Ephesians 1:23
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
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(23) The fulness of him that filleth all in all.—The word pleroma, “fulness,” is used in a definite and almost technical sense in the Epistles of the Captivity, and especially in the Epistle to the Colossians, having clear reference to the speculations as to the Divine Nature and the emanations from it, already anticipating the future Gnosticism. The word itself is derived from a verb signifying, first, to “fill;” next (more frequently in the New Testament), to “fulfil” or complete. It is found (1) in a physical sense of the “full contents” of the baskets, in Mark 6:43; Mark 8:20; and of the earth, in 1Corinthians 10:26-28; and in Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21, it is applied to the patch of new cloth on an old garment. It is used next (2) of fulness, in sense of the “complete tale or number,” “of time” and “seasons,” in Ephesians 1:10, Galatians 4:4; of the Jews and Gentiles in Romans 11:12; Romans 11:25. In the third place (3) it is applied to the full essence, including all the attributes, of a thing or person; as of the Law (Romans 13:10), and of the blessing of Christ (Romans 15:29). Lastly (4), in these Epistles it is applied, almost technically, to the fulness of the Divine Nature. Thus, in Colossians 1:19 we have, “It pleased the Father that in Christ all the fulness”—i.e., all the fulness of the Divine Nature—“should dwell;” or (to take an admissible but less probable construction) “In Him all the fulness is pleased to dwell;” and this is explained in Ephesians 2:9, “In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Similarly, though less strikingly, we read in this Epistle, that those who are in Christ are said (in Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13) “to be filled up to all the fulness of God,” and “to come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. In which of these last senses is the Church here said to be the “fulness of Christ?” If in any, probably in the last of all. As the individual, so the Church, by the presence “of Him who filleth up all things for Himself in all,” comes to be “His fulness,” the complete image of Him in all His glorified humanity. But it may be questioned whether it is not better to take here a different sense, corresponding to the “patch” in Matthew 9:16, and signifying the “complement.” In the original Greek of Euclid (in Book 1., Prop. 4), the cognate word, parapleroma, is used of “the complements.” In this compound word the idea is, no doubt, more unequivocally expressed. But of the simple word here employed it may be reasonably contended that, if one thing or person alone is contemplated, the pleroma must be the fulness of the one nature; if, as here, two are brought in, each will be the “complement” to the other—as the patch to the garment, and the garment to the patch. So here (says Chrysostom) “the complement of the Head is the Body, and the complement of the Body is the Head.” Thus by a daring expression, St. Paul describes our Lord as conceiving His glorified humanity incomplete without His Church; and then, lest this should seem to derogate even for a moment from His dignity, he adds the strongest declaration of His transcendent power, “to fill up for Himself all things in all,” in order to show that we are infinitely more incomplete without Him than He without us. This sense, bold as it is, certainly suits exactly the great idea of this Epistle, which differs from the parallel Colossian Epistle in this—that while both dwell emphatically on Christ the Head, and the Church as His Body, there the chief stress is laid on the true Deity of the Head, here on the glory and privileges of the Body.

1:15-23 God has laid up spiritual blessings for us in his Son the Lord Jesus; but requires us to draw them out and fetch them in by prayer. Even the best Christians need to be prayed for: and while we hear of the welfare of Christian friends, we should pray for them. Even true believers greatly want heavenly wisdom. Are not the best of us unwilling to come under God's yoke, though there is no other way to find rest for the soul? Do we not for a little pleasure often part with our peace? And if we dispute less, and prayed more with and for each other, we should daily see more and more what is the hope of our calling, and the riches of the Divine glory in this inheritance. It is desirable to feel the mighty power of Divine grace, beginning and carrying on the work of faith in our souls. But it is difficult to bring a soul to believe fully in Christ, and to venture its all, and the hope of eternal life, upon his righteousness. Nothing less than Almighty power will work this in us. Here is signified that it is Christ the Saviour, who supplies all the necessities of those who trust in him, and gives them all blessings in the richest abundance. And by being partakers of Christ himself, we come to be filled with the fulness of grace and glory in him. How then do those forget themselves who seek for righteousness out of him! This teaches us to come to Christ. And did we know what we are called to, and what we might find in him, surely we should come and be suitors to him. When feeling our weakness and the power of our enemies, we most perceive the greatness of that mighty power which effects the conversion of the believer, and is engaged to perfect his salvation. Surely this will constrain us by love to live to our Redeemer's glory.Which is his body - This comparison of the church with "a person" or body, of which the Lord Jesus is the head, is not uncommon in the New Testament; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 12:27, note; Ephesians 4:15-16, notes.

