by E. W. Bullinger
An excerpt from Things to Come
Vol. V, No. 8 - February 1899
The expression “all in all” is elliptical. The figure of speech here used is fully explained and exemplified, as used throughout Scripture, in “Figures of Speech,” a new work by Dr. Bullinger, now in course of publication.
In supplying the words omitted in the “ellipsis” the sense must be completed, wherever the ellipsis occurs, in strict accordance with the nature of the subject and the context.
The word “all,” being an adjective, must have a noun or pronoun to which it refers; what that noun or pronoun must be, will be indicated by the number, gender, and case in which the adjective is used, and also by the context.
I Corinthians 12:6: “There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh ‘all in all.’ ” “All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit” (ver. 11).
Here is the same God that worketh all (these gifts) in all (the members of Christ’s body): what these gifts are, and who these members are, is fully explained in the immediate context. See verses 4-31.
This Scripture teaches that every manifestation if divine life and activity, in any or all of the members of the one body of Christ, is by the operation of the one Spirit dwelling in all the members.
Ephesians 1:22-23: “And gave Him to be Head over all to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth ‘all in all.’ ” Here we must read: “that filleth (or supplies fully) all (spiritual gifts and graces) in all (the members of His body). Compare Ephesians 4:10-13. All supply is from the Head (ver. 16).
Colossians 3:11: “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: But Christ ‘all and in all.’ ” Here the Greek is slightly different from the other occurrences, but it is still elliptical; and the sense must be completed thus: —In the new man “there is neither Greek nor Jew, &c.,” but Christ (the Head is) all (things to the body, for He is the Life, ver. 4) and in all (the members). Paul says, “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The pronoun is used in the first, second, and third person to express the indwelling of Christ “in all” His members. Paul says, “in me” and “in you,” the Lord said, “in them.” The Head is “all things” to the body, for not only is He the Life (ver. 3 and 4), but “in Him” are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). The whole life and intelligence is in Him, the Head.
“The Son of God is full of grace and truth,” and “out of His fullness have all we received” (John 1:14-16). Thus Christ filleth “all in all.” He ascended that He might “fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10). In chapter 3:19, Paul prays that the saints “might be filled in all the fullness of God.” The fullness of God is in Christ, for “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are filled in Him” (Colossians 2:9-10). The believer being in Christ, who is the Head, is “filled in all the fullness of God.”
This is the believer’s standing according to the revelation of the mystery among the Gentiles; it is to the knowledge of this that Paul desires that the saints should attain; it is for this that the Lord Jesus continues to give gifts to men, until we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ—no more children—but speaking the truth in love may grow up into Him, “all things” who is the Head, Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15) That through the truth spoken in love, the saints may apprehend that Christ the Head is “all things” to every member of His body, the church. That they may realize this fact.
This blessed standing is the portion of every believer, of every one who by the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus to be the Lord (I Corinthians 12:3) having been baptized by the Lord Jesus with the one Spirit into the One body (I Corinthians 12:13), is apart from all distinction of nationality, or social position, or sex, or ordinances; it belongs to the rude Barbarian equally with the polished Greek; to the wild Scythian as to the intelligent Jew; to the bond-servant as much as to his lord, to the female as to the male; all are one in Christ.
These epistles show us the Divine estimate of the saints’ standing in union with the person of Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which He gives according to His words, in John 4:14, and John 7:38, and John 16:13-15. As is the Head, so are the members; “because as He is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17).
The believers’ standing answers to the prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17:23. “I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.” A present standing in infinite grace, to be manifested in glory, when “the world shall know that Thou hast loved them as Thou has loved Me.” Paul’s object in these epistles is “to present every man perfected in Christ: accepted in the Beloved,” the Son of the Father in truth and in love. This end is to be accomplished by speaking the truth in love—for the growth of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
The power to effect this is, “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him;” the saints being strengthened by the Father, “with might by His Spirit in the inner man: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” Quickened together with Christ, raised up together with Him, baptized by Him with the Holy Spirit, they have put on Christ the One New Man; risen from the dead, having put off the old man in His death and burial.
