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‘YOU ARE COMPLETE IN HIM’ – Colossians 2:8-10

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 16, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, July 16, 2017 from Colossians 2:8-10

Theme: We are complete in our Savior—and should, therefore, beware of philosophies that offer a substitute path to fulfillment.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

I ask that you turn with me in your Bible to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I am asking that we look particularly this morning at a passage in the second chapter—one in which Paul makes one of the most remarkable affirmations that you and I, as believers, can ever hear.

And with that affirmation, Paul also issues an accompanying warning that you and I must be sure to heed.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let me begin, though, by telling you a little about this amazing New Testament letter to the Colossians. The main theme of this letter is a simple but glorious one—and that is the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ for our full salvation, and for everything else that we can ever need to be right before God and eternally happy in Him.

Paul wrote this brief letter to believers that he had never met personally, but that he had nevertheless heard about and had grown very much to love. It’s clear from the very beginning of this letter that they had gained a reputation for having a life-transforming faith in Jesus Christ. Paul—writing along with his ministry partner Timothy—began his letter with these words:

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit (Colossians 1:3-7).

What an encouragement it must have been to have received such a greeting from the apostle Paul! The good news of the Gospel of Jesus had come to these Colossian believers through a man named Epaphras—whom Paul calls “our dear fellow servant” and “a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf”. And when that good news about Jesus came to them, they put their faith in Him and believed in Him in such a way as to have been completely transformed by Him. Paul was able to testify—in a measurable way—to the spiritual ‘fruit’ that had been borne in their lives through faith in Jesus.

And more; Paul was very excited to give thanks to God for what was now theirs through Christ. He said that he gave thanks “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven”. It wasn’t that they were somehow making progress in earning God’s favor. Rather, they were—even then—already completely in His favor, and were already secure in a glorious hope of heavenly glory through their faith in Jesus.

That, by the way, is true of all who have placed their faith in Jesus and are redeemed by His sacrifice on the cross—including us! Through faith in the cross of Jesus Christ, we are not merely on the way toward earning God’s favor; but rather are already, by the gift of His grace, 100% accepted in His sight and are completely secured for heavenly glory. At the very beginning of this letter—in the second verse—Paul calls these Colossian believers “saints”. Someone who is in Christ isn’t simply ‘becoming a saint’; but is already a saint—fully accepted by God in love, fully set aside by Him as His own, fully secure and destined for an inheritance in Jesus Christ.

Now that’s the truth of the situation for these Colossian believers. But nevertheless, Paul then goes on to pray for their full, practical experience of that truth and their progress in the confidence of it. He proceeds in verses 9-14 to tell them;

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (vv. 9-14).

They were already in God’s favor through Jesus Christ. They were already destined for heavenly glory. But Paul nevertheless prayed for them that they would grow in the practical understanding of their completeness in Christ, and that they would walk in a manner that was worthy of their glorious position in Him as “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”.

And that’s when Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to then spend some time talking about Jesus Himself. Paul was taken up with the majesty and complete sufficiency of Jesus as the glorious Son of God in human flesh. I encourage you to carefully consider these wonderful words in verses 15-20 about Jesus, and to just bask in the majesty of what they tell us of our Savior. Paul writes;

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross (vv. 15-20).

We could spend several Sunday morning’s together in just trying to plumb the depths of those words. But I ask that you pay careful attention to verse 19; because it’s there that we’re told, concerning our Savior, that it pleased the Father “that in Him all the fullness should dwell”. All that can be known of God the Father is found in Jesus Himself. All that is good and blessed and fulfilling and satisfying of anything that can be given by the Father is found—ultimately and completely—in and through Jesus Christ. As the apostle John wrote elsewhere;

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

As Jesus once told one of His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father …” (John 14:9). And so, if you look into the face of Jesus, you are looking into the face of God the Father. If you have Jesus, you have all the fullness of God the Father. There is nothing more to be had from God the Father than what is already ours through Him. He is the embodiment of truth! He is ultimate reality! He is the only and utterly complete way to the Father! He is the one in whom all the fullness dwells! He is the meeting of all our needs! He is, for us, wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption! He is the source of all our fulfillment and enrichment and enlightenment!

He is our all-sufficient Savior!

And in the light of that, Paul goes on to talk to the Colossian believers about their need to hold on tightly to a confident faith their full sufficiency before God through Jesus Christ, and to rest completely in His identity as the one in whom all the fullness of God dwells. Paul goes in verses 21-23 to say;

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister (vv. 21-23).

You see; the enemy of our souls—the devil—is a very real and very dangerous foe. He works constantly to persuade us and lure us away from a simple, whole-hearted, confident faith in the complete sufficiency of Jesus. He was defeated at the cross; and he experiences that defeat every time we give ourselves over completely to trust in Jesus; and so, the enemy seeks to tempt us away with ‘alternatives’; and he tries to convince us that faith alone in Jesus isn’t enough—that we need something more—or even that we need something else.

