Question: "What does it mean that in Christ the fullness of the godhead dwells bodily (Colossians 1:19)?"
Answer: Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians to help them understand better the greatness of Christ, their new position in Christ, and the expectations God has for them. Paul summarizes much about Christ in the statement that in Christ all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Colossians 1:19).
For believers to truly understand the riches they have in Christ, they need to understand more about who He really is. Paul explains that in Christ we have forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15a), or, as Matthew Henry put it, “the visible discovery of the invisible God” (Commentary, Col. 1:15–23). Christ has sovereign rights over all creation (Colossians 1:15b). In fact, Christ is the Creator of all—everything that exists was created “in him . . . through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). If you want to see God, look at Jesus, “for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19).
After explaining the preeminence of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:17–18), Paul adds that it is the Father’s pleasure that all the fullness of deity dwell in Christ (Colossians 1:19)—Jesus isn’t usurping anything that doesn’t belong to Him. He is God. Because Jesus is Deity, He has the qualification and authority to bring redemption and reconciliation with God to humanity (Colossians 1:20).
As John put it, Jesus has revealed and explained the Father to us (John 1:18). No one else was qualified to do this because no one had even seen the Father; only Christ could communicate the Father to humanity. Paul adds that Jesus is God’s mystery revealed (Colossians 2:2). Jesus is the revelation of God, and it is in Him that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge can be found (Colossians 2:3). Because of Jesus’ intimate relationship with the Father and how He reveals the Father to humanity, we can trust in Him as sufficient for providing reconciliation or peace with the Father through His shed blood on the cross (Colossians 2:20).
Just as the Colossians had received Christ, they were to walk in Him (Colossians 2:6). They were also to beware of philosophies, traditions, and basic principles that were not of Christ (Colossians 2:8), because only in Christ does the fullness of the Godhead dwell bodily. If a system of thought is rooted in anything other than Christ, then it can deceive and take someone captive. On the other hand, if the Colossians would acknowledge the philosophy (or system of ideas) that is according to Christ, then they would be able to put the principles into practice that God had designed for them. If Jesus is the physical person of God (both fully God and fully man), then we can be confident that following Him is following the truth. Believers should avoid falsehood, hold fast to Jesus as “the head,” and understand that their growth in God comes from Him (Colossians 2:19). We no longer live according to the elementary principles of a world that denies Christ (Colossians 2:20)—those principles are powerless to help us.
Because in Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9), believers can have confidence that one day, when He is revealed in glory, we will also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4). Our future is certain, based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Believers need to focus on seeking the things that matter to Christ, who is in heaven and who will return one day (Colossians 3:1–3).
We have a new position in Christ and new life through belief in Him, and we should prioritize what is important to Him, knowing that in Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. Because of who He is, He can and will deliver on His promises.