By Grant Hawley
There's an amazing thing in Colossians that, unfortunately, is easy to miss in the English translations. It's the contrast between fullness and emptiness. Even in the English you can see this start to form in 1:19, "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell." And you can see it continue in 2:16-18:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
Clearly a shadow is empty in contrast with the Substance who casts the shadow; and the idea of being "vainly puffed up" is like a balloon filled up with air. It has size, but there's nothing to it.
But this contrast is even more pronounced in the Greek because Paul repeatedly uses a prefix that denotes fullness when discussing the things of Christ. Also, the word for "complete" in 2:10 ("...you are complete in Him") is plero?. Look at what Strong has to say about the word: "to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow)...fill (up), fulfill, (be, make) full (come)...perfect, supply." God has crammed us full, filled us up, in Christ. We are full in Him. We are filled by Him.
And the great thing about being full is that we don't need anything else. We don't need man's philosophies or their legalistic false-wisdom.
In Ephesians, Paul said it this way, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph 1:3). One of the greatest things about this verse is the "every spiritual blessing" we have received is ours already by virtue of being in Christ. We have every spiritual blessing because we have Christ Himself.
When I think of spiritual blessings, the first thing that comes to mind is the fruit of the Spirit. All of the aspects of that fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23), are all aspects of His character. And we have the fullness of all of these things because we have the One who is the fullness within us as He said, "At that day, you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (John 14:20).
We know that we are all working through this sanctification process and that the journey isn't yet complete for any of us until we go to be with the Lord. But as we go forward, we need to understand that we don't need to gain the fruit of the Spirit or any other spiritual blessing, we need only to experience what we already have been given.
How do we do that? Here are a few passages that when put together help answer that question:
1 John 3:2
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
1 Cor 13:12
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
2 Cor 3:18
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
All believers, you and me included, have Jesus living within us, and this being the case, seeing Him as He is, actually transforms us into His image. When He returns and we see Him face to face, we will instantly be like Him. When we gaze upon Him now in His Word, though we only see Him as in a mirror dimly, we are right now being transformed into His image-from glory to glory. A friend from church said this about these passages, "Sanctification is polishing the mirror." Indeed it is.
I was talking with my four-year-old son recently and he was a bit frustrated because people don't have superpowers like in his cartoons. I read the passage about having faith like a mustard seed and being able to remove mountains. I explained to him that we have God living inside us and there is no limit to what He can do, but that His power is often blocked by our sin, lack of faith, and the spiritual weakness of our bodies (of course, I explained each of these to him). But then I told him that won't always be the case. I read 1 John 3:2 (above) to him and told him that God's plan for us is to be like Christ and to live forever in the perfect world that is to come. As Christ can appear and reappear and can fly (ascend), so will we. He was very excited about that.
But then I told my son that like Christ we will always make good choices, that we will always be kind and loving and good and that he will never have to worry about losing his temper but that he will be able to live out God's goodness and love and strength without anything stopping him, and that this would be his life forever because of what Jesus did for us, his eyes filled with tears. He asked me, "why are my eyes full of water?" He had never cried from happiness before, or at least he didn't remember doing so. I told him that he was so happy because he was feeling God's joy and that he would feel that even more when Jesus comes back (of course, my eyes were full of tears then, too).
At that time, my son could clearly see God's love for him.
Paul prayed that we "may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:18-19). When we have those moments of clarity and realize Christ's perfect love for us, that God plans to spend eternity showing "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:7), we are polishing the mirror. In those times we experience the fullness we already have in Him. And these little glimpses into eternity fill us with thankfulness for Christ's finished work and with a sweet longing for His return.