“Which is his body, the fullness of him [i.e., Christ] who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:23
So Christ fills all in all. Or as the present tense and the middle voice imply: Christ is now filling for himself all in all.
I take this to mean that Christ is filling every sphere of existence everywhere in the universe in all the ways he pleases. The best guide for what this means that “Christ fills all in all” is found here in the immediate context of verses 20–22 and in 4:8–10. Look at that text first.
Something He Does with His Authority as Risen Ruler
Paul is talking about the way Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven; and in doing so he broke the bonds of death and captured for himself a host of captives, and led them free from sin and death and fear. Then Paul says Jesus did this that he might fill all things.
“Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ 9) Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that he also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10) He who descended is himself also he who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.
What this shows us is that Christ’s purpose to fill all things is accomplished by his rising from the dead and his ascending into heaven as victor over his enemies. In other words “filling all things” is something Jesus does with the authority he has as the risen ruler over all things.
Christ’s Resurrection and Exaltation over All
That takes us back to 1:20–22. Here Paul is doing the same thing as in 4:8–10, namely, describing the resurrection of Christ and his exaltation above everything and his triumph over everything. Let’s pick it up in verse 20b:
20b) [God] raised him from the dead, and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. 22) And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him as head over all things to the church.
Notice the four things God does for his Son in these verses:
- he raises him from the dead (v. 20);
- he gives him the seat of kingly authority at his right hand (v. 20);
- he puts everything in the universe in subjection to him (v. 22), which includes every form of evil power and every being which is now or will be in the future (v. 21); and then
- he gives his Son with all that universal power and authority to the church as the head of his body.
Asserting His Authority over All Things
Now Ephesians 4:10 says all that happened “that he might fill all things,” just like verse 23 says this Christ is “filling all in all.” So the filing all things is the effect of Christ’s ruling all things. And the most natural meaning of the filling then would be that he fills all things with the assertion of his rule and authority. That is, asserts himself and his rights as fully as he pleases in all things.
Picture him as the king over many territories that are not fully subdued to him. This text is declaring that Christ is indeed the king of the universe. He is “above ALL rule” (v. 21). He is over “EVERY name” (v. 21). God put “ALL THINGS” under his feet (v. 22). He is head over “ALL THINGS” (v. 22). And by this authority he will sovereignly fill all his territories with absolute sway. He will accomplish his purpose in every sphere. He will make himself unmistakably known in every place. He will be preeminent in every nook and cranny of the universe. Even the outer darkness of hell will be filled with his authority and his power and his wrath and the knowledge of his wisdom.
So the first observation in verse 23 is that the church is the body of Christ; and the second observation is that Christ fills all in all. The glory of Christ will pervade “all in all”; that is, the glory of Christ will pervade everything in every way that the wisdom of God ordains for his maximum renown and splendor. There will be no place where his power does not hold sway to accomplish exactly what he wants for the dissemination of his all-filling glory.
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