The Body of Christ in Ephesians

Intro: Eph 1:15-23 – 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  • If you have been with us through this month, you recognize this text as it mentions the focus of our attention for the last few weeks – “Jesus is the Head over all things to the church, which is His body…” We have discussed the meaning of headship, and looked carefully at the comprehensive authority of Christ, as it exists, and as it is expressed today through the apostolic doctrine of scripture.
  • But Paul’s statement that Jesus is the Head of the body, does not appear in a vacuum. He has already in this text described the Body over whom He is Head. Let’s begin this morning by backing up and looking at the Body of Christ as Paul describes it here.

I. The Church is “In Him” – Ephesians 1:4-5just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will… vs. 11 … In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,God chose us In Him

A. The prepositional phrases “in him,” “before him,” “to himself,” and “in the Beloved” reveal that Christians are intimately identified with God and Christ. The church is unique. It is not a religious organization of people committed to a certain set of rules or trained in a certain mode of religion. It is not a union based on genealogy or human heritage. God, the Father has chosen that His people will be disciples to His Son Jesus, and be saved through their identification with Him.

B. In Him is where all of the blessings of God toward us originate and are found:

  • (v.4) We are chosen in Himto be holy and blameless by being “in Him“.
  • (v. 5) we are adopted as sons in Him.
  • (v. 6) we are accepted “in Him“; implying that you cannot be accepted without being in Him
  •  (v. 7) “In Him” we have found redemption and the forgiveness of sins; Rom 6:3-8Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
  • (v. 8-9) In Him He has made known to us the mystery that before had been hidden. God has filled us in on great spiritual truths concerning life, death, God, man, and eternity. His word is provided, as our redemption is, through the “riches of His grace”. That grace is revealed through the word in all wisdom & prudence. God’s people find their wisdom in Christ.
    • Wisdom (sophia) is understanding. It is knowledge or learning properly used. In the vocabulary of Paul it stands for the higher knowledge of the most precious things both human and Divine. It answers the eternal problems of man, such as those dealing with life and death, time and eternity. It reaches beyond human, worldly answers and provides enlightened insight to the life of the individual who possesses it. (new telescope that will answer the questions of the universe, unless it quits working before it gets where it is going) Paul prayed that the Colossians would attain… to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:2-3)
    • Prudence (phronesei) is intelligence or rightmindedness. It is the intelligent use of knowledge in dealing with the practical problems of life. God has the answers and he knows how to use them. He revealed them in the gospel and in so doing he has revealed his own wisdom and prudence.
    • The plan of God to save men as revealed in the gospel illustrates the wisdom & prudence of God. It shows how God has effectively solved the problem of sin and conquered Satan through His grace. When we use the scripture to address our problems we access this wisdom. This revelation is according to His good pleasure and purpose.
  • (v. 10) That purpose is to gather all things together in a grand reconciliation “in Christ“. His work “in Christ” is not just for our benefit, but for all of God’s creation. When every trace of evil has been disposed of, God will establish an incomparable unity in Himself of all things that remain. That is the inevitable goal of the universe. Paul addresses this in Romans 8.
  • (v. 11-13) In Him we have obtained our eternal inheritance. While the King James translation uses the phrase obtained an inheritance, the literal meaning is closer to “chosen as inheritance” or “designated as a heritage.” an inheritance (heritage) is an allotment or portion. WE, as Christians receive an inheritance in heaven. 1 Peter 1:4 –an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”.
    • The corresponding idea may be that we actually become the “heritage” of God. The saints are God’s heritage and his private possession. We are set aside to him as his allotment or portion. When all is done, what will God get of all that he has created? Will he keep the earth with all its trees and flowers? No, the earth will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10-11). Will he hold on to the puppies and kittens? None of these has an eternal spirit. Will he receive all mankind? He would like to have us all but most will not respond to his overtures of love. What, then, will God have as his portion of all that he has made? He will have those who are faithful in Christ! That is all he truly wanted in creating man. He brought us into being to extend his family. God wanted children. He wanted those who would love Him as their Father.
    • We received the guarantee of that inheritance by the receiving the sealing of the Holy Spirit of promise. –
    • We have access to every spiritual blessing (v. 3) All to the praise of His glory. (v. 14)

C. There is a wrong way to understand Paul’s words here. He is not describing an arbitrary choosing by God that resulted in the removal of man’s free choice to either accept or reject the gospel message. (Taught today as the predestination of Calvinism.) This choosing by God was focused on the sacrifice of Christ as the only way in which anyone would be saved. God chose to save all those who He would save “in Christ“, and nowhere else. He predetermined to adopt us as sons by Jesus Christ, and no other way. He has given us every spiritual blessing that we need in Christ.

