International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
fool'-nes: The translation of pleroma, which is generally, but not invariably, rendered "fullness" in the New Testament. Etymologically, pleroma--which itself is derived from the verb pleroo, "I fill"--signifies "that which is or has been filled"; it also means "that which fills or with which a thing is filled"; then it signifies "fullness," "a fulfilling."
1. "Fullness" in the Gospels:
In the Gospels it occurs as follows: Mt 9:16 and Mk 2:21: in both of these passages it means "the fullness," that by which a gap or rent is filled up, when an old garment is repaired by a patch; Mk 6:43, `They took up fragments, the fullness of twelve baskets'; 8:20, `The fullness of how many baskets of fragments did ye take up?' Jn 1:16, `out of his fullness we all received.'
2. Its Use in the Pauline Epistles:
Elsewhere in the New Testament "fullness" is used by Paul alone, who employs it 12 t, in addition to the frequent use he makes of the verb "to fill." Of these 12, no fewer than 6 are in Ephesians and Colossians. The references are these: Rom 11:12, "If .... their loss (is) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?" The "fullness" of Israel here refers to their being, as a nation, received by God to a participation in all the benefits of Christ's salvation. Rom 11:25, "A hardening .... hath befallen Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Rom 13:10, "Love .... is the fulfillment (the fulfilling) of the law"; that is, love is not a partial fulfillment, by obedience to this or that commandment, but a complete filling up of what the law enjoins. Rom 15:29, "I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ." 1 Cor 10:26, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." Gal 4:4, "when the fullness of the time came." The fullness of the time is that portion of time by which the longer antecedent period is completed. Eph 1:10, "unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times." Eph 1:23, "the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." The church is the fullness of Christ; the body of believers is filled with the presence, power, agency and riches of Christ. Eph 3:19, "that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God"--that ye may be wholly filled with God and with His presence and power and grace. Eph 4:13, "unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Col 1:19, "In him should all the fullness dwell." Col 2:9, "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (compare Lk 2:40,52; 4:1).
3. "Fullness" in Ephesians and Colossians:
"Fullness" in Ephesians and Colossians is used to present some of the most prominent thoughts in these epistles, sometimes referring to Christ, sometimes to the church and the individual Christian. Christ is Himself to "fulfill" all things in heaven and on earth (Eph 4:10 King James Version margin). We cannot separate "the fullness of Christ" in this passage (Eph 4:13) from the statement in Eph 1:23, that the Christ is being fulfilled, and finds His fullness in the church. When all the saints have come to the unity which is their destined goal, or in other words, to the full-grown man, the Christ will have been fulfilled. Thus they will have together reached "the full measure of the maturity of the fullness of the Christ" (J. Armitage Robinson, Commentary on Ephesians, 183). The church and individual believers, have, by faith, the full possession of all that Christ has to impart--the grace and comfort and strength of Christ received by them now. Compare Jn 1:16; `In him ye are complete, are made full' (Col 2:10); that is, the fullness of moral, intellectual and spiritual perfection is communicated by Christ to all who are united to Him. "When as the result of the Holy Spirit's inward strengthening, Christ dwells in the heart, and His knowledge-surpassing love is known, the only limit to spiritual excellence is `to be filled unto all the fullness of God'!" (HDB, 735).
4. Its Use by the False Teachers at Colosse:
In the passages from Col, "the fullness" in Christ is contrasted with the mediating eons or angel-powers or spiritual manifestations supposed to be intermediate between God and the world. The false teachers at Colosse seem to have used "fullness," as a technical or semi-technical term, for the purpose of their philosophical or theosophical teaching, employing it to signify the entire series of angels or eons, which filled the space or interval between a holy God and a world of matter, which was conceived of as essentially and necessarily evil. Teaching of this sort was entirely derogatory to the person and work of Christ. In opposition, therefore, to the Colossian false teaching in regard to "the fullness," Paul shows what the facts really are, that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
5. The Fullness in Christ:
The fullness of the Godhead is the totality of the Divine powers and attributes, all the wealth of the being and of the nature of God--eternal, infinite, unchangeable in existence, in knowledge, in wisdom, in power, in holiness, in goodness, in truth, in love. This is the fullness of the nature of God--life, light, love; and this has its permanent, its settled abode in Christ. All that is His own by right is His by His Father's good pleasure also. It was the Father's good pleasure that in Christ should all the fullness dwell.
Any limitation, therefore, of the meaning of "fullness," which would make the indwelling of the fullness of the Godhead in Christ a matter either of the future, or of the past only, is inconsistent with what is said of "the fullness" in Him, in Col 1:19; 2:9. The reference in both passages is to the timeless and eternal communication of the fullness of the Godhead from the Father to the Son.
It was in a sense developed along the lines of the Colossian teaching regarding "the fullness," that the Gnostics afterward used the term.
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'fullness'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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