“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…”
In John chapter 14, the disciple Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” I love the often-clueless boldness of the disciples. Jesus replies to him, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
When Isaiah promised that there would be a child born who was called Immanuel, or “God with us,” even he wasn’t predicting God to be literally with us in the flesh. He had in mind the sense of God being with his people and strengthening them in battle, as with Joshua, or in deliverance, as in the Exodus, or in comfort, as in many of the Psalms, or in worship, as in Solomon’s temple. And Jesus did (and does) all of those things. Yet the wonder of the incarnation of Jesus, and what the New Testament writers go to great pains to tell us, is that beyond anyone’s imagination, God became man and truly lived “with us.”
When Paul writes that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” he is expanding on this idea of God being with us in the ultimate sense. God was not simply figuratively with us in the teachings of Jesus, but was physically, visibly with us. The wonder of the incarnation – literally, the “enfleshment” – of Jesus is that he who created all things came to us to reconcile us to himself. Though we were lost in sin, he has sought us out. Though we were dead, he has come to give us life.