Colossians 2 Part 2
New King James Version 9. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
The Resultant Version 9. Seeing that in Him the entire fullness of the Deity is dwelling in essence.
The idea of the word “fullness” here states the same thing we saw back in Colossians 1:19. The word for “fullness” is pleroma, a word often used of the full complement of a ship, including its officers and crew. It comes from the verb pleroo (pronounced plair-AH-oh,) which means “to fill full” or “to complete.” The full complement, the entire panoply, the completeness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus Christ. Christ embodies the fullness of the Deity.
The Greek word for “bodily” here is somatikos. It is like the words “spiritual,” pneumatikos, or “soulish,” psuchikos. We don’t have a word “bodical” or “bodyish,” so we make the word “bodily.” However, what we cannot see in our alphabet is that the word is spelled with a long “o,” an omega, w, rather than with a short “o,” an omicron, o. With a short “o” this would be an adjective, as it is in Luke 3:22 and I Timothy 4:8. Yet with a long “o,” as here, it is an adverb. Therefore, the way it is translated in some versions like the New International Version, “in bodily form,” is incorrect, since this would make it to be an adjective. It is an adverb, however, answering “how” it dwells. It dwells in Him, yet in a bodily way. When we consider that the body of a thing is its actual substance, its essence, or its reality, we could say that the fullness of the Deity is really and substantially dwelling in Christ.
This verse tells us a great truth, and one we should not neglect or ignore. If all the fullness of the deity is dwelling in Christ, then we should not look for it in other places. We should not look for it in churches or religious organizations of men. We should not look for it in rituals or traditions passed down by men. We should certainly not look for it in any carved images, figurines, crucifixes, or other religious objects. We should not look for it in Mary, or in any saint of the past or present. Instead, we look only to Christ, and acknowledge in Him the fullness of God. He is the only Image of God. He is the living Word, the expression of God in human form. This verse speaks briefly of this incredible truth, but it speaks plainly. The Lord Jesus is the visible likeness of the invisible God.
New King James Version 10. and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
The Resultant Version 10. And you are complete in Him, Who is the head of every sovereignty and every authority.
This verse speaks of the glorious truth of our completeness in Christ, a truth which all God’s people today need to realize and come to appreciate. The word for “complete” here is pleroo, the verb form of the word we just had in verse 9 translated “fullness.” We are filled full or completed in Him, in other words. God does not leave us hanging here, but illustrates for us the kind of completion He means. We are circumcised in Him (verse 11,) baptized in Him (verse 12,) buried and risen with Him (verse 12,) and forgiven in Him (verse 13.) Every good thing we are in the sight of God we are because we are in Him. Without Him we are nothing but sinners, condemned by our actions to pay the wages of sin by our own deaths. In Him, as Ephesians 1 tells us, we are spoken well of by God, chosen to be holy and without blame, predestined to be adopted as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, redeemed through His blood, made to know the secret of His intention, given an inheritance, and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit until all the glorious things promised to us are given in their fullness. All these glorious things that these two, great books of Ephesians and Colossians tell us are ours are ours because we are “in Christ.”
As we discussed earlier regarding being “in Christ,” this has to do with our total identification with Him that occurs in God’s sight when we believe. For example, if an enemy like the devil were ever to accuse one of those saints in Christ before God because of his sins, God might well point to the tomb and say, “Do you not see, Satan? There is this one whom you accuse, dead with Christ in His tomb. He has already died for these sins you accuse him of. He has already paid the penalty. Why then do you thus accuse him? The penalty for his sins has been paid.” If Satan were to protest about this one being honored so greatly, God would again point to Christ and say, “See, this one is honored because he is associated with Christ. Can you not see that he is righteous like Christ is righteous? Can you rightfully accuse Christ of any wickedness? Of course not! Therefore, you cannot accuse this one, either. There he is with Christ, righteous like Him. Against these two together, you can bring no accusation.”
So it is that being “in Christ” has these two aspects before God: first of all, that our penalty has been paid so that we are blameless and righteous and unaccusable before Him, and secondly that we have our portion with Him and partake with Him in His inheritance. It is totally upon His merits that either of these things are true. Of ourselves, we cannot possibly earn either of these things. We deserve the penalty for sin, and no amount of goodness on our part can charge the fact that we are sinners. We are not God, and no amount of goodness upon our part could ever earn our receiving of the portion that belongs to God Himself. We receive these things totally upon the merits of Jesus Christ.
So it is that in Him we are complete. There is nothing else for us to do to earn God’s favor. There is nothing else for us to work or to sacrifice to be right before Him. Christ has done it all, and in Him we can rest upon the completion of the great work of our redemption. Moreover, it is in Him that we can rest upon the great work of our sanctification to be made worthy of receiving the portion that will one day be ours. No amount of work on our part could possibly make us worthy of receiving a position as a son of God in the future. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps to make ourselves worthy of this honor. Yet our own inadequacy need not worry us in this regard. It is in Christ that we will be given these things, and God will not only give them to us, but also in Him conform us to Christ to the point where we will fill the roles He assigns to us in a worthy and Christ-like manner. All has been done for us in Him, predicated only on our being in Him based on our faith in Him. Once in Him, we do indeed find ourselves complete. May all my readers rest in Christ Jesus, and know in truth the privilege of being complete in Him!
Next, we read that Christ is the head of every principality and every authority. As we discussed earlier, the idea of the “head” is of the out-flowing source of a thing.
The word “principality” is the Greek word arche, with means every first one or every chief. The very top rulers before God, the highest and most privileged that stand before His throne, nevertheless achieve their positions not in themselves, but with Christ as the source of all they are and have.
The word “power” in Greek is exousia, which means one who is delegated an authority. A chief or first one is considered to have a position in himself, whereas an authority receives what he has from another authority higher than himself. For example, in the United States the President has a Cabinet, made up of such offices as the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and so forth. These positions are not specified in the United States Constitution, but are positions appointed by the President. Basically, each one of these Cabinet members has no authority of his own, but receives his authority from the President who appoints him. In truth, the President is the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and so forth, but since he is unable to perform all these jobs himself, he appoints these officers to perform these tasks for him. These Cabinet men would fit perfectly as what the Greeks would call an exousia or an “authority,” that is, one who receives his position from another.
When we put all these things together, we get the statement that Christ is the out-flowing source of everything they are both to the very first or chief rulers in God’s government and to every delegated authority or lower ruler. This is true whether we are speaking of God’s government in heaven or God’s government on earth as it will exist will He takes control and makes the governments of this world His Own. Since there are also wicked forces among the heavenly rulers (Ephesians 6:11,) we believe that God will put them down and replace them with His Own rulers under Christ in time to come as well. When He does this, then His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10.) What a glorious day that will be!
New King James Version 11. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
The Resultant Version 11. In whom you also are cut off with a cutting off not made with hands, in the stripping off of the body of the flesh in the cutting off of Christ,
In Christ, the One Who is the out-flowing source to the rulers of God’s government, we too find a blessed reality to be ours. That is, that we are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands. As we know from the book of Philippians, the ritual of physical circumcision is no longer appropriate for the believer of today, even for the Jewish believer of today. As the Lord writes through Paul in Philippians 3, “2. Beware of the outsiders, beware of the evil workers, beware of the mutilators. 3. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, who are glorying in Christ Jesus, and who have no confidence in the flesh.” (The Resultant Version) So from this we can see that circumcision is inappropriate for those who today put their trust in Christ.
Yet God now reveals through Paul that a different kind of circumcision is ours. This circumcision is not a cutting off of the foreskin, but rather a cutting off much more meaningful, though not literal. This circumcision is performed by God, not by the hands of any human being, as would be the case when an infant of eight days old was circumcised in Israel.
What this circumcision is is the stripping off of the body of the flesh. Whether or not the phrase “of the sins” belongs in this verse is a matter of some controversy. Let us assume it belongs there. What does this mean? For this, we must remember what we have already studied about the word “body” meaning the physical substance of a thing, or else the very essence of the thing. It is the very substance of the flesh, or the very substance of the sins of the flesh, that has been cut off of the believer in Christ. Our sins, which were against us and stood so readily to condemn us, have been cut off from us and are now no longer attached to us in the least. Christ has cut them off. This is the reality that physical circumcision as practiced by Israel always did prefigure. Now, we enjoy this reality, and it is a far better thing than the original ritual. Moreover, it is “in Christ,” in Whom we are complete, that we receive this cutting off. Thus we can see what is meant by our “completeness in Christ” in the previous verse. If by being “in Him” we have been completely cut off from our flesh with its sinfulness, then we need no other ritual, we need no other religion, we need no other savior. Every sin from which we needed to be saved, we have been saved from by being “in Christ.” In Him, we are complete indeed, praise God!
