on Ephesians 1 :23
Which is his body - As he is head over all things, he is head to the Church; and this Church is considered as the body of which he is especially the head; and from him, as the head, the Church receives light, life, and intelligence.
And is the fullness of him - That in which he especially manifests his power, goodness, and truth; for though he fills all the world with his presence, yet he fills all the members of his mystical body with wisdom, goodness, truth, and holiness, in an especial manner. Some understand the fullness or πληρωμα, here, as signifying the thing to be filled; so the Christian Church is to be filled by him, whose fullness fills all his members, with all spiritual gifts and graces. And this corresponds with what St. John says, John 1:16 : And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. And with what is said, Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10 : Ye are complete in him; και εστε εν αυτῳ πεπληρωμενοι· And ye are in him filled full; i.e. with gifts and grace.
How, in any other sense, the Church can be said to be the fullness of him who fills all in all, is difficult to say. However, as Jesus Christ is represented to be the head, and the Church, the body under that head, the individuals being so many members in that body; and as it requires a body and members to make a head complete; so it requires a Church, or general assembly of believers, to make up the body of Christ. When, therefore, the Jews and Gentiles are brought into this Church, the body may be said to be complete; and thus Christ has his visible fullness upon earth, and the Church may be said to be the fullness of him, etc. See Ephesians 1:10.
on Ephesians 1 :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; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 12:27, note; Ephesians 4:15-16, notes.
The fulness of him - The word rendered here as "fulness" - πλήρωμα plērōma - means properly, that with which anything is filled; the filling up; the contents; notes, Romans 11:12. 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 honor 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 honor of the church, that the Son of God regards himself as in a certain 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" - πλήρωμα plērōma - 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 dependent 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" - πλήρωμα plērōma - the reader may consult Storr's Opuscula, vol. i. pp. 144-187, particularly pp. 160-183. 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 tile dead to life and placed him in heaven, so even you, sprung from the pagan, 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 πλήρωμα plērōma 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 people; 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.
That filleth all in all - That fills all things, or who pervades all things; see the notes, 1 Corinthians 12:6; 1 Corinthians 15:28, note; compare Colossians 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; Ephesians 1:17-19. Man, by nature, tins 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, Ephesians 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 labors 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.
on Ephesians 1 :23
1:23 The fulness of him that filleth all in all - It is hard to say in what sense this can be spoken of the church; but the sense is easy and natural, if we refer it to Christ, who is the fulness of the Father.