Colossians 2:9, A Refutation of Christological Errors                                  by Jack Kettler


“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)


“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4) 


Early Church Christological Heresies:


In the early centuries of Christianity, the Church contended with various theological controversies, particularly concerning the nature of Christ. These controversies led to the formulation of important doctrines to clarify the Church's understanding of the person of Christ. Some early Christological errors emerged during this period. Here are a few:


1.      Docetism:


Heresy: Docetism comes from the Greek word “dokeo,” meaning “to seem” or “to appear.” Docetists believed that Jesus only seemed to have a physical body but did not possess a real, physical nature.

Description: This view denied the true incarnation of Christ and the reality of his human nature, asserting that his earthly existence was merely an illusion.


2.      Adoptionism:


Heresy: Adoptionism taught that Jesus was born as a regular human being and was later “adopted” as the Son of God, usually at his baptism.

Description: This perspective denied the pre-existence of Christ and the eternal Sonship, asserting that Jesus became the Son of God at a specific point in his life.


3.      Arianism:


Heresy: Arianism, associated with the priest Arius, denied the full divinity of Christ. It argued that Jesus, while exalted and divine, was a created being and not co-eternal with God the Father.

Description: Arianism challenged the doctrine of the Trinity and the equality of the Father and the Son, emphasizing a hierarchical relationship between them.


4.      Nestorianism:


Heresy: Nestorianism, associated with Nestorius, proposed a division between Christ's divine and human natures to the extent that it seemed as if there were two separate persons—Jesus the man and the divine Son.

Description: This view was seen as undermining the unity of Christ's person and was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431.


5.      Monophysitism:


Heresy: Monophysitism asserted that Christ had only one nature—the divine nature—absorbing or subsuming his human nature.

Description: This view conflicted with the Chalcedonian Definition of 451, which affirmed that Christ has two distinct but inseparable natures, fully human and fully divine, without confusion or change.


These early Christological heresies prompted significant theological debates and the convening of various ecumenical councils to address and clarify the Church's understanding of Christ's nature. The resolutions of these councils, such as the Council of Nicaea (325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451), played a crucial role in shaping historical orthodox Christian doctrine.


What are the implications of the Colossians 2:9 passage for the above Christological heresies?


Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers answers this question in the following way:


“(9) In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. — Here almost every word is emphatic. First, “All the fulness of the Godhead”—not a mere emanation from the Supreme Being. Next, “dwells” and remains for ever—not descending on Him for a time and leaving Him again. Lastly, “bodily,” i.e., as incarnate in His humanity. The whole is an extension and enforcement of Colossians 1:19, “God was pleased that in Him all the fulness should dwell.” The horror of all that was material, as having in it the seed of evil, induced denial either of the reality of our Lord’s body, or of its inseparable connection with the Godhead in Him. Hence the emphasis here; as also we find (somewhat later) in St. John, “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14); “The spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh . . . is the spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:3).”


“On the meaning of “fullness” (plerorna), see Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13. Here it is only necessary to add, that, as in the later Gnosticism, so probably in its earlier forms, the word was used for the infinite nature of the Supreme Deity, out of which all the emanations (afterwards called Æons) received in various degrees of imperfection, according to their capacity. Probably for that reason St. Paul uses it so emphatically here. In the same spirit, St. John declares (John 1:16), “Out of His (Christ’s) fulness have all we received.” It is not finite, but infinitely perfect; hence we all can draw from it, yet leave it unimpaired.” (1)


Matthew Poole's Commentary, in a more comprehensive fashion, answers this question:


“For; the causal particle induceth this as an argument to enforce the caution immediately foregoing, against those who did seek to draw from Christ by philosophy, as well as urging the ceremonial law; else the apostle’s reasoning were not cogent unless against both.”