New King James Version 12. buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
The Resultant Version 12. Having been buried together with Him in identification, wherein also you have been raised together through faith in the operation of God, Who raised Him from among the dead.
Next, we learn that we have been buried together with Him in baptism. Yet to imagine that this is something that happens while one goes through a water ceremony is foolish. Most people believe that the word “baptism” means a water ceremony that someone performs over you or on you. Yet this is not what a study of the word will reveal to us.
The word “baptism” is simply the Greek word baptismos. This is derived from the Greek verb bapto, which means “to dip.” This word may originally have meant “to dip,” but later it was taken up by the dyeing industry to describe what would happen when they took a white or light colored cloth and dipped it into the dye. Therefore, this word came to mean “to dye.” We can see both these meaning of “to dip” and “to dye” in the three occurrences of this word bapto in Scripture. In the first two the meaning of “to dip” is evident.
Luke 16:24. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”
The word “dip” here is the Greek word bapto. The rich man hoped Lazarus would dip his finger in water and then touch his tongue with it to cool his tongue.
John 13:26. Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
The first occurrence of “dipped” in this passage is the word bapto. The Lord dipped the piece of bread in the bitters that they were eating with the Passover meal. This did not make the bread taste better, like when we dip things in gravy or au jus, but the bitterness of the flavor was supposed to remind them of the bitterness of their slavery in Egypt. Unfortunately, Judas was not reminded of the mercy of God in bringing His people out of Egypt, even as Christ demonstrated that mercy once again by honoring him, the traitor, with this morsel.
Revelation 19:13. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Here the other meaning of bapto becomes clear, for it should be plain to us that the Lord was not wearing a robe that was dripping with blood. Bapto takes on its developed meaning here, and tells us that the Lord was clothed with a robe dyed in blood. Blood was a common dye in those days, and even now we must recognize this when we realize that blood will easily stain any cloth it comes in contact with. Thus the Lord was wearing a robe dyed in blood, or a blood-colored robe.
The word usually translated “to baptize” is the longer form of bapto, baptizo. This word developed, just like bapto did. Along the same lines as bapto, the word developed from the dyeing industry to speak of the dyeing of cloth. Yet it also from this usage took on the meaning of an identification resulting in a merger. This is what happens when a cloth is dipped in dye: from then on, the cloth and the dye are identified with each other and merged together. The cloth permanently on takes on the color of the dye. Now, it is no longer just a cloth, but it is a blue cloth, or a purple cloth, or a green cloth, or whatever color the dye was with which it was identified. Therefore, any identification that results in a merger could be called a “baptism.”
Perhaps the best illustration we can give from our own lives for the idea of a baptism is that of marriage. When a marriage takes place, two people who before were separate and distinct individuals come together and are identified with each other and merged into a single family. Sometimes, they are merged to the point where the woman even takes on the man’s name. Therefore, from the time they are married, these two are identified with each other and merged together.
So it is in baptism. When one is baptized with a thing, one is identified with that thing to the point one is considered to be merged with it. In the case of the believer of today, we are buried together with Jesus Christ in identification. Being identified and merged with Jesus Christ in His death, it can be considered that when He died, we died. As we pointed out earlier, if in time to come Satan, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), should bring any sort of accusation against us, claiming we do not deserve God’s eternal life and the many blessings we are promised “in Christ” because of the sins we committed which deserve death, we could point to Christ’s tomb and say, “No, I have already paid the penalty for those sins. Look! There I am, buried with Christ in His tomb. Therefore the penalty for my sins has been paid, and no further accusation can be leveled against me.” And to this Satan could have no answer. We are buried with Christ by identification with His death, and so when He died, we died.
