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God’s Word for You

Colossians 1:19 The communication of attributes

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

19 For in him God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell,

Just exactly what was or is Jesus Christ? This seems to be the question from the Colossians that Paul is answering. We have already talked about his theme: The Glorious Christ, who is Head of the Church. Now Paul turns to the key point, and this is something he will keep talking about and explaining for quite some time. A nearly identical verse is found in chapter 2 verse 9. Here we’re going to investigate some of the inner workings, as it were, of the God-man, Jesus Christ.

As theologians have tried to get their arms around this immense subject, they have identified three (or four) ways in which the attributes of God are shown by the Bible to be found in Jesus Christ. These are sometimes called “genera,” and each one a “genus” (not “genius,” although that’s true, too). (Forgive me for speaking simply and as plainly as I can about this subject. In a dogmatics or doctrine textbook, what I do in five paragraphs would take up more than a hundred pages).

Jesus is God. (1) All idioms (qualities or actions) of either his divine nature or his human nature are “appropriated,” ascribed to the person of Christ (in dogmatics, this is the genus idiomaticum), (2) The divine perfection and majesty of Jesus is communicated to the human nature of Jesus (the genus maiestaticum), and (3) The official acts of Christ were and are done according to both natures (the genus apotelesmaticum).

As to his “idioms” divine and human, think of it this way. Jesus Christ has two natures, God and man. When the Bible talks about Jesus with respect to qualities or attributes which essentially belong only to one or the other of those two natures, those qualities are still ascribed or said to belong to the whole person. So Jesus—who was “not yet fifty years old” could say, “Before Abraham was, I am!” (John 8:57-58). Jesus is truly and fully God.

As to his ‘majesty’ (divine perfections) being communicated,’ we must point out that there is no reciprocal or “deterioration” of the divine. But the divine is ascribed to the man, Jesus: “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin” (1 John 1:7). This could not be true of any other man, except that Jesus is also truly and fully God. We speak about this especially in four items: Jesus’ omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and divine honor.

As to his “official acts according to both natures,” we speak especially and particularly about Jesus keeping the Law perfectly (his active obedience), and his atoning death (his passive obedience). Paul said, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). God’s own blood bought the church—the crucifixion was an act, an official act, performed by Jesus Christ according to both of his two natures, God and man.

Speaking correctly, we can say: The man Jesus is God. God was born of the woman. The man Jesus performed miracles and is the Messiah. God died on the cross. The man Jesus was raised from the dead and is sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus loves you. God loves you. These are all one and the same. They all express what it means that the fullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ, and this pleases God always.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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