Monday, May 13, 2024

The Fullness of Him Who Fills All in All

And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and gave him to the Church as head over all things. Now the Church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23 NET).

This passage is packed with stunning revelation. Not only that God has placed all things under the feet of Christ crucified, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Not only that God has given Christ as head of the Church, and that the Church is, consequently, the body of Christ. Not only that Christ fills everything in every way. But this: The Church is the fullness of Christ.

Earlier in Ephesians 1, Paul tells us what God’s mysterious will and good pleasure is, which he purposed in himself and which is perfectly accomplished in Jesus Christ:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace  which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

Christ has not merely come at the end of time, he is himself the end of time, the fullness of time, the meaning and purpose of time. In him, God gathers together all in heaven and on earth — everyone and everything — bringing all into union, with Christ as head (anakephalaiomai). At the end of the chapter, we see Christ placed far above every rule, authority, power and dominion, far above every name that could ever be invoked. This is the Ascension. 

God has given Christ to the Church as the head (kephale) over all things. Paul specifically has in mind the relationship of head and body. He speaks of Christ as the head of the church, and of the Church as the body of Christ. Likewise, since Christ is the head of all things, what does that say about all things in heaven and on earth but that all is, in this way, the body of Christ.

Christ fills all things, in every way, with himself, and Paul declares that the Church, the Body of Christ, is that fullness which fills all in all. Being filled with Christ in every way, everything in creation is finally revealed to be the body of Christ, which is to say, the Church. This is what the end of time looks like. Fr. John Behr puts it very well for me:

I can no longer see the Church as a select group of people called out from unbelievers. Rather, the Church is the whole of Creation seen eschatologically; from which we already see islands in the present, called out from “the world” (in the negative sense).

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