Christ All in All – Is He?
Names, and sects, and parties fall; Thou, O Christ, art All in All.
It was such a sentiment as this that made A. W. Tozer write: ‘Christians do not tell lies: they sing them.’ In Christian circles we know of no truth more consistently denied than this: that ‘the Lord Jesus Christ is all things in and to all persons that have a true saving interest in Him’ (Ralph Robinson). Have you ever been assailed over a Lord’s Day with the great virtues of Presbyterianism (or over a Scottish Sabbath with the glories of Gaelic) without a word being spoken of your Saviour? Or have you spent an entire train journey being battered with the question: ‘Why have you not been baptized by immersion?’ with no mention of the union with Christ which baptism signifies? Or have you been disowned for not being a Pre-millenialist, without even a hint of joyful anticipation at Christ’s glorious appearing, when we shall see Him as He is? Or have you been startled by the opening conversational gambit: ‘How’s your supra-lapsarianism getting on?’ without any sense of awareness of the unspeakable privilege of being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? Such samples of misplaced priority are not only pastorally insensitive: they are an insult to Christ.
How so? Because when those in the Colossian church were glorying in the superiority of the Jew, or the advantages of circumcision, or the liberty of the politically free, or despising the abject state of slaves, God Himself levelled all these proud thoughts to the ground with the comprehensive assertion: ‘Christ is all, and in all’ (Col. 3:11). In other words, in uniting sinners to Himself and making them acceptable to God, Christ pays no regard at all to such outward distinctions: ‘He will neither . . . reject the poor for their poverty, nor respect the great for their dignity; “He is all, and in all”‘ (James Fergusson). Possession of Christ as our Saviour and Portion annihilates all such distinctions in believers’ relationship both to God and to each other. To make anything of them at all, says Calvin, is to dishonour Christ, ‘as though it were necessary to call in those helps for making up His deficiencies.’ ‘Rather,’ he continues,
if we seek salvation, we are taught by the name of JESUS that it is in Him . . . If we seek redemption, it will be found in His sufferings; absolution, in His condemnation; remission of the curse, in His cross; satisfaction, in His sacrifice; purification, in His blood . . . newness of life and immortality, in His resurrection . . . protection, security, abundance, and enjoyment of all blessings, in His kingdom; a fearless expectation of the judgment, in the judicial authority committed to Him.
In short, ‘Christ is the beginning, middle, and end . . . nothing is, or can be found, apart from Him.’ So, he exhorts: ‘Let us draw from His treasury, and from no other source.’ What applied to the Colossians then applies equally to those who exalt names, and sects, and parties now.
Where our priorities are right, the Saviour will always be given His pre-eminent place: in our thoughts, our conversation, our worship, and our daily conduct. Not surprisingly, those who have known Christ as all have given moving expression to their desire to honour Him above all others and all else. This desire appears in all types of believer, coming from all kinds of background. Take, for example, Martin Luther’s dying words: ‘Thee, O Christ, have I known, Thee have I loved, Thee have I taught, Thee have I trusted.’ Or take Octavius Winslow’s response to the text, ‘Unto you therefore which believe He is precious’ (1 Pet. 2:7): ‘Precious Jesus! All in all to me Thou art!’ Or take Samuel Rutherford’s counsel to one of his correspondents: ‘Convene all your lovers before your soul, and give them their leave; and strike hands with Christ, that thereafter there may be no happiness to you but Christ, no hunting for anything but Christ, no bed at night, when death cometh, but Christ. Christ, Christ, who but Christ!’ Or take the dying words of the martyr John Lambert: ‘None but Christ! None but Christ!’
Perhaps even more expressive is this truth couched in poetic form. Here are several examples:
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire, or seek, but Thee.
Jesus, my all in all Thou art,
My rest in toil, my ease in pain,
The medicine of my broken heart,
In war my peace, in loss my gain,
My smile beneath the tyrant’s frown,
In shame my glory and my crown.
In want my plentiful supply,
In weakness my almighty power,
In bonds my perfect liberty,
My light in Satan’s darkest hour,
My help and stay whene’er I call,
My life in death, my heaven, my all.
Though all the world my choice deride,
Yet Jesus shall my portion be;
For I am pleased with none beside;
The fairest of the fair is He.
Object of my first desire,
Jesus crucified for me;
All to happiness aspire,
Only to be found in Thee.
Let me but Thyself possess,
Total sum of happiness:
Perfect peace I then shall prove,
Heaven below and heaven above.
Examples could be multiplied. Are they not all the product of the same Spirit who caused David to sing: ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple’ (Psa. 27:4) and who taught Asaph to pray: ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee’ (Psa. 73:25)?
Let us then seek grace to relegate everything and everyone to their proper place beneath Christ, and to make Him all. To this end the following quotes from Christ-centred writers may serve to apply the truth of His all-sufficient pre-eminence to us in our present circumstances:
1. Have ye renounced all other things for your all, and have ye received Him to be your all? (Philip Henry)
2. He that desires anything above Him, equally with Him, or without Him, shall never obtain Him. (Samuel Ward)
3. The saints . . . would rather lose all than Christ; they are contented to part with liberty, estate, life, rather than with Christ. (Ralph Robinson)
4. If Christ is all in all, then let us bless God that ever we knew Christ, and that the great mystery of the Gospel has been revealed to us. (Jeremiah Burroughs)
5. In all you enjoy, look how much you see of Christ in it. So far let your delight and esteem be carried out towards it, and no farther. (Jeremiah Burroughs)
6. Do not satisfy yourself with anything without Christ. (Jeremiah Burroughs)
7. The believer can say: Christ is mine, and I have all things in one, even in Christ, who is my all and in all. (Octavius Winslow)
8. Christ in His Godhead, Christ in His humanity, Christ in His great and finished work, Christ in His mediatorial fulness, must be all in all to the sinner. (Octavius Winslow)
9. ‘Christ is all and in all’ (Col. 3:11). He who knows this knows what fully satisfies and cheers. He who knows this best has the deepest and truest peace: for he has learned the secret of being always a sinner yet always righteous, always incomplete yet always complete, always empty and yet always full, always poor and yet always rich. (Horatius Bonar)
10. I wish it were in my power . . . to cry down all love but the love of Christ, and to cry down all gods but Christ, all saviours but Christ, all well-beloveds but Christ, and all soul-suitors and love-beggars but Christ. (Samuel Rutherford)
11. Our world is crossed and recrossed by barriers of one kind and another, and our life is scarred by the animosities cherished by one side against the other. But in Christ these barriers must come down – iron curtains, colour bars, class distinctions, national and cultural divisions, political and sectarian partisanship. In the unity of that body [1 Cor. 12:13] there is no room for the old cleavages: Christ is all, and in all. (F. F. Bruce)
12. Hold fast to Christ, and you will never be lost. (Martin Luther)
From Peace & Truth 2003:4, the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union; with permission.
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