That, as it turns out, was a growing problem among these Colossian believers. As you read on through this whole letter, you find hints along the way that their simple faith in Jesus was threatened by the fact that they were being tempted by other things—such things as the attraction of pagan philosophies and by impressive displays of worldly wisdom, or by the subtle allure of alternative ‘spiritualities’ and the worship of angels and the boasts that other people made of their own esoteric experiences, or by some form of secret ‘spiritual’ knowledge that others claimed to possess, or by the dangerous teaching that someone cannot be acceptable before God unless they also followed certain dietary laws and observed ceremonial practices and and religious rituals and festivals. These spiritual ‘lures’ from the devil all had one thing in common: They made the assertion that faith alone in ‘Christ crucified’ isn’t enough; and that to truly be complete and fulfilled and victorious in life, you need something more.

And so to combat this—and to protect a simple faith in Christ—Paul writes in Chapter 2;

For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving (2:1-7).

Did you especially hear those words in verse 3 about Jesus?—in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? The bold truth that the apostle Paul sought diligently to establish in the hearts of these dear fellow Christians is that all that we ever need of true spiritual wisdom and knowledge is to be found in Christ—and that the offer of anything more than what we already have in Christ is at best an offer of something we don’t need, and at worst a deceitful lie from the enemy of our souls.

And that brings us to the three verses that I hope to most draw your attention to this morning. They are found in 2:8-10; where Paul says,

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power (vv. 8-10).

That we are complete before God in Christ is truly one of the greatest and most glorious affirmations we could ever hear from God’s word. Praise God for it! But it also necessitates the most important warning we could ever heed for the protection of our own souls. And we can sum it up this way, dear brothers and sisters: We are complete in our Savior—and should therefore beware of philosophies that offer a substitute path to fulfillment.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; I’ve tried to take you through a lot of the details of the early part of this letter, because I believe it I the most effective way to make sense of what we’re told in these three very important verses.

Notice first, in verse 8, how Paul gives us …


Paul writes, “Beware …” And this word, in the original language, is put in what’s called ‘the present tense’; which suggests an ongoing, habitual act. We are to be on the alert and on guard—not just at one time in our lives at the beginning; as if in a once-for-all-time act; but rather constantly and continually. And what are we to be on guard against? Paul says, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit …”

Now; I believe we need to be careful in rightly understanding what Paul does not mean. Paul would not be telling us to disregard the whole idea of the pursuit of wisdom. The word ‘philosophy’ is a compound word: philos being the Greek word for ‘affection’ or ‘love’, and sophos is the word for ‘wisdom’; and Paul would certainly want us, as believers, to be sincere lovers of wisdom. I don’t even think that Paul would mean that we must recklessly reject all of the ideas and expressions of human wisdom of the past; because Paul himself made use of such wisdom, and sometimes even quoted from the thinkers of the past in order to teach people the gospel of Jesus. In Acts 17, while preaching to the very ‘philosophically-minded’ people of Athens, he even illustrated truth to them by quoting one of their own philosophers.

Rather, I believe we should understand Paul to be speaking against a certain kind of thinking that calls itself ‘philosophy’. We can know this by the fact that—in the original language—the word ‘philosophy’ is directly associated with what Paul then refers to as “empty deceit”; in such a way that his words can be translated that we are to beware lest anyone take us captive “through ‘philosophy’ … that is to say, ‘empty deceit’”. He is, in other words, speaking of a pretense of ‘the love of wisdom’ that is actually the same thing as a vacuous fraud. And we can further understand the nature of this by the fact that he says that such ‘philosophies’ are “according to”—or as we could translate it, “on the basis of”—the traditions of men and the basic principles of this world; and not “according to” or “on the basis of Christ.”

I don’t know if you have ever attempted to study the history of philosophy. It is a big subject. Right now, I’m working my way through a rather large volume on the history of Western philosophy by a very respected biblical theologian. And the thing that has fascinated me is to see how almost all the various forms of human philosophy—as opposed to orthodox Christian theology—have one thing in common. They somehow seek to develop an understanding of reality apart from the revelation of Scripture and apart from Christ. In ancient times, philosophies were built around the fact that paganistic thinkers had no access to the clear, revealed word of God or any understanding of the gospel. And then, even after God’s word had spread around the world and became accessible to all, unbelieving philosophers sought nevertheless build a systematic worldview on the idea that a revelation of God was not needed—or that there was no such revelation; and that God did not take on human flesh and walk among us. In all cases, such systems of thought were developed on the basis of the ideas and speculations and traditions that human beings passed on from one generation to another—with the newest system proposing to cancel out the ones that came before it. And their focus was on the basis of what they could know in their own power about the things of this material world that could be handled and touched and manipulated—things that, as Paul says in Colossians 2:21-22, are subject to ‘regulations’: “’Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using …”

Do you remember when the Pharisees once approached Jesus because He and His disciples did not follow the Jewish tradition of washing their hands in a ceremonial way before eating food? And do you remember what Jesus told them? He said;

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

These people draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.

And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7-9).

