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Complete in Christ

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Text: Colossians 2:8-10

Title: Complete in Christ

Theme of the book of Colossians: Jesus Christ: The preeminent and all-sufficient Savior
Theme of Text: 
Man’s philosophy is flawed and false; Christ is completely God and completes the believer.

Proposition: Completeness only comes in Christ. You can only be complete in Christ.



Is your life complete?

The nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche scorned Christianity as the religion of weaklings. He was among the first to proclaim that God is dead. Yet he could not live with the implications of his philosophy. Guinness writes, “For Nietzsche to be consistent, he needed to become his own superman, but his views were overwhelming even for himself. As he poised over the abyss, he shivered with the horror of being ‘responsible for everything alive.’ In the impossibility of this situation, madness perhaps becomes his only possible freedom from the overbearing responsibility. ‘Alas, grant me madness’ ” (The Dust of Death, p. 24). Tragically, Nietzsche’s wish was granted. He spent the last eleven years of his life insane.[1]


The remainder of the verses in chapter 2 can be outlined a few ways. I hope that these outlines will help you as we study this chapter. It can be outlined as follows:

Outlined by False Teachings:

·        Verses 8-10               Gnosticism/ Philosophy

·        Verses 11-17             Legalism

·        Verses 18-19             Mysticism/ Angel Worship

·        Verses 20-23             Asceticism

Outlined by Doctrines

·        Verses 8-15               The doctrine of salvation

·        Verses 16-23             The doctrine of sanctification

In these verses from 2:8-3:4, Paul uses 15 words that he never uses again in his writings. This gives an indication that Paul was specifically dealing with the false teachers attacking the Colossians. He was using vocabulary that was common to the false teachers; by doing this, he could use their own terms to dismantle their false beliefs. The unique words that Paul uses here do cause some problems for interpretation from the original Greek another language, but with a little bit of study, you can understand this passage clearly.

The false teachers at Colossae had some Gnostic elements in their teachings. Gnosticism was a common teaching during the early centuries of Christianity. The word “gnostic” comes from the Greek word for knowledge. They were named Gnostics because they believed that knowledge was the way to salvation. Gnostics believed that they could awaken their “divine spirit” through knowledge, even though the soul and body are evil. Knowledge was the true “savior” for Gnostics, not Christ. They believed that they could “enlighten” themselves through knowledge. Once they were “enlightened,” it did not matter how they lived. These teachings are contrary to Scripture and must be rejected, yet some Gnostic elements remain in false religions today.

Even today, many religions have a false view of Jesus Christ.

Christian Science: They believe that Jesus is “an idea, a principle-but not God Incarnate.” Just like the Gnostics, they believe that Jesus was just a man and not God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: They believe that Jesus is an angel who became a man. They believe that he is a god, but that he is not God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. They deny that Christ is truly God alone!

Mormonism: They believe before Jesus’ incarnation, he was the spirit-brother of Lucifer/Satan. They also believe that he was the husband of the Marys and Martha, and that he rewarded by becoming the ruler of the universe.

Islam: They believe that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah. They believe that Jesus is just a prophet of Allah, and that Jesus did not die on the cross. They believe that Christ is not part of the Trinity.



The main problem with these false teachings (just like the false teaching in Colossae) is their absolute denial of Christ’s deity. They were denying the fact that Christ is God! By denying Christ’s deity, they were trying to rob believers of the source of their faith. A person cannot be complete without Christ. Only Christ can truly complete you. If Christ was not God, then no person could be “complete.” Fortunately, Christ is God, and we can be complete through Christ!

I.                   The Incomplete Philosophy of Man        2:8

In this verse, Paul does not give the beliefs or doctrines of the false teachings since his readers knew the false teachers well. Instead, Paul gives a brief description of the method and source of the false teachers. These false teachers were trying to lay claim on people that were fully and completely Christ’s. Paul tells the readers to “beware” or “see to it” that no person is able to mislead you by their false teachings. Don’t let someone rob you of the fact that you are complete in Christ!

Illustration: Having over 11 million members, over 60,000 full-time missionaries, getting about 80% of their converts from Protestant backgrounds, with over 310,000 converts annually, the Mormon church proves to be one of the fastest growing movements.

Paul uses another military image here. He literally says, “Do not let someone carry you off as a captive.” These false teachers were trying to steal the believers from the church of Colossae. That is the same as it is today. Many people in false cult religions today were once members of good Bible preaching churches. How does something like this happen? How can a person that goes to a Bible preaching church fall to a false religion that denies Christ? It is because they start to listen to the philosophy and empty teachings of the false religion.


a.      The Method of the False Teachers     8a

The method of the false teachers was to use “philosophy and empty deceit.” This is the only time that this Greek word for “philosophy” is ever used in the New Testament.; therefore, this must have been a term specific to the Colossian heresy. The false teachers also used “empty deceit.” This means that they were misleading people through lies that had no true basis.

