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1. The term Fulness Of God is evidently a theological one, and is borrowed from a vocabulary familiar to those to whom the Epistle was written. When we ask what precisely it signified on their lips, we are left to a certain extent to conjecture. We know what it meant in the later system of the Gnostics, in which it played an important part. But we are dealing with a period antecedent to that heresy, a period when ideas that afterwards attained to a full-blown activity were as yet in germ only. And while the intellectual forces that were then shaping men's thoughts, whether from Jewish, Greek, or Oriental sources, all tended in one direction, and imparted a certain similarity to the religious speculations of thinking men of all schools, —it is not so much to the influence of Greek thought that we are to look for the explanation of this term that was in use among the churches at Colosse, as to the ideas that had grown up under the later Judaism on the soil of the Hebrew religion. The Essenes shared the view of God that we find in the Old Testament Scriptures, where He is represented as a Being possessed of a fulness of life that is manifested in the innumerable forms of created being that stand around the throne to fulfil the behests of Jehovah. But later Judaism, speculating on the Infinitude of God,— influenced, doubtless, also by the feeling that has its roots in the religious consciousness, of the distance between God and man, and the difficulty of direct access to the Almighty, —had concentrated its regards exclusively on the complex of forces and beings that issued from God, and that constituted His "Fulness." The Divine Being Himself was contemplated as inaccessible except through the beings that filled up the gulf between the Infinite and the Finite, into whom He poured forth the fulness of His life and energy: only in communion with them, and by following the Ideal of the spiritual life, unfettered by the flesh, which they presented, could men have communion with God, or become partakers of His Life. We can understand what an immense stimulus such views would give to the cultus of angels, which was practised by those whose errors this Epistle was written to combat, and which we know from other sources was a feature of Jewish worship at that time.1

We do not know what precisely was the place assigned to Christ by those who had engrafted this speculation on their faith, but He could be only one of this multitude of intermediate beings, possessing but a fraction of the "Fulness" of God that was distributed among them all. And very soon He would be lost sight of altogether amid the hierarchy of Celestial Beings. All this was directly subversive of the Christian faith, and was contradicted by the consciousness of the life of God, and of direct fellowship with Him, which the believer owed to Christ. The perfection of our religious state and standing was incompatible with any place other than that of supremacy being assigned to its Author—with any endowment of Him by the Spirit that fell short of the very Fulness of God. Hence Paul proclaims that that " Fulness" of the Divine life, which false teachers had said was distributed among the Many, was concentrated and had its home in One, "in Christ," "in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell." 8 In a passage further on8 he repeats the expression, adding the words "in a bodily form," claiming for the perfect

1 "The worship of angels was assuredly a widely spread Jewish habit of mind at this time: the Epistle to the Hebrews shows how prevalent it was where there is no sign of what we should call a philosophy" (Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 122). Baldensperger has some striking remarks on this feature of the religious thinking of that age, on the prying curiosity of devout people into the secrets of the spiritual world, which grew as men felt the mystery that surrounded the Divine Existence. "Is it not," he exclaims, "as if, in the measure in which God withdrew behind the thick clouds, the Heavenly world for a moment disclosed itself to the longing heart of man, and made known to them its secrets?" {Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, p. 51).

5 Col. i. 19. 3 Col. ii. 9.

Humanity of Christ a participation in the Divine Fulness, and a fitness to receive from God, and to communicate to us, all of God and of His Life that can be communicated and received.1 And this in opposition to those who exalted the angelic nature above the human as the proper organ of Divinity.