The New Man is God’s creation, and all things are of God (II Corinthians 5:18), created in righteousness, and holiness of truth; renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. As Christ (personal) is the image of the invisible God, so every new creature in Christ (mystical) bears the image of the Creator. Christ is his righteousness, his sanctification, and the eternal life within him is the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ as sent of God. The Spirit of God dwells in him, the Spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). Christ is “all things” being the Head, to those who are His body; not only as regards spiritual things, but as regards visible things also, for Christ in His death on the cross is their circumcision; in His burial is their baptism; and in His resurrection is their life. There is neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision, but “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
The body derives its position and character from the Head. The Lord Jesus spoke of His body (personal) as the temple of God, so the body of Christ (mystical) is declared to be the temple of God. The building of which Paul, through the grace of God, laid the foundation (I Corinthians 3:10) groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. It is for this growth that the ascended Lord continues to give gifts to men, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ. It is by having nourishment ministered from the Head (Colossians 2:19), that the whole body groweth with the increase of God.
Personal relationship and official standing are not the subjects of growth. Sonship can only exist by birth or by adoption. Citizenship can only be possessed by inheritance or by being conferred; neither is the result of growth. A servant may become a son, adopted by his lord: an alien may become a citizen, and from a citizen may be made a member of the royal household: but in all these cases the new standing or the new relationship is the result of gift, not of growth. Growth is in stature from childhood to manhood, and in intelligence through increased knowledge of what one’s true relationship and actual standing really are.
It is this growth in knowledge that Paul, by the Spirit of God, so earnestly desires for the saints. That by the knowledge of the Son of God they may be no longer children, but may grow up into Christ; may understand that Christ the Head is “all things” to the members of His body. If the Head is crowned as king, all His members are royal: if the Head is anointed as Priest, all His members are holy: every member is a partaker of every honour given to the Head, simply by virtue of the fact of union with Him in life.
For this growth in knowledge Paul prays that the Spirit of wisdom and revelation may be given to them (Ephesians 1:17), “for the knowledge of Him,” that they may know what is the hope of His calling and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; that they may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). That they may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding—and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
In Colossians 2:1, Paul expresses how great conflict he has for the saints “and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” (This last expression includes ourselves today) “that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement (or exact knowledge) of “the mystery of God.” Then having declared the completeness of the believers in Christ as regards ordinances, they being risen in and with Him, in Colossians 3:11, he proclaims “Christ all and in all,” and then addresses the saints in language proper to Christ personally; He is the elect of God, the Holy One, and the Beloved One; the saints are addressed as elect of God, holy and beloved. Words cannot more forcibly express the vital union of the Head and the members of the body, the blessed standing of the saints in Christ, as made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Let us not forget that all flows from the eternal purpose of the Father, “the mystery of His will,” Ephesians 1:9, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, “in whom we have redemption through His blood” (ver. 7) and by the Spirit of His grace and of truth, received out of His fullness who is full of grace and truth, the Son of the Father in truth and love.
The Epistle closes with the prayer of Epaphras, that the saints “may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” The standing of the saints is in all the will of God; in all that Christ came to do. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” and which He perfectly fulfilled in His death, that one offering whereby He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. To stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, is to apprehend our perfect acceptance before God in the perfection of the offering of His beloved Son, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. To apprehend by faith all that God has made Christ to be for us in His presence, what we are made towards God in Christ, and Christ in us the hope of glory, “Christ all and in all.”
The practical application is, “I, therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
I Corinthians 15:28. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be “all in all.” The [Greek] word panta occurs six times in the 27th and 28th verses, and is in each case translated correctly “all things” except in this last occurrence. We have no liberty to change the translation here. It must be “all things,” and to complete the sense we must render it, that God may be (over) “all things” in all (places) i.e. over all beings in all parts of the universe.
When the whole work is accomplished for which the Son of God became man, and for which all things are put under His feet, then the Son will deliver up the kingdom to the Father; the new creation will shew in its completeness that God is “all in all.” The whole work of regeneration, from the quickening of those dead in trespasses and sins to the final manifestation of the glory of God in the New Creation in its entirety, will be manifestly the work of God and of God only, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The eternal purpose of the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. Then it shall be fully manifested that “all things are of God.” God the Creator of all things shall reign over “all things,” and be glorified “in all” the works of His hands.
The Holy Spirit worketh “all things in the members of Christ”, the power whereby He will subdue all things to Himself.
Christ the Head is “all things: to His members, for acceptance in the Beloved, for access to the Father, and for fitness for His presence.
In the New Creation “all things” are of God, who gave His only-begotten Son, who made Him to be a Sin offering, who raised Him from the dead, who put all things under Him, and gave Him to be Head over “all things” to the church which is His body. God shall be all in all.