Vol. 1 - No. 9
"The Church - The Fullness of Christ"
by Robert A. Bolton
In a previous article, consideration was given to “Paul's Magnificent Doxology to God” as recorded in Ephesians 1:3-4, where the apostle begins by saying: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Following this grand “doxology” and with reference to the affirmation of verse 3, Paul addresses more majestic thoughts to the saints in Ephesus and then speaks of God's “working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:19-23). Thus, the church is introduced as having a specific and direct bearing upon the fact that “every spiritual blessing” is “in Christ.”
Today, many people labor under the delusion that there is absolutely no important and necessary connection between “the church” and “spiritual blessings in Christ.” Or, as some are wont to say, “A man may be a Christian and not be a member of the church,” or again, “A man does not have to be in the church to be saved.” In view of this wide spread belief, let us examine the teaching of the New Testament with regard to the vital relationship between “the church” and “every blessing in Christ.” We first of all note some of the “spiritual blessings” that are found to be “in Christ,” that is, “in connection with Christ.”
In Colossians 2:8-9, the apostle says: “Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Perhaps we can have a small understanding of this truth when we consider that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in
the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). Jesus said: “Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?” (John 14:9-10). Thus, “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” so that whatever benefits are involved in “the fulness” of Deity are to be found “in Christ.”
Continuing in Colossians 2:10, Paul says: “and in him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power.” This fulness or completeness which we have “in Christ” may be understood in connection with the statement of 2 Peter 1:3: “seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue.” In reality, here is the summation of the fact that God “hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Thus, apart from Christ we have no spiritual blessings and are not “made full.”
As we noted in the previous article, it is Christ “in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Thus, apart from Christ we have no “redemption through his blood” or “the forgiveness of our trespasses,” for these spiritual blessings are found “in him.”
Although practically referring to the same thing, Paul says: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Thus, apart from Christ there is no salvation for such is “in Christ.”
To the Corinthians Paul wrote “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). To “reconcile” means “to change from enmity to friendship.” Thus, in Romans 5:10, Paul says that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son “ Therefore, apart from Christ men are enemies of God, for “reconciliation,” or becoming friends again with God. is “in Christ.”
The great spiritual blessing for which we all hope, eternal life, is “in Christ.” In 1 John 5:11, the beloved apostle affirms “that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” There-fore, apart from Christ man is doomed without hope, for “eternal life ... is in his Son.”
The last spiritual blessing to which we refer, and which relates directly to all others, is that found in Galatians 3:26 where Paul declares: “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.” Thus, apart from Christ men cannot be sons of God, for “sons of God” are “in Christ.”
Now, having emphasized that “every spiritual blessing” is “in Christ,” it is most important and appropriate that we point out that it is in the act of baptism that men establish this vital connection with Christ. Paul says: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Thus, men are not “in Christ” until “baptized into Christ.” And so, it follows as night the day, that men do not enjoy any “spiritual blessing” unless and until they are “baptized into Christ.” No wonder Jesus says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
But, by now you may be asking what all of this has to do with the church? If a man may have all these and other “spiritual blessings ... in Christ,” where does the church come in? Let us “search the scriptures.”
In the text of Ephesians 1:22-23, Paul says: “and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Just as in Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead,” so the church is the “fulness of Christ.” Thus, whatever benefits man has in “the fulness of the Godhead” must of necessity be connected with “the fulness of Christ,” so that all blessings “in Christ” are found “in the church.”
without being “in his body, the church?” Certainly not! Therefore, whatever spiritual blessings are found “in Christ” are at one and the same time found “in the church.” Apart from “the church” there are no spiritual blessings.
The blood of Christ was “poured out for many unto remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). But, Paul speaks of “the church of the Lord, which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Thus, those who enjoy “remission of sins” or “redemption through his blood” comprise “the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.” Apart from “the church” there is no remission of sins.
Again, John says of Christ: “for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10). Those “purchased” with “the blood of Christ” constitute “a kingdom.” But, the church was “purchased with his own blood;” therefore, “the church” is the “kingdom.” Apart from “the church” there are no benefits of citizen-ship in the kingdom.
In Ephesians 5:23, Paul says, “Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body.” Thus, the church is the body of the saved. The church does not save -- the church is the saved! Obviously, therefore, apart from “the church” there is no salvation in the gospel age.
Again, in Colossians 3:15, Paul says, “ye were called in one body.” Since the church is “his body,” the church comprises those “called.” Apart from the church men are not among the “called.”
Paul also affirms that Christ abolished “in his flesh the enmity” between Jew and Gentile, that he “might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross” (Ephesians 2:15-16). We have already seen that “reconciliation” is “in Christ,” but, men are “reconciled” “in one body,” “the church.” Therefore, apart from “the church” is no “reconciliation.”
Lastly, Paul speaks of “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). The word “house” in this text refers to “family.” Thus, “the house of God” is “the family of God,” “the church of the living God.” But, all of God's sons are in his family, unless he has some outside his family, in which case they are “illegitimate.” Since the church is “the house of God.” and all “sons of God” are in his “family,” all “sons of God” are in “the church.” Apart from “the church” men cannot be “sons of God” today.
But, how does man come to be “in the church, the body,” “the house of God?” Paul says, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13) Yet, as we noted, men are “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3). Baptism is that which puts man “into Christ” and at the same time puts him “into one body,” “the church.” Since “every spiritual blessing” is “in Christ,” they are found “in the church.” So that being “in Christ” is equivalent to being “in the church.” Thus it is that Paul could truthfully speak of the church as “his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
My friend, if you are to enjoy “every spiritual blessing,” you must be “in Christ” -- “in the church.” The two cannot be separated. One cannot be a Christian without being in the church, for as the title of this article indicates, “THE CHURCH IS THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST.” THINK!!