“He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.” (Eph. 4:10)
“He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth ell in all.” (Eph. 1:22, 23)
“But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ… till we all attain unto…the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:7, 13)
The goal, the vessel, the process
By putting the portions in that order, we are able to see in a very swift way exactly what it is the apostle is writing about in this letter. He gives us in those fragments alone the whole panorama of the divine purpose from eternity to eternity. The one all-dominating feature is that one which we mentioned first: “That He (Christ) might fill all things”. That is the grand object of God, the counsels of God from before times eternal, the end which He set for this universe; the end toward which He intended to make everything work through the ages—that eventually Christ should fill all things.
Unto that end there is brought in in those same sovereign counsels this that is called, “The church which is his body, to be the complement of Christ, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
Then the third emphasis is the process: “Till we all attain.” A course is being worked out, that every member of that body has a measure of that fullness to realize, express and fulfil. And grace is given according to that measure of the gift of Christ. We will not stay with that for the moment.
I just want you to get the concept and vision of this purpose of God and its means and its process. Within that compass everything that has any place whatever in the thought of God has its meaning and explanation. Every phase and aspect of Christian experience from new birth through all the discipline and all the trial and all the experiences under the hand of God, right on to the end, everything finds its place within this compass of the divine intention that He, Christ, should fill all things. In other words, what God is after is to make room for Christ, to get adequate scope for Christ, to get full place for Christ. So that, on the one side of our history, we find a good deal of displacing going on. Perhaps we sometimes feel there is an enormous amount being done in that direction of getting rid of that which is there. Yes, and it is quite true; there is an immense inheritance. Adam the First is a colossus and he is not got out of the way easily and simply. That is when it comes to the practical experience of having him dealt with; he is everywhere. Until Christ comes in and begins, he, Adam the First, fills all things. And you end I are up against that fact every day—that Adam has a very large place, that he does fill all things. He has insinuated himself into everything, in every part of our being he is entrenched, in this whole world he is entrenched and the disposing of him is no small business. The undercutting of his power and influence in us and over us is no small thing. That is one side of our history which is a tremendous side—to make room for Christ by getting rid of that which is there, which is not Christ, which is not the last Adam.
On the other side, running parallel and being kept in the wonderful holding of God in even balance with that, is the fact that whenever the Lord is able to subdue things to Himself and put things under the feet of Christ, in that measure Christ occupies more ground and becomes fulIer, greater, more real. The Lord is not engaged upon a purely negative work of destruction. He is keeping the positive even with the negative and it takes a positive and a negative to effect anything, as our electricians will tell us. These two things result in something; they result in power and they result in light, in energy, they have got to go on together. The Lord Himself will occupy no more place than He is able to occupy by way of disposing of something. The disposing of things means that the Lord Himself will take the place that is offered to Him. It is experimental or experiential. It is not theoretical, it is very practical. Now, that is the situation set before us, in its broad terms.
The difference between the reactions of men and the reactions of Christ
I want to get nearer to this matter in quite a simple way. This purpose of God into which you and I are called by the grace of God, in its outworking means this: that the end of God in our lives is being realized in the measure in which we in what we are naturally, are ceasing to be in view, to occupy the ground, to be met and to react to things and to one another. Or, to put that in the other way, from the other side, the end of God is being realized in us in the measure in which Christ is the reacting reality in our lives.
I believe that, while there may be and are various purposes in the three and a half years of our Lord’s life here on the earth and the records contained in what are called the Gospels of those three and a half years, one of the very important and vital meanings and values of that period and of those Gospels is just this, so far as the disciples were concerned, to bring out the difference between the reactions of Chris to situations, to circumstances, to people, and the reactions of men, even disciples of Christ.
The question which arises all the way through that record is this: How do these men react to certain situations and how does Christ react? And when you see that difference, you see the difference between Adam the First and Adam the Last, and you are able to see what God is after, so that at the end of that period these men, though so closely associated with and related to the Lord in His person here on the earth, came to the place where they realized how utterly impossible it was for them to be imitate Him, how utterly impossible for them to be like Him, how necessary therefore it was that He should reproduce Himself in them and make them His body in which He would live again that same life. That was the issue.
Now you can take the thing up at many points, any point you like, and you can see it. Take it up for instance, at John 13. Here they are; it is just a little while now unto the suffering and death of the Lord and they are gathered in that upper room. They have all come in from the dusty way; they are tired and you know how people feel when they are tired. Perhaps nerves on edge, not too cheerful, not too ready to do the kindly things. They are tired and tiredness is a horrible thing spiritually. It is a very difficult thing to be really tired, to be triumphantly tired. And they are tired and dusty and hot. The custom was that, coming in, provision should be made for refreshing, washing the dust from the feet. Someone should do that. There were no servants for them and so they were left to themselves, and that situation is up in the air. The situation is there and the air is full of it. Everybody is conscious of the issue and the big question hanging in the air is: “Who is going to do it?” There are certain who regard themselves as more important than the others. Peter, for instance. He comes first; he is the most important one in this group, and Peter is not going to do it. He is standing upon his dignity. He is not coming down to the servant’s position and so his disposition is the disposition of that form of Adam the First, that is not going to be servant to others. He is not going to walk round with a basin of water and towel and go down on his knees and wash their feet. Why should he? He is Peter! And there are others who are evidently feeling like that if they have not thought it out. No one is doing it. Here is a situation, a very simple practical situation which is the test of people, a real test of where they are. That is their reaction.