The fulness of him - The word rendered here as "fulness" - πλήρωμα plērōma - means properly, that with which anything is filled; the filling up; the contents; notes, Romans 11:12. The exact idea here, however, is not very clear, and interpreters have been by no means united in their opinions of the meaning. It seems probable that the sense is, that the church is the "completion or filling up" of his power and glory. It is that without which his dominion would not be complete. He has control over the angels and over distant worlds, but; his dominion would not be complete without the control over his church, and that is so glorious, that it "fills up" the honor of the universal dominion, and makes his empire complete. According to Rosenmuller, the word "fulness" here means a "great number" or multitude; a multitude, says he, which, not confined to its own territory, spreads afar, and fills various regions.

Koppe also regards it as synonymous with "multitude or many," and supposes it to mean all the dominion of the Redeemer over the body - the church. He proposes to translate the whole verse, "He has made him the Head over his church, that he might rule it as his own body - the whole wide state of his universal kingdom." "This," says Calvin (in loc.), "is the highest honor of the church, that the Son of God regards himself as in a certain sense imperfect unless he is joined to us." The church constitutes the "complete body" of the Redeemer. A body is complete when it has all its members and limbs in proper proportions, and those members might be said to be the "completion," or the filling-up, or the "fulness" - πλήρωμα plērōma - of the body or the person. This language would not, indeed, be such as would usually be adopted to express the idea now; but this is evidently the sense in which Paul uses it here.

The meaning is, that the church sustains the same relation to Christ, which the body does to the head. It helps to form the entire person. There is a close and necessary union. The one is not complete without the other. And one is dependent on the other. When the body has all its members in due proportion, and is in sound and vigorous health, the whole person then is complete and entire. So it is to be in the kingdom of the Redeemer. He is the head; and that redeemed Church is the body, the fulness, the completion, the filling-up of the entire empire over which he presides, and which he rules. On the meaning of the word "fulness" - πλήρωμα plērōma - the reader may consult Storr's Opuscula, vol. i. pp. 144-187, particularly pp. 160-183. Storr understands the word in the sense of full or abundant mercy, and supposes that it refers to the great benignity which "God" has shown to his people, and renders it, "The great benignity of him who filleth all things with good, as he called Jesus from tile dead to life and placed him in heaven, so even you, sprung from the pagan, who were dead in sin on account of your many offences in which you formerly lived, etc. - hath he called to life by Christ." This verse, therefore, he would connect with the following chapter, and he regards it all as designed to illustrate the great power and goodness of God. Mr. Locke renders it, "Which is his body, which is completed by him alone," and supposes it means, that Christ is the head, who perfects the church by supplying all things to all its members which they need.

Chandler gives an interpretation in accordance with that which I have first suggested, as meaning that the church is the full "complement" of the body of Christ; and refers to Aelian and Dionysius Halicarnassus, who use the word "fulness" or πλήρωμα plērōma as referring to the rowers of a ship. Thus also we say that the ship's crew is its "complement," or that a ship or an army has its "complement" of people; that is, the ranks are filled up or complete. In like manner, the church will be the filling-up, or the complement, of the great kingdom of the Redeemer - that which will give "completion" or perfectness to his universal dominion.

Of him - Of the Redeemer.

That filleth all in all - That fills all things, or who pervades all things; see the notes, 1 Corinthians 12:6; 1 Corinthians 15:28, note; compare Colossians 3:11. The idea is, that there is no place where he is not, and which he does not fill; and that he is the source of all the holy and happy influences that are abroad in the works of God. It would not be easy to conceive of an expression more certainly denoting omnipresence and universal agency than this; and if it refers to the Lord Jesus, as seems to be indisputable, the passage teaches not only his supremacy, but demonstrates his universal agency, and his omnipresence - things that pertain only to God. From this passage we may observe:

(1) That just views of the exaltation of the Redeemer are to be obtained only by the influence of the Spirit of God on the heart; Ephesians 1:17-19. Man, by nature, tins no just conceptions of the Saviour, and has no desire to have. It is only as the knowledge of that great doctrine is imparted to the mind by the Spirit of God, that we have any practical and saving acquaintance with such an exaltation. The Christian sees him, by faith, exalted to the right hand of God, and cheerfully commits himself and his all to him, and feels that all his interests are safe in his hands.

(2) it is very desirable to have such views of an exalted Saviour. So Paul felt When he earnestly prayed that God would give such views to the Ephesians, Ephesians 1:17-20. It was desirable in order that they might have a right understanding of their privileges; in order that they might know the extent of the power which had been manifested in their redemption; in order that they might commit their souls with confidence to him. In my conscious weakness and helplessness; when I am borne down by the labors and exposed to the temptations of life; when I contemplate approaching sickness and death, I desire to feel that that Saviour to whom I have committed my all is exalted far above principalities and powers, and every name that is named. When the church is persecuted and opposed; when hosts of enemies rise up against it and threaten its peace and safety, I rejoice to feel assured the Redeemer and Head Of the church is over all, and that he has power to subdue all her foes and his.

