Ephesians 1:23

Sermon preached on March 12, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

When I was around five years old my grandparents took me on a trip to Boston. Two things about that trip stand out in my mind. One has to do with how long the trip was. We were traveling from Nova Scotia by car and for years afterwards they told me that I kept asking, "Are we there yet?" They told me that I had started that before we were on the road an hour. The other thing that I remember about the trip was that I got separated from my grandparents in a department store in Moncton, New Brunswick. I think it was the biggest department store in eastern Canada and I believe it was five stories high. I don't know how it happened, but I got separated them and couldn't find them anywhere. I looked and looked and looked—but couldn't find them. Finally I got the idea to go out in the parking lot to see if their car was still there. So that's what I did. I don't know why I ever thought they would leave me, but I thought it would be a good idea to see if their can was there—so I'd know for sure they were still there. Their car was still there and I went back in and after awhile we located each other. I remember how surprised they were when I told them that I went out in the parking lot to check to see if their car was still there. Of course they wouldn't have left me. We were family.
But at that young age I hadn't figured out all that it meant being a member of a family. To me it was natural to check to see if the car was there. They thought it was totally unnecessary because they weren't going to leave without me. But I hadn't understood that.

That illustrates what we're sometimes like as Christians. We sometimes don't realize what it means to be part of God's family. We don't realize that it means that God will take care of us, never leave us nor forsake us etc.
In the same way, we don't realize what it means to be part of Christ's body. We suffer from doubt, anxiety and worry—all the while not realizing how important we are to Jesus.

One of the repeated themes in the New Testament is that
God's people should know how intimately they are related to Jesus. It's vitally important that you understand the closeness of this relationship. It's one of the keys to successful Christian living. Our text tells us something about how close we are to Jesus.

The context here is about
God's incomparably great power and God placing all things under Christ's feet and appointing Him to be head over everything for the church. Paul continues,

"which is his body,
the fullness of him
who fills everything in every way."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 425)

"The way to realize the truth about this power, the Apostle tells us, is to realize our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ…"

The apostle Paul tells Christians that the church is the body of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. The truth that we have here is one of the greatest in all of the Bible. Indeed, one commentator, Armitage Robinson, calls the phrase, 'the fullness of him who fills everything in every way', the most remarkable expression in the whole epistle. It's a great and wonderful truth that should fill us with hope and joy. It has great practical implications for us and how we should live and the confidence we should have as we go forth with the gospel.

The first great truth we see here is that

the church is the body of Christ.

This is a common theme in biblical teaching. We see in Ephesians 5. There Paul speaks about how husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. He continues, (verse 28f)

"In this same way
husbands ought to love their wives
as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
After all, no one ever hated his own body,
but he feeds and cares for it,
just as Christ does the church—
for we are members of his body."

We also see it in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul wrote, (verse 27)

"Now you are the body of Christ,
and each one of you is a part of it."

In verse 12-13 he wrote,

"The body is a unit,
though it is made up of many parts;
and though all its parts are many,
they form one body.
So it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit
into one body"

Paul went on to say that the body is not made up of one part but many and that the foot should not say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Paul also wrote that the eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" We are all parts of the body of Christ and are indispensable.

The great truth we learn from the church being the body of Christ is that there is an
organic unity between Christ and His church. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 426)

"The marvel of the body is that all the parts are really one, that they are in an organic, essential and vital unity."

The church is one with Christ. We are His body. There is an indissoluble unity that exists between Christ and us. You Christians are joined to Christ in vital, essential and mysterious way. You are His body. You are not connected to Christ in a loose, artificial, superficial way. Quite the contrary—you are His body. You are part of Him.

Now this has great implications. The truth we are to understand here is not just that Jesus loves us and cares for us and is ruling for us. No, the concept is much deeper than that. We are united to Christ in the most intimate way. We are His body. He loves us and cares for us—not as if we were separate from Him—but as His own body.

Let me illustrate. Most of you know that three years ago I lost
my brother to cancer. It was a great loss. I miss him greatly. There's hardly a day goes by that I don't think of him. But he wasn't part of my body. Even though his death affected me greatly, basically I could come back home and carry on with me life. We were brothers, but we weren't organically connected. We had separate bodies. I could carry on without him.

But it was different with
his wife. His death had a much greater impact on her than it did me. And that was not just because she had a greater emotional bond with my brother. But it also had to do with the fact that when two people get married they become 'one flesh'. Even though a married couple still have two different bodies, there is a unity that exists between them that is greater, more intimate, more essential than that between brothers, sisters, parents and children. But death breaks that bond. It severs the one flesh relationship. But because it existed—it was much harder for her to carry on with life. She couldn't just go home and get back to normal. In a certain sense, things would never be normal with her again.