In him; it is evident that the Lord Jesus Christ himself, whom he had described and but just now named, is the subject, the person of whom he speaks, and in whom is seated, and unto whom he attributes, what followeth, Colossians 1:19 John 1:4 1 Timothy 4:16. He doth not say, in his doctrine, whatever Socinians cavil, as if they would render the apostle absurd, and not to agree with himself in what he asserts of Christ’s person before (as hath been showed) and after in the context. It is plain this relative him, respects not only Colossians 2:8, but Colossians 2:11, &c. in whom the believing Colossians are said to be complete as their Head, both in the former chapter, and soon after in this. Would it not be absurd to say, Christ’s doctrine is the head of angels? We are crucified in the doctrine of Christ? Buried and quickened together with his doctrine? The hand-writing of ordinances was nailed to the cross of doctrine? Is a doctrine the head of principalities and powers? Can a doctrine be buried in baptism? &c. To silence all the earth, that they should not restrain it to Christ’s doctrine only, what he asserts of his person, Paul, after Christ had been several years in heaven, put it in the present tense, dwelleth, not dwelt, {as 2 Timothy 1:5} in regard of the person eternally the same, Hebrews 13:8; for his argument had not been cogent, to contain Christians in the faith of Christ, and their duty to him, to have alleged, in the doctrine of Christ now in heaven hath dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (could propriety of speech have allowed it); but from the other respect, because in their very flesh (the body of Christ, now an inhabitant of the heavens) the very Godhead, in the whole fulness thereof, personally, from the moment of his incarnation, doth yet dwell. What will not the faithful perform and work out with their utmost faith, that they may never suffer themselves to be rent from spiritual and mystical union with him, in whom they understand that even they themselves shall be also divinely filled, Colossians 2:10, i.e. in their measure be made partakers of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4.”


Dwelleth imports more than a transient stay for a few minutes, or a little while, even abiding in him constantly and for ever, as dwelling most usually notes, 2 Corinthians 6:16. That which doth thus perpetually abide in his person, as denominated after the human nature, is all the fulness of the Godhead, viz. that rich and incomprehensible abundance of perfections, whereof the supreme and adorable nature is full; so that indeed there is not at all any perfection or excellency in the Divine nature but is found abiding in him. And after no common or ordinary way, but by a hypostatical or personal union of the Godhead with the manhood in Christ; which is not by way of mixture, confusion, conversion, or any other mutation; but bodily, to exclude that inhabitation which is only by extrinsical denomination. It being an adverb, doth denote the manner as well as the subject; wherefore when he speaks of the temple of his body, John 2:21, that doth not fully reach the apostle’s meaning here: but it must be expounded personally, since in the Greek that which signifies with us a body, and so our English word body, is put for a person, Romans 12:1 2 Corinthians 5:10 Revelation 18:13: somebody or nobody, i.e. some person or no person. There is a presence of the Godhead general, by essence and power; particular, in the prophets and apostles working miracles: gracious, in all sanctified ones; glorious, in heaven, in light which no man can approach unto, 1 Timothy 6:16; relative, in the church visible and ordinances, typically under the law, and symbolically in the sacraments: but all these dwellings, or being present in the creature, fall short of that in the text, viz. bodily, connoting the personal habitation of the Deity in, and union of it with, the humanity of Christ, so close, and strait, and intimate, that the Godhead inhabiting and the manhood inhabited make but one and the same person, even as the reasonable soul and body in man make but one man. The way of the presence of the Deity with the humanity of Christ is above all those manners of the presence of God with angels and men. The Godhead dwells in him personally, in them in regard of assistance and energy: Godhead notes the truth of it; Christ was not only partaker of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, but the very Godhead dwells in him: it is not only the Divinity (as the Socinians, following the Vulgar Latin in this, would have it) but the Deity, the very nature and essence of God. Now it is observable, though in God himself Divinity and Deity be indeed the same, Romans 1:20, and may differ only from the manner of our conception and contemplation; yet here, when the enemies to Christ’s Deity might by their cavilling make more use of the word Divinity, (as when the soul of man is said to be a divine thing), to insinuate as if it here noted only the Divine will exclusive to the other attributes, (which exclusion the term all doth significantly prevent), the apostle puts in Deity or Godhead.”