(3) the church is safe. Her great Head is on the throne of the universe, and no weapon that is formed against her can prosper. He has defended it hitherto in all times of persecution, and the past is a pledge that he will continue to protect it to the end of the world.

(4) let us commit our souls to this exalted Redeemer. Such a Redeemer we need - one who has all power in heaven and earth. Such a religion we need - that can restore the dead to life. Such hope and confidence we need as he can give - such peace and calmness as shall result from unwavering confidence in him who filleth all in all.

23. his body—His mystical and spiritual, not literal, body. Not, however, merely figurative, or metaphorical. He is really, though spiritually, the Church's Head. His life is her life. She shares His crucifixion and His consequent glory. He possesses everything, His fellowship with the Father, His fulness of the Spirit, and His glorified manhood, not merely for Himself, but for her, who has a membership of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Eph 5:30).

fulness—"the filled-up receptacle" [Eadie]. The Church is dwelt in and filled by Christ. She is the receptacle, not of His inherent, but of His communicated, plenitude of gifts and graces. As His is the "fulness" (Joh 1:16; Col 1:19; 2:9) inherently, so she is His "fulness" by His impartation of it to her, in virtue of her union to Him (Eph 5:18; Col 2:10). "The full manifestation of His being, because penetrated by His life" [Conybeare and Howson]. She is the continued revelation of His divine life in human form; the fullest representative of His plenitude. Not the angelic hierarchy, as false teachers taught (Col 2:9, 10, 18), but Christ Himself is the "fulness of the Godhead," and she represents Him. Koppe translates less probably, "the whole universal multitude."

filleth all in all—Christ as the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the world, constituted by God (Col 1:16-19), fills all the universe of things with all things. "Fills all creation with whatever it possesses" [Alford]. The Greek is, "filleth for Himself."

Which is his body; i.e. a mystical one, whereof every member is influenced by the Spirit of Christ the Head, as in the natural body the members are influenced by spirits derived from the natural head.

The fulness of him: the church is called the fulness of Christ, not personally, but relatively considered, and as Head of the church. The head is incomplete without the body; Christ in his relative capacity as a Head, would not be complete without his mystical body the church.

That filleth all in all: lest Christ should be thought to have any need of the church, because of her being said to be his fulness, it is added, that she herself is filled by Christ. Christ fills all his body, and all the members of it, with the gifts and graces of his Spirit, Ephesians 4:10.

Which is his body,.... That is, which church is the body of Christ; as an human body is but one, consisting of various members, united to each other, and set in an exact proportion and symmetry, and in a proper subservience to one another, and which must be neither more nor fewer than they are; so the church of Christ is but one general assembly, which consists of many persons, of different gifts and usefulness, and are all united together under one head, Christ, whose name they bear, and are made to drink of the same Spirit; and these are placed in such order, as throw a glory and comeliness on each other, and to be useful to one another, so that it cannot be said of the meanest member, that there is no need of it; and the number of them can neither be increased nor diminished; and this is Christ's body, his mystical body, which becomes his by the Father's gift to him, and by his own purchase; to which he is united, and of which he is the only head; and which he loves as his own body, and supplies, directs, and defends:

the fulness of him that filleth all in all; besides the personal fulness which Christ has as God, and his fulness of ability and fitness for his work as Mediator, and his dispensatory fulness, which dwells in him for the use of his people, the church is his relative fulness, which fills him, and makes up Christ mystical; and which is filled by him, and is complete in him: and then will the church appear to be Christ's fulness, when all the elect, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be gathered in; and when these are all filled with the grace designed for them; and when they are all grown up to their full proportion, or are arrived to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; which will be a glorious sight to see, and very desirable: and this shows the certainty of the saints' perseverance and salvation: for if anyone member, even the meanest, could be lost, the church would not be the fulness of Christ: and this may be further concluded, from its being his fulness, who

filleth all in all; which may be understood either more extensively; for he fills both worlds with inhabitants; he fills all places with his omnipresence, and all creatures with proper food and sustenance: or with a limitation to the church and people of God; he fills all his churches and ordinances with his gracious presence; and he fills the various societies of his saints with members and with officers; and these with the gifts and graces of his Spirit, suitable to their place and station; he fills all and every of the saints, all the vessels of mercy, whether greater or lesser, all sorts of them, of larger or meaner capacities; he fills all the powers and faculties of their souls, their hearts with joy, their minds with knowledge, their consciences with peace, their wills with spiritual desires, submission and resignation, and their affections with love to himself and people: in short, he fills them with all grace and goodness, and the fruits of righteousness; and so makes them meet for usefulness here, and for happiness hereafter; the fulness of the earth in Psa_24:1 is by the Jews interpreted of the souls of the righteous, and of the congregation of Israel (h).

