The Church: The Fullfilment of Christ

Eph. 1:22,23.---' The church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all'.

When St. Paul declares in Eph. 1:23 that the Church is the pleroma or 'fulness' of the Christ, he would appear to mean that in some mysterious sense the Church is that without which the Christ is not complete, but with which He is complete. That is to say, he looks upon the Christ as in a sense waiting for completeness, and destined in the purpose of God to find that completeness in the Church.

The metaphor which the Apostle has just used leads directly up to this statement. Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His Body. Now, is it not true that in a certain sense the Body is the pleroma of the Head? Can we even think of a head as performing its functions without a body? In the sense, then, in which the Body is the fullness or completion of the Head, it is clear that with St. Paul we may think of the Church as the fullness or completion of the Christ.

Even now, in the imperfect stage of the Church, we can see that this is true. The Church is that through which Christ lives on and works on, here below on earth. Jesus, the Christ incarnate, is no longer on earth as He was. His feet and hands no longer move and work in our midst, as once they moved and wrought in Palestine. But St. affirms that He is not without feet and hands on earth, the Church is His Body. Through the Church, which St. Paul refuses to think of as separate from Him, He still lives and moves among men.

This is a wonderful figure---the Church, the body of Christ. That is to say, what our Lord's hands and feet, His voice and smile, His brain and heart were to Him in the days of His flesh, His Church is now. It is scarcely necessary to say that the word 'Church' in this passage is at once a wider and a narrower term than when used to denote a body of people worshipping in a particular place. The Church which is Christ's body knows no limits of territory or nationality, of language or class. It is indeed catholic. Many sheep He has which are not of our fold, or of any visible church does not constitute membership in the Church which is His body. Members of that Church are such as are living in vital union with Jesus Christ. And yet this is the ideal for each local church---to express its Lord as faithfully to its neighborhood as the great invisible Church is expressing Him to the world; no, as perfectly as His own body expressed His mind and will when He was on earth.

How could our Lord have shown men what God was like, how could He have gone about doing good, have proved His love to the uttermost, without His body? How ready were those hands to minister! 'He stretched forth his hand, and touched him.' 'He blessed, and brake the loves; and he gave to the disciples to set before them.' 'He poured water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.' How ready were they to suffer too! How willing were those feet to grow weary in service! 'He must needs go through Samaria . . . and therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well.' 'And he went . . . throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out devils.' They also endured the Cross. Think, too, from the winsome tones of welcome: 'Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest,' and the tender cadences of sympathy: 'Thy brother shall rise again,' to the loud note of authority: 'Lazarus, come forth!' And the angry word of rebuke: 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' We should have liked to hear that voice with its wonderful inflections, but far more to see the shine and shade on that Divine countenance---the radiance that followed communion with His Father; the smile that greeted little children; the expression of that love and yearning which the words, 'He was moved with compassion,' denote; the set face, too, of determination, the stern face of denunciation, the sad, sad, face in the presence of hopeless impenitence. Yes, Christ needed His body to express Himself; and now that He is glorified, He needs His Church, which is His body, for this purpose.

It is a great and solemn thought that we, the members of His Church, have entrusted to us this high and sacred calling---that apart from us the Lord lacks the means adequately to express His will and love to the world. There are still prodigals in the far country, and the Father's heart still yearns over them; but it is for us to show them that heart. We are to see them afar off, we are to be moved with compassion, to run, to welcome them, to reinstate them, putting on the robe, the ring, the shoes. We are to arrange for their comfort and well-being. That is, we are to be the eye and ear, the heart and brain, the feet and hands, the voice and smile of our Lord and Master. We are to show men that God loves them, is ready to forgive, is plenteous in mercy. We, in Christ's stead, are to beseech them to be reconciled to God. God needs us. All work in field and factory enforces that truth. We are co-workers with Him. He has chosen to honor man by sharing with him the responsibility and blessedness of feeding a hungry world, not only with earthly bread, but with the bread eternal.

In Christ, timothy.