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Patrick Bowman The Apostle Paul, perhaps more than any writer in the last 2000 years, has left us a picture of the church, past, present, and future, which reflects an apostle’s heart. Saul, the brilliant, steeped in the law, chief persecutor of the church, has an encounter with Jesus and is given a new vision and revelation as to the measurement to which that church, the body of Christ, was to emulate the head, Jesus the Christ. As Saul, he picked apart the body in the same way that, as Paul, he would build the body up. As Saul, he worked to splinter the body in the same way, as Paul, he spoke forth and worked the ministry of reconciliation. And remember, Paul had this revelation not from being with the Christ, but by being in the Christ. Just as the Apostle Peter’s revelation of who Jesus was became the foundation on which the church is built, Paul’s revelation of Jesus became the scaffolding by which the church is defined. In his epistle to the Ephesians, which some believe to be written not only to the saints at Ephesus, but as a general epistle to the Asian church, Paul makes a defining statement concerning the state of the church. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Eph 1:15-23 KJV) The apostle Paul has a unique style of writing that, being unawares, can cause a reader to miss the fullness of what he is trying to communicate. Paul often blazes a path to a terminal or defining statement with a myriad of supporting statements rather than sharing a defining statement first and then telling us how he arrived at that place. I have found it, many times, more advantageous to read Paul from back to front, within a complete thought when he has used this style. First of all, let’s begin with the defining statement; the crescendo of the thought: The fullness of Jesus is his body, the church, because Jesus completely fills all things in all ways. Now let’s look at what Paul tells us are the facts of support for that statement, combined with his pastoral involvement, using a back to front reconstruction: The fullness of Jesus is his body, the church, because Jesus completely fills all things in all ways. From where God set Jesus, at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Jesus is the head over all things to the church, his earthly body of kingdom representatives. God not only put him above all things; far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, but has placed all things under him, in this age and also the age to come. My prayer is that you may know the exceeding greatness of the mighty power God used to accomplish this; the same power made manifest in raising Christ from the dead. This is the power He now shares with the church. His purposes become clear when you realize the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and the hope we have within his calling. This only happens when the eyes of your understanding are being enlightened so my prayer is that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. I pray this often, making mention of you in my prayers, since I first heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love for all the saints.
The Position In analyzing Paul’s writing from back to front, we see that in supporting his definition of the church, he first talks about the position of Jesus; at God’s own right hand in the heavenly places. This is the place of honor, the seat of the firstborn from the dead. This is the position above all things and the position all things are under. This is the complete picture of authority, both in the heavens and in the earth. This is the place of manifestation of the working of God’s mighty power, the position from which Jesus reigns as head over all things to the church. In our passage, there are several absolutes that must be considered when we speak of the church’s positional relationship to Jesus and Jesus’ positional relationship to all else. First is a word that indicates totality; the word “all”. The word all in the Greek is pas (Strong’s G3956), which means “Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole: - all (manner of, means) alway (-s), any (one), X daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no (-thing), X thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.” We see Paul pinning this thought of totality to other words in describing positional relationships, thus making them absolute expressions of those words. In verse 21, we see the relative position of Jesus’ seat of authority: Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (Eph 1:21 KJV) Jesus is positioned above all principality, and power, and might, and domain, and every name that is named. Not some, or most, but all. The phrase “far above” in the Greek, huperanō (Strong’s G5231), indicates greatly higher above. And for what time period? This age and the one to come! Jesus’ position convinces Paul, as he writes in Romans 8, that God’s love for us, in Christ, cannot be separated from us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39 KJV) In verse 22, we see the totality of Jesus’ position again, expressed in the corresponding statement that reasons, if Jesus is above all, then all must therefore be under him. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (Eph 1:22 KJV) We see here also that God gave Jesus to be the head over all to the church. Thus, the true church, the body of Christ, is made up of those who are following his commands, directed by the Holy Spirit and reinforced by the fivefold ministry which Paul defines in chapter 4 of Ephesians. The “Super Apostles,” as I have heard them described, gave us the Word, the logos, the complete thought of God. The here and now restored offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher certainly do not substitute for the life of Christ, the Holy Spirit, that indwells believers. They do, however, act as a spiritual covering, guarding and guiding the body of Christ, as watchmen upon her wall. True fivefold ministry will never demand of you anything, but point you in a direction to find the truth for yourself. And that is what I'm doing tonight. Verse 23, our defining statement of the church, once again uses the word all; this time emphasizing, with a double usage, total totality.
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Eph 1:23 KJV) The second absolute is also contained here; fullness and fills. The word fullness, plērōma (Strong’s G4138) in the Greek, means “repletion or completion, that is, (subjectively) what fills (as contents, supplement, copiousness, multitude), or (objectively) what is filled (as container, performance, period): which is put in to fill up, piece that filled up, fulfilling, full, fulness.” It comes from the word filleth, the Greek plēroō (Strong’s G4137), which means “to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: - accomplish, X after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.” There can be no mistake, in combining these absolute expressions of all and full, what Paul’s defining of the church is meant to convey. Paul makes mention of heavenly places several other times in this epistle. In chapter 2, we learn that the church, because of God’s rich mercy, is quickened, or made alive together with Christ, and shares this seat of honor with him. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-7 KJV) In chapter 3, Paul discusses his involvement; the sharing of revelation that the church might reflect the manifold wisdom of God in the heavenly places. And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Eph 3:9-10 KJVR) The body of Christ, being the earthy expression of him, and by virtue of its shared position with him, is mandated to now reflect in the heavenlies that mystery held in escrow from times eternal; the fullness of Jesus is his body, the church, because Jesus completely fills all things in all ways. We are the story of his fullness. This thought is reiterated by Paul in his epistle to the Colossians. Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the FatherI that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him,say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Col 1:15-20 KJV) We see here again the use of the word all in connection with Christ’s role in creation. Paul’s words here echo those of the apostle John, in chapter 1 of John’s gospel. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 KJV) Old and New Ways of Thinking
The Lord has prompted me to examine the type of a veil being rent between the old paradigm, which most of the church is still resting and waiting in, and a new paradigm of authority, which those who see, receive, and act on behalf of His kingdom will walk out the gospel in. Let’s look in the Gospel of Matthew and see what awesome things happened when Jesus cried, “It is finished!”(John 19:30) Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Mat 27:50-53 KJV) First of all, the veil was rent from top to bottom, taking away the separation of God and man. When Jesus said it was finished, it was finished! Hallelujah! He provided an immediate, intimate way of access to the Father for us, as we read in Hebrews 10: Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (Heb 10:19-20 KJV) We next notice that there was “a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on,” so much so that graves were opened and after Jesus rose on the third day, the sleeping saints were resurrected, went into the city, and appeared to many. The veil was rent, a new way established, and those asleep in their old ways rose up in new life and appeared to many. This is what God wants to happen in the church! A new body with a new way of thinking. I thoroughly expect signs, wonders, and miracles to take place in peoples’ minds, bodies, and spirits, as they heed God’s word and begin to once again walk in Kingdom authority under Kingdom authority.
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