(h) Zohar in Gen. fol. 50. 2. & in Exod. fol. 21. 2.

Which is his body, the {c} fulness of him that filleth all in all.

(c) For the love of Christ is so great towards the Church, that even though he fully satisfies all with all things, yet he considers himself but a maimed and unperfect head, unless he has the Church joined to him as his body.

Ephesians 1:23 gives information (ἥτις, ut quae, denotes the attribute as belonging to the nature of the ἐκκλησία; see Kühner, II. p. 497) as to the relation in which the church stands to this Head given to it. It is the body of the Head.

τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ] namely, in the mystical sense, according to the essential fellowship of spirit and of life, which unites the collective mass of believers with Christ, their Ruler, into an integrant and organic unity, wherein each single individual is a member of Christ in Christ’s body. Comp. Ephesians 2:16, Ephesians 4:4; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16, Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24; Colossians 2:19; Colossians 3:15; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:27.

τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πληρουμ.] a significant explanatory parallel to τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ, which more precisely characterizes the relation of the church to Christ, in so far as the latter, as Head over all, is also its Head; and that in non-figurative language. The church, namely, is the Christ-filled, i.e. that which is filled by Him,[118] in so far, namely, as Christ, by the Holy Spirit, dwells and rules in the Christians, penetrates the whole Christian mass with His gifts and life-powers, and produces all Christian life (Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 3:17; John 15:5; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27). His presence and activity, through the medium of the Spirit, fills the collective Christian body. And Christ, by whom the Christian church is filled, is the same who filleth the all (i.e. the rerum universitas, whose Head He is, Ephesians 1:22) with all (omnibus rebus); for by Him was the world created, and by Him, as the immanent ground of life (Hebrews 1:3), is it maintained and governed (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16 ff.; Usteri, Lehrbegr. p. 315 ff.); hence this interpretation of ἐν πᾶσι yields no intolerable sense (Schenkel), but is entirely Pauline. Accordingly, by the fact that the church is named the πλήρωμα of Christ, the idea that Christ is the Head of the church, of His body, receives elucidation; and by the characteristic designation τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πληρουμ., is elucidated the conception, that He as Head over all is Head of the church, Ephesians 1:22.

