The Church, The Fullness of Christ Who Fills Everything
Every conceivable grace and virtue can be found this very moment in a limitless supply in the Son of God. All fullness dwells in the God-man. The believer will find in him love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control and every other virtue you can imagine, and many we can’t. You will find them in a gargantuan store. There is every grace beyond degree in Christ; the fullness is vast, unmeasured, boundless and free. You cannot see the east or west, nor the north or south of this heavenly reservoir of merit. In vain the first-born seraph tries to sound the depth of love divine. All the divine attributes are found there uncurtailed and unrestricted and infinite. Imagine God opening every single sluice gate in heaven as wide as they could be opened, and pouring out every grace in a great Niagara flood in the fullest measure containing all the fruit of the Spirit. The Lord could pour them out, not just for a million years without any restraint at all, but for ever and ever and ever, and he would never have begun to exhaust the fullness that is his.
These graces are utterly without limit. ‘Plenteous grace with Thee is found.’ He loves God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. Such pure divine love from Son to Father flows out of his fullness. He loves his people with the same fullness of love, that very same love with which he loves the Father is also directed to an illiterate Chinese woman who has put her trust in him.
There is never a shortage of a single grace in Christ. That would be impossible. He doesn’t have seasons when he is going through a difficult patch and his resources are stretched. There is never a sudden run on mercy, for example, so that it is in temporary short supply. There is no drought in Christ; no leanness in Christ; no famine in Christ; no winter barrenness. Seven full years are not followed by seven lean years. He never has sudden moods of miserliness. He never gets frustrated or vindictive or grudging towards us. There are no restraints in him towards the church whatsoever. There is always a superabundance. At this very moment – think of it – the world-wide church, that is his body, the people of God in every continent, are receiving from Christ the graces of patience, forgiveness, gentleness, strength, endurance, joy, courage, hope, peace, contentment, wisdom, vision, energy, poverty of Spirit, meekness, peacemaking, righteousness, purity, discernment, sanity, parental love, the heart of a servant, rule, inspiration, insight, lucidity and so on. From the fullness that is in Christ we are all recipients and grace for grace in never ending plenitude.
"See, the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love,
Well supply Thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove.
Who can faint, while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Ever flows from age to age." (John Newton, 1725-1807).
We start to receive from Christ’s fullness as soon as we put our trust in him. We bring our little dirty souls to him. We come trembling and weak into his presence, and his response is breathtaking. Immediately we receive full pardon for our sins. Every single one, the sins of the past and the present and the future are all forgiven. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We are given a Shepherd to lead and protect us. We are joined to Jesus Christ as a branch is joined to a tree. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ then and there. Our affections are set on things above. Our bodies become the temples of the Spirit. We are given new hearts. We are made new creation. Every thought is made captive to Christ. Our souls are renewed. That is the privilege of every single Christian from regeneration. Of his fullness we then receive, but that is only the start. The Sovereign Head seated at God’s right hand commands these initial blessings upon all his body, but his graces never stop coming to us. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.
Isn’t that mighty consolation in tough times? Is there any place for underestimating the church of God even when it is at a low ebb of influence and power? What the church needs is to lay hold of this truth and put it into exercise in believing prayer. "Lord, all fullness dwells in you. We feel our terrible emptiness. We need love, and courage, and patience, and wisdom, and power, and forgiveness, and humility, and every other grace. We want to receive of your fullness which fills everything in every way." What resources and dignity belong to the gospel congregation and every individual Christian.
We are constrained to cry, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Every single believer, the weakest lamb in the flock, the newest believer, the most backslidden Christian who is yet a member of this body – each one of them receive such supplies from this fountain head, this vast reservoir of grace at the right hand of God. "Our sufficiency is of God." Let us increasingly comprehend with all the saints the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of Christ which passes knowledge.
Today we need a new assessment of what the church is. Our thinking is lamentably inadequate. "Are you supporting the cause?" we ask, as though the body of Christ was something that needed propping up by us. "Don’t leave the cause," we say, "or the cause will suffer." But the church is the body of Christ receiving from his fullness; the cause is not something that we have to support; the cause is something that supports us. We cannot survive without Christ filling us day by day. There is no task you are given, no duty you are asked to perform, no trial you face, no pressure you pass through, no office you are asked to fill in the church which does not find in Christ Jesus our head the plenitude of wisdom, power and love to perform the task. It is an insult to the fullness of him that fills all in all to shrink from any responsibility that the church bestows on us.
What an opportunity we have today to build up the church of Jesus Christ. Don’t underestimate the great opportunity that is yours in evangelising the lost. Never think of any of your work in isolation from the body. In everything we do we have to cultivate and promote the sanctification of the whole body of believers. If a church member is indifferent to the sanctification of others and their growth in grace, faith, love and so on, then that neglect of fellow believers will interfere with his own growth in grace. His lack of concern for them will become a vice which gnaws away at the root of his spiritual growth. The great commandment is to love our neighbours as ourselves. If we do not have a concern for their sanctification then it is because we are not burning with zeal for the honour of Christ, because the honour of his body is the honour of Christ. The coldness of our zeal for this honour is evident if we shrug our shoulders with little regard for them. Our ministry to them dies and they are impoverished. We fail to encourage them and we ourselves are the poorer as a result. No member of a physical body can shrug at the weakness of another member. The brain cannot say, "That is the heart’s problem not mine," because brain and heart are interconnected in the body. Thus it is in the body of Christ. All the members are interconnected and interdependent.
We are living in strange days where there is such an underestimation of the church of Jesus Christ, and such odd criteria in measuring its effectiveness. Don’t let the foolish and uninformed judgments of men and women influence your thought or encourage your disaffiliation from the body of Christ.
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