphor is arguably the most common metaphor of the Christian life. It illustrates that on being born from above we are immersed into the death and resurrection life of Jesus, and all the benefits of Calvary become ours.
Thirdly, freed in Christ. New life means total freedom from our past sin and the law. We are brought into a marriage union with Christ. In so doing that we are to live in newness of life and not in the deadness of the legal letter. Our daily walk is in the Spirit and not in the works of the law.
Finally, we are victorious in Him. Not only has Jesus conquered death and sin, but also the devil and his cohorts. Thus we know that we can walk in victory over the enemy, and that nothing, not even they, can separate us from God’s love.
It is also interesting to note that this fourfold completeness in Christ corresponds to the progressive revelation of the gospel as laid out by Paul in Romans.
1. Circumcised in Christ Col.2:11 (corresponding to Rom.1:1-5:11)
2. Baptised in Christ Col.2:12-13 (corresponding to Rom.5:12-6:23)
3. Freed in Christ Col.2:14 (corresponding to Rom.7:1-8:13)
4. Victorious in Christ Col.2:15 (corresponding to Rom.8:14-39)
We shall now consider each of these truths in turn.