τὸ πλήρωμα is here (comp. generally on Ephesians 1:10) equivalent to τὸ πεπληρωμένον. Thus, as is well known, not only are ships’ cargoes or crews (Dem. 565, 1), but also the ships themselves—so far as they are freighted or manned—called πληρώματα (Lucian, V. H. ii. 37, 38); thus it is said in Philo, de praem. et poen. p. 920, of the soul: γενομένη δὲ πλήρωμα ἀρετῶν; thus among the Gnostics the supersensible world is called τὸ πλήρωμα, the filled, in opposition to τὸ κένωμα, the empty, the world of the senses (Baur, Gnosis, pp. 157, 462 ff.). See also Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 470. ἐν πᾶσι is not: everywhere (Baumgarten-Crusius), in all modes of manifestation (de Wette, Bleek), in all points (Harless), or the like; but instrumental,[119] as at Ephesians 5:18 : with all; and πληρουμένου is middle, as in Xen. Hell. v. 4. 56, vi. 2. 14; Dem. p. 1208, 14; 1221, 12, in connection with which the medial sense is not to be overlooked: qui sibi implet; for Christ is Lord and final aim (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 2:10) of all. Comp. Barnabas, Ep. 12: ἔχεις καὶ ἐν τούτῳ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ πάντα καὶ εἰς αὐτόν. The ubiquity of the body of Christ, which our text was formerly employed to defend (see especially Calovius), and even now is once more adduced to prove (Philippi, Dogm. IV. 1, p. 434), is the less to be found here, seeing that the ἐν πᾶσι, to be taken instrumentally, makes us think only of the all-penetrating continuous activity of Christ. The continuity of this activity is implied in the present πληρουμ., in which Hofmann, II. 1, p. 539, finds a gradual development, and that of the restoration of the world; of which last there is here no mention at all, but, on the contrary, of the upholding and governing of the world, as Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3. Comp. Hermas, Past. sim. iii. 9. 14. As regards the explanations that differ from ours, we may remark—(1) Many, who have rightly apprehended τὸ πλήρωμα and ΠΛΗΡΟΥΜΈΝΟΥ, wrongly restrict ΤᾺ ΠΆΝΤΑ ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙ to the spiritual operations in the Christians, either, as Grotius: “Christus in omnibus, credentibus sc., implet omnia, mentem luce, voluntatem piis affectibus, corpus ipsum obsequendi facultate, ad quae dona perpetua accedebant primis temporibus etiam χαρίσματα illa ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΆ, etc.,” or, as Flatt (comp. Zachariae and Morus): “who fills all without distinction of nations, Jews and Gentiles, everywhere, or always [ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙ?], with good.” In this view the fact is overlooked that ΤᾺ ΠΆΝΤΑ, after the preceding ΚΕΦΑΛῊΝ ὙΠῈΡ ΠΆΝΤΑ, admits of no sort of limitation, and that, if ΤΟῦΠΛΗΡΟΥΜΈΝΟΥ were designed only to say how far the church is the ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ of Christ, this whole addition would be quite as superfluous for the Christian consciousness as it would be indistinctly expressed. We have, on the contrary, in ΤῸ ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ ΤΟῦ Κ.Τ.Λ. a climax of the representation, which advances from that which the church is in relation to Christ (τό πλήρωμα αὐτοῦ) to His relation towards the universe (hence, too, τὰ πάντα is prefixed).[120] (2) Since αὐτοῦ and ΤΟῦ ΤᾺ Π. ἘΝ Π. ΠΛΗΡΟΥΜ. are significantly parallel, and no change of subject is indicated; and since, on the other hand, the thought, that the church is the ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ of God, would be inappropriate here, where the idea: Christ is its head, is dwelt on,—all explanations fall to the ground which refer τοῦ πληρουμ. to God, such as that of Theodoret: ἐκκλησίανπροσηγόρευσε τοῦ μὲν Χριστοῦ σῶμα, τοῦ δὲ πατρὸς πλήρωμα· ἐπλήρωσε γὰρ αὐτὴν παντοδαπῶν χαρισμάτων κ.τ.λ., and of Koppe, by whom the sense is alleged to be: “the whole wide realm of the All-Ruler!” Comp. Rosenmüller. Homberg, Parerg. p. 289, Wetstein (“Christus est plenitudo, gloria patris omnia in omnibus implentis”), and Meier refer the genitive to God, but regard τὸ πλήρωμα as apposition to ΑὐΤΌΝ; Meier: “Him, the fulness of Him who filleth all in all; for in Christ there dwells the fulness of God (Colossians 2:9), and it is God who fills the universe” (Jeremiah 23:24, al.). This explanation is manifestly involved, makes ἥτις ἐστὶ τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ an insertion which, if nothing further were to be added to it, would be after ἜΔΩΚΕ ΚΕΦΑΛῊΝΤῇ ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊᾼ quite aimless and idle, and leaves ΤᾺ ΠΆΝΤΑ ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙ without more precise analysis. The same reasons hold also in opposition to Bengel, who regards ΤῸ ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ as accusative absolute (comp. on Romans 12:1), as epiphonema of what was said from Ephesians 1:20 onwards: “Hoc, quod modo explanavi, inquit apostolus, repraesentat nobis plenitudinem Patris omnia implentis in omnibus, ut mathematici dicunt: id quod erat demonstrandum.” (3) Since it is self-evident that Christ, as Head of the church, is not without this His body, and since it could not therefore enter the apostle’s mind, at the solemn close, too, of the section, to bring forward the fact that the body belongs to the completeness of the head,—all those explanations fell to the ground as quite inappropriate, which take τὸ πλήρωμα as supplementum (Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21),[121] in which case some were consistent enough to take πληρουμένου likewise in the sense of completing, as Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Menochius, Boyd, Estius,[122] and others; and some inconsistent enough to explain it, incompatibly with the paronomasia, by implere, and thus differently from πλήρωμα, as Beza,[123] Calovius, comp. Calvin, Balduin, Baumgarten; also Hahn, Theol. d. N.T. p. 219 f.: “His destination, to fill all in all, is completely attained only in the church.” (4) The necessity for taking πλήρωμα in one and the same sense is fatal to the explanation of πλήρωμα as equivalent to πλῆθος, copia, coetus numerosus (Storr, Morus, Stolz, Koppe, Rosenmüller[124]), or even: full measure (Cameron, Bos). Further, (5) the passive construction of πληρουμένου (Vulg.) leaves absolutely no tolerable explanation of τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι; for which reason not only the exposition of Chrysostom, Theophylact, Estius, and others (see above, under No. 3), but also the similar one of Jerome[125] and that of Holzhausen, are to be rejected. The last-mentioned discovers the meaning: “Christ carries in Himself the fulness of eternal blessings” (τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι, signifying the eternal!). Yet, again, (6) seeing that τὸ πλήρωμα neither in itself nor in accordance with the context, denotes the Divine δόξα, of which the שכינה was the real presence (Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2394 ff.), there falls to the ground not only the explanation of those who treat ΤῸ ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ as equivalent in meaning to temple, like Michaelis and Bretschneider, but also that of Harless: “the apostle designates the church with the same word, by which he elsewhere [?] designates the abundance of the glory dwelling in Christ and God, and issuing from Him. It, however, is the fulness of Christ, not as though it were the glory which dwelt in Him, but because He causes His glory to dwell, as in all the universe, so also in it. It is the glory, not of one who without it would starve, but of Him who fills the universe in all respects;[126] πλήρης πᾶσα ἡ γῆ δόξης αὐτοῦ (Isaiah 6:3); but it is the glory of Christ, because He is united with it alone, as the head with its body.” Lastly, (7) Rückert also proved unsuccessful in his attempt to explain it: the church, in his view, is designated as the means (τὸ πλήρωμα, that whereby the ΠΛΗΡΟῦΝ comes about) by which Christ carries out in all (ΠᾶΣΙ, masculine) that which is committed to Him for completion (τὰ πάντα), as “the means of His accomplishing the great destination which devolves upon Him, namely, the universal restoration and bringing back to God.” Against this may be urged both the language itself, since ΤῸ ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ never signifies the means of accomplishment, and the context, which neither speaks of a restoration and bringing back to God nor furnishes any limitation of ΤᾺ ΠΆΝΤΑ to that which is implied in the divine plan.

