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Ephesians 1:22-23

"And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all". ESV. My emphasis. [fills all/panta].

Does the first "all" in "all in all" refer to:

A. Eph 1:22 "all things under his feet". He is filling the whole of creation with His fulness? Expositor's Greek Testament goes down this route-"The universe itself", i.e. absolutely everything. Or

B. Eph 1:23 "his body, the fulness of him" i.e. his body the church. He is filling the church with his fulness? Matthew Pool's Commentary takes this route with "the church... is filled with Christ".

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    Up-voted +1. Interesting. I have always understood that the concept was the filling (the infilling of the Holy Spirit) of all the capacities within all the individuals within the whole of the Body of Christ.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 1, 2023 at 19:24

4 Answers 4

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The phrase "all in all" (or similar) occurs several times in the NT and always by Paul:

  • 1 Cor 12:6 - And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
  • 1 Cor 15:28 - Now when all things shall have been put in subjection to Him, then also the Son Himself will be put in subjection to the One having put in subjection all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
  • Eph 4:6 - one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
  • 2 Cor 9:8 - And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in all/every good work.
  • Col 3:11 - where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, and free; but Christ is all and in all.
  • Eph 1:22, 23 - And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One filling all in all.

This is Hebrew idiom for a simple truth - God and Christ are to be to the Christian, the sum and substance of all things that they do and think - the purpose of the Christians' existence. Paul expressed this another way -

Phil 1:21 - For to me, to live is Christ ...

Note the figuative/metaphorical language Paul uses in Eph 1:22, 23 - "the church, which is His [Christ's] body". This, again, emphasizes that Christ is the consummation and raison d'etre of the Christian's existence.

Paul also uses the metaphor of the church being members of the body of Christ in other places as well such as:

  • 1 Cor 6:15
  • 1 Cor 12:4, 5, 22, 23, 25
  • Rom 12:4
  • Eph 3:6
  • Eph 4:16
  • Col 3:15
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What does the first "all refer too in "the fullness of Him who fills all in all", Ephesians 1:23

Here is a different version that sheds light on the "all" that is referred too.

And subjects all under His feet, and gives Him the headship over all to the ecclesia which is His body, the complement which is completing the entire universe. Ephesians 1: 22-23 Concordant literal

The fullness of Him is His body, known as the complement or pleroma.

"The sovereignty of the Earth is given to the nation of Israel, according to the prophet's. The sovereignty of the heavens is the portion of the ecclesia which is His body. Between the two the entire universe is brought under the administration of Christ. Thus His body is the pleroma, or complement, which fills up the lack which earth's deliverance would still leave in the celestial realms. Its function is to fulfill God's purpose for the entire universe, only part of what He is able to accomplish through his people, Israel." Concordant, literal commentary.

As Eve came out of Adam and completed Man to rule over the earth, so the ecclesia that was chosen before the disruption or foundation of the world, (Eph.1:4) makes Him complete with His body.

God seated Him at His right that is seated with Him above every sovereignty and authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this eon, but in that which is future also: and subjects all under His feet, and gives Him the headship over all to the to the ecclesia which is His body, the complement which is completing, the entire universe.

It's also stated in Colossians.

And He is the head of the body, the ecclesia, Who is Sovereign, Firstborn from among the dead, that is all He may be first, seeing the entire complement delights to dwell in Him.., Colossians1:18-20

The body being seated with Him is also confirmed in Colossians 3:1

Not only have, we died and been raised with Christ, but we have ascended into heaven with Him.

If, then then, you were roused together with Christ, be seeking that which is above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.

Christ is Head of the ecclesia, and He is the Savior of the body. Nevertheless, as the ecclesia is subject to Christ... Ephesians 5:23-24

This all goes together what is stated in Ephesians 1:10

He purposed in Him, to have an administration, the complement of the eras, in which the universe is to be headed up in the Christ-- Ephesians 1:10

So now, with all that said, the first all is the ecclesia, which is His body. He is the head.

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Ephesians 1:23 ESV

"the fulness of him who fills".

There is here a fulness which fills. The fulness of Him, Christ, does fill the church, but is that all? [A restatement of the question].

Eph 1:23 Weymouth N.T.

"The completeness of him who everywhere fills the universe with himself". All emphasis mine.

Here the completeness or "fulness" of Christ fills "the universe". "The church, which is his body" the full expression of who He is, fills everything.

Many translations of this verse on Bible Hub go down the route of "all in all" which Dottard's answer expands upon. But the less literal translations try to open up the meaning and do so by putting in the idea of "all things everywhere" or "universe".

Eph 1:23 New Living Translation

"And the church is His body; it is made complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself".

Again here two fillings; the body of Christ is the fulness of him, and that fulness fills "all things everywhere".

Eph 1:23 NLT

"And the church is the body; it is filled by Christ, Who fills everything everywhere with his presence".

Eph 1:23 Phillips

"for the church is his body, and in that body lives fully the one Who fills the whole wide universe".

What does the first "all" refer to in "the fulness of him who fills all in all"? I have quoted 4 translations which make the answer all things everywhere or an equivalent such as "universe". Enough other versions agree with this to make it a commonly held view.

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I want to consider Ephesians 1:9,10: "making known to us the purpose of His will according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in Heaven and things on Earth". That shows the two "fill all", first Jesus is going to fill the Earth with the knowledge of God "as the waters cover the sea", and then He is going to fill the Heavens with glory, remember, 1/3 of the angels left a big hole in the heavenly realm. This is going to happen in the fullness of time, the great mystery plan of God for all the ages.

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