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Sun, Jul 03, 2011

19 - The Deity of Christ [b]

Colossians 1:18 by Robert Dean
The deity of Christ is not some abstract doctrine, or interesting curiosity within Christianity. The deity of Christ is necessary. If Jesus was not fully God, then He could not have paid for our sins, and nothing else about Christianity matters. Many cults and non-Christian religions reject the deity of Christ. How would you support the deity of Christ from the Bible? In this lesson you will learn more about the significance of Christ's deity. You will also learn three Old Testament passages and three New Testament passages you can use to demonstrate the undiminished deity of Christ.
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:52 mins 58 secs

The Deity of Christ. Colossians 1:18

 

Colossians 1:18 NASB "He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. [19] For it was the {Father's} good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him."

Paul continues with the focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. The focus began in emphasizing the sufficiency of Christ in v. 15. We have to truly have to understand who Jesus is and that, in turn, impacts how we trust Him for everything in our lives. In vv. 16, 17 He is the one who created all things and by Him all things are sustained. Then in v. 18 Paul says beyond His sufficiency as creator He is also the head of the body, the church. So He is sufficient as creator and for us as Christians He is our head; He is the authority, and His authority is always connected to His care and concern and nurture of those who are under His authority.

What verse 18 is talking about in terms of Christ's preeminence is His hypostatic union, the fact that as a creature now—deity joined with humanity—He is elevated above the angels, above everything, so that now seated at the right hand of God the Father we have Jesus Christ in the session, awaiting the next step in God's plan for Him which is to return for the church at the Rapture. Then, after the Tribulation, He will be given the kingdom.

Paul is going to explain something about this in v. 19: "For it was the {Father's} good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." That first word "for" gives us a real clue to the meaning here because in the Greek text it is the word hoti [o(ti], which indicates something related to either expanding on a point or giving the cause or the ground of a statement just made. So in v. 19 Paul gives the basis for stating everything in v. 18. It is because of His deity. Within Him—He is not just a man—is all the fullness of deity.

When we get into this verse there are some translation problems. It is difficult to translate from the Greek. There are three key words. The first is the verb eudokeo [e)udokew], which means to be pleased. It is accurately translated but the difficulty is the grammar. It is an aorist active indicative (aorist means it is a simple past; it is summarizing a past event); in this case, some time in the past it pleased. It is an active voice, but there is no statement of the subject who performs the action of the verb. The two words "the Father" are not in the original. It is a word that is active in its grammatical sense but it is hard for us to state this as a past without making it sound something like a passive, e.g. the Father was pleased. The second word that is important is at the end of the sentence, and this is the word that is translated "dwell," which is a fine translation. It is the Greek word katoikeo [katoikew] which means to live somewhere, to dwell, to inhabit. This is an aorist active infinitive. The problem with this is that grammatically when there is this kind of a construction with this particular word eudokeo the next phrase, "all the fullness," would be taken as the subject. That really doesn't translate well into English. So the grammatical issue here is that with using the verb eudokeo plus an infinitive the phrase "all the fullness" would appear to be the subject of the verb to please. That would mean something along the lines of "for all the fullness was pleased that in Him should dwell." It doesn't make a lot of sense. "All the fullness is really a sort of circumlocution. It is speaking about the full essence of God, and we see this at the end of this section in Colossians 2:9 where again Paul states this but in a more expanded way: NASB "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."

In 1:19 down through 2:9 there is what appears to be an inclusion, i.e. a section where something is stated at the beginning and something almost identical is stated at the end which ties everything in between together in one package. What Paul is doing here is emphasizing the significance of the deity of Christ: that He is not only sufficient, vv. 15-18, but in this section he is going to develop this aspect of His exclusivity, or the necessity that Jesus and Jesus alone can do this. The reason that Jesus alone can do this is because He is fully God. And only one who is fully God can provide and supply everything for us.  When we look at this statement where all the fullness was pleased to dwell in Him the phrase "all the fullness," based on looking at Colossians 2:9, is simply a way of expressing all that God is—all of His attributes, all of His essence. So what Paul states in a sense a little bit cryptically in verse 19 he expands on fully by time he gets to 2:9 and that is that Jesus possesses all of the attributes of deity in Himself.

When we look at the essence of God we frequently indicate 10 attributes. Others use other combinations of attributes that have been used by various theologians but this is a good summation which pretty much covers everything related to the essence of God. All of these attributes are not restricted, they are all infinite. These ten attributes are sovereignty, righteousness, justice, love, eternal life, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, veracity. These attributes are fully and completely shared by each person of the Trinity; they are one in essence and three in person. What this says and what the Scriptures teach is that Jesus is fully and equally God.