We may add that there cannot be shown here as regards the use of ΠΛΉΡΩΜΑ, any more than previously as regards the classes of angels, any direct or indirect polemic preference to Gnosticism. To the later speculations of Gnosticism, however, the forms of the transcendent doctrines of the apostle could not but be welcome; not as if Gnosticism had thought out its material in accordance with such Scriptural forms (Tertull. de praescr. 38), but it poured it into their mould, and, moreover, further developed and amplified the forms which it found ready to hand.

[118] Not, as Elsner (Obss. p. 204) would take it: that, by which Christ is filled, against which there would be doubtless no linguistic objection (see Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 469 f.), but it may be urged that the church is not to be thought of as dwelling in Christ, but Christ as dwelling in the church (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:12; Ephesians 2:22), and that the following paraphrastic designation of Christ would not be in keeping with that conception.

[119] Comp. Plut. de plac. phil. i. 7. 9: ἐπλήρωτο ἐν μακαριότητι. Paul himself has employed πληροῦν with such varied construction (with the dative, Romans 1:29Ephesians 1:23. ἥτις ἐστὶν τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ: which is His body. The ἥτις (not ) introduces a profound statement, the interpretation of which is much contested. It is supplementary to the preceding, and further defines the relation between Christ and the Church in respect of His Headship. The ἥτις, therefore, has something of its qualitative force, pointing to what belongs to the nature of the Church (Meyer), and in that way giving the ground of God’s gift of Christ to the ἐκκλησία. Or (with Ell., etc.) it may be taken in the subdued, explanatory sense—“which indeed”. The word σῶμα, which passes readily from its literal meaning into the figurative sense of a society, a number of men constituting a social or ethical union (cf. Ephesians 4:4), is frequently applied in the NT Epistles to the Church, with or without τοῦ Χριστοῦ, as the mystical body of Christ, the fellowship of believers regarded as an organic, spiritual unity in a living relation to Christ, subject to Him, animated by Him, and having His power operating in it. The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation, or one simply of Superior and inferior, Sovereign and subject, but one of life and incorporation. The Church is not merely an institution ruled by Him as President, a Kingdom in which He is the Supreme Authority, or a vast company of men in moral sympathy with Him, but a Society which is in vital connection with Him, having the source of its life in Him, sustained and directed by His power, the instrument also by which He works.—τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν πληρουμένου: the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The preceding sentence carries the idea of the Church far beyond the limited conception of a concrete institution or outward, visible organisation, and lifts us to the grander conception of a great spiritual fellowship, which is one under all varieties of external form and constitution in virtue of the presence of Christ’s Spirit in it, and catholic as embracing all believers and existing wherever any such are found. It is the conception of the Church which pervades this Epistle (cf. Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:21; Ephesians 5:23-25; Ephesians 5:27; Ephesians 5:29; Ephesians 5:32). It appears again in similar terms in the sister Epistle (Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24), and elsewhere in the varied phraseology of the “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) and the “Church of the Firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23). It is this supreme idea of the Church as a spiritual order the essence of which is a living relation to Christ, that receives further expression in the profound sentence with which the paragraph closes. The great difficulty here is with the term πλήρωμα itself. The other terms are easier. For the πάντα of the TR, which has the most meagre attestation, τὰ πάντα (supported by the great uncials, etc.) must be substituted (with Beng., Griesb., LTTr WRV). The “all” therefore must be taken here in the sense which it has in Ephesians 1:10—“the all,” the whole system of things, made by Christ and having in Him the ground of its being, its continuance, its order (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 8:6). The ἐν πᾶσιν will have a corresponding extension of meaning, “with all things” not merely with all blessings, gifts or spiritual requirements. The universe itself and all the things that make its fulness (cf. “the earth … and the fulness thereof,” Psalm 24:1) are alike made and maintained by Christ. The prep, is taken by some in its primary force of in. But it is difficult then to find a natural sense for the clause; the interpretations proposed, e.g., “in all points” (Harless), “in all modes of manifestation” (Bleek), etc., going beyond the actual terms. It is best to understand it as the instrumental ἐν, of which we have an instance in ch. Ephesians 5:18 (Mey., Ell., Alf., and most) “with all things”. Some strangely take ἐν πᾶσιν as masc. here, supposing the point to be that Christ supplies in all His believing members all the things with which they need to be provided (Haupt, Moule). The πληρουμένου may be a pure passive, and so it is taken by some (Vulg., Chrys., etc.). In that case Christ would be described as Himself “filled as to all things”. It occurs, however, also as a middle with an active sense (Xen., Hell., v., 4, 56; vi., 2, 14, etc.). So it is rendered here by some of the Versions (Syr., Copt., Goth., Arm.), and the sense of “filling” best suits the context. The middle, however, probably retains something of its proper reciprocal or reflexive force, conveying the idea of filling the totality of things for Himself.

