which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
I. EXTERNALLY, THE CHURCH IS A BODY OF WHICH CHRIST IS THE HEAD.
1. The Church is joined to Christ. Christ maintains the closest possible relations with his people. His ascension, instead of removing him from us, by taking him to a distant heaven, brings him nearer to us, by his passing into the spiritual universe, through which he can have immediate contact with individual souls.
2. There is one life in Christ and the Church. The same blood pulsates through the head and through the members of the body. The blood of Christ must not only be "applied to" Christians, as some people say, but in them, drunk as wine of life (John 6:56). Thus, by close communion with Christ in faith, submission, and obedience, the very life of Christ will flow through us, so that we can say, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me."
3. Christ presides over the Church. He is the Head of the body. The Church is not a republic; it is a kingdom, and Christ is its King. His thought teaches, his will commands, his Spirit gives grace and order to all the movements of the body.
4. The Church is one in Christ. The head has but one body. Through Christ a common sympathy should spring up among Christians, just as, through their connection with the head, the various organs of the body co-operate harmoniously. When the influence of the head is lost, convulsions or confused movements are the consequence. So sectarian enmity is a proof of severance from Christ. Nevertheless, variety is possible and even necessary in a highly organized body. There are many members, and all the members have not the same office. The essential unity consists in the subordination of all the parts to the one head.
5. Severance from Christ is death to the Church. A Christless Church is a headless trunk. We may retain the doctrine and ethic of the New Testament, but, nevertheless, amputation of the Head means death. Even a partial severance of connection involves paraylsis - loss of spiritual power and loss of spiritual feeling.
II. INTERNALLY, THE CHURCH IS THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST. It is filled with Christ. He is not only the Head above it; he is the life within it. He does not only teach, bless, command, and lead from without; he inspires his people and lives in his Church. Christ fills "all in all;" i.e. the Spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth is in the whole universe, inspiring all creation and all providence with wisdom and goodness, purity and grace. The same Spirit is in the Church. As yet, unhappily, the Church is not filled with Christ. Though Christ is received into the heart of Christians, every door within is not yet flung open to the gracious Guest. But in the perfect time, when his authority is everywhere established, his presence will be universally immanent. In the ideal Church, Christ fills the affections with holy love, the thoughts with higher truths, the imagination with heavenly visions, the will with obedient actions. He fills all and his graces are seen in all. Already he begins the blessed indwelling. We look forward to his great triumph, when he will as fully fill his people as he will absolutely conquer his foes. - W.F.A.
Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.1. As Christ is the Head of believers, so they are His body, and every believing soul a member of this body whereof He is the Head. Believers are so said to be the body as the body stands in opposition to the head, not as it includes the head within its own compass. The multitude of believers are fitly so called; for, as in a body are divers members, having their several faculties for the good use of the whole, so in the Church there are divers kinds of members, some taught, some teaching, some governing, some governed, some distributing, — yea, every member has, as it were, his distinct grace whereby he may serve the well-being of the whole.
2. Christ does not count Himself full and complete, without all His faithful members.(1) None of those who either live knit to Christ only by external profession, or who receive some of the effects of the Spirit which for a time only abide in them; none of all those who in the end shall hear the sentence, "Depart from Me," were ever true parts of Christ's body; for Christ is made full and complete by all His true members, and should be maimed if He lacked one of them. These, therefore, belonged to His body as a wooden leg or glass eye does to the body of a man; or, at the most, as an excrescence which is more inwardly continued, and has a kind of life, but is not quickened as a member of the body, which is more complete when it is cut off.(2) Christ will keep those who are true members of Him, and not suffer anything to separate them from Him. What natural head would part with a member, were it in its power to keep it? But we know Christ has "all power"; so may assure ourselves that He will preserve us in that union and, communion which as members we have attained with Him.(3) A ground of patience in face of the contempt which believers meet with from the world. Men often deem them the refuse and offal of all others; but Christ thinks so highly of them, that He counts Himself maimed and imperfect without them.
3. Whatever is in us as Christians, all of it is from Christ. In Him we are complete, filled with all heavenly gifts which serve to remove evil or set us in a state of blessedness.(1) He fills us with all the fulness of God, which begins in grace, and is perfected in glory when God shall be all in all.(2) How we come to be filled. All fulness is in Christ, who has received it without measure. As the sun has fulness of light in that perfection which agrees to light, and the moon has light from the sun in that measure wherein it is capable: so Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, has fulness without measure, but the Church with all her members are filled from Him according to their capacities as members under Him. By being partakers of Christ Himself we come to be filled with the fulness of grace and glory in Him, as by eating and taking the substance of earthly nourishment we come to have the virtue in them. These benefits are conveyed to us by the means of grace, viz., the Word and the Sacraments. We also receive Him partly by humility, which empties us of ourselves, and makes room for Him; partly by belief, which feeds on and applies Him; partly by walking in Christ, and exercising ourselves spiritually. Conclusion: Let this teach us to come to Christ. Bountiful lords want none to retain to them, happy is he who may shroud him self under their wings. Shall we not press with reverence to this Lord of lords who fills all with His spiritual blessings? As He complained of the Jews, "How oft would I have gathered you but you would not," so may He say to us, how oft would I have had you, blind, naked, miserable by nature, come to Me, that you might be filled with righteousness and life, but ye have refused? Well, did we know what we are called to, and what we might find in Him, then would we come and be suitors to Him. But, alas! this is hid from our eyes.