That’s what those philosophies and empty deceits that we’re warned about are based on—the mere traditions of unredeemed men, and on an undue focus on the elements of this world. And notice also that Paul even tells us what they are not based on. They are “not according to Christ.” Notice carefully that Paul doesn’t say that they are not based on ‘the teachings of Christ’, or ‘the sayings of Christ’, or even ‘the philosophy of Christ.’ Some people think that they were on the right track by the fact that they claim to follow ‘the philosophy of Christ’. But we’re never told to have our faith in ‘the philosophy of Jesus’. Paul warns against these false philosophies and empty deceits that are not ‘according to the Person of Christ Himself’—that is, that do not recognize Him for who the Bible declares Him to be, nor rest their faith in what He did for us as the Son of God in human flesh upon the cross.

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul’s warning to us, dear brothers and sisters, is to not let ourselves be cheated by such things. We’re not to allow ourselves to be ‘ripped-off’ spiritually and taken captive by the phony philosophies and empty deceits of this world—built upon human traditions and worldly principles instead of upon a full confidence in the Person of Jesus Christ.

And our great safeguard against this is to make sure we believe what Paul then goes on to tell us in verse 9 concerning …


Paul tells us, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” The word “Godhead” means “Deity”; and it is meant to express to us that all the essence of who God is is found in—and has permanent residence in—Jesus Christ. If we have Jesus Christ—who is the Son of God—then we truly have all of the Godhead in Him.

Now; it’s wondrous that all the fullness of the Godhead is found in Jesus. But how does that impact us as fallen human beings? Many of the unbelieving philosophies of the past have expressed the belief that God is too far above us—to ‘transcendent’ for us to be able to have any meaningful relationship with Him. But Paul is very careful to say that in Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead “bodily”. In the incarnation, the Son of God took full human nature to Himself; and He is now—and forever—fully God and fully man! And that’s our point of contact. That’s how it is that He can be a fully sufficient Savior in our personal experience. The great gap between the Godhead and fallen humanity has been bridged by Jesus—in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead “bodily”. As the writer of Hebrews puts it;

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).

* * * * * * * * * *

So then; that’s our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He is the One in whom all the fullness of the Godhead has taken up permanent residence in a human body. And that leads us, finally, to Paul’s words in verse 10; and to …


Paul says it boldly and clearly; “and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” There may be some who come along and claim to have great authority to demand something more from you than a simple faith in Jesus. But we don’t ever need to fear their claim or subject ourselves to their spiritual demands over us. Even if an angel from heaven were to come and present another gospel to us, we are not to hear him. If we have Jesus, then we are complete before God in Him alone—and He is the ultimate authority.

I heard about a time when a member of one of the cults came knocking on the door of the home of a faithful believer. This believer didn’t allow them to come into his home—and that, by the way, is always a wise policy. But they came to his doorstep and offered one of their alternative to a simple and confident faith in Jesus. And this wise believer gave them a courteous answer in this manner:

Well, it’s obvious that you are trying to offer me something. But I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, as He is described in the Bible. And before you try to offer me anything, perhaps you should know first what I already have.

I have believed on Him as the Son of God in human flesh who died on the cross for my sins as my sinless substitute. And because of Him, I now have the full forgiveness of my sins—past, present and future. I am in a state of 100% favor before God the Father—fully righteous in His sight; and so completely accepted by Him that there is nothing that could ever be added that would make me more accepted by Him than I already am. I already possess, right now, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. I am an heir to the inheritance of Christ Himself, because God has adopted me and declared me to be His child forever. I have an unlimited supply of His power to meet my every need, and to strengthen me in every possible trial, and to give me complete victory over every sinful habit. I have His Holy Spirit living in me to empower me and to guide me as I walk daily in the paths He has set for me. I have His holy Bible—His inspired word—to guide me and instruct me. I have been placed in the Body of Christ—the church—and have rich fellowship with others who are loved by Him, and am—together with them—a partaker in the inheritance of the saints in light. And what’s more, when this body of mine finally dies, I have a home in my Father’s house and will dwell there with Jesus His Son. And when His Son returns to this earth in power and majesty as King of kings and Lord of lords, He will bring my redeemed spirit with Him; and this fail body of mine will be raised to be like His own; and I will forever share in the glory of Jesus Himself throughout eternity. I have all of this as a free gift of God’s grace—apart from any good that I can do, but fully on the faith alone of what Jesus has done for me.

Now; I really don’t believe you have anything better to offer to me than what I already have. But if you would like to have what I have, I would be very happy to introduce you to my fully-sufficient Savior Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure what happened after that. I think that the cult member at the doorstep was trying to figure out a way to run down the road to some other house. But I hope you get the point.

Dear brothers and sisters; we are complete in our Savior Jesus Christ—and should therefore beware of any philosophy or religious system or spiritual path that offer a substitute to fulfillment in Him. There is no other path to fulfillment than what we already have in Him. And if we will fully believe what our dear elder brother Paul has told us about Him, and diligently keep our faith in Him alone, we will never be tempted to look elsewhere!

Take God’s own word on it: ‘You are complete in Him’!

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