“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form …” (Colossians 2:9)
We encounter now two of the most powerful statements in all of Scripture. We will consider the first here in verse 9.
First the facts and details: Paul is gives the reason (“For”) for the warning just sounded (v.8). The familiar and meaning-packed expression “in Him” follows next, being emphatic by being thrust forward in the clause (i.e., “in Him and in Him alone”). The personal pronoun (“Him”) refers to Christ (v.8), the last word of the previous verse. Paul now builds upon the Christological focus already so thoroughly laid down in the letter (1:15-20). What is “in Him”? It is nothing less than “all the fullness of Deity”! The noun “Deity” is used only here in the NT and is employed as an abstract noun for (“God”). There is thus a distinction to be made between our word here and the one used in Romans 1:20 (rendered “divine nature”). Our word speaks of the Divine essence as opposed to simply the attributes of Deity. “They were no mere ways of divine glory which gilded Him lighting up His person for a season and w[ith] a splendor not His own; but He was and is absolute and perfect God.” (Rienecker, 573) The article makes definite just what Paul is speaking of with regard to Deity: “the fullness.” This same noun has just been used in Colossians 1:19 where Paul says it was the Father’s “good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” Paul more specifically designates just what this fullness is in our present passage. Once again the article makes definite that of which he speaks. It describes the sum total, fullness, or even the super abundance of something (BAGD, 672). In this case it is the completeness of Deity which resides in its fullness in Jesus Christ. But Paul’s description of Christ is not yet sufficient, for he makes clear that it is “all” the fullness of Deity which resides in Jesus Christ. When used with a singular noun that is accompanied by the definite article (as here) it conveys the meaning of “the whole” or “all” of that which it qualifies (BAGD, 630). Thus it “means ‘all the fullness’ or ‘the entire fullness,’ no element of the fullness being excepted.” (Harris, 98) Yet even here, Paul’s statement regarding Christ is not done, for he adds that this fullness is found in Christ “in bodily form.” This adverb too is used only here in the NT. It designates that which is corporeal, tangible, touchable, and physical. In this way, with a great economy of words, Paul emphasizes both the complete Deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. God Himself took to Himself a human body and lived a fully human life on this earth.
Thus notice the ever-expanding and all-encompassing scope of the Apostle’s assertion: Jesus Christ possesses “Deity.” Yet He possesses not just “Deity,” but “the fullness of Deity.” And it is not just “the fullness of Deity,” but “all the fullness of Deity.” Even this, however, is not the end, for He possesses not just “all the fullness of Deity,” but “all the fullness of Deity in bodily form”!
This fullness of Deity “dwells” in Christ. While this verb is forty-four times in the NT, only three of those uses are by Paul. Twice here in Colossians he employs it to speak of Deity dwelling in Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9). The other is a reference to Christ dwelling in us (Eph. 3:17). Here the present tense indicates that this is an ongoing state that continues in real time. From the moment of conception onward and forever the fullness of Deity has dwelt continuously in the body of Jesus. Even after His death, resurrection and glorification, Jesus Christ remains—continuously—the God-man, both fully God and fully man.
In thus stating the facts Paul, with an amazing brevity of words and succinctness of expression, wards off many of the great errors regarding Christ that have arisen over the centuries.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!