What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > Fulness There is in Christ by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture X
Fulness There is in Christ

Charles G. Finney

Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
July 5, 1843

Lecture X.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

Text.--Col. 2:9, 10: "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power."

The connection in which this text stands, shows that the Apostle is laboring to establish the distinction between an outside legal religion, and religion by faith in Christ. For this purpose, he warns them in verse eight to "beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." And in the twentieth verse, by an earnest and solemn appeal, he strives to tear them away from "subjection to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men." Indeed the main design of the whole epistle was to shut up the Colossians to the religion of faith, and cut them off from that of legality.

In the present discussion it is my design to show--

I. What is not intended by the declaration that Christians are complete in Christ.

II. What is intended.

III. To point out some things which are demanded by our nature, circumstances, and character, in order to complete well-being.

IV. The conditions on which this completeness may be realized in our own experience.

I. What is not intended by the declaration that Christians are complete in Christ.

II. What is intended.

It is intended that in Him all the demands of our being are met--that a full provision is made, and set forth by God to meet all our wants, and make us all that God desires we should be.

III. Some things which are demanded by our nature, circumstances, and character, in order to complete well being.

The question is, what do men really need--what must belong to a Savior in order to his being a Savior to us such as we need?

If I had time to take up the habits, opinions, &c., of society generally, I could show snares and pitfalls, and ambushes arranged with wonderful subtlety and adaptation, and awfully effective for the ruin of mankind. These are not less manifest in family and even individual relations, and at all peculiar crises of life, taking advantage of habits and education and susceptibilities to work out the endless overthrow of men.

Again, I ask how can we escape him? Who can deliver us? We need a wiser and a mightier than he to defeat him and to effect our escape.

IV. The conditions on which this completeness may be received and realized by us, in our own experience.


1. See why Christians are so imperfect. It is because they don't realize their wants, and do not take Him as a complete Savior.

2. They are always like to be, while they know so little of Jesus. I was conversing with one of the principal men in the state, on sanctification. He agreed with me in theory as to its attainability, and then said, that as a matter of fact, no body would realize it in this world. I replied, if you knew what you ought to know about Jesus Christ, you would as soon cut off your right hand as say that. It is a want of a knowledge of Jesus, which leaves men in sin, and makes them weak against it. I have often thought of the sons of Sceva the Jew, who attempted to cast out devils in the name of Jesus, "whom Paul preached," and when they had bidden an evil spirit come out, he replied, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was, leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." They did not know Christ, and consequently experienced only defeat. Suppose they had told their experience afterwards, to prove that no body ever did or could cast out devils! Ah! It is one thing to hear and read about Christ, and quite another to trust Him, know Him, and become complete in Him.

3. While they place so much reliance on human, and so little on divine teaching, they are like to remain imperfect. Let them stand in that relation in which God has placed them, and both profit the soul; but when men hear the minister or one another and depend on what he says more than on what God says by his word and Spirit, it is fatal to a growth in divine things. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

4. While men rest in the letter and overlook the spirit of the gospel, they will of course remain imperfect.

5. The same will be true as long as they put their works in the place of Christ, or their watchings, their resolutions, and legal efforts.

6. Also, while their guides and leaders are blind, and while the shepherds frighten away the sheep from their pastures.

7. Many professors don't know Christ, because, as it were, they have only been converted and baptized unto Moses. Others have received John's baptism unto repentance; and others still know Christ as an atoning Savior. They began in the Spirit, and are now trying to become perfect by the flesh.

8. Wherever there is an imperfection in Christian character, there must be ignorance or unbelief, for the text is a promise that covers the whole field of our necessities. It is remarkable how the Bible abounds with promises both general and specific. Some cover our whole necessity--others point to specific wants. The specific promises seem to be given in accommodation to our ignorance and infirmities, lest our general confidence should not suffice in hours of trial; and yet to some minds, a general declaration implying a promise like that in the text affords greater strength than any specific promise.

9. How few realize that if they are not complete in Him it is because of unbelief. The truth is, it is because they have never known the exercise and power of faith.

10. Doubts respecting the doctrine of entire sanctification, are unbelief, for it is impossible that any one should doubt this who has implicit faith in what Christ says. If grace sufficient is promised, the doubts are unbelief.

11. Many deceive themselves by saying--"I believe the promise but I don't believe I shall fulfill the condition." The truth is, believing the promise is fulfilling the condition. How many nullify the promises in this way. They say they believe that the promise would be fulfilled if they complied with the condition, but this they know they do not do, and have no confidence that they shall. And instead of blaming themselves for it, they really turn it into a virtue, by calling it self-distrust. Its real name is unbelief.

12. If Christ is the depositary of all we need, we see why we are commanded to "come boldly to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." But true faith is almost universally regarded as presumption, and such boldness as Jacob, Moses, and others exercised exclaimed against as profane. How shocking this is, when, as a matter fact, it is presumption not to come boldly. It is disobedience to a divine requisition.

13. There is no real difficulty in the fact that the promises are conditioned on faith. For faith in promise depends upon confidence in the general character of the promisor, and not to give full credit to the promise is to impeach the character of him who made it. Suppose a man of great wealth and veracity should make a promise with this condition, as indeed every promise necessarily implies it. Would there be any difficulty in the condition? Not the least. So long as we had confidence in his character, we should regard it as absurd to make a difficulty of the condition of faith. But if the man was known, or supposed to be unable or unwilling, or that his general character was bad, then truly the condition would be a stumbling block. Nay, to believe implicitly would be absurd and impossible.

14. It is impossible that unbelief should fail to make the soul wretched, or that faith should not bring it deep repose.

15. What a foundation have we for universal repose in Christ. He is a Savior who exactly and perfectly meets our case and necessities as they are. In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Oh, how important that we should know Him--that our acquaintance with Him should be full. We need a more thorough acquaintance with Christ than with any body else. There is such a thing as knowing more of Jesus, as having a more intimate acquaintance with Him than that which exists between a husband and his wife, or the dearest friends. Whoever is ignorant of that, is ignorant of the very marrow and fatness of the gospel. A personal acquaintance with Christ strengthens our confidence more and more in Him. Yes, and such an acquaintance removes our filth and makes us clean. James Brainard Taylor exclaimed--"I am clean." Brethren are you clean? Are you complete in Christ? Let us go to Him and receive of his fulness, until we are "filled with all the fulness of God."


of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart

  1. Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart, is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE XII).

  2. Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit, but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).

  3. Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).

  4. Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).

  5. Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses: (1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and, (2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).

  6. Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

  7. Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity, because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

  8. Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect... it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

  9. Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).

  10. Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

  11. Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it. The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).


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