In Eph. 3:19, Paul prayed that we “may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19) What does this mean? What is the fullness of God that and how are we to be filled with it?
The fullness of God is everything that God is as the great “I am.” (Exo. 3:14) “[His] right hand is full of righteousness.” (Psa. 48:10) We are to “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” (Psa. 96:9) Yet he shows us the “immeasurable riches of his grace…in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7) so we could know the “unfathomable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) The fullness of God is “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col.2:2-3) “For in Him all the fullness of Diety dwells in bodily form.” (Col. 2:9) Christ is the fullness of Diety dwelling in bodily form. When we observe what Jesus did on this earth, in what he said, in his attitude towards the Father, in how he loved us, realize we are seeing “the fullness of Diety dwelling in bodily form.” His behaviour is God’s behavior. The way He lived out his life on this earth was an expression of who God is. The love that he has for us when he went willingly to the cross was an expression of the divine being’s love for us. That is why, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38) The way that Christ lived was the expression of God Himself. That is why “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col. 1:15) That is why God is three…yet one. That is why, “for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” (Rom. 11:36)
Jesus, living as the Son of man, demonstrated the intense love that God had for us all. In dying for us on the cross, he followed the Father’s will to reconcile us to Himself so we could become one with Him. When we first believed, he gave us the eternal life so we would not perish (John 3:16). This was a great threshold which we have passed. We were born again of the Spirit. (John 3:6) However we are not perfected. We need to grow up to be full-grown in Christ. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13) That is why there are two steps to our reconciliation to God. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20) The first step occurred when “Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Cor. 5:18). We believed in God but are not fully reconciled to God. So Paul “implore[s us] on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). This second step is continuous. It will last us our whole lifetime. It is our realization of the fullness of the unfathomable riches of Christ that is already within us. It is the maturity of the divine life that we have been born with giving us the power to eat solid food as a mature man (Heb. 5:14), to fully express the Christ that is living within us (Phi. 1:21), to be one Spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). That is why Christ in resurrection demonstrated this two-step process to his disciples. When he first met them in the closed room, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Through this reception, the disciples were born again and had the Spirit, the divine life, dwelling within them. Yet they had no power, they were not filled with the Spirit. So they waited for the day of Pentecost when they “will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon [them]” (Acts1:8). On that day, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Being filled with the Holy Spirit gives us the power. That was what Paul prayed for in regards to the Christians in Ephesus, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man.” (Eph. 3:16) What Christ showed to his disciples externally when he first resurrected, is happening in us internally today through the two-step process of receiving the Spirit. The second step requires our feeding on Him as our daily bread.
Today to be fully reconciled to God, to “be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19), requires us to enter into the Holy of Holies. That is why the temple was constructed with two inner chambers, a Holy Place and the Holies of Holy. When we first believed, we have entered through the first curtain into the Holy Place in the temple of our bodies. We have been born of God and can even serve as his “priests” (1 Pet. 2:9) having been “given the message of reconciliation” (1 Cor. 5:18). We might have the eagerness to tell others about God and may do things we think are righteous and for God. However, many of us are still doing things in our flesh and not according to our spirit because we have not been transformed into his image. To be transformed into his image means we are changed in the inner man to the inner substance of who God is. We are changed when the Christ that lives in us, takes control of us, so our spirit and soul and body expresses him (Rom. 8:1-11; 2 Cor. 4:11). To do this, we must enter through the second curtain. We must come into his presence, within the Holies of Holy, for his glory to transform us into his image (2 Cor. 3:18). When we begin to pray unceasingly (1 The. 5:17), staying in the Holies of Holy within our spirits, in the temple of God within our bodies, we are transformed, day-by-day, into his image. “Our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) We are transformed so the inner substance of God, the reality of who he is, begins to be expressed out of us.
The inner substance of God is his agape love. “God is love.” (1 John 4:8,16) This is a self-sacrificial unconditional love that we can only express with the reality of Christ dwelling within our spirits, having transformed us so we are one Spirit with him. When we love God with the reality of Christ’s love for us, we are one with God. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15) The love of Christ controls us, so that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. We live “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). “[We] no longer live, but Christ lives in [us]” (Gal. 2:20). That is why in this second step of our reconciliation, as we become more fully “reconciled to God…we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5 20-21). We not only live in this world righteously, but we become the very righteousness of God in Him because the love of Christ controls us.
The love of God qualifies us to shepherd the Lord’s flock. Realize we are all called to shepherd the Lord’s flock. God’s people were supposed to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo. 19:6). We “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are “all sons of God” (Gal. 3:26; John 1:12). That is why we are to shepherd the Lord’s flock. To “Shepherd My sheep” (John 21:15-17), the qualification is “Do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15). To tend to his lambs, make sure we first love him more than these. Then we won’t live or work according to ourselves. When we love Christ so intensely so he transforms us and lives out of us, whatever we think or say, however we behave, will be in all righteousness, while our attitude towards others will be in love, forbearance, and forgiveness. The Christ in us makes us holy as we forgive others for their sins. Realize “We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16) Let him live through you.
Although we may not have an agape love for God, and only have a philia love for Him, realize we are just young. The Lord asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). As a young man who has just received the essential spirit (taken the first step), having just entered into the Holy Place, he could only reply with the philia love. So the third time, Christ asked with the philia love. “When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” ((John 21:18). Peter was young, and he had only entered into the Holy Place. He had not realized yet the power of the Spirit that was in him. To grow in Christ, we need to enter into the Holy of Holies to remain in his presence. As we grow in Christ, his love, an agape love, will flow from us. As we love one another we will put aside the things of the law that separate us. Our hearts will be enlarged so we would be kind and not jealous, not exonerate ourselves by bragging or being arrogant, not acting unbecomingly, not seeking our own things, not easily provoked, rejoicing is righteousness, forbearing all things, believing all things, having hope in all things, and enduring all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We will lay aside all our differences, when we finally realize Christ Himself and his one body. “Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange-I speak as to children-open wide to us also.” (2 Cor. 6:11-13) Realize the differences we have are because of the narrowness of our own affections. Our hearts need to be enlarged, opened wide, to encompass all God’s children. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Realize this is what God has done for us in loving us. This is the expression of God Himself. We will finally be ”stand[ing] firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Phi. 1:27) We all need to let Christ live out of us. As we grow old, maturing in Christ, He will gird us and bring us where we do not wish to go. Realize to “be filled up to all the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 3:19) is passive, and not active. This is how we grow up into maturity in Christ.
The matured Christian is an elder in the body of Christ…someone matured in Christ. These servants of God will possess the 18 characteristics listed in 2 Cor. 6:4-10. Realize these characteristics are just Christ lived out of us. When “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). As we mature in Christ, realize we “are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:11) “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder in witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (1Pet. 5:1-3) As we mature in Christ, we must become examples to the flock as Christ is lived out of us, just as we are “imitators of God, as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). His flock is his church today. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders, and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Pet. 5:4-5) realizing “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal.2:20)
To “be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19), means we have died to ourselves, and now live out the Christ dwelling in us, so that in maturity, Christ can fully express Himself…the essence of who He is…as love and caring for his flock.