Now the relationship between Christ and us is much greater and more essential than the marriage relationship. Indeed, the marriage relationship of 'one flesh' is a pointer to a greater mystery—the church being the body of Christ. That's what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:29f. He wrote,

"After all, no one ever hated his own body,
but he feeds and cares for it,
just as Christ does the church—
for we are members of his body.
For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother and be united to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh.
This is a profound mystery—
but I am talking about Christ and the church."

We are members of Christ's body. This means that His interest in us, His love for us, His care for us—is personal and experiential. How important, how dear, how essential you are to Christ. You are His body.

The second thing we see from our text is that

the church is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

The noun 'fullness' can either be taken as either active or passive. The idea would be that the church fills Christ or is filled by Him. Charles Hodge tells us that every other occurrence of the word 'fullness' in the New Testament is used actively, (Ephesians, p. 89-90) If it is to be active here then the meaning is that the church fills, or 'completes' Christ. Charles Hodge writes, (Ephesians, p. 90)

"The church is the fullness of Christ—in that it is the complement of his mystic person. His is the head, the church is his body."

John Calvin adds, (Sermons on Ephesians, p. 122-123)

"By this word, 'fullness' he means that our Lord Jesus Christ and even God his Father account themselves imperfect, unless we are joined to him… As if a father should say, My house seems empty to me, when I do not see my child in it. A husband will say, I seem to be only half a man when my wife is not with me."

William Hendriksen writes, (Ephesians, p. 104)

"As to his divine essence Christ is in no sense whatever dependent on or capable of being completed by the church. But as bridegroom he is incomplete with the bride; as vine he cannot be thought of without the branches; as shepherd he is not seen without his sheep; and so also as head he finds his full expression in his body, the church."

Armitage Robinson writes,

"In some mysterious sense the church is that without which the Christ is not complete, but with which he is or will be complete. That is to say, he (sc. Paul) looks upon Christ as in a sense waiting for completeness, and destined in the purpose of God to find completeness in the church."

Lloyd-Jones, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 431)

"there is a sense in which we as the Church as His fullness… The Lord Jesus christ as the eternal Son of God is eternally self-sufficient and independent and has not need of us. But when we think of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Mediator, as the God-Man, as the One who has come to achieve redemption and to present His people to the Father, then in that sense He is joined to the body and needs it. A head alone is not complete."

Now what does this mean?

First, because we are united to Christ as His body, it means that He has a deep and abiding love for us.

Christians can sometimes go through great anxiety. They wonder if God loves them, if He is going to take care of them. They wonder if the trial they are going through is going to overwhelm them. At times they can feel like Job and think that God is a million miles away from them. They cry out but God doesn't appear to care or answer.

But one of the things they should be assured of is that they are very dear to Christ. Christians are His body. He can no more forsake us than He can forsake Himself.

Hendriksen writes, (p. 104)

"This is the highest honor of the church, that, until he is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation it is for us to learn that, not until we are in his presence, does he possess all his parts, or does he wish to be regarded as complete."

Secondly, this means that the connection between us and Christ is such that He is our life.

Lloyd-Jones, who was trained as a medical doctor, tells us that our union with Christ is an organic, essential, vital union. He uses as an example the fingers attached to the hand and tells us that it is not a loose connection, (p. 426)

"it is a living connection, it is a vital connection, there is a sense in which you cannot tell me exactly where the palm ends and the fingers begin."

F. F. Bruce writes, (p. 275)

"The organic relation between head and body suggests the vital union between Christ and the church, sharers of a common life, which is his own risen life communicated to his people."

Thirdly, this means that as a Christian

you are never alone.

You Christians are the fullness of Christ. You are joined to Him in an essential union.

This life can be difficult. Our sin causes estrangement. We can be lonely, discouraged, and feel that we are useless, to Christ, to other Christians and to unbelievers.

But nothing could be further from the truth. You are not alone. You are not useless. You are part of the body of Christ. You are important, significant. F. F. Bruce writes on the church being the body of Christ, (on Colossians 1:18, p. 70)

"in speaking of the church as the body of Christ, one thinks of it as vitalized by his abiding presence with it and his risen life in it; one think of it as energized by his power; one may even… think of it as the instrument through which he carries on his work on earth."

Hodge, God fills heaven and earth with his presence.

"There is not place where he is not. There is no creature from which he is absent. By him all things consist; they are upheld by his presence in them and with them. The union, therefore, which the church sustains, and which is the source of its life and blessedness, is not with a mere creature, but with Christ, God manifested in the flesh, who pervades and governs all things by his omnipresent power. The source of life, therefore, to the church is inexhaustible and immortal."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.

You should realize that you are missing out on the greatest relationship that you could ever have.

Without Christ, you are alone, alienated from God and from others by sin. That will lead to death, to eternal death.

You need Christ, to be united with Him, to become part of His body, to share in His resurrected life. Go to Jesus. Find life in Him.