We have also been raised together with Him. This means when He rose, we rose, and positionally we are even now seated with Him among the heavenly seats. This means our life to come is guaranteed to us, for in God’s sight we have already obtained it, and all that remains to happen is for Him to place us in the positions we already are predestined to occupy.
We have been raised together with Christ through faith in the operation of God, Who raised him from among the dead. It is when we believe in the God Who raised Christ from among the dead that we are placed “in Christ” and identified with Him in His death and resurrection. Thus we see that it is faith that makes the difference and allows us to be one of those who is “in Christ,” and to whom all the privileges of being in that position are granted. Thus we see the importance of faith. This is what God looks for from us, and with us corrupt, fallen sinners who have no righteousness of our own, it is our faith, as it was with Abraham (Romans 4:3,) that is accredited to us as righteousness.
New King James Version 13. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
The Resultant Version 13. You also, being dead in your offenses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made you alive jointly with Him, dealing graciously with all your trespasses,
Now Paul speaks of us, the believers in Christ today, further. We were dead in the offenses we had committed against God, and in the uncircumcision of our flesh. Yet the word “uncircumcision” is the Greek word akrobustia, and is an epithet that Israelites living in the land would often hurl against those ancestral Israelites who were living outside the land of Israel, and therefore were not capable of keeping all the ceremonies of the law in the temple, as required. The word literally means “foreskinners,” and was a crude and insulting way of hurling their unfortunate status in their faces. Remember, circumcision was not just the physical act even for Israel, but was a pledge to keep and follow all the law from then on. Those Jews outside the land who had taken this pledge could not fulfill it, as they could not do the things that necessitated being in the land, like visiting Jerusalem three times a year at the feasts, or dedicating their newborn babies at the temple. Therefore, the Jews in the land who could keep the law would hurl this epithet “foreskinners” against them, mocking their circumcision since they had not proven able to back it up.
Yet this said, we must admit that this epithet would really only have been meaningful to a Jew, an ancestral Israelite, who truly desired to please God and keep the law. A Gentile who never was under God’s law to Israel and was never asked to perform circumcision would not really have been affected by it. They were probably quite proud that they did not “mutilate” their young boys using that freakish Jewish ritual. To call one of them a “foreskinner,” then, would hardly be an appropriate insult. This epithet was generally used of Jews who were foreigners in Israel, not of Gentiles.
This would suggest to us, then, that Jews might largely be in mind throughout this passage. After all, they were the ones who generally did circumcise their children, so a new circumcision not made with hands would be of much more interest to them. They were the ones who were baptized by John and others, and so they would be interested in a new baptism, again not done by hands, but having to do with an identification resulting in a merger with Jesus Christ. And they were the ones who were dead in their offenses and the akrobustia of their flesh, since they lived as Jews and yet often offended against the law due to living their lives outside the land. This passage seems to be aimed at Israelites, and not at the common believer of today.
Yet this said, there can be no doubt but that these things apply to us as well. We are living in the same dispensation as the Colossians, and so these same things are true of us even if we are not Jews who believe. We are identified with Christ in His burial and resurrection. We are cut off from the substance of the sins of the flesh through our relationship with Him. And we too were dead in our sins, but have been made alive jointly with Him. These statements may have originally been intended for an audience other than us, but we can still learn from them, and discover from them glorious things which are true of us.
Now we read that we have been made alive jointly with Him. The word is suzoopoieo, and has the prefix “sun” attached to the front of the word zoopoieo, which means “to make alive.” Sun is the prefix used three times in Ephesians 3:6 to say that the nations are now joint-heirs, joint-bodies, and joint-partakers of His promise in Christ. In other words, though we have not personally died, as many other believers already have down through the ages, yet already we have been identified with Him in His death, and though we have not yet been resurrected we are also identified with Him in being made alive jointly together.
Moreover, God has dealt graciously with us in all our trespasses. This is not the word for “forgiving,” as the New King James has it, but it is charisamenos, related to charis or “grace.” God has dealt graciously with all our trespasses. As Ephesians 2:8 says, it is God’s grace that has saved us. It is not our faith that saves us, but God’s grace, which comes to us through faith. In other words, faith is the channel through which the grace flows to come to us and save us. Praise God for the marvelous gift of His grace!
