Colossians 1:19-20

Painting by Stefan Robinson. See

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

The final two verses of the brilliant Christ hymn in the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church in Colossae, offers a deep look into the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ.

For God was pleased: Greek for “pleased” is eudokeo, combining the Greek word for “to think of “dokeo” with the Greek word for good or well “eu.” God thinks well of God’s plan, or thinks it a good idea or plan. What is God’s good plan, or well thought out pleasing idea?

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him: God thought it a really good idea, a pleasing plan to have all of God’s fullness (Greek: pleroma) to dwell in Jesus.

First, look at the word fullness. The Greek word, pleroma, is also a technical/spiritual term for the fullness of all the spiritual entities that span the realm between heaven and earth. This term is used in ancient Gnosticism to describe all the angelic beings that emanated from the perfect spiritual realm of God in heaven. The pleroma divides corrupt physical humans from the uncorrupted spiritual life of God. There is no way for any human to break through the pleroma, the fullness of divine entities to get face to face with God. In Gnosticism, the fullness of God is found in a billion angelic beings who separate God from humans. In Christianity, the fullness of God is found in Jesus, the fullness of God who comes down out of heaven into human flesh.

Second, let’s talk about the word dwell. In Greek, the word is katoikeo, combining two Greek words: kata + oikeo. Kata is to come down; oikeo is to reside or live in a home. Thus, katoikeo is to come down to live, to settle down as a permanent resident.

Paul writes something remarkable in these words: Jesus Christ is celebrated as the fulness of God as opposed to the Gnostic view of the fullness of God expressed by billions and billions of angelic emanations. In the Christian faith, God becomes very specific in the person of Jesus who comes down, out of the brilliance and majesty of heavenly perfection, coming down to dwell in human form, in human flesh. For a Gnostic, this teaching is off-putting, unsettling. Why would God befoul himself by coming into putred, corruption of human flesh. But the Christian faith celebrates the humanity of Jesus, who came into our physical flesh, became fully human, the fullness of God found in full human form, dwelling with us, in our flesh, in our skin, walking in our shoes, living among us as one of us, yet without any sin.

and through him to reconcile to himself all things: only because Jesus is fully among us as God in human flesh, is Jesus able to truly reconcile us to himself. God reconciled (Greek: apokatallaso), truly and completely brought into unity what was divided and separated and broken, all things (Greek: panta). This is now the fifth time this word has been used in this short hymn. Paul’s theology of reconciliation involves the entirety of creation, every aspect, everything created. God did a major reconciliation work in Jesus, not just with humans, but with “all things.”

whether things on earth or things in heaven: Just in case you hadn’t thought as big as Paul is thinking, he spells it out for you. All things involves things on earth, and things in heaven, things material and things spiritual, things visible and things invisible. We are so human-centric in our imagination and way of viewing life that we forget about many aspects of God’s reconciling work through Jesus.

by making peace through his blood: The way God reconciled all things was by making peace (Greek: eirēnopoiós), the act of making whole what was broken, restoring to unity what was divided. According to Paul’s powerful Christ hymn, all things were brought back into right relationship with God through Jesus’ blood (Greek: haimatos; our English word for the study of blood is hematology). There is deep, ancient Jewish theology related to blood sacrifice, going back into the earliest books of the Bible, with animal sacrifice involving life blood of the animal that atones for human sin.

shed on the cross: The device used to shed blood was the Roman form of execution, in which a human was nailed to a wooden upright cross and left to slowly suffer, and bleed to death or suffocate from lack of being able to get breath. Jesus gave up his spirit, committing his life into God’s keeping, and breathed his last on a Roman cross. Roman soldiers speared his body with a sharp pointed spear to burst his heart to make sure he was dead before they took him down from the cross, but Jesus was already dead. Through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, God made peace, restored us to unity with God, reconciling humans and indeed “all things” to God.