Christ is All and in All
John Brown was one of the most illustrious Bible commentators of the nineteenth century. The Banner of Truth publishes his commentaries on Galatians and Hebrews in the ‘Geneva’ series, and his 3-volume work on The Discourses and Sayings of our Lord. Also published by Banner of Truth, but currently out of print, is his 2-volume commentary on 1 Peter. Why mention him at the beginning of my pastoral letter? For this reason: While recently perusing Brown’s commentary on 1 Peter, I came across this wonderful paragraph that I wanted to share with you. He is commentating on the opening verses of 1 Peter 2 and in particular on the Christ-saturated content of these verses:
The religion taught in the New Testament, of which our text is a fair specimen, is Christianity in the most emphatic and peculiar sense of the term, ‘Christ is all in all’. It is his religion. It is all by him; it is all about him; he is its author, he is its substance; he is the sum of this system, the soul of this body. Every thing is viewed in its connexion with him. Every doctrine and every precept, every privilege and every duty, every promise and every threatening. The ground of acceptance is his sacrifice; the source of light and life, holiness and peace, his Spirit; the rule of duty, his law; the pattern for imitation, his example; the motives to duty, his authority and grace; the great end of all, his glory, God’s glory in him . . . let the language of our hearts be that of the dying martyr: ‘None but Christ, none but Christ’. [1 Peter, Volume 1, pp. 238-239]
Are these not stirring, moving, and true words?
In essence, Brown is telling us that Christianity is Christ. He is the ‘so great salvation’ that God holds out to us in the gospel. This was something Jesus himself was self-consciously aware of. When you read through the Gospels you cannot miss that he preaches himself. This is seen perhaps most startlingly in Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest . . .’ Jesus does not prescribe for the weary and burdened some spiritual panacea; he prescribes himself. Jesus’ personal sense of his comprehensive ability to meet the needs of a broken, sin-weary world is staggering: ‘Come to me’!
Now, why am I saying this? For one simple reason, to encourage you (and me) to look alone to our Lord Jesus for the comfort, help, strength, reassurance, and hope that we all need to sustain us in our walk with God. It is in Christ that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. l:3). God has nothing else to give you, for in his Son he has given you everything. Not just everything you need, but everything!
This is but another way of saying what our Lord himself tells us in John 15: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ He is our life. To live by faith is to live ‘out of Christ’ (see Gal. 2:20). Faith is like a bucket that we drop into the inexhaustible riches and depths of our Saviour, to draw up out of him all we need to live a godly, God-pleasing, gospel-useful life. Do you lack wisdom? Go to Christ who is the wisdom of God. Do you lack patience? Go to Christ the epitome of godly patience. Do you lack constancy? Go to Christ who was obedient unto death. Do you lack courage? Go to Christ ‘who endured the cross’. John Calvin puts this truth beautifully in The Institutes (2.16.19):
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ (1 Cor. 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth . . . If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission from the curse, in his cross (Gal. 3:13) . . . In short, since a rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
Now that is theology at its most biblical and glorious. Ponder that. Thank God for that. Live in the great good of all that Jesus Christ is.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in the Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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