Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
The word pleroma, "fulness," is used in a definite and almost technical sense in the Epistles of the Captivity, and especially in the Epistle to the Colossians, having clear reference to the speculations as to the Divine Nature and the emanations from it, already anticipating the future Gnosticism. The word itself is derived from a verb signifying, first, to "fill"; next (more frequently in the New Testament), to "fulfil" or complete. It is found(1) in a physical sense of the "full contents" of the baskets, in Mark 6:43; Mark 8:20; and of the earth, in 1 Corinthians 10:26-28; and in Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21, it is applied to the patch of new cloth on an old garment. It is used next(2) of fulness, in sense of the "complete tale or number," "of time" and "seasons," in chap. Ephesians 1:10; Galatians 4:4; of the Jews and Gentiles in Romans 11:12, 25. In the third place(3) it is applied to the full essence, including all the attributes, of a thing or Person; as of the Law (Romans 13:10), and of the blessing of Christ (Romans 15:29). Lastly(4), in these Epistles it is applied, almost technically, to the fulness of the Divine Nature. Thus in Colossians 1:19 we have, "It pleased the Father that in Christ all the fulness" — i.e., all the fulness of the Divine Nature — "should dwell"; or (to take an admissible but less probable construction), "In Him all the fulness is pleased to dwell"; and this is explained in chap. Ephesians 2:9, "In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Similarly, though less strikingly, we read in this Epistle, that those who are in Christ are said (in Galatians 3:19; Galatians 4:13) "to be filled up to all the fulness of God," and "to come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." In which of these last senses is the Church here said to be the "fulness of Christ"? If in any, probably in the last of all. As the individual, so the Church, by the presence of Him who filleth up all things for Himself in all, comes to be "His fulness," the complete image of Him in all His glorified humanity. But it may be questioned whether it is not better to take here a different sense, corresponding to the "patch" in Matthew 9:16, and signifying the "complement." In the original Greek of Euclid (in book 1, prop. 4), the cognate word, parapleroma, is used of "the complements." In this compound word the idea is, no doubt, more unequivocally expressed. But of the simple word here employed it may be reasonably contended that, if one thing or person alone is contemplated, the pleroma must be the fulness of the one nature: if, as here, two are brought in, each will be the "complement" to the other — as the patch to the garment; and the garment to the patch. So here (says ) "the complement of the head is the body, and the complement of the body is the head." Thus, by a daring expression, St. Paul describes our Lord as conceiving His glorified humanity incomplete without His Church; and then, lest this should seem to derogate, even for a moment, from His dignity, He adds the strongest declaration of His transcendent power. "to fill up for Himself all things in all," in order to show that we are infinitely more incomplete without Him than He without us.
(A. Barry, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.