Question: "What is the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19)?"
Answer: The fullness of God is the totality of everything God is—His attributes, His character, His perfection, His holiness, His power, His love, et cetera. The fullness of God is His complete nature; it is who He is. The Bible mentions the “fullness” (Greek pleroma) of God in a few different senses, and it is important to consider the context when interpreting these passages. Let’s briefly discuss three of the most direct references to the fullness of God, found in Colossians and Ephesians:
In Colossians 1:19, Paul writes that “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in [Christ]” (NASB). In Colossians 2:9, we see that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Both passages powerfully affirm the fact that Jesus is God. The fullness, or totality, of God is found in Christ. Everything that can be said of God can be said of Jesus Christ (see John 14:7–11). Paul continues with another incredible fact: that, in Christ, we ourselves have been “brought to fullness” (Colossians 2:10). Christians find their completeness in Christ and no one else. Jesus, who is the fullness of God in bodily form, makes us whole by His grace.
Paul conveys the same idea in Ephesians 3:19. At the end of a lengthy prayer, Paul makes a series of requests, climaxing with a prayer that his readers “may be filled to all the fullness of God” (NASB). Obviously, none of God’s creatures can achieve the fullness of God in the sense of becoming equal with God. Rather, being filled to all the fullness of God describes the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). God indwells believers, and they become “partakers of divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4, ESV). The riches of God are available to us. God by His grace, fills us with His Holy Spirit, enabling us to live more like Christ, in whom the fullness dwells (Ephesians 5:18–20).
Jesus said that “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). A never-ending source of life and satisfaction and spiritual abundance—this fountain of living water is the fullness of God within the believer.
Francis Foulkes, a theologian and commentator, expresses the heart of Ephesians 3:19 well: “He [Paul] thus prays ultimately that they may receive not any attribute of God, or any gift of his, not love, not knowledge, not strength, alone or in combination—but no less than the very highest he can pray for, the full indwelling of God. . . . Of course the eternal God can never be limited to the capacity of any one, or all, of his sinful creatures; at the same time Paul does not want to pray for anything less than that God’s people may be filled to (eis) the very fullest of himself that he seeks to bring into their lives” (The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1989, p. 114). The goal of every Christian is to be filled completely with God, so that His character, His attributes, and His love define our existence.
In conclusion, the fullness of God refers to the totality of who God is. In one sense, the absolute fullness of God is unknowable for finite creatures. However, in His grace, God chooses to communicate with His creatures, offering them new life in Christ, indwelling them by the Holy Spirit, and ultimately filling them with His fullness. A powerful image from C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters illustrates this well. In this fictional book, an elder demon is writing to his young nephew, attempting to explain God’s grand plan for humankind: “One must face the fact that all the talk about His [God’s] love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His” (HarperCollins Pub., 1996, p. 38).
If you are a Christian, you can ask God to fill you with His fullness and have faith that “He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NASB). If you are not a Christian, Jesus invites you to a new relationship with God today. Why wait?