New King James Version 14. having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The Resultant Version 14. Erasing the handwriting of the decrees that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the very midst, nailing it to the cross.
Next we read that He has erased the handwriting of the decrees that was against us. The point of “handwriting” here is that it was erasable, and Christ has erased it. Yet what were these decrees that were against us, these “requirements,” as the New King James Version has it? Is this speaking of the law, or of ritual and religion, that Christ has now taken out of the way and nailed to the cross?
We should notice here that the decrees being mentioned were against us and contrary to us. This decree, we might say, would be the true decree or indictment God could make against men. If God were to truly wish to indict us for who and what we are, He could easily do so. We read of God’s indictment against Adamkind in Romans 3, where Paul makes the case against us plain.
9. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10. As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11. There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12. They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13. “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14. “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15. “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16. Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17. And the way of peace they have not known.”
18. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
This decree was against us, as are many other such similar decrees throughout Scripture. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize the rightness of it. This decree is contrary to us, and by this decree, we might never be at peace with God. Yet though this decree was against us, Christ took it out of the midst. How did He do this? By nailing it to the cross.
When a criminal was nailed to a cross in those days, it was for the purpose, not just of executing him, but of doing it in such a way that it would discourage any others from doing similar crimes to his. We might say that the cross was an advertisement against rebellion against Rome and its laws. Crosses would almost always be erected beside main roads or thoroughfares into a city, so that all who passed by would see and fear to ever cross the Roman Empire. So that these passers-by might know for what reason this criminal was thus crucified, a placard with the nature of his crimes was typically nailed up over the head of the victim of crucifixion. That way, all could see and be discouraged from ever attempting such a crime in the future.
Now this tells us that the decrees God had against us were nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. We know that this was not nailed to the cross in the sight of men. To human sight, there was only the indictment against Him nailed up by Rome, which we know read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19) Yet in God’s sight there was far more nailed to the cross than that. The true indictment against us was nailed up there as well. Christ was not dying for any crime or sin He had committed, but for your sin and for my sin. God’s righteous decrees against us were nailed there, and Christ took them out of the midst, freeing us from their condemnation forever. That is why, even though we were dead in our offenses, we could be made alive in Christ. Praise God for His most gracious gift!
New King James Version 15. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
The Resultant Version 15. Having spoiled sovereignties and authorities, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Now we read that Christ spoiled principalities and authorities. He also made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross. The word “principalities” here is again the Greek word arche, and speaks of the first or chief rulers. “Authorities” is exousia, and speaks of those who have delegated authority.
We should be careful not to let our imaginations run away with us here. This does not say that these were heavenly chief rulers and delegated rulers. We all know that there are such rulers from Ephesians 6:12. Yet we should not allow this to color our thinking so that we forget that there are human principalities and powers as well, and this could just as well be speaking of them. There is no need to picture Christ somehow fighting demons with some invisible sword while He was hanging on the cross.
The fact is that there were many rulers who were involved in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. First of all were Israel’s corrupt religious leaders, the Sanhedrin, who condemned Christ to death when they had no real charges against Him. Then there were Roman rulers, like Herod and Pilate, who knew the Lord was innocent and yet who mistreated Him and eventually turned Him over to die anyway. These rulers not only condemned Christ to die, but also set a guard over His tomb after He was buried, sealing it up so that no one could enter and attempt to steal His body.
Yet in spite of the efforts of all these rulers, Christ rose from the dead. Their sentence of death against Him was reversed. Their schemes to attempt to keep Him in the tomb proved powerless. Christ rose from the dead, and by doing so made a public display of the corrupt rulers who had disregarded the law to put Him to death in the first place. That God disagreed with their condemnation of Christ was made clear by Him raising the Lord from the dead. That the leaders had unlawfully put Him to death was made clear by the proclaiming of the gospel. These rulers were subjected to public shame by the open display of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He did indeed triumph over them.
Might there also be some reference to heavenly principalities and authorities here? It could be so. Yet if so, we know nothing else about it, and really cannot speculate. No public display of defeated heavenly principalities and authorities was ever made on earth, and if such a display was made in heaven, then we do not know about it. We might as well limit our consideration to the earthly principalities and authorities that we actually know something about. Anything we might say about the heavenly rulers is just our speculation.