My special verse for this holy season has been, “For in Christ, all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9) For me, the musical flow, the cadences of the King James Version, makes it all the more wonderful: “For in Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.”
The fullness of Deity. The fullness of the Godhead. What can this mean but that everything Christ Jesus is, God is? And everything God is, Christ Jesus is? Jesus is not merely a vague reflection of God, a hint, a signpost. God’s fullness, though “veiled in flesh” is in him. And the wonder deepens when we say this fullness dwells “bodily.” He is God living for a season on this earth as man – the God/Man.
When one dips an empty glass container into the Pacific Ocean until every cubic inch is submerged and then draws it out, the container contains the fullness of the ocean. What is in the container is identical to what is in the ocean. No element is left out. In other words, the Apostle is attesting that all of God is fully present in Christ Jesus.
The New Testament repeatedly makes this claim. “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). He is the embodiment, the representation, the complete likeness to the God we cannot see with our human eyes. Writing of our Lord’s existence before all time, John says, “…the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). But that would be of little help to us if he did not add, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). He came bodily.
The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) attests him as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…” But it also affirms that, “he was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man….”
The early church made deliberate effort to encapsulate this great wonder of incarnation in human language. Another creedal statement says that he was as much God as though he had never been man, and as much man as though he had never been God.
Jesus made such claims for himself. In answer to Philip’s perplexity he said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” and then asked, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:9,10).
When unbelieving Jews challenged him about his claims he did not back away. He announced, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means more than one in purpose; it means one in being. They share in the godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It’s that word “bodily” that rings in my ears. The incarnation of God in Christ has forever been an unfathomable mystery to the church but at the same time an article of deep faith, a truth to be embraced, however incompletely understood. He took up human residence in our world.
His purpose in coming was clear: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….” (2 Cor. 5:19). In Christ, the Son of the Father came to earth bodily; he ministered to human suffering and bondage bodily; he identified with the pain of our fallenness bodily; he yielded himself up to a barbaric instrument of torture bodily. And all of this was to pay our sin debt, overcome our rebellious hearts, and win us back to God.
And the cap sheaf of it all is that when he had completed his earthly mission he ascended back to the glory of the Father bodily (Acts 1:9). Think of what that promises for our resurrection!
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Photo credit: Ryan (via flickr.com)