Which is his body - As he is head over all things, he is head to the Church; and this Church is considered as the body of which he is especially the head; and from him, as the head, the Church receives light, life, and intelligence.
And is the fullness of him - That in which he especially manifests his power, goodness, and truth; for though he fills all the world with his presence, yet he fills all the members of his mystical body with wisdom, goodness, truth, and holiness, in an especial manner. Some understand the fullness or πληρωμα, here, as signifying the thing to be filled; so the Christian Church is to be filled by him, whose fullness fills all his members, with all spiritual gifts and graces. And this corresponds with what St. John says, John 1:16; : And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. And with what is said, Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10; : Ye are complete in him; και εστε εν αυτῳ πεπληρωμενοι· And ye are in him filled full; i.e. with gifts and grace.
How, in any other sense, the Church can be said to be the fullness of him who fills all in all, is difficult to say. However, as Jesus Christ is represented to be the head, and the Church, the body under that head, the individuals being so many members in that body; and as it requires a body and members to make a head complete; so it requires a Church, or general assembly of believers, to make up the body of Christ. When, therefore, the Jews and Gentiles are brought into this Church, the body may be said to be complete; and thus Christ has his visible fullness upon earth, and the Church may be said to be the fullness of him, etc. See Ephesians 1:10.
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 plērōmaas 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.
The Saviour did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually. At a later time, repeating the words that were spoken to Peter, He applied them directly to the church. And the same in substance was spoken also to the twelve as representatives of the body of believers. If Jesus had delegated any special authority to one of the disciples above the others, we should not find them so often contending as to who should be the greatest. They would have submitted to the wish of their Master, and honored the one whom He had chosen. DA 414.1
Instead of appointing one to be their head, Christ said to the disciples, “Be not ye called Rabbi;” “neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” Matthew 23:8, 10. DA 414.2
“The head of every man is Christ.” God, who put all things under the Saviour's feet, “gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22, 23. The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. The Saviour declares, “All ye are brethren.” All are exposed to temptation, and are liable to error. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12. DA 414.3Read in context »
“He that is greatest among you,” He said, “let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For ... I am among you as he that serveth.” Luke 22:26, 27. Ed 268.1
Love and loyalty to Christ are the spring of all true service. In the heart touched by His love, there is begotten a desire to work for Him. Let this desire be encouraged and rightly guided. Whether in the home, the neighborhood, or the school, the presence of the poor, the afflicted, the ignorant, or the unfortunate should be regarded, not as a misfortune, but as affording precious opportunity for service. Ed 268.2
In this work, as in every other, skill is gained in the work itself. It is by training in the common duties of life and in ministry to the needy and suffering, that efficiency is assured. Without this the best-meant efforts are often useless and even harmful. It is in the water, not on the land, that men learn to swim. Ed 268.3Read in context »
So we see that the highest line of earthly education may be obtained, and yet the men possessing it may be ignorant of the first principles which would make them subjects of the kingdom of God. Human learning cannot qualify for that kingdom. The subjects of Christ's kingdom are not made thus by forms and ceremonies, by a large study of books. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent.” The members of Christ's kingdom are members of His body, of which He himself is the head. They are the elect sons of God, “a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” that they should show forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. FE 413.1
“For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate Him to their face, to destroy them: He will not be slack to him that hateth Him, He will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.” If God's commandments are to be binding for a thousand generations, it will take them into the kingdom of God, into the presence of God and His holy angels. This is an argument that cannot be controverted. The commandments of God will endure through all time and eternity. Are they, then, given us as a burden?—No. “And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.” The Lord gave His people commandments, in order that by obeying them they might preserve their physical, mental, and moral health. They were to live by obedience; but death is the sure result of the disobedience of the law of God. FE 413.2Read in context »
The question may be asked, Are we to have no union whatever with the world? The word of the Lord is to be our guide. Any connection with infidels and unbelievers that would identify us with them, is forbidden by the Word. We are to come out from among them, and be separate. In no case are we to link ourselves with them in their plans of work. But we are not to live reclusive lives. We are to do worldlings all the good we possibly can. GW 394.1
Christ has given us an example of this. When invited to eat with publicans and sinners, He did not refuse; for in no other way than by mingling with them could He reach this class. But on every occasion ...He opened up themes of conversation which brought things of eternal interest to their minds. And He enjoins us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:16.] GW 394.2
On the temperance question, take your position without wavering. Be as firm as a rock. Be not partakers of other men's sins.... GW 394.3Read in context »
Deuteronomy 7:6, 7: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.” 1T 283.1
Exodus 33:16: “For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? is it not in that Thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” 1T 283.2
How frequently ancient Israel rebelled, and how often they were visited with judgments, and thousands slain, because they would not heed the commands of God who had chosen them! The Israel of God in these last days are in constant danger of mingling with the world and losing all signs of being the chosen people of God. Read again Titus 2:13-15. We are here brought down to the last days, when God is purifying unto Himself a peculiar people. Shall we provoke Him as did ancient Israel? Shall we bring His wrath upon us by departing from Him and mingling with the world, and following the abominations of the nations around us? 1T 283.3
The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself; this consecration to God and separation from the world is plainly and positively enjoined in both the Old and the New Testament. There is a wall of separation which the Lord Himself has established between the things of the world and the things He has chosen out of the world and sanctified unto Himself. The calling and character of God's people are peculiar, their prospects are peculiar, and these peculiarities distinguish them from all other people. All of God's people upon the earth are one body, from the beginning to the end of time. They have one Head that directs and governs the body. The same injunctions that rested upon ancient Israel, rest upon God's people now, to be separate from the world. The great Head of the church has not changed. The experience of Christians in these days is much like the travels of ancient Israel. Please read 1 Corinthians 10, especially from the 6th to the 15th verse: 1T 283.4Read in context »