What is the reaction of the Lord?
“Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God, riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. So he cometh to Simon Peter.” (John 13:1-6).
He starts at the top. You know what He says presently, “If I, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” You see the long distance, the big gap, between the top man here and the Christ; the very best of them, the highest of them, the most important of them on that pedestal up there, and the Lord Jesus Himself – what a gap! And what an exposure! I wonder if Peter ever did think (and you can hardly imagine he did not think) in after years of that particular occasion when the Lord was glorified, when he had come into that full knowledge of the glorified Christ and he remembered that because of his dignity, his pride, he had never taken that towel and water for his Master’s feet.
You see what we are getting at. When Christ has His place, that sort of thing all goes out. What is the reaction? The reaction is not the reaction of what I am by nature. You might, of course, on such a matter as that, be quite ready and the first to come forth and do the service. But on some other things your reaction would be the reaction of who you are, what you are, and the situation or the people concerned would meet you in that, not Christ.
What I am getting at is this, that is a very practical outworking of an eternal purpose. Eternal purpose is not something up there in the air, some great theory, great idea. It comes right down here to our reactions to people and situations. Something arises; what is met? Do you meet me, do I meet you?
Do I come out at you? Do you come out at me, or at this? Are we facing this simple situation as on the ground of our makeup, our disposition, our like, our dislike, our preference, what we want, what we do not want? Is that the thing that comes out at it, or is it Christ, is it the Lord Jesus that meets that?
People are able to say: ”That was a very testing situation,” but they met it magnificently in the Spirit of Christ, they came through that ordeal in the Spirit of Christ. You cannot help acknowledging that it was the Lord that enabled them to go through that, to react in that way; it was Christ! None of us have got very far on this road, but we can talk to one another in the light of what we see to be the Lord’s object.
Spiritual measure, the measure of Christ
We may have had other ideas about spiritual measure. What is spiritual measure? Is it apprehension of truth? That is it? It is this: The measure of Christ, and when you come to look at Christ it is the measure of His meekness, it is the measure of His humility, it is the measure of His patience, it is the measure of His love, it is the measure of His selflessness. “Till we all attain unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” “To each one is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Grace keeping pace with the gift. Will it not be a great time when all reactions are Christ? This world is so full of everything that is not Christ. We are meeting it all the time. Just think of the condition in which, whenever you meet a person, all you get from him is Christ, Christ comes out all the time, the whole situation is full of Christ! “That he might fill all things.” What a state that will be! What a time that will be! It is going to be like that.
Christ living within by His Spirit
But the Lord not only has an ultimate goal which He is going to realize, but He has this process and that is what He is doing with us just now. He is in the course of realizing that end and that is why we have a bad time when we react in any other way but the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is in us. We said that the disciples were brought at length to the place where they knew quite well that, unless the Lord, shall we say, re-embodied Himself and lived His own life in a new body, it was quite impossible. The imitation of Christ is nonsense. There is no such thing as real imitation of Christ. But He did re-embody Himself. That is our word. “The church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” “That he might fill all things.” “Till we all attain unto the fullness.” He has re-embodied Himself in a body and we are members of that body. And He is in us by His Spirit, and when something goes out from us that is not Christ, the Spirit of Christ gives us a bad time. He says: You have to take that back, put that right; that was you, that was not Me. The Holy Spirit is seeking to do this and when we yield to the Spirit of Christ in that way we make room for Christ, there is an enlargement of Christ. If we force on, drive on, ride rough-shod over sensibilities in our own assertiveness and our own disposition, we are simply ruling Christ out, and we are closing the way to Christ.
Well, a lot more words are not necessary to indicate. We know quite well how true this is, it is all very true. But thank God, we have the Holy Spirit, and He is making possible the realisation of that glorious purpose of God in us—the fullness of Christ, that he might fill all things. That is a very simple word, but I do feel that it is right in line with the greatest conception that we can have of God’s thoughts. All things are summed up in Christ; God’s fullest thoughts, all His thoughts are centred in His Son, and that in order that His Son might fill all things. You and I are some of the ‘all things’ to be filled with Christ, and that is what the Lord is after. Now, as the result of this simple word, may we have exercise of heart and be enabled to make much room for the Lord. And shall we pray that you will meet less of me and that I shall meet less of you, and that we will be meeting more of Christ in one another by reason of that exercise.