For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
The Gnostic error which St. Paul seems to be opposing was twofold. It denied that all the fulness of the Godhead resided in Christ, teaching that, while the highest effluence of that fulness was in him, other effluences which completed it were distributed through the angels, in descending gradations of being. At the same time, in its abhorrence of matter, it refused to believe that so much divinity as it allowed to Christ could dwell in a human earthly body, and, accordingly, it favoured the absurd idea that what men saw of Christ was a phantom appearance, not a real man. In reply to this twofold error, St. Paul teaches that all the fulness of the Godhead is in Christ, and that this dwells in him bodily.
I. CHRIST IS FULLY DIVINE. The fulness of the Godhead is in Christ. Wherein this fulness consists is an infinite mystery. We must be omniscient to measure and sound its contents. But we see glimpses of parts of it, rays of divinity breaking out here and there. And all that we see is in Christ. There is no known characteristic of divinity which is not ascribed to Christ in the New Testament, from creation (Colossians 1:16) to judgment (Acts 10:42) and the final restitution of all things (Ephesians 1:10).
1. In this fact is the essential difference between the divinity of Christ and God's dwelling in the temple of the heart of good men. In men he dwells partially. They can hold but a small part of God's nature, and they do not give up the whole of their hearts for that. Christ is wholly filled with the whole of God.
2. This fact helps us to escape from the idea of two or three separate gods. It is the one infinite God who works in creation, and rules in heaven, and pleads with our spirits, and dwells fully in Christ. Christ is perfectly Divine, because the one God dwells perfectly in him. Thus when we worship God and Christ we are not worshipping two beings, but the one God in Christ. Therefore, also, all that we see and know of Christ is so much revelation of God. To be in sympathy with Christ is to be reconciled to God.
II. GOD IS INCARNATE IN CHRIST. The fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ in a bodily way. "The Word was made flesh." Some have thought to make this fact seem impossible by absurd representations, which go on the assumption that an infinite God cannot enter a finite being without ceasing to be infinite. How he can do so we cannot understand. This is not a subject that admits of being rationalized. But dogmatic objectors may be reminded that it is their teaching which sets a limit to the infinite by proclaiming its inability to enter fully a finite being. Does not the infinity of God involve, not the distribution of innumerable parts through all space, but presence of him wholly in every region of the universe? Why, then, cannot he manifest his presence in a peculiar way in one being? Moreover, if God, who is always infinite, can dwell in man at all, that fact is a mystery which seems to foreshadow the greater mystery of his full dwelling in Christ. The humanity of Christ is real and pure and perfect humanity, and God who dwells in him is still perfect God. This is very different from the metamorphosis of a God into a man that is described in heathen mythologies. It is to be practically learnt from this Christian mystery
(1) that God is now very near to us in a brother man;
(2) that we can be raised to God and become one with Christ and God through Christ's oneness with us and God (John 17:23). - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.