WHOLLY FILLED OR ONLY IN PART?
By John Aldworth
Posted on March 21 2014
Eph. 5:18: And be not drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit.
What Spirit? you ask and it's a good question. Why, the Holy Spirit of course, will be the answer from most Christians. But if we look at the context (Eph. 1:17, 3:14-16) we will see it is the Spirit of the Father that is referred to in Eph. 5:18 and Paul prayed that we might be strengthened with His Spirit “in the inner man” so that:
Eph. 3:17: ... Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.
The next question is also important:
ARE WE NOW FILLED IN PART OR IN FULL?
Is the filling belieivers seek today the “fulness” spoken of so often of the prison epistle message (Eph. 1:23, 3:19, Phil. 1:11, Col. 1:9) or is it that “that which is in part” (1 Cor. 13:10) which believers experienced in the Acts period? If the latter then it is only "in part".
1 Cor. 13: 9-10: For we know in part and prophesy in part but when that which is perfect is come that which is in part shall be done away.
1or. 13:8 makes clear prophecies would fail, tongues cease and supernaturally given knowledge apart from the scriptures would vanish away. Importantly we believe this cessation occurred at the end of the Book of Acts. What’s more it seems that the “Church of God” (Acts 20:28) herself ceased as a visible entity on earth with the ending of the world (or “age”) in AD70 (Matt. 14: 3,14). (More on that at another time). That would leave the "church which is his bodty, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" as the only true church of God from then on.
Importantly in 1 Cor. 13:12 the Apostle Paul describes Christian faith and doctrine in pre-prison epistles Acts period as seeing “through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part but then shall I know even as I am known”.
Clearly in talking about eventually seeing "face to face" and the coming of “that which is perfect” he was pointing to what was to follow the end of the Pentecostal “Church of God” (Acts 20:28) administration. It was in fact the revelation of the dispensation of grace and the mystery revealed to Paul while in prison at Rome and written for our edification in the Ephesian, Philippian and Colossian body of truth. In this body of scripture, in this new "dispensation of the grace of God" (Eph. 3:2) we indeed find a “fulness” of filling. And it here that “that which is perfect” has come. Outward supernatural signs and miracles ceased at the end of Acts, so that in the new dispensation it is true that “now abideth these three: faith hope and charity” (1. Cor. 13:13).
WHAT THEN WAS THE ACTS PERIOD FILLING?
Acts 2:4: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
But who were “they”? you might ask. Answer: In Acts 2 only the 12 apostles qwere so filled . Later in Acts some of the seven deacons, notably Stephen, are recorded as being “full of the Holy Ghost”. It is important to note, however, that in Acts 8:14-17 it seems that only apostles were empowered to lay hands on believers that they should receive the Holy Ghost. Evidently Philip couldn’t perform this task; it had to await the arrival of Peter and John. Anexception to the "apostles only" rule is Ananias, who laid hands on Saul that he might be filled with the Holy Ghost, having been especially commissioned by the Lord to do so.
Later in the Acts record we find the Apostle Paul laying hands on believers so that the Holy Ghost might come upon them. (Acts 19:6 and see also Acts 1:26, 4:8, 9:17, 13:9). Importantly, nowhere does scripture state that in this period that all believers were “filled with the Holy Ghost”. Indeed it is not until we reach Eph. 1:23 that we are told about “…his body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all”.
WHAT IS THE FILLING NOW IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE AND THE MYSTERY?
In a nutshell it is:
Col. 1: 28: Christ in you the hope of glory.
Eph. 4:7: But unto every one of us is given GRACE according to the MEASURE OF THE GIFT OF CHRIST.
Eph 5:18: But be filled with the Spirit (the Spirit of the Father, that is).
WHAT THEN IS THE MEASURE OF THE GIFT OF CHRIST?
Eph. 4: 7, 13 and 16 explains:
Vs. 13: Till we all come in the UNITY of the FAITH and of the KNOWLEDGE of the Son of God unto a PERFECT MAN unto the MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST.
This makes clear that this gift of grace to each of us is designed to bring us together in unity of the faith (i.e. truth and doctrine), into a complete knowledge of the Son of God and in fact to be in God’s eyes a spiritually perfect man or woman. As such it is indeed a filling, or as Paul better expresses it, the FULNESS. Here indeed that which is perfect is come and therefore that which is in part has been done away.
The truth is that all Christ is and ever can be to us has been poured into us in this filling if we belieive God's clear statement in scripture that He has done so. Importantly, if the filling of the apostles with the Holy Ghost in early Acts made them infallible pronouncers and definers of doctrinal truth (and it did, despite their imperfections) then how much more will Christ’s fulness make each of us a “perfect man”?
IS THIS FULNESS FOR THE BODY AS A WHOLE OR FOR INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS?
Short answer: It's for both.
Eph. 4:16 … the Head, even Christ, from whom the WHOLE BODY fitly joined together and compacted (knit together) by that which EVERY JOINT supplieth, according to the EFFECTUAL WORKING in the MEASURE OF EVERY PART maketh increase of the body unto the edifying (building up) of itself in love.
The gift of grace according to the measure of Christ then works in each of us effectively, that is fully, to accomplish all that the Father purposes in the body of His Son. Certainly it is not “in part”.
1) The individual gift of grace is to fill each of us with the measure of Christ which is limitless (see John 3:34). It is fulness. It is measureless and come in four dimensions (Eph. 3:18) not our usual three. Its purpose is to make each of us a perfect man or woman fully equipped to be all that the Father and Son chose us to be before the world began
2) This fulness is also Christ working individually in each of us to make each one of us a “supplying joint”, that is fully equipping and empowering each one of us by grace to play the vital and designated role He has for each one of us in order to edify, that is build up in truth and understanding, the whole body. This means that Christ works effectually in each one to ensure we each effectively play our part.
Col. 1:28: … the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
Col. 2:10: And ye are COMPLETE in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power.
Col. 1:28: (Christ in you) whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man PERFECT IN CHRIST.
Col. 2:2: That their hearts might be comforted being knit together in love and unto all riches of the FULL ASSURANCE OF UNDERSTANDING, to the acknowledgement of the MYSTERY of God and of the Father and of Christ.
Brothers and sisters let us be filled with the fulness of Christ, of his grace and of the Spirit of the Father and of the "spirit of wisdom and and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph. 1:17).
© copyright John Aldworth