Experiencing the Fullness of Christ
Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him (Jesus) all the fullness should dwell,
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
According to the Holy Spirit, as revealed here in these Scriptures we have just read, Jesus is the source of God’s fulness for believers.
So we can deduce that a first step to experiencing the fulness of God requires being born again followers of Jesus Christ. But, is that the end of the process and does it bring us into a full-orbed experience of God?
John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
In verse 16 it says, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Then John goes on to say that the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Have you ever wondered what fullness and grace for grace looks like, and what impact it brings with it?
Why did John need to go on to say grace and truth came through Jesus when talking of having received of His fullness and grace for grace?
This is likely one of the most glorious promises available to us as it hits at the primary motivation for us to come to Jesus to start with. We came because the Father drew us to Jesus so we might have eternal life and enter into relationship with Him. He called us and continues to call us to the experience of knowing Him, growing in Him, and living our lives for Him.
This isn’t an empty promise being made here with regard to the fulness of Christ and grace for grace. I also do not believe that the statement regarding grace and truth is misplaced or spoken in passing. I believe the statement regarding grace and truth has something to do with how His fullness is to be realized by us.
The question is where and how His fullness is realized?
Ephesians 1:22 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.
There are many passages of Scripture that speak of the earth and all of it’s fullness. The language is such that it incorporates earth itself and all that exists on the earth such as we find in the Psalms in:
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.
What we read in Ephesians 1:26 has a similar idea being communicated with regard to Christ’ fullness. It says,
“To the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Now I want us to dwell on that idea for just a moment, because as we build on it, I plan to be able to help all of us gain a greater understanding of the value of coming together, and why we all should make it a point to be here whenever a person with a five fold calling is going to be here to minister to us.
Can we all agree that if there is language in the Bible regarding the fullness of God being available to us that we should explore how it is God wants us to realize it?
We’ve seen that fullness is found in Jesus, and we’ve seen that the fullness of Jesus is made available in the church which is His body.
Now when I think of that statement regarding the body being the means by which His fullness is realized I cannot help but think this does away with individualistic thinking. God has purposely set up this whole thing to require community in order to keep us from becoming isolated. I believe His reason for this is largely due to how easily we can be deceived when we do our thinking alone, and live alone, isolated from others.
1Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Did you catch what is being said here? We know in part. We do not by ourselves have the whole. We cannot know all we need to know, have all we need to have, and do all we are called to do without others! It is childish to think we can! It is immature thinking that leads us to believe that we do not need others to accomplish the will of God for our lives. It is immature thinking that leads us to believe that we do not need the body of Christ to develop the way God intends us to.
Going it alone has been a scourge to the body of Christ whenever men and women who professed to be leaders thought they could do without others. Strange doctrines are germinated in the womb of isolation which is forged from ignorance and arrogance. It is not mature thinking to imagine I can know so much about Christ, so much about who God is, that I really do not need a preacher, a teacher, a brother or sister, or a family of believers who know Him and love Him.
It would either be ignorance or arrogance to imagine that I have all it takes to do the thing He has called me to when according to His nature and character whatever he calls me to do involves some portion of the body of Christ and connects me to it!
This brings me to another matter that is really important for us to get. The issue of grace upon grace. All of us who have believed have been given grace for salvation. We were saved by grace through faith! We all have that grace if we are truly born again in Jesus Christ. But John stated that we received grace for grace and we tasted His fullness! Ephesians spoke of His fullness being expressed in the body of Christ which is His church.
I believe these two things are inseparably connected and intended to work together for His purpose of bringing us into His fullness. But for that to happen the church is going to need to be prepared, she is going to need instruction, nurturing, equipping, maturing, strengthening, stabilizing and she will need to be activated in the expression of His fullness.
How will this happen? Has this been described and explained for us in Scripture?
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
Did you catch that? Each of us has received grace according to the measure of Christ’ gift. But there’s something more added to this. “Jesus gave gifts to men.” What gifts are being spoken of here?
Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
Remember we spoke of grace upon grace and His fulness and how it is all linked to the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. This analogy of the body is broken into a lesson on parts in several places of Scripture and here we see grace being given, gifts being distributed, and the body being affected.
Why did Jesus wish to give these five gifts? What was His purpose? Has that purpose been fulfilled?
Ephesians 4:12 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; 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.
These five gifts are intended to function and be available to the church for the purpose of perfecting those who make up the church. To bring the church, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ! It is these gifts that call us into the experience of and the demonstration of the fullness of Christ!
Jesus, when he walked the earth, manifested all five of these gift functions. But only He manifested all five. When He ascended He gave these gifts to men in a diverse distribution. Jesus who is the fullness of God when He ascended determined to extend His bodily fullness through the means of giving five gifts to the church that would be administered through grace vessels in order that His fullness would be manifested in the lives of the believers.
Now here’s where all this ties into why we gather corporately and need to have a value of not missing out on the opportunity to hear speakers brought in to speak and equip who have been given these gifts.
