Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 3:19 the Apostle Paul says, “That you may be filled unto all the fullness of God.” When Christ makes His home in our hearts and when we are strong to apprehend with all the saints the dimensions of Christ and to know by experience His knowledge-surpassing love, we shall be filled unto all the fullness of God. All this fullness dwells in Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9). Through His indwelling, Christ continually imparts the very element of God into our being. We can be filled with God to such a measure and can attain such a standard, even unto all the fullness of God. In this way we fulfill God’s intention that the church should be the expression of God.
When the riches of God are in God Himself, they are His riches. But when the riches of God. are expressed, they become His fullness (John 1:16). When we speak of the fullness of God, we imply that the riches of all that God is have become His expression.
When we get into the depths of 3:19, we see that the fullness of God is the church. Chapter three of Ephesians is not concerned with the organization of the church nor with the formation of the church, but with the constitution of the church. The church is neither organized nor formed; it is metabolically constituted in us through our experience and enjoyment of the riches of Christ. In order for the church to be constituted in a practical way, we need to be strengthened into our inner man. Then Christ must make His home in our hearts; He must occupy all the parts of our inner being and saturate them with His riches. Then we need to be rooted and grounded in love, rooted for growth and grounded for building. Following this, we must grasp the dimensions of Christ. This is to experience Christ in His universal dimensions both horizontally and vertically. Along with this, we come to know in our experience the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ. As a result of all these experiences, we are eventually filled unto all the fullness of God. Therefore, being filled unto the fullness of God is the outcome, the result, of all the deeper, higher, and richer experiences of Christ described in Ephesians 3.
The highest definition of the church is that the church is the fullness of God. Some may be troubled at such a statement and may wonder how this claim can be substantiated. In verse 21 Paul says, “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.” According to the context, the church in verse 21 is the very fullness of God in verse 19. When in our experience we are filled unto all the fullness of God, the church comes into being in a practical way. It is at such a time that Paul says, “To Him be the glory in the church.” This glory is the expression of God. Hence, in the fullness of God there is the expression of God. Therefore, the fullness of God is the church as God’s expression.
Some translations of verse 19 say, “filled with all the fullness of God.” According to this rendering, the fullness of God would have to be the element, the essence, with which we are filled. But this is a mistaken understanding of this verse. Here Paul is saying that we shall be filled unto all the fullness of God, that is, we shall be filled to be the expression of God.
When I first began to speak on the difference between the riches of Christ and the fullness of Christ, some tried to argue with me by quoting John 1:16, “For of His fullness we all received, and grace upon grace.” They said, “John 1:16 declares that of His fullness we have all received. Isn’t this fullness the riches of Christ? How then can you make a distinction between the riches of Christ and the fullness of Christ?” When Christ was on earth with His disciples, would you say that the riches of God were there with Him or that the fullness of God was there with Him? If the riches had been with Him but the fullness had not, something would have been lacking; there would have been no completion. For example, suppose a glass jar contains just a few pieces of delicious candies. The jar contains some riches of the candies but not the fullness. However, after the jar is filled with the candies, it will have not only the riches but also the fullness. If the jar remains only partly filled, there will not be in the jar the expression of the candies. Because the fullness is the expression, without the fullness there can be no expression. Only when the candies fill the jar to the brim will there be the fullness as the expression of the riches.
When the Lord Jesus came, He no doubt brought all the riches of God with Him. However, with Him there were not only the riches of God, but there was also the fullness of God. This is the reason John 1:16 says that we all have received of His fullness; it does not say that we have received of His riches. If you take a piece of candy from a jar filled with candies, you will be receiving candy, not from the riches of the jar, but from its fullness.
The fullness is the completion of the riches. In Greek the word for “fullness” means completion. Hence, it is correct to render this Greek word as “completeness.” The Greek word translated “of” in John 1:16 means “out from” or “out of.” Thus, out of the fullness of Christ, the completeness of all the riches of God, we have all received.
Before retiring at night, I often enjoy a glass of protein drink, preferably a glass filled to the brim. As I drink from such a full glass, I partake of the fullness of the protein drink in the glass. When Christ came, He did not come only partially filled with the riches of God. On the contrary, He was filled to the brim. Hence, the fullness, the completeness of what God is, was present with Him. This fullness, this completeness, is the expression of God. The Lord Jesus was like the glass, and the riches of God with which He was filled unto all the fullness of God were like the protein drink. The disciples received not merely of the riches of God, but of His fullness.
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