It is important for us to know that Jesus is God, not just because it is this abstract doctrine but because the weight of the New Testament is on this truth. Passages to prove the deity of Christ: a) in the Old Testament, the Davidic covenant in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 where God promised to David that he would have an heir that would sit on his throne forever. There is that concept of eternity; only God is eternal, so only a divine person could sit on David's throne forever. It is an eternal throne over an eternal kingdom; b) expanding on that, Isaiah 9:6 NASB "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [lit. Father of Eternity], Prince of Peace." How can a child who is born not be God if He is going to be called "Mighty God?" "Father of Eternity" is a Hebrew idiom meaning He is eternal. The Son who is born doesn't get His beginning at His birth; He is eternal. Then verse 7 ties right back to the Davidic covenant: NASB "There will be no end to the increase of {His} government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore…"; c) Micah 5:2 NASB "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity."

In the New Testament there are three key passages, one of which is the one we are looking at in Colossians. John 1:1-3 where John locates Jesus' origin in eternity. NASB "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." John doesn't start with the humanity of Jesus as Matthew, Mark and Luke do, he starts with His eternality. The phrase "In the beginning was the Word" connects to first phrase in Genesis chapter one, "In the beginning." It is specifically referencing a beginning of something—the beginning of time and the beginning of history. The idea in the Greek—en arche [e)n a)rxh]. Often in the Greek when there is a preposition attached to a noun it takes the place of an article. Also the noun "beginning" is an absolute so it doesn't require an article to be definite. So it is specifically talking about "at the time that time began." Then it uses the verb eimi [e)imi] in an imperfect sense, which is continuous action; and the force of it is that the Word already was existing and continuing in existence. 

Then we have "and the Word was with God." The word eimi here is what is called an equative verb. Just like "is" in English, what is on one side of the "is" equals the other side, and so the Word = God; God = the Word. Then, "He was in the beginning with God," so He was there at creation (Colossians 1:16), and then "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being"—again, Colossians 1:16. But who is this Word. John 1:14 NASB "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The word that is translated there "became flesh" is the idea of something that moves from state to another, something new happened; He was already in existence and something new came into existence, and that is the addition of flesh. That idea of the incarnation is further developed in Philippians 2, so in the New Testament we go to John 1, Philippians 2, Colossians 1, and then if we want to add something else we add Hebrews 1.

Philippians 2:6 NASB "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." The word "form" in the Greek is the word morphe [morfh]. In English when something changes it morphs. It goes back to philosophic thought in Greek and it has to do not with the shape of something but with the internal essence of something. What Paul is saying here is that Jesus was in the very essence of God but He didn't consider it something to be grabbed hold of and held on to out of desperation. That is the idea. What was the temptation for Eve and Adam in the garden? If you eat of the fruit you will be like God. She grabbed for it. Jesus is God and He is not grabbing for it; that is the contrast that Paul is making here. He is God but He is not holding on to it out of desperation, He is willing to relinquish the utilization of His divine attributes. That is the point of [7] "but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men." He made Himself of no reputation… coming in the "likeness"—another word that is important, it relates to a physical structure, form, a man. So He is essentially God but He adds to Himself humanity. [8] "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." That is what humility is; humility is saying I have every right to something but I'm not going to exercise that right. For the purpose of a greater goal and a higher objective I am going to relinquish that right. Now what this is saying is that Jesus freely relinquished the utilization of His divine attributes for the purpose of demonstrating obedience to God in His humanity. It doesn't say that Jesus never functioned in His divine attributes; He did. He changed the water into wine, healed the blind man, and other things, but He never did those things to solve His own personal problems. Whenever He had personal challenges in life He relied upon God and the Scriptures to demonstrate that is how we are to do it as human beings. He only pierced that firewall to His deity on occasion in order to demonstrate that He was who He claimed to be, i.e. God in the flesh. Therefore, as a result of His humility: Philippians 2:9 NASB "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name."

So what we see when we look at the Scripture is that there is a prophecy from the Old Testament in the Davidic covenant, Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2 that there is one coming who will be fully God. In the New Testament we see that this is Jesus. He is born in Bethlehem, He is the one who is God from all eternity past; He is God; He was with God, and He is the creator of all things. The statement that Paul makes in Colossians 1:19 that in Him all the fullness dwells is important, because only as God could Jesus do verse 20: "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven." This brings us to the doctrine of reconciliation. Because the fullness of God dwells in Him God reconciles all things to Himself. If Jesus isn't God reconciliation, which is connected to forgiveness, can't happen. Jesus is the only one who can provide that. Nothing or no one else can resolve the problem that exists between God and man.

So the deity of Christ isn't just some secondary idea that somehow popped up in human history and is one of those abstract things. If there is no divine Jesus, a fully divine Jesus from all eternity, we don't have reconciliation with God: no forgiveness with God, no eternal life; we have nothing. The doctrine of the deity of Christ is central, and what Paul is going to do with this is build the message of Colossians to challenge us to walk consistently with Christ and to let the fullness of the Word of God richly dwell within us.