Not all philosophy is bad, because there is a Christian philosophy of life. Philosophy means, “To love wisdom.” Philosophy is basically the attempt to answer the questions “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?,” and “Where am I going?.” The Bible answers all those questions, so the philosophy of the Bible is accurate.

Unfortunately, even today, people are lead away from Christ by religions that are full of errors. This happens because the “Christian” does not know the truth. He has gone to church for years, yet he does not know what he believes about Christ or the Bible. He does not know the true philosophy or teachings in the Bible, so he is ignorant and becomes captivated by a fascinating and interesting philosophy. This leads to being carried away by the false teachers.


b.      The Source of the False Teaching      8b  

                                                 i.      The Tradition of Men  

The basis of the teaching was really just the “traditions of men.” That is why it was just a worthless lie.(2 Timothy 3:13-15; Ephesians 5:6) It was just a futile attempt by man to deny Christ as God. If a person denies Christ’s deity, then they are trying to say that Christ or God has no authority over them. Christ is God and he is alive; through Christ, you can be complete!

Paul is not saying that all traditions of men are wrong. (1 Cor 15:3-5; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:2) There are many traditions that are excellent, but any tradition that is contrary to what Scripture teaches is wrong. Christian have traditions that are great traditions. At Christmas, people give gifts to each other. This is a tradition that reminds us of the greatest gift- Jesus Christ. The Christmas tradition is not something that is wrong, but some people can misuse or abuse the tradition.

Some traditions are unbiblical. The tradition of ancestor worship is unbiblical. Many people worship their ancestors after they die. This is an unbiblical tradition that men have promoted for centuries. The Bible teaches that once a person dies, they go to heaven or hell. (Lev 19:31; 20:6; Ps. 115:17-18; Luke 23:43) Worshiping someone after they have died is unbiblical since we are only supposed to worship God. (Exodus 20:3; Deut. 6:13-14; Matthew 4:10) We do not need to follow the vain traditions of men that run contrary to Scripture.

                                              ii.      The Elements of the World    

This phrase, “the basic elements of the world,” is a very difficult one to translate. The word “element” in the Greek is only found in one other New Testament book. (Galatians 4:3,9) It has the idea of basic teachings, but it also has other possible meanings.

It can mean 4 different things.

1.      It can refer to the basics, the “abc’s” or the “bo po mo fo” of a certain subject

2.      It can also refer to the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire.

3.      It can refer to astronomy as in outer space.

4.      It can refer to the “basic spirits” or “demonic spirits.”

It is difficult to tell which one Paul is talking about here since almost any one of the four options could fit.

~“Far from being advanced, profound knowledge, the false teachers were simplistic and immature like all the rest of the speculations, ideologies, philosophies, and psychologies the fallen satanic and human system invents.” (J Mac Study Bible)

The gnostics believed that the angels and the heavenly bodies influenced people’s lives. Paul’s warnings to the Colossians about “new moon” and other religious practices determined by the calendar (Col. 2:16) may be related to this gnostic teaching, though the Jewish people also watched the calendar (Gal. 4:10). One thing is certain: such teachings about demons and angels were not a part of true Christian doctrine. If anything, such teachings were satanic.

Application: The fact that this teaching is not after Christ is sufficient to warn us against horoscopes, astral charts, Ouija boards, and other spiritist practices. The whole zodiac system is contrary to the teaching of the Word of God. The Christian who dabbles in mysticism and the occult is only asking for trouble. [2]

Illustration: Hold up the “Humanist Manifesto 1 and 2” and “A Secular Humanist Declaration.” These two booklets contain some of the most basic and elementary teachings of men. They are basically statements saying that they do not believe in God and that they can do pretty much whatever they want. Unfortunately, many people believe that the men that signed these documents are the greatest minds in the world. The back cover says a quote, “Humanism has been moved to the front, where it is likely to stay.” Norman Nadel. What this man does not realize is that these basic elemental worldly teachings have been in place for centuries. Men have always wanted to reject God and make some sort of religion that denies God’s sovereign control.

The false teachers were trying to use the worthless philosophy of man’s most basic teachings to deceive the Colossian believers.


c.      The Contrast to the False Teaching  8c       

The false teachings were simply “not according to Christ.” Whatever the exact content of the false teaching was, it was totally contrary to Christ. You can detect a false teaching when it denies Christ.

Paul is saying that these teachings are not of Christ so don’t believe these false teachers lies! Don’t be fooled, you can only be complete in Christ!