“Then lest Christ might (as by the Arians) be deemed a secondary God, or (as some since) a made god, inferior to the Father, he saith the fulness of the Godhead, which speaks him perfect God, coequal with the Father: further, connoting a numerical sameness of essence between the Godhead of the Father and the Son, all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in him. There is not one fulness of the Father and another of the Son, but one and the same singular Godhead in both, John 10:30. The fulness of the manhood in Adam and Eve were not numerically the same, but the Godhead of the Father and the Son is: yet is not the manhood of Christ co-extended and commensurate with the Godhead (as some Lutherans conceit); but where the manhood is, or Christ as man is, or hath his existence, there the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily: so that this fulness is extended as the manhood only in which it is, and not as far as the Deity in which this derivative fulness is not as in its seat, though it be all originally from it, but inherently or subjectively in Christ.” (2)  


Vincent's Word Studies does a good job of explaining key Greek words in the text:


Fullness See on Colossians 1:19.


Godhead (θεότητος)


“Only here in the New Testament. See on Romans 1:20, where θειότης divinity or godhood is used. Appropriate there, because God personally would not be known from His revelation in nature, but only His attributes - His majesty and glory. Here Paul is speaking of the essential and personal deity as belonging to Christ. So Bengel: ‘Not the divine attributes, but the divine nature.’”


Bodily (σωματικῶς)


1.      “In bodily fashion or bodily-wise. The verse contains two distinct assertions: 1. That the fullness of the Godhead eternally dwells in Christ. The present tense κατοικεῖ dwelleth, is used like ἐστιν is (the image), Colossians 1:15, to denote an eternal and essential characteristic of Christ's being. The indwelling of the divine fullness in Him is characteristic of Him as Christ, from all ages and to all ages. Hence the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him before His incarnation, when He was "in the form of God" (Philippians 2:6). The Word in the beginning, was with God and was God (John 1:1). It dwelt in Him during His incarnation. It was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and His glory which was beheld was the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father (John 1:14; compare 1 John 1:1-3). The fullness of the Godhead dwells in His glorified humanity in heaven.”


2.      “The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him in a bodily way, clothed the body. This means that it dwells in Him as one having a human body. This could not be true of His preincarnate state, when He was “in the form of God,” for the human body was taken on by Him in the fullness of time, when “He became in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7), when the Word became flesh. The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in His person from His birth to His ascension. He carried His human body with Him into heaven, and in His glorified body now and ever dwells the fullness of the Godhead.”


"O, for a sight, a blissful sight


Of our Almighty Father's throne!


There sits the Savior crowned with light,


Clothed in a body like our own.


"Adoring saints around Him stand,


And thrones and powers before Him fall;


The God shines gracious through the man,


continued... (3)

Colossians 2:9 is frequently cited by proponents of the Trinity to bolster the concept of Jesus being God incarnate. The verse explicitly declares the presence of divinity within Jesus. Its significance lies in the unique use of the term 'deity,' not found elsewhere in the Bible, which denotes the fundamental nature or divine essence. This verse asserts that Jesus embodies the entirety of God's fullness, representing the complete state of divinity. He is not lacking any divine attributes.


The use of Philippians 2:7 proof text used by theological heretics refuted:


Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers on Philippians 2:7:


“(7) But made himself . . .—This verse needs more exact translation. It should be, But emptied (or, stripped) Himself of His glory by having taken on Him the form of a slave and having been made (or, born) in likeness of men. The “glory” is the “glory which He had with the Father before the world was” (John 17:5; comp. Philippians 1:14), clearly corresponding to the Shechinah of the Divine Presence. Of this He stripped Himself in the Incarnation, taking on Him the “form (or, nature) of a servant” of God. He resumed it for a moment in the Transfiguration; He was crowned with it anew at the Ascension.”


“Made in the likeness of man. — This clause, at first sight, seems to weaken the previous clause, for it does not distinctly express our Lord’s true humanity. But we note that the phrase is “the likeness of men,” i.e., of men in general, men as they actually are. Hence the key to the meaning is to be found in such passages as Romans 8:3, God sent His own Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh;” or Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15, “It behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren,” “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It would have been an infinite humiliation to have assumed humanity, even in unique and visible glory; but our Lord went beyond this, by deigning to seem like other men in all things, one only of the multitude, and that, too, in a station, which confused Him with the commoner types of mankind. The truth of His humanity is expressed in the phrase “form of a servant;” its unique and ideal character is glanced at when it is said to have worn only the “likeness of men.” (4)


Vincent's Word Studies clarifies the Philippians text correctly and supports Ellicott’s interpretation:


“Made Himself of no reputation (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν).”


