Complete in Christ
Key Text: Col. 2:3: “In whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
2:1 “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea.”
Laodicea was a great center of banking and finance (cf. Rev. 3:14-21). It was one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient world! When Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, they refused aid from the Roman empire and rebuilt the city from their own resources (cf. Tacitus, Annals, 14:27).
2:2 “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
Here Paul points to the unification in love that believers should have (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). “Attaining to all the wealth” is having a “true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
2:3 “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Without Christ – we have neither godly (true) wisdom nor godly knowledge,—which are the treasures. Only through Christ Himself do we have true understanding.
2:4 “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.”
“Delude.” From the compound Greek word, paralogizomai, meaning, deceive, beguile, reason falsely, mislead. The prefix is from para (alongside or contrary) and the second term is logizomai (logic, logical, take into account, come to a bottom-line, i.e. reason to a logical conclusion (decision) (cf. Thayer). Thus, paralogizomai—to reason contrary to truth, in a misleading (erroneous) way, to miscalculate, to reason falsely. The same word is used in James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
Paul’s point; even though the arguments seem to make sense or are reasonable, they are in the end, false. We should not be frustrated or surprised that our proclamation of a carpenter is God in the flesh, the Creator of all things, resurrected Savior, and that only in Him are hidden the all treasures of wisdom and knowledge; will be rejected by the unregenerate. They “love darkness” (John 3:19). “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Co. 1:18; cf. John 8:43, 47).
2:5-6 “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”
Paul is affirming that the fixed tradition that was delivered to the Colossians by Epaphras was indeed Christ-centered, which was focused on Jesus Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:9-13).
2:7 “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”
The three participles, “having being rooted,” “being built up,” and “established” belong together and reflect three different symbols:
- Having being rooted: The first participle “rooted” (perfect tense) indicates a solid condition on the part of the Colossian believers and refers “metaphorically” to horticulture.
- Being built up: The second participle “built up” (present passive) comes from the world of Architecture.
- Established: The third participle “established” (present passive) comes from the law courts.
With these three metaphors (as well as the following comment on “thankfulness”), Paul seems to be expressing his command to them: continue to live their lives in Christ. The passive tenses seems to indicate God’s active role in His working in them—“having been firmly rooted” them, having built them up, and having established their faith in Him.”
Similar to Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 theos gar estin ho energōn en humin [lit., ‘for God is the one energizing you’], both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
Here Paul is not arguing against the study of philosophy or critical thinking, but rather, the acceptance (or tolerance) of a philosophy that is in opposition of a proper view of Christ Jesus and the ethics of the Christian life.
“Through philosophy” – dia tēs philosophias (lit., “through the philosophy”). Note the article “the” (tēs) precedes “philosophy.” Paul speaks of a particular philosophy, the philosophy of the Gnostics—which rejects the idea of God becoming flesh. Additionally, this false philosophy is connected with “empty deceit.”
“Captive”- sulagōgōn, a compound word from sulōn, “a prey, victim” and agō, “carry off” – lexically, “to carry off like a predator with its prey,” “to make a victim by fraud.” Paul is warning the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive [or, carry off like a predator with its prey] through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
“According to the traditions of men.” Paul defines the kind of philosophy to which he is condemning.
2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” – hoti en autō katoikei pan to plērōma tēs theotētos sōmatikōs.
The Greek verb katoikei (“dwells”) is a present active indicative form of katoikeō.” The present tense indicates that the fullness of absolute Deity (theotētos) permanently and continuously dwells in “bodily form” (sōmatikōs)—thus contradicting further any idea of a cessation of the Son. Jesus created all things, in fact, all the fullness of the supreme Deity presently, continuously, and permanently dwells in bodily form.
Due to a prior theological comment, the lexical semantic (viz. the meaning in its original significance) of the Greek term theotētos (“Deity”) is denied by unitarians (esp. Muslims and JWs). However, note some academic sources defining the meaning of the term in this passage:
Joseph B. Lightfoot: “The totality of the divine powers and attributes.”
Richard C. Trench: “All the fullness of absolute Godhead . . . He was, and is, absolute and perfect God.”
John A. Bengal: “Not merely [to] the Divine attributes, but [to] the Divine Nature itself.”
C. G. Moule: “As strong as possible; Deity, not only Divinity”;
Robert Reymond: “The being of the very essence of deity”
Benjamin B. Warfield: “The very deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness.”
The syntactical meaning cannot be denied. The deity of Christ was a constant theme in the Pauline corpus. The Christ that Paul preached was fully and absolutely God and fully and absolutely man—the two natured person.
He was so fixed on the deity of Christ that he implicitly and explicitly asserted it in virtually every one of his epistles (cf. Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8 [see 1 Sam. 15:29; and Acts 7:1-2]; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13.
Paul also applies OT passages referring to YHWH yet applies them to Christ. For example, Paul cites Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13 seeing Christ as the Lord (viz., the YHWH of Joel 2:32) whose “name” (i.e., power/authority) one must call upon to be saved. Same with his reference of Isaiah 45:23 in Philippians 2:10-11 where Paul sees Christ as the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23, before whose name (authority/power) every knee will bow and every tongue confess.
2:10 “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority…”
Only in Christ, our peace, our God, our Savior, and our Lord are we complete. All that is necessary for our salvation is found in Him. The grace of Christ, sustains us and strengthens us through the trials of life (cf. Rom. 8:18, 39).
Paul’s purpose in his letter to the Colossians was to present a sharp refutation to the very heart of the Gnostic idea by clearly presenting that: (a) Jesus Christ provided redemption, (the forgiveness of sins), by His substitutionary infallible cross work—“having made peace through the blood of His cross” (cf. 1:14–22), (b) He was the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17), (c) He was God in the flesh (cf. 2:9), and (d) only in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). He is the “Lord of Glory” through whom we have spiritual completion and life everlasting (cf. Rom 5:1; 8:1; Eph. 3: 20-21).