And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
1. Every valuable mechanism represents a principle peculiar to itself. It may have many important adjuncts, but there must be one principle which imparts its force to all the rest.
2. In the same manner men are of large or small account as they recognize their individuality. Each stone is hewed for its special place, and to fail to appreciate our purpose is to degrade our manhood and to insult the prescience of the Divine Architect.
3. The claim of Christianity to be is that it, in like manner, embodies one distinctive fact. Ethically considered it has much in common with other systems; but its central feature or force is, as its name indicates, the Christ element. The degree in which Christ is present in the heart marks the purity of the Christianity.
4. The declaration, "Ye are complete in Him," goes much further than the recognition of Christ as an historic character as we associate Mahomet with Islam, etc. It is Christ interpenetrating Christianity at every point. The Scriptures assert for Christ comprehensive, all-filling character and capacities. "I am the Way," etc. "Without Me ye can do nothing." "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead," etc. Observe —
I. THIS COMPLETENESS IN CHRIST IN CONTRAST WITH ALL OTHERS.
I. No life is or can be in itself alone. We sustain a multitude of important relations, family, civil, He., but it would not be possible to apply the language of the text to them. Of no relation, even the most valuable, can it be said, "This is essential." It seems to be the destiny of man to grow out of existing states, and use them only as the oar employs the water that it dips as a leverage for progress. And we may thank God that in a world where death spares nothing that there is no person or condition wherein our completeness lies. The king, hero, father dies; the nation, community, family mourns as if nature had stopped in its courses; but to-morrow the world moves on unchanged save that one grave more has furrowed its surface. That any of us is essential to the place he occupies is but a fiction of his own weakness or a flattering adulation of his admirers. Only in God all things consist.
2. The reason of this, and as marking the essential difference between our relations to any other and to Christ, is that the former are in a sense conventional. We found them, we have become habituated to them, nevertheless they are not essential. Of one only can this be said. That we are complete in Christ renders necessary the preceding declaration which shows that what God can do for us Christ can do.
II. THAT WE ARE COMPLETE IN CHRIST NECESSARILY IMPLIES THAT APART FROM HIM WE HAVE NO MORAL STANDING PLACE.
1. I care not to argue the question of degrees. Incompleteness where perfection is demanded, where the judgment is by an infinitely holy standard, is as condemnatory and destructive of our moral basis as any degree of sin. Some years ago a large object glass was prepared for a telescope. With all the care employed, a single defective spot was found upon the otherwise perfect lens. It was not broken, there was no flaw, but it was condemned. Its purpose was to be a clear undeviating eye turned towards the heavens accurately to determine localities, etc. That single imperfection was its entire condemnation. This is the idea of human depravity. The defect in the web of the cloth renders the whole piece unmarketable. Slight incompleteness is still incompleteness, and when the judgment is upon righteousness the ground is taken from our feet.
2. It would be curious to investigate by what process so many cooly conclude to risk the great ordeal upon their personal moral standing, which even their fellow-men pronounce defective. A principle that may well command. this easy-going complacency to halt is that the nature of sincere virtue is ever discontent with attainments. As eminence with the pencil or chisel leads to the detection of manifold deficiencies and desire for a higher ideal, so the advance towards holiness, instead of satisfying, always reveals a disheartening lack, and as invariably leads to a search for some other mode of satisfying the requirement of conscience.
3. May it not be that this failure to perceive our own incompleteness, and the necessity of a better justifying righteousness, is rather to be ascribed to moral blindness than accepted as an evidence of superior virtue? For if once our incompleteness out of Christ be admitted, then the neglect to obey the gospel is reduced to a childish trifling with our eternal interest.
4. Yet how can one more fully commend the completeness there is in Christ than to point to that spotless life consummated by the sacrificial death of the cross? For all the way through — where the suffering by innocence must either mean injustice on the part of God, or justice receiving satisfaction for us — there is not a step or act which is not eloquent with the perfection of that sacrifice. You are asked to trust a Saviour of whom it is asked, "Who is he that condemneth," etc. Here is your completeness. It pleads no weak abandonment by God of His holiness. Redemption in Christ is the crown of that holiness as it is the expression of God's love.
III. THIS COMPLETENESS GATHERS IN THE CIRCLE OF ITS EMBRACE EVERY CONSCIOUS WANT. It keeps as well as saves. Christ's intercessory prayer is not a supplication such as we offer, but a claim and recapitulation of what had been secured by His expiation. And in virtue of that Christ will bring with Him His saints, and stand at heaven's gates claiming for them admission by His victory over the grave. Christ's completeness must be one which does not exhaust itself on a past forgiveness. It must not only cleanse, but keep me clean.
2. The independence of God of every human condition, for the success of Christ's kingdom, and the completeness for all its requirements, is found in Christ. Men have come and gone; some have seemed so important that hope almost expired in their departure, as Melancthon felt when Luther died. Yet how local are all such influences. God uses men, and so do we; but even with us how inconsiderable is a man. How quickly is the gap filled. God's Church is not complete in man, but in Christ.
(E. P. Terhune, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: