Ephesians 3:14-19. 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
If this wasn’t in the Bible we might call it blasphemous. There’s nothing else like this statement in any other religion. No other faith has the audacity to say (and pray) such a thing. But Paul does. But what does it mean?
What is the fullness of God?
To experience the fullness of God is to have his same fullness. This is of course directly connected to being in Christ and becoming like Christ. Because Christ is in us, we are being filled with his same fullness. This is the glory of the incarnation: becoming like Christ in our humanity means we experience life the way Christ does in his divinity.
So how does Christ and God and the Spirit experience life? How does the Trinity experience fullness? The answer is love. God lives in fullness because he lives in perfect love. A love and fullness that the Trinity wants to share with us as seen in Jesus’ priestly prayer:
John 17:26. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Experiencing the fullness of God.
We experience the fullness of God in Christ.
In Colossians 2:9 Paul calls Jesus the fullness of God – For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. Jesus lived humanly (bodily) in the fullness of the Trinity. He was fully loved. And then Paul drops this truth bomb in verse 10 – ..and you have been filled in him.
We are already filled.
And so once again we see that what we already have in Christ must now be experienced. And that is why we pray. We ARE filled in Christ with all the fullness of God (Col. 2:10), but are we experiencing the fullness? Is the fullness of God progressive? Yes. Look at Paul’s language in Ephesians 4:
Ephesians 4:13. until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Will Simba attain to the fullness of Mufasa?
Not experiencing the fullness of God
Many Christians are simply not living from this fullness. They aren’t experiencing it in the everyday moments of life. This is what Paul calls emptiness or conceit. We’re all bouncing back and forth between fullness and emptiness at some level. Some have been stuck in emptiness for days (and years). It’s a real problem.
In Galatians 5:26 Paul warns us not to become conceited (empty) which leads to provoking and envying. Superiority and inferiority. These are the two extremes when the fullness of God is not being experienced. In Philippians 2, Paul admonishes us to do nothing from conceit (emptiness) but in humility to look out for the interests of others.
The cure? It’s the great paradox of letting Christ’s emptiness fill your emptiness. He emptied himself. He became a slave for us. So be filled with the emptiness of Christ as the fullness of God. Huh? That’s right, the fullness of God is his sacrificial love that allowed him to be empty for us so that we might be filled.
Philippians 2:5-7. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who… emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.
Experiencing the fullness of God as the love of God.
Look at 3:19 again. When we begin to see that being filled with all the fullness of God is the same as knowing the love of Christ (Eph. 3:19) it all starts to get demystified a bit. Being as full as God can only come when we know and experience perfect love, just like God does. It alone cures us of all emptiness. All superiority and inferiority. Perfect love removes all fear.
And in Christ we have this perfect love.
When you can love others without worrying if you’ll get anything back in return, then and only then are you free. And this is the freedom and fullness of God that the love of Christ offers to us.
Where and how does this happen? How do I grow in the fullness of God? Well, if you’ve been tracking with us in Ephesians I’ll bet you can guess.
It’s the church.
Ephesians 1:22-23. 22 And [God] put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Do you want to experience the fullness of God? Do you want to be being filled with God’s fullness? Do you want to be filled by knowing the love of Christ?
Then go to church.
You simply cannot do this alone. Ephesians 3:19 is a communal experience. It’s corporate. It’s plural not singular. The fullness of God is not experienced when you light candles in your bedroom listening to Gregorian chants waiting for the Spirit to “move you” (too much?). It’s not in your daily quiet time or your “personal relationship with God.” It’s in the body. The fullness of God is experienced when we live for others, sacrificing for them, loving them, caring for them, while knowing them. To do that you have to be in a local church doing life with the other Christians. Don’t believe me? Read the next 3 chapters of Ephesians.
“To live is Christ” is to experience the fullness of God through the love of Christ within the body of Christ. There is no greater spiritual experience on earth than this. So stop looking and start loving.