II.                The Complete Deity of Christ      2:9

The Christian had something much better than the lies of the false teachers; they had a Savior that is completely God! Why would you want to follow the teachings of men when you can follow the teachings of the Almighty God? This verse is declaring that Christ is completely God!


a.      In Divine Nature and Attributes        9a

Paul is saying that all deity, not just part of it, dwell in Christ. Christ is fully God both in his nature and in his attributes. All of the following verses affirm the deity of Christ. (Col. 1:19; John 1:14; 10:30,38; 14:9-10; 17:21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 5:20) There is no denying that Jesus is God! He is not just God in attributes, but in nature. Christ is not “like” God, He is God! Paul is saying here that the fullness of God dwells in Christ.

Eternity and pre-existence. Christ is declared by the Scriptures to be eternal (Mic 5:2; John 8:58; Col 1:16–17; Rev 1:11).

Self-existence. Inasmuch as He is the Creator of all things, it is necessarily true that He Himself is uncreated (John 1:1–3; Col 1:16–17).

Omnipresence. That God is omnipresent is the clear teaching of Scripture (Deut 4:39; Ps 139:7–10; Prov 15:3; Isa 66:1; Jer 23:24; Acts 17:27). It is evident that Christ possessed the same attribute. His promises of abiding with His disciples forever (Matt 28:20), and His promise to indwell the believer (John 14:18, 20, 23) are impossible of any literal fullfillment unless Christ is also omnipresent.

Oniniscience. Repeatedly in Scripture Christ is said to possess knowledge which by its nature declares that He is omniscient. Christ is said to “know all” (literal translation of John 2:24), and again, “He knew what was in man” (John 2:25). The disciples bear witness: “Now we know that you know all things” (John 16:30, R.S.V.). Peter declared,“Lord, you know everything” (John 21:17, R.S.V.).

Omnipotence. Christ had the power to forgive sins (Matt 9:6), all power in heaven and in earth (Matt 28:18), power over nature (Luke 8:25), power over His own life (John 10:18), power to give eternal life to others (John 17:2), power to heal physically as witnessed by His many miracles, and power to cast out demons (Mark 1:29–34, etc.), and power to transform the body (Phil 3:21). By virtue of His resurrection “he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him…” (Heb 7:25). He is “able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim 1:12). He is “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). It will be observed that the incarnation and the death and resurrection of Christ permitted Christ to act in regard to sin and salvation. His omnipotence in any case is restricted to that which is holy, wise, and good.

Immutability. The classic passage on immutability states the same doctrine—”Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). By this doctrine it is established that the divine Son of God of eternity past, the divine Son of God incarnate, and the glorified Son of God in heaven is, as to His deity, one and the same Person with unchanging attributes.

The Fullness of the Godhead in Him. As a confirmation of specific attributes it is also revealed in Scripture that in Christ is all the fullness of the Godhead: “For in him dwells the whole fullness of deity bodily” (Col 2:9, R.S.V.). The passage is very emphatic in the original. The expression in him (ἐν αὐτῷ) stands first and is thereby emphasized. The word dwells (κατοικεῖ) means “permanently dwells.”1 The phrase the whole fullness of deity bodily is obviously intended to convey the thought that in Christ is all that is in deity. As Peake puts it, “It is vain to seek it [the Godhead] wholly or partially outside of him.”2 The statement constitutes a blanket endorsement of all that is taught, in particular concerning the divine attributes of Christ.

Sovereignty. Proceeding from His omnipotence, the Scriptures assign divine sovereignty to Christ. Matthew 28:18; 1 Peter 3:22 (John 5:27; Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 12:3; Col 1:18; Phil 2:9). (Rev 19:16).

Other qualities of deity. Christ is constantly represented in Scripture as having qualities which could be possessed only by God. His divine glory is mentioned in John 17:5, described in Revelation 1:12–18. Christ refers to Himself as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), qualities

which inhere only in God. He is the “righteous branch…Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer 23:5–6). He is the holy Son of God of Luke 1:35. Above all, Christ is the manifestation of grace—divine love and righteousness combined (John 1:17). There is not an attribute of deity which is not directly or indirectly ascribed to Christ. BSac 104:414 (Apr 47) p. 158 [3]

2 Corinthians 5:19 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

John 10:30 30 I and My Father are one.”

Illustration: It is hard to believe that people rejected Christ in the Gospels. Recently, I have been reading through John. I have been astonished at how many people reject Christ even when his deity is so clearly displayed and affirmed.

b.      In Bodily Form                         9b

Christ came to earth as a the God Man. He was completely God and completely man. This is a difficult thing for us to understand. My mind often gets tired when I think about Christ as both God and man. By saying “bodily,” Paul is ensuring that the believer knows that Christ came as a man. The false teachers were trying to deny that Christ was truly God and man. They did not want to believe that Christ came as a man to die for them.

When Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, He went in a human body. It was a glorified body, to be sure, but it was real. After His resurrection, our Lord was careful to assure His disciples that He was the same Person in the same body; He was not a ghost or a spirit (see John 20:19–29). There is a glorified Man in heaven! The God-Man, Jesus Christ, embodies the fullness of God! [4]


III.             The Complete Person in Christ  2:10a

Not only is Christ completely God, but the person that has trusted Christ as their savior from sin is also complete in Christ. This means that without Christ, man is incomplete! This does not mean that the Christian becomes God through Christ; it simply means that the believer is completed by Christ and in Christ. The person that has Christ has everything that they need. They lack nothing for salvation. They have everything they need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3; 1 Cor 1:30-31; Eph 3:19) A person without Christ is incomplete, but through Christ, you can be made complete.

Illustration: Most of you know about Judas Iscariot. He was one of Christ’s original 12 apostles. He was the one that betrayed Jesus to the chief priests. (Matthew 26:14-16, 47-56; 27:3-10) He is an illustration of a person that was not complete in Christ. Judas spent three years of his life with Christ just like John and Peter. Judas was physically near Jesus, he heard the teaching of Jesus, he saw the miracles of Jesus, and he witnessed the first hand sinless life of Jesus; but that whole time he was never “complete” in Jesus. He knew the truth and had witnessed it, but Judas never accepted the truth for himself, therefore he was not complete in Christ. Judas’ story is one of the saddest in history. He had knowledge of Christ, but he did not trust Christ as his Savior! You must trust Christ as your savior to be complete in Him!

Application: There is no way that you can become complete in and of yourself. You cannot accomplish perfection by yourself. You are never going to be good enough to be saved through anything that you do! As verse 13, a Christian is saved while he is dead in his trespasses and sins! You can only be saved by grace. You will never do enough good things nor have enough knowledge to go to heaven or have salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us that we are saved by grace through faith, and that it is not anything that man does to save himself. All that is required is belief in Christ. You must believe that Christ died for you and that he can save you from your sins. Through Christ, you can have eternal life, there is NO other way for salvation.

The tense of this Greek verb for “complete” indicates that it is a finished permanent experience. Once you are “rooted in Christ,” you are made fully complete. You do not need anything else to make you a Christian. There is no other thing that can make you complete. After you are saved and complete in Christ, you must begin to grow, but he has given you everything you need to grow since he has made you complete!

When a healthy baby is born into this world, he is born complete. There is nothing else that the baby needs. It is born with two arms, a head, a brain, two legs, fingers, hands, and all the internal organs it needs to survive. It is born into this world as a complete human. When a person gives their life to Christ and accepts Him as their savior, He makes them complete! He gives them everything they need for life and godliness! Just as a new baby needs milk, so a new Christian needs to draw from the milk or basic teachings of Christ. (1 Cor 3:2; 1 Peter 2:2)

~Christ can complete your life. Your life will never be complete by having a better job, it will never be complete by having more education, nor will it be complete by having more money! Your life will only be complete by Christ! It can only be complete by Christ!

2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

Ephesians 3:19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

IV.              The Complete Control of Christ 2:10b

Paul is assuring the believer that Christ is over every “principality and power.” He is in control. Christ is in control of the universe, and has power over every evil principality and force. (Col. 1:16-18; 2:15; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9-11) There is no need to go back to the false gods or false practices that used to describe your life. Christ has the power to defeat the evil of this world. In fact, he already has defeated every principality and power by his death on the cross.

Application: I have no doubt that Jesus Christ controls the universe. I believe that he is sovereign over all things. I’m sure that most of you believe that Jesus Christ is God and that he created and controls the universe. What I’m not sure about is if we are letting Christ control us. Christ has given us the power to serve him completely. Have we given him control over our life? Is Christ in control of your life?

Illustration: It has often been said, “Christ is my co-pilot!” I want to suggest that we say, “Christ is my Pilot!”


Why would you want to follow the teachings of men if you could follow Christ, the only God? In man’s teachings, there is hopelessness and futility. The teachings of men do not lead to eternal life, nor do they make a person complete. However, In Christ, there is life. Through Christ, there is eternal life. Through Christ, you have everything you need for life and godliness. In Christ, you can be made complete! Don’t listen to the false teachings of the creature; obey the words of life from the Creator, Christ Jesus!

~Christ can complete your life. Your life will never be complete by having a better job, it will never be complete by having more education, nor will it be complete by having more money! Your life will only be complete by Christ! It can only be complete by Christ!

2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

Christ can make you complete!


p. page

[1]John MacArthur, Colossians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1992), 95.

[2]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, "An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"--Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Col 2:8.

1 1. The Expositors Greek Testament, III, 523.

2 2. Loc. cit.

[3]Dallas Theological Seminary, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 104 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1947; 2002), 104:155-158.

[4]Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt., Col 2:8. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989.

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