(Paul Bayne.)I. WHO THE PERSONS HERE SPOKEN OF ARE: "The Church." The Greek word ἐκκλησία simply means "the called out." This is a title often given to the disciples of Christ. They "are called to be saints." They are "called unto His kingdom and glory." God "hath saved them, and called them with a holy calling." The persons, then, who constitute the Church are those who have been "called out."
II. We are now in a position to consider with profit WHAT THE CONNECTION IS WHICH SUBSISTS BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH. "The Church is His body"; the fulness of Him who filleth all in all." "The Church is His body"; then He is its Head: the Church is "His fulness," and "He filleth all in all." Let us consider these weighty words.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church. Like the head in our natural body, He is the channel of all their perceptions, the source of all their desires, the guide of all their actions. Through Him they see and hear and think, by Him they live and move and have their being. As our text says, "He filleth all in all" — every member with all its life.
2. The reality and intimacy of this union will be more fully realized if we observe, not only what the Lord Jesus Christ is to His disciples, but also what they are to Him. Paul tells us not only that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, but also that "the Church is His body" — not only that Christ "filleth all in all," but also that "the Church is His fulness."
III. Let us now consider THE INWARD BLESSINGS AND THE OUTWARD DUTIES THAT ARE IMPLIED IN THIS CONNECTION.
1. The inward spiritual blessings which are implied in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church which is His body. These blessings, as we have seen, flow only to those who really are His disciples. Are we true members of the body of Christ? Then let us realize that we have suffered and died with Him on Calvary. Again, are we true members of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ? Then we are delivered, not only from the punishment due to past, sins, but also from the power of present sinfulness. Again, are we true members of the body of Christ? then let us remember that we are related, not only to Him, but. also to one another as members of the same body. Again, are we true members of the body of Christ? then we need not fear anything that man can do unto us. We cannot suffer but Jesus suffers with us. He is "afflicted in all our afflictions." He would lose in our loss. He rejoices in our joy. Once more, are we true members of the body of Christ? then our comfort reaches not only to the grave, but beyond it.
2. Of the duties which they owe to Him as the Head of government. Obedience — implicit obedience — is the duty of each member of His body individually — obedience in all things. I pass on to speak of the duty of the members of His body in their collective capacity — when associated together as churches. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head, not merely of each member of His body separately, but of "the, whole body." He has commanded His disciples to recognize each other, and to, associate themselves together for common work and for common worship. He has. given rules for the government of His Church. All these and such like commandments are addressed to the Church in its collective capacity.
1. There is, first, a connection of life: if the head be dissevered, the body dies. The life of the Church springs from its union to Christ by the Spirit, and if any member or community be separated from Christ it dies.
2. There is also a connection of mind: the purposes of the Head are wrought out by the corporeal organs — the tongue that speaks, or the foot that moves. The Church should have no purpose but Christ's glory, and no work but the performance of His commands.
3. There is, at the same time, a connection of power: the organs have no faculty of self-motion, but move as they are directed by the governing principle within. The corpse lies stiff and motionless. Energy to do good, to move forward in spiritual contest and victory, and to exhibit aggressive influence against evil, is all derived from union with Christ.
4. There is, in fine, a connection of sympathy. The pain or disorder of the smallest nerve or fibre vibrates to the head, and there it is felt. Jesus has not only cognizance of us, but He has a fellow feeling with us in all our infirmities and trials. And the members of the body are at the same time reciprocally connected, and placed in living affinity, so that mutual sympathy, unity of action, cooperation and support, are anticipated and provided for. No organ is superfluous, and none can defy or challenge its fellow.
(John Eadie, D. D.)all, of His changeless love. There are gifts and graces inexhaustible, and boundless operations and treasures of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge for the filling, and all sorts of needy ones to be filled — all of them, all the parts of them, body, soul, and spirit; all the powers, faculties, and immortality of all of them, for He "filleth all in all," that He may be glorified. Verily the consolations of God are contained in these facts. Consider a few of the consequences resulting from them:
1. If Christ's believing people are His body and His fulness, then none of them shall be wanting when He shall come to be admired in His saints. If otherwise? — no fulness.