You see all five gifts involve some type of speaking, instruction, modeling, and training. Each of these gifts carry a particular burden of Christ as they express a particular part of His heart for the church and reveal something with regard to her destiny. They are generally expressed in group settings where saints gather.
You see, God is so big, His vision for the church is so large, that it requires a lot of parts to see it accomplished. But for parts to work in sync and move in the same direction there needs to be a way to help them learn, train and be activated. Jesus chose to give these five gifts to the church for that to happen.
Perhaps someone might think the most important or primary solution to activate the church would be to engage in more prayer. Or, maybe a more intentional one on one disciple making track, or a better people management system, or a pastor who would do even more and be available 24/7.
But I believe that even though many of these ideas seem really good as solutions, they are not the primary means of getting things accomplished when it comes to equipping, maturing, stabilizing, activating, and mobilizing the church. God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise and He has chosen the foolishness of preaching in many cases to effect change in peoples hearts. When we start to question His means we are tip toeing on the fine line of human reasoning usurping His wisdom in our lives. These five gifts, like it or not, are speaking and demonstration gifts to the church. That means God expects His children to be present to hear from these gifts, and to observe these gifts in order to receive from these gifts whenever they are available.
If we are serious about a desire to grow spiritually mature we will not act like toddlers who demand that they receive one on one attention or they will do nothing at all. (Remember Nick Holden the five fold evangelist visiting recently and his tiny pacifier example?) Rather we should be like someone who can sit among their peers and receive what they need among family simply because they desire to learn and grow.
Jesus taught his disciples collectively and the smallest most intimate interaction He had with disciples seemed was with three at one time. It appears Jesus felt they were getting the benefit of these five gifts as a group
being available to them through Him. He taught, He demonstrated, He activated, He motivated, He grounded them in the truth, and He released them into the work. That is what five fold ministry does if it is understood, respected, appreciated, and valued. No one man other than Jesus can do all five effectively.
One quick important aside regarding five fold ministry. A five fold minister is called by Jesus into it, they do not aspire to it, they do not merit a position in it, they do not get there just because they have years in the church and feel spiritually mature. If the calling from Jesus is on them they will manifest it without being begged to do so and without being petted and patted and praised about it. They cannot help but walk in it if they are yielding to the Holy Spirit who is carrying out Jesus’ wishes in it. A person who is called knows that they know that they have been set apart for this type of ministry and they are driven by it. They must grow and mature in the calling, but they will manifest the calling when it truly comes from Jesus as opposed to self willed ambition. The burden He puts in the heart will desire to act. Jesus gives the call, He determines the reach and level of each call, and He has set it up so that each calling makes room for itself as it is becoming recognized in the church local or at large.
The body of Christ needs to be exposed to these gifts whenever possible if it is to experience the heart desires of Jesus effectively. It is the communication of these heart desires with the anointing accompanying the gift that brings the church into an experience of His fullness. Now Ephesians 4 says these gifts will be available to the church until the church has reached the measure and stature of a perfect man. I ask all here if they honestly believe the church is perfect?
If we admit the church has not reached perfection and unity as she should then why would anyone want to keep from the bride (The Church) the gift the groom (Jesus Christ) wishes for her to have?
Some believe apostles died out after the original twelve were gone. If the original twelve were the ones in the upper room at the time of Pentecost and only they can be apostles then Paul was never truly an apostle. Not only would Paul be ruled out, but the mention of any others in New Testament Scripture would be ruled out. That would be a problem because if that is true then the other mentioned means Scripture is no longer infallible because there are a number of directly mentioned of apostles other than the twelve and Paul. So other than New Testament Scripture directly calling the twelve at Pentecost, Jesus, and Paul Apostles, there are 9 other men it refers to as apostles. Barnabas, Timothy, Silvanus, Apollos, Epaphroditus, Adronicus, Junias and two unnamed men are referred to as apostles in the Greek text.
So apostles continue as do prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. For many generations now the church has been running on an impartation only from a select few of these gifts. But we read that the church is to be equipped in Christ, and with Christ. I believe each of the five grace gifts are how that is accomplished for the church.
If you have ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is communicating today, you will find a deeper value developing in your heart of hearts for these gifts and you will want to take advantage of them every time they are available. As a result you will discover you are growing more and more and you will find you are being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do something with what you are learning in truth.
These gifts impart a specific burden of Christ to us when they come. I challenge you to get a little of that burden on you. Expect the Holy Spirit to stir you! Today I have been speaking to you from an apostolic burden intended to enlarge your vision of why you need the body of Christ and the gifts Jesus gave to His church. I pray your ears have been open to the truth being shared and that your life as a result will be greatly enriched by it.
Next Sunday (Palm Sunday) Jeff Oakes will be with us. He is a five fold Apostolic Teacher who pastors a church in Johnson City. He’s been with us before and we received a powerful impartation of truth. So do not allow anything to keep you from being here to receive what it is the Holy Spirit wishes to impart to you.