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EPHESIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 23
Verse 23. Which is his body. This comparison of the church with a person or body, of which the Lord Jesus is the head, is not uncommon in the New Testament. See Barnes "1 Co 11:3"; See Barnes "1 Co 12:27"; See Barnes "Eph 4:15, See Barnes "Eph 4:16".
The exact idea here, however, is not very clear, and interpreters have been by no means united in their opinions of the meaning. It seems probable that the sense is, that the church is the completion or filling up of his power and glory. It is that without which his dominion would not be complete, he has control over the angels and over distant worlds, but his dominion would not be complete without the control over his church; and that is so glorious, that it fills up the honour of the universal dominion, and makes his empire complete. According to Rosenmuller, the word fulness here means a great number or multitude; a multitude, says he, which, not confined to its own territory, spreads afar, and fills various regions. Koppe also regards it as synonymous with multitude or many, and supposes it to mean all the dominion of the Redeemer over the body—the church. He proposes to translate the whole verse, "He has made him the Head over his church, that he might rule it as his own body—the whole wide state of his universal kingdom." "This," says Calvin, (in loc.,)" is the highest honour of the church, that the Son of God regards himself as in a sense imperfect unless he is joined to us. The church constitutes the complete body of the Redeemer. A body is complete when it has all its members and limbs in proper proportions; and those members might be said to be the completion, or the filling-up, or the fulness—plhrwma—of the body or the person. This language would not, indeed, be such as would usually be adopted to express the idea now; but this is evidently the sense in which Paul uses it here. The meaning is, that the church sustains the same relation to Christ which the body does to the head. It helps to form the entire person. There is a close and necessary union. The one is not complete without the other. And one is dependant on the other. When the body has all its members in due proportion, and is in sound and vigorous health, the whole person then is complete and entire. So it is to be in the kingdom of the Redeemer. He is the head; and that redeemed church is the body, the fulness, the completion, the filling-up of the entire empire over which he presides, and which he rules. On the meaning of the word fulness plhrwma-the reader may consult Storr's Opuscula, vol. i., pp. 144—187, particularly pp. 169—183. Storr understands the word in the sense of full or abundant mercy, and supposes that it refers to the great benignity which God has shown to his people, and renders it, "The great benignity of him who filleth all things with good, as he called Jesus from the dead to life, and placed him in heaven, so even you, sprung from the heathen, who were dead in sin on account of your many offences in which you formerly lived, etc.—hath he called to life by Christ." This verse, therefore, he would connect with the following chapter, and he regards it all as designed to illustrate the great power and goodness of God. Mr. Locke renders it, "Which is his body, which is completed by him alone," and supposes it means, that Christ is the head, who perfects the church by supplying all things to all its members which they need. Chandler gives an interpretation in accordance with that which I have first suggested, as meaning that the church is the full "complement" of the body of Christ; and refers to AElian and Dionysius Halicarnassus, who use the word "fulness" or plhrwma as referring to the rowers of a ship. Thus, also, we say that the ship's crew is its "complement," or that a ship or an army has its complement of men; that is, the ranks are filled up or complete. In like manner, the church will be the filling-up, or the complement, of the great kingdom of the Redeemer—that which will give completion or perfectness to his universal dominion.
Of him. Of the Redeemer.
Comp. Col 3:11. The idea is, that there is no place where he is not, and which he does not fill; and that he is the source of all the holy and happy influences that are abroad in the works of God. It would not be easy to conceive of an expression more certainly denoting omnipresence and universal agency than this; and if it refers to the Lord Jesus, as seems to be indisputable, the passage teaches not only his supremacy, but demonstrates his universal agency, and his omnipresence—things that pertain only to God. From this passage we may observe,
(1.) that just views of the exaltation of the Redeemer are to be obtained only by the influence of the Spirit of God on the heart, Eph 1:17-19. Man, by nature, has no just conceptions of the Saviour, and has no desire to have. It is only as the knowledge of that great doctrine is imparted to the mind, by the Spirit of God, that we have any practical and saving acquaintance with such an exaltation. The Christian sees him, by faith, exalted to the right hand of God, and cheerfully commits himself and his all to him, and feels that all his interests are safe in his hands.
(2.) It is very desirable to have such views of an exalted Saviour. So Paul felt when he earnestly prayed that God would give such views to the Ephesians, Eph 1:17-20. It was desirable in order that they might have a right understanding of their privileges; in order that they might know the extent of the power which had been manifested in their redemption; in order that they might commit their souls with confidence to him. In my conscious weakness and helplessness; when I am borne down by the labours, and exposed to the temptations of life; when I contemplate approaching sickness and death, I desire to feel that that Saviour to whom I have committed my all is exalted far above principalities and powers, and every name that is named. When the church is persecuted and opposed; when hosts of enemies rise up against it, and threaten its peace and safety, I rejoice to feel assured the Redeemer and Head of the church is over all, and that he has power to subdue all her foes and his.
(3.) The church is safe. Her great Head is on the throne of the universe, and no weapon that is formed against her can prosper, he has defended it hitherto in all times of persecution, and the past is a pledge that he will continue to protect it to the end of the world. (4.) Let us commit our souls to this exalted Redeemer. Such a Redeemer we need—one who has all power in heaven and earth. Such a religion we need—that can restore the dead to life. Such hope and confidence we need as he can give—such peace and calmness as shall result from unwavering confidence in him who filleth all in all.
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