What is to be said now of the term πλήρωμα itself? There are some interpretations which may at once be set aside, e.g., the means of fulfilling (Rück.), the Church being described as the medium or instrument by which Christ accomplishes His destined work of bringing all things back to God; coetus numerosus, with reference to the multitude of those who are subject to Christ (Storr, Rosenm., etc.); perfection, in the objective sense of the term, the Church being Christ’s perfect work (Oltr.)—a meaning which goes beyond the term itself; the totality of the aeons, in the Gnostic sense, Christ and the Church being viewed here in union and the two ideas, “that which makes full” and “that which is made full,” being supposed to pass over the one into the other (Baur). The choice is between the active sense of “that which fills or completes” and the passive sense of “that which is filled”. The former is favoured by Chrys., Œcum., Aquin., Schwegler, Abb., etc., and it must be admitted to be linguistically possible. Verbals in -μα, it is true, have usually the pass, sense, and this one formed from πληοῦν (which means both to fill and to fulfil) would most naturally be taken as = “that which is filled,” or “that which is fulfilled or completed”. It is argued indeed by Light, in a weighty dissertation on “The meaning of πλήρωμα” (Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, pp. 257–273) that nouns of this formation are always passive, expressing either the product of the action denoted by the active verb, or that action itself regarded as a completed thing; and further that in the case of πλήρωμα, if we follow out the idea of fulfilling rather than that of filling, we shall not require to give it now an active sense and again a passive, but shall be able to take it in all its occurrences as a real passive, denoting result in one aspect or another. But, while it is possible enough to understand it in this way in all the passages in the Epistles, it is difficult to carry the passive sense through the various occurrences in the Gospels (e.g., Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:27; Mark 8:20). Nor does it seem easy to adjust the properly passive sense to all the passages either in the LXX (cf. Ezekiel 5:2; Daniel 10:3), or in profane Greek (e.g., Soph., Trach., 1203; Eurip., Troad., 824; Philo, de Abr., ii., p. 39), without putting somewhat strained interpretations on some of the cases. The idea, however, that results from allowing πλήρωμα to have the active sense here is not germane to the general scope of the paragraph. That idea is that the Church is that which makes Christ Himself complete. A head, however perfect in itself, if it is without members, is something incomplete. So Christ, who is the Head of the Church, requires the Church to make His completeness, just as the Church which is His body requires Him as the Head to make it a complete and living thing. But the main thought of the whole paragraph is what Christ is and does in relation to the universe and the Church, not what the Church is to Him or does for Him, and the πληρουμένου cannot have the sense of “Him who is being filled” without putting a forced meaning on the τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. Hence πλήρωμα is to be taken in the passive sense here, as is done by most commentators, and the idea is that the Church is not only Christ’s body but that which is filled by Him. In Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9 the whole πλήρωμα, or every plenitude of the Godhead, the very fulness of the Godhead, the totality of the Divine powers and qualities, is said to be in Christ, so that He alone is to be recognised as Framer and Governor of the world, and there is neither need nor place for any intermediate beings as agents in those works of creating, upholding and administering. Here the conception is that this plenitude of the Divine powers and qualities which is in Christ is imparted by Him to His Church, so that the latter is pervaded by His presence, animated by His life, filled with His gifts and energies and graces. He is the sole Head of the universe, which is supplied by Him with all that is needed for its being and order. He is also the sole Head of the Church, which receives from Him what He Himself possesses and is endowed by Him with all that it requires for the realisation of its vocation.