The term then, in its origin, or as used by the theosophists of Colosse, may be metaphysical or not; in the mouth of the apostle it expresses a religious truth, a truth of reflection based on religious experience, the truth learnt in communion with the Risen Lord, that in Him there is a full endowment of life by the Spirit of God that answers to all the religious needs of human nature. It is as the embodied organ of the Spirit of God that He is called His " Fulness "; and the apostle is here putting into fresh language, language borrowed from speculations then in vogue, the conception of Christ as the "Life-giving Spirit," that from the beginning was so fundamental with him. The most cursory reader of the Epistle to the Colossians must have been struck by the fact that there is scarcely any mention in it of the Spirit of God,2 a fact that seems unaccountable in a writing which professes to be Paul's. But the explanation is that other terms are employed to express the idea; and this term " Fulness of God" is one of them. The simple word "Spirit" would have failed to set forth what the apostle meant now to teach: that there is in Christ that totality or manifoldness of Divine energies and spiritual qualities which false teachers said had been distributed among a host of created intelli

1 In Eph. iii. 19 we learn that Christ is the "Fulness" of the Divine life to us, in so far as He is Love, and makes us partakers of the love of God "that ye may know the love of Christ, and might be filled with all the fulness of God." This idea of Christ being the plentitude of the moral attributes of God, especially of Love, distinguished Paul's conception of the " Divine Fulness " from that of the false teachers.

'It occurs only once, i. 8,

gences. What required to be insisted upon was, not only that Christ was the organ of the Spirit of God, but the organ of the Spirit in the manifoldness of His gifts, powers, operations,—the perfect type of humanity in whom converges every grace and function that is needed for the purpose of His coming, which is the complete redemption of man. In magnifying the endowment of the Servant of the Lord for his office, the prophet Isaiah had said, " the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord" (Isa. xi. 2). It is this all-inclusive endowment of spiritual gift and Divine qualities in relation to the wants of men that the apostle ascribes to Christ when he speaks of Him as the "Fulness of God"; and the expression certainly conveys to us a profound impression of His inexhaustible value for the religious life of men.1

2. He is also designated in this Epistle, the IMAGE OF The Invisible God {elKwv Tov Oeov Tov aopdrov, i. 15). The phrase is found in Philo's writings, and is applied by him to the Logos,—the principle of self-manifestation and self-communication in the Godhead. But although a philosophical term, it is used by the apostle not to teach anything about the metaphysical nature of Deity, but to set forth a religious truth regarding the Exalted Christ. It is evident from the context that in speaking of Jesus, the Son of God's love, " as the Image of the Invisible God," he is not predicating anything of His Preincarnate Being. He means to differentiate Him from others who may be spoken of in a secondary sense as sons of God, in so far as they exhibit a certain degree of resemblance to God, or separate

1 The vision of Christ in the Apocalypse as having the Seven Spirits of God (Rev. iii. 1), conveys much the same idea as the apprehension of Him as the " Fulness of God," and brings Christ before us as the Giver of the Spirit in the sevenfold perfectness of His operations•

features of likeness to Him. Christ is the Son, because He is the Image or perfect embodiment, the complete revelation, of the hidden nature of God. This holds, in the absolute sense, only of Him as Exalted. Only in Christ thus perfected and glorified do we behold the very Image of God, the perlect expression in a form apprehensible by our faculties of the Divine nature, which must otherwise have remained hid from us. This truth is also taught, as we have seen, by Paul in 2 Cor. iv. 4, where Christ's glory is said to consist in His being the Image of God; but occurring in the Epistle to the Colossians, where the characteristic description of Christ is that He is the Fulness of God, it receives additional meaning, and points more unmistakably to a something in Him that raises Him above all others.

There is nothing indeed in these expressions, as applied to Christ, that is inconsistent with His Archetypal relation to mankind, for the peculiarity of His Person which they set forth is declared to be transferable in measure to His people. If He is the Son and Image of the Invisible God, we also are sons, and are called to imitate the perfections of our Heavenly Father; if He is the " Fulness of God," His believing people are also spoken of as the " Fulness of God." In connection, however, with this transference to His people of what is distinctive of Christ, there are two things to be remembered. On the one hand, what they have in common with Him is derived from Him, and is theirs only through their organic connection with Him. It is through their union with Him who is the " Son " and "Image" of God, that they are sons and share in God's image. It is because they are in the first instance so related to Christ as to be in a true sense His " Fulness," that they in their turn are called the "Fulness of God." And on the other hand, this participation by His people ol Christ's distinctive Being is only a partial participation of that which He possesses in its integrity. No individual

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