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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Colossians: The "Fullness" Restored

Re-integration of All Things

We can only look briefly at the second of these "twin letters" - the Letter to the Colossians. What is the great word, or statement, in that letter? It is this: "It was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell" (1:19); "and in Him ye are made full" (2:10). What has happened?

First of all, at the beginning of the creation, the great Potter created, molded, fashioned, shaped, so to speak a beautiful vessel. And as He stood back and looked at it, He said: 'It is very good.' And He filled that vessel with His fullness - what a fullness He filled into the vessel of this creation! How full is the vessel of this creation, even now in its present condition - how full of the beauty and glory of God! But at the beginning it was filled with unsullied beauty and glory. And then, a great enemy came in and struck a blow at that vessel and shattered it to pieces: all that Divine, spiritual fullness leaked away - it has gone; and in its place you find, by comparison with what once was, only desolation and emptiness.

Now the Great Potter comes back, to 'make it again another vessel' as it pleases Him to make it (Jeremiah 18:4). Here is the vessel - the Church. This is the vessel of the Lord: a beautiful vessel, "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27). As He looks at it according to His own thought and His own ideal, pondering all that He intends and all that He will realize through it, He says - 'A glorious Church! It is very good.' And in this Letter to the Colossians we see the re-made vessel now filled again with all the fullness. The vessel is mended; all the fragments are gathered together; you cannot trace the cracks and the joins; this Church as He has it here is once again a beautiful whole; and now He fills it again with all His fullness. "That ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), is the prayer of the Apostle. "In Him dwelleth all the fullness ... and in Him ye are made full" (Colossians 2:9, 10). That is how it is to be.

One thing that must be underlined is this: that, while this is a process which God is seeking to work out, an end to which He is laboring, we must remember that the achievement of this great and glorious thing - this 'gathering together' again of all things in Christ, this filling of that 'gathered together' vessel with all His fullness - requires, and must have, a continuous work of the Cross. That is the challenge of all that we have been seeing in the foregoing pages: the challenge of the Cross in everything, in relation to the great purpose of God. This re-integration, if the Lord is allowed to have His way, will be effected by means of the Cross. If there is anything contrary to integration, to oneness, it will always be traceable to something which has withstood, or is withstanding, the work the the Cross. That applies in our own lives, and it applies in our assemblies, our fellowships, our companies. If there is something that still represents disintegration, dividedness, schism; if things are broken, are not one entity, not one whole, it can be traced to a failure to allow the Cross to do its work in some direction or other. That is the inclusive, and the only, explanation. If the Cross really does its work, this integration will spontaneously result.

The way of unity is not the way of patching things up from the outside - the way of unity is the work of the Cross in the life. When the Church really allows the Cross to get to work in its very constitution, the problem of division is solved. And if there is spiritual poverty, if there is scarcity, if there is limitation in our spiritual resources, and we are not knowing this fullness, it is for the same reason. If the Cross works, you find that the measure increases, quite spontaneously: it always does so, when you get things out of the way that are contrary to Christ.

Conclusion

And so we finish where we began. "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" If we have any interest in, or concern for, knowing God with us and for us in power, in support, in protection, in deliverance, in succor, this is the way. The answer to that question in Isaiah 53 is found in that same chapter: it is revealed to this One Who goes to the Cross, Who suffers the Cross; to the One Who lets go all in the Cross; Who goes down into shame and dishonor in the Cross; Who loses all His own in the Cross: to Him the arm of the Lord is revealed. And it is revealed to all those who go that way with Him. History is the great proof of it. Throughout history, God's arm has been and ever will be, bared for His Son, and for all those who are with His Son as crucified men and women - crucified churches - a crucified Church.

There is a passage of which we are all very fond: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). The Cross is the instrument for testing whether our hearts are perfect toward the Lord, or whether we have personal interests, or worldly interests, or divided interests in any way. That word "perfect" means "complete" or "whole:" the Lord will show Himself mighty on behalf of him whose heart is complete toward Him. And where could we find a greater embodiment of one whose heart was completely, wholly for God, than in the Lord Jesus on that Cross?!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(the end)

(following: "The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another)

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