2. If Christ's believing people are His body and His fulness, then not one of them shall be lacking in any matters essential for their perfection. If otherwise? — no fulness.
3. If Christ's believing people are His body and His fulness, then no member shall be out of place, and no desire unsatisfied. If otherwise? — no fulness.
4. If Christ's people are His body and His fulness, then no grace, or continuance of grace, laid up for us in Him, shall be unsupplied. If otherwise? — no fulness.
5. If Christ's people are His body and His fulness, then shall there be no want of salvation, security, growth, attainment, station, proportion, or symmetry in any of them. If otherwise? — no fulness.
6. If we are His body and His fulness, all of us are absolutely necessary for the completeness of our glorious Christ Himself, and even the very hairs of our head must all be numbered. If otherwise? — no fulness.
7. If we are His body, then must His members be presented faultless, holy, unblameable, and unreprovable, and without spot or wrinkle. If otherwise? — no fulness.
8. Finally, if any member be absent or incomplete, misplaced, undeveloped, or deficient, either overgrown, or undergrown, or wanting in proportion, then would there be no fulness.
(M. Rainsford, B. A.)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 1 Corinthians 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 chap. Ephesians 1:10; Galatians 4:4; of the Jews and Gentiles in Romans 11:12, 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 chap. 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 Galatians 3:19; Galatians 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 ) "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.
(A. Barry, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(F. Guthrie, D. D.)
(F. Guthrie, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Jesus Christ is its Head; its sole Head, its source of doctrine, of law and of order. He only has authority. "One is your Master even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Of course in every society there must be a head. even a mob must have a leader. There must in every society be law and order. Otherwise there can be no peace and no progress. The self-will of the individual becomes everything. And in such a state of things there can be no cooperated movement. The sole headship of Christ in the Church is the basis doctrine of all law and order.
2. The membership of the Church is a brother. hood. If we have the ability of the subordination of our own wills to the will of Christ, the practical result will be, that we shall be of the same feeling and disposition as all others dowered with the same ability. The spirit of brotherhood will be in us. For when anything of the love of God enters the heart, the love of man comes with it. And the love of man is not some sentimental feeling which is here today and gone tomorrow. It is the diametric opposite of the spirit of judgment and accusation. It is necessary to add further that the Church of Christ is not democratic, but theocratic. The people are not the fountain of law and order. This also must be added, that the Church is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God, which fact is evidence by these fruits of the Spirit which hang thick and threefold upon it, as upon a tree of life. We must not omit to add, that the Church is Christ's great Teacher to the nations. The last great command to the apostles runs thus: "Go ye and male disciples of all the nations, baptizing," etc. And lastly, the Church is the beginning of that permanent society which God is organizing to embody and express His will. The Book of the Revelation of St. John gives intimations of a perfected society into which there enters nothing that defileth, neither that which believeth or maketh a lie, a society of the pure and true, or rather of those who are purified and made true, men from all ages and all nations, all kindreds and all tongues, a society of men like in sympathy and disposition though various in many other ways. The Christ of God is the centre of that society; its inspiration; its archetype; a society based on inward character not on anything else, the inward character being attested by outward allegiance to this Christ of God. In that society we shall get the perfection of communion, the ideal fellowship, all lovelessness gone, no envy there, no hatred, nothing that leads to schism, no insincere man there, no unbrotherly man, the society of which the Church on earth has been, in its best estate, only the promise and prefiguration.
(Reuen Thomas.)1. The Church is Christ's fulness, because it has grown out of Christ, and He has increased outwards so as to form the Church. He has developed into it. He has 'expanded into it; as a seed grows into a tree with its branches. First, Christ fills the Church and each true believer with His Spirit, and Christ thus lives, by His Spirit, in each and all. The Spirit and Christ are one. Another view, secondly, is that presented in the words, "out of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace." Faith is the instrument of receiving out of His fulness, or, the medium of communication. The Christian by faith receives a corresponding grace to every grace that was in Christ. And he is at length filled, according to his measure or capacity, out of Christ. But, thirdly, Christ imparts to the Church and to each believer all spiritual blessedness.
2. Let us now consider the idea of the Apostle in its other aspect. We have seen how the Church is the fulness of Christ, in the sense of its being the development, as it were, of the root, by which it grows up into a full body, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The other side of the idea is embodied in the thought that the Church fills up, completes, and perfects Christ. We must still contemplate Christ and His Church as one. He, in condescension, has taken it to be part of Himself, and, in this view, without it, He would be incomplete. So Paul in one place calls the Church "Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12). The body is Christ according to this passage. It forms part of Him, and completes Him. We are thus led to consider all true Christians as necessary parts of what Christ Himself has chosen for His own body; and the whole Church of the redeemed, when gathered together, will, together with the Head, make one Christ.
(W. Alves, M. A.).
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