II. The Church is the Fullness of Christ – As Christ is the source of every blessing for God’s people, and In Him we are who we are, it fits that Paul would tell us that HE is the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” The words we read at the beginning of our lesson (Eph. 1:15-23) are a prayer offered by Paul that these Christians to whom he writes would come to understand what we have just rehearsed:

  • that they may have a knowledge of Christ;
  • their eyes will be opened to understand the hope of this calling and the riches of the inheritance they have in Christ;
  • that they may see the great power that God exerted through Christ to bring about their redemption;
  • the power that he wrought when He raised Him from the dead and gave Him all authority;
  • That they might understand that Jesus is the Head of all things to the church.
  • That they might recognize that Church is the fullness of Christ, who fills all things.

A. The term fullness is the Greek word, pleroma (play’-ro-mah) which means… completion, i.e. or “that of which a thing is full” (Vines); used objectively & subjectively. It can indicate what is filled and what a thing is filled with.

1. Christ fills up the church…Locke renders it, “Which is his body, which is completed by him alone,” Christ is the head, who perfects the church by supplying all things to all its members which they need.

a. The Church is dwelt in and filled by Christ, as the spirit fills the living body. The body is the receptacle of His gifts. Later Paul asks that the Ephesians might be filled with all the “fullness” of God.

2. The church complements Christ … Some see an accompanying thought here. The church is the complement of Christ as the body is to the Head. A head is not complete w/o the body, so Christ is completed by the His body. C.G. Caldwell writes… The body, the church, gives Christ the head a kind of com­pleteness. It complements him by working for him under his direction. In a sense, the head is not enough by himself. He must have a body. This is not to say that Christ cannot exist apart from his church, but his mind or will is activated by his body. Without the church his dominion would be incomplete. Perhaps the greatest compliment the church is ever given in Scripture is to be called Christ’s body, a necessary part of him.” Lenski said that the church is “its own Filler’s fullness.”

III. The Church Grows to the Measure of Christ: In the first three chapters of Ephesians 3 Paul establishes the elements of our redemption and our intimate relationship to Our Savior. We have a glorious calling, and must walk in a manner worthy of that calling (4:1).

A. In Eph 4:11-13 Paul once again speaks of the church as a body. This time the focus is on the growth of the body through the supply of Christ.11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

B. Yet not all growth is good. If I go to the doctor and he give me an x-ray or an MRI and then tells me he found a growth on my lung, is that good or bad? Good growth is no unregulated. It has a directions and purpose. The gifts that God provides for the church are designed to bring growth that benefits the body.

1. How does this growth happen? Look at vs. 12. The Saints are equipped to do the work of ministry which brings about the edifying (building up of the body.) The NIV says… – to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up Are you equipped to serve? Can you teach another? Can you strengthen those who are weak?

2. What is the goal? More attendance? More programs? Larger contribution? Paul says the goal of growth is the “measure of the stature of the fullness Christ. We are striving to be more like Him. WE have trivialized what it means to be like Christ. – WWJD (saw a man with those initials around his neck swearing and speaking of having a beer with the guys)

3. the terms measure, stature, and fullness all point to a sufficient amount. What God as given us in Christ is enough – it is a full, mature, and complete measure.

C. Read the rest of Paul’s statement on our growth: Ephesians 4:14-16 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” The process of growth is essential to the survival of the body. Jesus has what you need. We must grow toward that measure, or else we will be tossed about by every changing wind. WE will be children, not adults.

1. verses 15-16 point out some necessary elements of this growth process:

a) speaking the truth in love – we must be dedicated to speaking the truth that god has revealed.” Nourished in the words of faith”

b) be joined and knit together – we must spend time on togetherness; having all things in common.

c) a mutual work (what every joint supplies); every part doing its share (what is your part in this process? What are you to the body? A vestigial organ?)

Conclusion: Are you in the body of Christ? Are you subject to the Head?