Ephesians 1:23. Τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ πὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πληρουμένου, the fulness of Him, that filleth all in all) This is neither predicated of the Church, as most think, nor is it construed with gave, according to the opinion of others; but is put absolutely in the accusative, as τὸ μαρτύριον, the testimony, is construed in 1 Timothy 2:6. For it is an Epiphonema,[18] put after those things which are spoken of at Ephesians 1:20, and by it the apostle implies, that there is in Christ the fulness of the Father, who fills all in all. See on the fulness of God, of Christ, and of the Spirit, ch. Ephesians 3:19, Ephesians 4:13, Ephesians 5:18; likewise ch. Ephesians 4:10; John 1:14; on the fulness of the times, ch. Ephesians 1:10. The glory of Divine love fills all things, and in Christ extends itself over all. The passage has an analogy to 1 Corinthians 15:28. What I have just now explained, the apostle means to say, vividly exhibits to us the fulness, etc., which, as mathematicians say, was the thing to be demonstrated [quod erat demonstrandum]. The whole of this (the whole of the preceding statements) may be reduced to [be brought under] this title or brief description, τὸ πλήρωμαἐν πᾶσι, in all) The neuter including the power of the masculine.—πληρουμένου, i.e. πληροῦντος. But the force of the Middle voice is stronger [than that of the active] in denoting the mutual relation of Him who fills, and of those who are filled.

[18] See App. An exclamation subjoined to the relation or proof of some important topic.

Verse 23. - Which is his body. The Church is Christ's body in a real though spiritual sense. He is the Head, his people the members; he the Vine, they the branches. He dwells in the Church as life dwells in a living body. He fills it with his life, replenishes it with his strength, feeds it with his body and blood, beautifies it with his comeliness, calms it with his peace, brightens it with his holiness, and finally glorifies it with his glory. All things are delivered unto him of the Father; and all that he has he has for the Church: "My beloved is mine, and I am his." The fullness of him that filleth all in all. The grammatical structure of the words would lead us to construe "fullness" with "the Church," and to regard the Church as Christ's πλήρωμα. Some object to this, inasmuch as, in point of fact, the Church is often very empty, and therefore not worthy of the term "fullness." But it is not meant that the Church has actually received all the fullness of him who filleth all in all, but only that she is in the course of receiving it. The Church on earth is an ever-changing body, perpetually receiving new members, who are at first empty; so that it must always in this state be in the course of filling, never filled. It is in the course of being filled with all Divine things - with all the treasures of heaven. As the empty cells of the honeycomb are being filled with the sweet essences of flowers, so the empty vessels of the Church are being filled with the glorious treasures of God; or, as the courts and compartments of a great international exhibition get filled up with the choicest products of the lands, so the Church gets filled with the handiwork of the grace of God. When the Church is completed, it will be a representation of the fullness of God; all of God that can be communicated to men will be made manifest in the Church. For he whose fullness the Church is, is he that filleth all in all, or filleth all with all. He possesses all things, and he fills all space with the all things. He fills the ocean with water, the organic world with life, the firmament with stars, the entire creation with forms innumerable, alike beautiful and useful. So also he fills the Church. Thus appropriately concludes this chapter, beginning (ver. 3) with thanksgiving to him who had blessed the Ephesians with every blessing of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, and now ending with a sublime picture of the Infinite One filling the Church with these Divine blessings out of the infinite stores of the kingdom of heaven. Thus we see the quality of richness, exuberance, overflowing abundance which is so conspicuously ascribed in this Epistle to the grace of God (comp. Psalm 36:8; Psalm 103:3-5; Matthew 5:3, etc.).

Ephesians 1:23Which is His body (ἥτις)

The double relative is explanatory, seeing it is: by which I mean. Body, a living organism of which He is the head. See on Colossians 1:18.

The fullness

See on John 1:16; see on Romans 11:12; see on Colossians 1:19. That which is filled. The Church, viewed as a receptacle. Compare Ephesians 3:10.

That filleth all in all (τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν πληρουμένου)

Better, that filleth all things with all things. The expression is somewhat obscure. All things are composed of elements. Whatever things exist, God from His fullness fills with all those elements which belong to their being or welfare. The whole universe is thus filled by Him.

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