If you read Paul’s letters to Ephesus and to the Colossians, you’ll find that they are very similar in content. They were written at about the same time and to an audience with a very similar cultural background.
Paul’s message to the Colossians was that everything they needed could be found in Christ alone. There were a lot of different religious philosophies floating around that was negatively influencing their mindset about Jesus
and what he achieved (I wrote about the cultural background of these readers in my post about the Ephesians).
To counteract these false teachings, Paul reminds the church at Colossae that they were completely “in Christ” and that Christ was in them. So if you’ve ever wondered what the phrase “identity in Christ” means, you can find a lot of the answers in both Ephesians and Colossians.
Back then, the belief called “cosmic dualism” taught that anything that was spiritual was good, and all things pertaining to the body was evil. So some sought to punish the body by denying it pleasures (asceticism) as this would increase spirituality, which Paul was condemning in the below verse:
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
So if the believers were trying to obtain holiness outside of God and instead restricting their diet somehow, this was never going to work. They had to look to Christ alone to make them healthy and holy.
Since the original reader of this letter might have been coming under the false teaching that there was something more that they had to do to achieve perfection (as this was the prevailing cultural mindset at the time), Paul had to remind them that everything they needed could be found in Christ because Christ, who was the fullness of God, lived inside of them!
For in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.
For me, I have always wanted to know what it’s like to live in the fullness of God. I knew too well the pain of emptiness, which was one of the major reasons I decided to follow Jesus in 2008.
But when I first started “practicing Christianity,” I wasn’t really tapping into Christ inside of me. I was just looking at what other “Christians” were doing and copying that.
This is the antithesis of the book, since Paul argues that everything we need is found in Christ, not in external things. This is what it means to find your identity in Christ alone.
So I realized that living in the fullness of God required that I live from the inside out, rather than looking outward and trying to adjust my behaviors accordingly.
I wasn’t supposed to necessarily follow what the other Christians were doing, like church ministries, mission trips, etc. I found that I was just trying to live up to others’ expectations.
God showed me that I was to learn how to live by the Spirit inside of me since God’s plans for my life were in Christ, not in what other people’s lives looked liked on the outside:
…your life is hidden with Christ in God.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned from studying the New Testament is that all of mankind can find true life in relationship with Jesus, faith in God, and perseverance when circumstances are rough. I know this from
experience as well.
Ever since God called me away from my pursuit of the “American dream” by leaving a lucrative and stable career, I can say with almost all certainty that I am living out a beautiful life with only greater things to come, which all
individuals can find for themselves just by saying “yes” to God to whatever He is calling them to.
Although God doesn’t call everyone away from a career, for me, I knew that I wasn’t living the life that Christ had in mind for me, so I had to be willing to let go of everything that I put my security in in the hope for a better life. To this day, I have never regretted following God into the unknown.