1 Kings 15; Colossians 2; Ezekiel 45; Psalms 99–101
THE SETTING WAS A Bible study led by a lady in the church where I was serving as pastor.
A woman from one of the more popular cults had infiltrated this group, and the lady from our church soon discovered she was a little out of her depth. I was invited along, and soon found myself in a public confrontation with the intruder's cult "pastor" (though he did not call himself that). One of the things he wanted to deny in strong terms was the deity of Jesus Christ. As we started looking together at biblical references which, on the face of it, say something about the deity of Christ, eventually we came to Colossians 2:9. He wanted to render the verse, rather loosely, something like "in Christ all the attributes of the Deity live in bodily form."
I asked him which of the attributes of God Jesus does not have. He immediately saw the problem. If he said, "eternality" (which is what he believed), he would be trapped, for his own rendering would contradict him. If he said, "none" (in defiance of his own beliefs), then how can Jesus and God be as sharply distinguished as he proposed?
In any case, Colossians 2:9 is even stronger than his translation allowed: "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." Observe:
(1) In this context, the Colossians are exhorted to continue to live in Christ, just as they "received Christ Jesus as Lord" (Col. 2:6)—which as usual bears an overtone of Jesus' divine identity, since "Lord" was commonly the way one addressed God in the Greek versions of the Old Testament.
(2) Both then and now, there are people who try to ensnare you through a "hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition" (Col. 2:8). In virtually every case, the aim of such deceptive philosophies is to reduce or relativize Christ, to redirect attention and allegiance away from him. Not only these verses but much of the letter to the Colossians show that, whoever these heretics are, their attack is against Christ. Paul will not budge: "all the fullness of the Deity" lives in him in bodily form—and you are complete in him, in him you enjoy all the fullness you can possibly know (Col. 2:10). To turn from him for extras is disastrous, for he alone is "the head over every power and authority" (Col. 2:10).
(3) Apparently at least one branch of the Colossian heretics was trying to get the believers to add to Christ a bevy of Jewish rituals. Paul does not budge: he understands that the rites and rituals mandated by the Old Testament constitute "a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Col. 2:17).