Attaining to the Whole Measure of the Fullness of Christ pt. 1

Ephesians 4:7-13. (NIV)

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says:

When he ascended on high,

he led captives in his train

and gave gifts to men.”

9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

One body, one faith, one baptism, one church, but many gifts of God’s grace. And once again, God’s desire is for us to attain the entire fullness of Christ. We are to be not merely God’s representatives on Earth, but his physical body on Earth, and yet without extinguishing our own selves. Looking at the actual lives of the apostles, it’s clear that Paul is not calling for the church to become a collection of remotely operated drones. The Spirit of God lives fully in me, but I am still me. I am more genuinely myself in Christ than I ever was without him, because I am no longer a slave to sin. I have more free will now than I did before I knew him. And yet at the same time, and without contradiction, I, along with my brothers and sisters, am God’s physical body.

According to this passage, the complete fullness of Christ is not given instantaneously. It’s something we attain as we become one in faith and in knowledge of Christ. Christ’s fullness in us comes out of our unity in him. The gifts and calling Christ gives us – the passage mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – are given for this very purpose. The end of unity in Christ is that all of his fullness will be manifest in us.

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The Fullness of God

Ephesians 3:14-21. (NIV)

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church – not that they would have some of God’s Spirit, but that they would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God – how is that even possible? Back at the end of chapter 1 he describes the church as “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” God in all his fullness lives in me. Not a little bit of God, not a tiny bit of God’s power, but the fullness of God in his infinite power and infinite wisdom and infinite love. And not in me only, but in every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t ask what Christ would do if he were here in the flesh, he is here in the flesh. He’s here in my flesh, and in the flesh of every person who, by faith, belongs to Christ. We are his flesh. May we act in that knowledge and in the fullness of his Spirit!

This flows out of love. Not my love, but God’s love for me, and through me to others. To be filled with the fullness of God is to know the love that surpasses knowledge. As I am rooted in God’s love, I will have the power to understand how great his love is, and in knowing his love, I will be filled with his fullness.

I don’t get how I, a finite being, can grasp the infinite love of God. To know what surpasses knowledge. But maybe I don’t need to understand it; maybe I just need to ask for it, and to trust that God is able not only to give me what I ask for, but immeasurably more.


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Quote of the Day

When puzzled, it never hurts to read the primary documents – a rather simple and self-evident principle that has, nonetheless, completely disappeared from large sectors of the American experience” – Stephen J. Gould.

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A Demonstration of Wisdom

Ephesians 3:7-13. (NIV)

7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

There is a focus in these verses on the wisdom of God. The church does not exist simply for the benefit of the world, but also to demonstrate God’s wisdom in the heavenly realms. Let’s make this more specific: God chose me for adoption as his son, in order to display his wisdom to the heavenly rulers. I, along with my brothers and sisters in Christ, am the fulfillment of God’s purpose. In me, and in my brothers and sisters, God displays not just his mercy, but also his wisdom. That seems counterintuitive – that it was wise of God to choose us as his sons and his heirs. And yet, that is what he is clearly saying here; through the church, the wisdom of God is displayed in the heavenly realms.

And, like Paul, I, by the grace and wisdom of God, am called to participate in the work of establishing the kingdom. Lord, may I be a faithful servant, to do all that you have given me to do!


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Remembering Who I Was

Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV):

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.

I was dead and an object of wrath when I followed the ways of the world and of the devil. God, in his mercy, brought me to life in Christ. This also is part of remembering who I am: I am a man who was dead in sin, and who is now alive in Christ, because of God’s grace to me.

The resurrection is not just about Jesus; it is also about me. I have been raised from death to life, not by any merit of mine, but solely by God’s infinite love and grace. No wonder Paul in Romans 8 says that we are more than conquerors! I have already been raised from the dead. What reason could I possibly have for fear? If God is for me, who cares who stands against me? It doesn’t even matter!

But because of his great love for us. God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (v. 4-5).

It’s not even that I’m destined to win, as DeGarmo and Key sang. No, I’ve already won. God will not take away what he sacrificed his son to give me, and there is no other power or authority, in Heaven or on Earth or under the Earth, that can take it away either.

If I had earned this, I would have to worry whether or not I am still worthy to keep what I earned. But I didn’t earn it! God has, in his grace, included me in the resurrection of Christ. Jesus is worthy, not me.

Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good. He came into the world to make dead men live! – Leonard Ravenhill

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Remembering Who I Am

Ephesians 1:1-5 (NIV):

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…

I’m not rejected. I don’t have to earn my way back into God’s good graces (as if I could!). God has blessed me with every spiritual blessing. God chose me before the creation of the world – before I ever rejected him, before I was even born, or anybody else was born either – to be holy and blameless in his sight. Did he know when he chose me what I would do? Of course he did! He’s always known. And he still chose me. Me. To be holy and blameless in his sight. To be adopted as his son.

I spent years walking away; sometimes drifting, sometimes running full speed away from God. And at the end of it, I found that I didn’t have to walk back. All I had to do was turn around, and he was right there, where he’d been the whole time. Even when I abandoned God, he never left me. And he calls me holy and blameless in his sight.

I have sensed for a while now that God is saying to me, “remember who you are,” and now he has brought me to this passage. Who am I? I am an adopted son of God, chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

I don’t have to do anything to be holy and blameless in the sight of God. It’s his choice, not mine. No wonder the apostles turned the world upside down (really, right side up) in the first century! They knew who they were.

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Quote of the Day

“One of the best ways of meeting the  accusations of our enemies is to lead a life of strict integrity. It is not easy for the wicked to reply to this argument.” – Albert Barnes


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Not Much to Blog About This Week

So here are some more pictures of Canyon de Chelly, taken over Christmas holiday back in 2010. (Click to embiggen.)

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Final Thoughts (for now) about Oral Narratives

I’ve written so far about the conditions necessary for an oral narrative to be passed down unchanged. To be preserved at all, the people who tell the story must find some value in it for their present lives, regardless of what it meant to their ancestors. And to be passed down unchanged, it must be told for some purpose that would be hindered if the story is altered.

These conditions are difficult, but obviously not impossible, to meet. And, just as obviously, a narrative can potentially be perceived as worth being told by any society that encounters it. If a story were to emerge anywhere that, for whatever reason, resonates with people in most cultures, it could easily spread worldwide in a remarkably short amount of time; certainly much shorter than the 4,000 years calculated for an individual to become a universal genealogical ancestor. This might even happen if, after the story began to spread, it ceased for some reason to be told in its culture of origin. However, if a society that adopts a story uses it for a different purpose than did the society from which the story was learned, the likelihood of it remaining unchanged would be altered as well.

The conclusion that this all leads to is that, even if it were known that a particular traditional story were inspired by a historic event, the observed present distribution of the story could not be used to determine the location where that event had occurred, or to reconstruct the specific details of the event. That information would need to be obtained from a different source.


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Quote of the Day

“God the Creator gave man the gift of speech; the Devil perverted speech and inflicted the curse called lying; God in retaliation breathed the golden gift of artistic inspiration into man, and gave man the power to use lying in service of divine beauty, by crafting stories and tales and poems, so that lies were made into a wonder, and man is made into a creator like unto the Creator who made him.” – John C. Wright


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