Summary: The deception argued that Christ is but one of many supernatural rulers and that they received wisdom and knowledge from sources other than Christ. It further claimed that Christians are incomplete and will only be made complete if they submit to the rules received from God through other supernatural rulers.
Paul countered that in Christ, that is, in a personal trust-relationship with Him, Christians are already complete through His protection and guidance, because in Christ dwells the fullness of Deity; all supernatural rulers have been made by Him and are subject to Him. Christ is God’s only Means of grace and truth.
2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
These two verses may perhaps the core of this letter, containing two principles, which is really a single principle.
All the fullness of Deity – The first principle, in 2:9, is that nothing exists outside Christ. Much of this letter up to this point has been devoted to this message:
He is the image of the invisible God (1:15). He created everything (1:16). He is before all things (1:17). He holds all things together (1:17). He has the first place in everything (1:18). All fullness dwells in Him (1:19). Through Him God reconciles all things to Himself (1:20). He is God’s mystery (2:2). In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3). He is the head over all rule and authority (2:10)
Notice the frequent use of “all”, “everything” and “first”. These words exclude the possibility of anything existing independent of Christ. Rather, everything that exists is dependent on Him.
Have been made complete – The second principle, in 2:10, is that Christians “have been made complete” “in Him”. It does not say that they will be made complete, or that they may be complete, but that they already have been made complete. This principle has already been briefly mentioned in 1:28, where Paul wrote:
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” (1:28)
But it will be shown below that the verses that are to follow (2:11-15) will particularly elaborate on the concept that Christians have already been made complete:
- Through circumcised made without hands (2:11);
- Through baptism, in which they were buried and raised up with Him (2:12);
- Because they have been “made … alive together with Him” (2:13).
- Because all their transgressions have been forgiven (2:13).
The first principle in 2:9 is therefore about Christ while the second principle in 2:10 is about Christians, but these two principles are related. If “all the fullness of Deity” did not dwell in Christ (2:9), then it would have been possible for Christians to be made complete through knowledge or powers outside of Christ (1:10). But since “all the fullness of Deity” dwells in Christ, the only way in which Christians can be made complete is in Him.
This link between the two principles is also reflected in the Greek text. The Greek word translated “complete” (2:10) is a perfect passive participle of the word translated “fullness” (2:9 plerōma). Christians “have been made complete” “in Him” (2:10) because “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (2:9).
In Him – This phrase is used in both verses. Phrases such as “in Him” and “with Him” are used at least six times in 2:8-14. In both 1:28 and 2:10 Christians have been made complete “in Him”. The mysterious relationship between Christ and Christians is also reflected in the description of the church as “His body” (1:24); Christ is the “head” of the “body” (2:19). This is a symbolic representation of the relationship between Christ and His followers. They put their trust in Him and He protects, guides and teaches them. He makes them “complete”.
Rule and Authority (2:10) – In Paul’s letters “rulers and authorities” generally refer to supernatural beings. In Ephesians, which Paul wrote more or less at the same time as Colossians, they are “in the heavenly realms” (3:10, 11; 6:12). “… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Peter also refers to “authorities and powers” in “heaven” (1Pet. 3:21, 22).
Colossians does not explicitly state that the “rulers and authorities” are supernatural beings, but it is implied. They are “in the heavens and on earth” (1:16). They were “disarmed” through the “cross” (2:14-15), but it would be difficult to argue that earthly rulers were disarmed through the cross. Earthly rulers delight in the cross. A clear reference to supernatural beings in Colossians is the statement that the deception included “the worship of the angels” and visions (2:18). Visions are received via angels (Rev. 1:1). See below for the verses in the New Testament that refer to rulers and authorities.
For – The current verses (2:9-10) start with the word “for”. This links these verses to what was said earlier. It contrasts the “fullness” of Christ and the completeness of Christians with the “empty deception” (2:8). This same contrast is indicated by the words “I say this so that no one will delude you” (2:4). The point is that what Paul wrote was the opposite of the Colossian deception, which means that the deception denied the two main principles in 2:9-10:
Firstly, it informed the Colossian Christians that they are incomplete. We also see this elsewhere in the letter: It took away their “full assurance” (2:2) by judging them (2:16) for not abiding by the “decrees” (2:20) of the supernatural beings for the “severe treatment of the body” (2:23), such as “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (2:21).
Secondly, it claimed a supernatural source for its message, but it denied Christ as God’s only Means of grace and truth. It claimed that Christ is only one of many “rule and authority” (2:10). The words quoted from 2:4 indicate that it denied that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are to be found in Christ (2:3), which means that “wisdom and knowledge” are available from sources other than Christ.
It logically follows that it claimed that Christians can be “made complete” apart from Christ; by complying with the Colossian “philosophy”.
Paul rejects these claims by stating that nothing exists outside Christ, that Christ “is the head over all Rule and Authority” (2:10) and that in Christ, that is, in a personal trust-relationship with Him, Christians are already complete through His protection and guidance.
Rulers and Authorities in Scripture
Below are the references to Rulers and Authorities in Scripture, other than in Colossians. In Titus 3:1-2 it refers to earthly rulers:
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…“
In Romans 8:38, 39 it may refer to both earthly and heavenly rulers:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord“.
But in most instances it seems clear that it refers to heavenly rulers:
“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1Cor. 15:24).
“… he raised him (Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion“ (Eph. 1:19-21).
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms …” (Eph. 3:10, 11)
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
“… Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand –with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1Pet. 3:21, 22).
Rulers and authorities are often depicted as forces that oppose Christ. Our struggle is against them (Eph. 6:12), but in the end they will be made to submit to Christ (1Pet. 3:21, 22) and be destroyed (1Cor. 15:24).
Colossians Table of Contents