Judgment would be unbearable, if not for hope. And without judgment, God’s truth-telling, there would be no need for hope. Instead, we would accept ourselves and our condition as is and leave well enough alone. But we are not left alone to present follies, myriad miseries, and the occasional glimpse of true goodness. Hope is a hook that pulls toward a better future, a providential tug toward something expansive, beautiful, good, true, and just. The substance of hope is Christ our Lord (Col. 2:17).
The judgment is this. The people of God have turned away, rebelled, looked for another god, another gospel. Speaking in ancient times, God says through the prophet Hosea: “Go take a wife of whoredom and have children” (Hos. 1:2). The people are unfaithful and so Gomer, the prophet’s wife, bears children with names signifying human infidelity and divine judgment: “I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel,” “I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel,” “I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them,” “You are not my people and I am not your God” (Hos. 1:4-9).
The judgment cascades with overwhelming force. Then, hope comes. “Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered, and in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the Living God’” (Hos. 1:10). The purpose of judgment, God’s truth-telling, is to say again children of the living God!
The warning continues. Christians may be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit, human traditions, the elemental spirits, dietary disputes, festivals, new moons, sabbaths, worship of angels, visions. These are false gods that stand under judgment because God has revealed in his Son “the whole fullness of deity” (Col 2:9). And “you have come to fullness in him” (Col. 2:10). “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). The gift of Christ is whole, entire, unending, and sufficient. “You [O God] fill everything; you fill everything with yourself” entirely (Augustine, Confessions 1). God is an inexhaustible outpouring of the power of being. God gives eternally and fully. Thus, there are no other gods. Christ is the fullness of Deity, the substance of one divine being.
Just as the prophet waits for the moment to shout again children of the living God, the announcement of the fullness of Christ sets up a joyous acclamation: “When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). The power of God has done this. A more literal reading: “You were also raised with him through the faith/faithfulness of the power God.” Although you were dead in trespasses, God has made you alive together with Christ. Real encouragement rooted in the reality of Christ: “As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live in him” (Col. 2:6). Even more emphatically, giving weight both to the imperative and prepositional phrase, the command says: “Walk in him!”
You were rooted and built up in him and established in the Faith. This is a past bearing continual influence on the present. Therefore, hold fast. Go on in him. Christ is enough. Take nothing for the journey. Christ will give the fullness you need, your daily bread (Luke 11:3).