“Lit. Emptied Himself. The general sense is that He divested Himself of that peculiar mode of existence which was proper and peculiar to Him as one with God. He laid aside the form of God. In so doing, He did not divest Himself of His divine nature. The change was a change of state: the form of a servant for the form of God. His personality continued the same. His self-emptying was not self-extinction, nor was the divine Being changed into a mere man. In His humanity He retained the consciousness of deity, and in His incarnate state carried out the mind which animated Him before His incarnation. He was not unable to assert equality with God. He was able not to assert it.”


“Form of a servant (μορφὴν δούλου)”


“The same word for form as in the phrase form of God, and with the same sense. The mode of expression of a slave's being is indeed apprehensible, and is associated with human shape, but it is not this side of the fact which Paul is developing. It is that Christ assumed that mode of being which answered to, and was the complete and characteristic expression of, the slave's being. The mode itself is not defined. This is appropriately inserted here as bringing out the contrast with counted not equality with God, etc. What Christ grasped at in His incarnation was not divine sovereignty, but service.”


“Was made in the likeness of men (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος)”


“Lit., becoming in, etc. Notice the choice of the verb, not was, but became: entered into a new state. Likeness. The word does not imply the reality of our Lord's humanity, μορφή form implied the reality of His deity. That fact is stated in the form of a servant. Neither is εἰκών image employed, which, for our purposes, implies substantially the same as μορφή. See on Colossians 1:15. As form of a servant exhibits the inmost reality of Christ's condition as a servant - that He became really and essentially the servant of men (Luke 22:27) - so likeness of men expresses the fact that His mode of manifestation resembled what men are. This leaves room for the assumption of another side of His nature - the divine - in the likeness of which He did not appear. As He appealed to men, He was like themselves, with a real likeness; but this likeness to men did not express His whole self. The totality of His being could not appear to men, for that involved the form of God. Hence the apostle views Him solely as He could appear to men. All that was possible was a real and complete likeness to humanity. What He was essentially and eternally could not enter into His human mode of existence. Humanly He was like men, but regarded with reference to His whole self, He was not identical with man, because there was an element of His personality which did not dwell in them - equality with God. Hence the statement of His human manifestation is necessarily limited by this fact, and is confined to likeness and does not extend to identity. “To affirm likeness is at once to assert similarity and to deny sameness” (5)

The reader will notice how Vincent addresses what is known without using the name as the Kenosis theory when explicating how Christ “emptied” or “made” Himself in the Incarnation.


The Kenosis theory is a false teaching that says that Christ, when emptying himself, gave up some or all of the attributes of Deity, such as omniscience, to exist as a man. The danger in this theory is that the implications are that Christ was not fully God during His time on earth.


Another un-named theory this writer encountered was that Jesus is a lonely savior because after the resurrection, He remains confined in His body, and the only relation He has with believers is indirect via the Holy Spirit. While this is true about Jesus dwelling in the believer's heart via the Holy Spirit, this theory negates the fullness of divine attributes shared equally by the persons of the Triune Godhead. During His Advent, it is true that “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). To argue that in His glorified body, this fullness is absent is indefensible and heretical.


In conclusion:


Jesus retained all His divine attributes on earth and after His ascension into heaven because Jesus is God in the flesh, fully man and fully God. His divine attributes, such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, were not diminished when He took on human form. Instead, He willingly humbled Himself and submitted to the limitations of humanity while remaining fully divine. After His resurrection and ascension, Jesus continued in His full divine state, possessing all the attributes of God.


Key Scriptures that support the idea that Jesus retained His divine attributes while on earth and after His ascension into heaven. Some of the most important include:


1.      John 1:1-2, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


2.      John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”


3.      Philippians 2:5-11: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


4.      Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”


5.      Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”


These Scriptures show that Jesus, while fully man, was also fully God, maintaining His divine attributes throughout His life and after His ascension into heaven. Anything less is heresy.


Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Philippians, Vol. 8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 106.

2.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Colossians, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 716.

3.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 486-487.

4.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Philippians, Vol. 8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 74.

5.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 432-433.


 Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 17 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.