All and All in All
“Christ is all, and in all.” — Colossians iii. 11.
“That God may be all in all.” — 1 Corinthians xv. 28.
IN our two texts there are three “alls” rising one out of the other, the first loading to the second, and the second conducting to the third. You will notice at once that the first two are in the present tense: “Christ is all,” and “Christ is in all.” The third one refers to the future, it is yet to be fulfilled; when the great consummation shall come, then shall God be “all in all.”
I shall not detain you with any sort of preface, for my sole endeavour at this time will be to impress these texts upon your memory, in the hope that the Spirit of God may make them a living and abiding influence upon your hearts and lives; that to you Christ may be all, that Christ may be in you all, and that so, in all that you do, and say, and are, God may be all in all.
I. We begin at THE FOUNDATION WHERE ALL BLESSING BEGINS: “Christ is all.”
These are but few words, yet what divine shall ever fully expound them? “Christ is all.” Here is sea-room enough for all godly mariners; yet with the best wind that ever blew to speed the ship along, and with every sail set, and filled with the breeze from heaven, who shall ever be able to go from one shore of this great truth to the other, — “Christ is all”? I shall not venture upon such a voyage; I can but look across this sea, and ask you kindly to notice the connection in which the text stands, that we may learn exactly what the apostle meant. Writing “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse,” Paul says, “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all.”
That is to say, in the matter of salvation, “Christ is all.” That which had often seemed the most important thing in the world, is here thrown into the background by the apostolic declaration, “There is neither Greek nor Jew.” For a long time, it seemed as if the eternal light was only revealed to the eyes of the seed of the house of Israel. They sat in the brightness, and all the rest of the world lay in dense darkness. But, behold, the Christ has come, “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” and henceforth salvation is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,” but, “Christ is all.”
It is a great privilege to be born of godly parents, to have come of a race that for generations has feared the Lord; but let no man trust merely in his natural descent. If you had sprung from a lineage of saints, if every one of your progenitors had feared God, yet still, nothing of all this could avail for your own salvation. “Christ is all.” Now may the Gentile dog eat of the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table where he feeds his Israel; nay, the dog is transformed into a child, he who was far off is made nigh. In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile are made one, and all the sheep of the Good Shepherd are sheltered in the same fold. We who believe in Jesus are children of him who was called the father of the faithful; and though, according to the flesh, “Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not,” yet by faith we become the spiritual seed of the great father of all believers. As he believed in a son being born according to God’s promise, and in a seed to which the covenant promises were given, even so do we; and entering into union with Christ Jesus, that blessed Son of the promise, we become joint-heirs with him, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” You see, then, dear friends, that it is not race, or pedigree, or descent that saves the soul, but that “Christ is all.”
Then Paul goes on to say, “There is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision;” from which I gather that there is nothing in outward ceremonies which can save. Everything is still of Christ: “Christ is all.” That circumcision in the flesh was ordained of God, and it was the mark of the seed that he had chosen. It was not, therefore, lightly to be spoken of; but now, “we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” At this day, even the ancient divine ordinance is put in the background, for “Christ is all.” So is it with every other ordinance, whether ordained of God or of man. It must never be placed in the front, as if it were the means of salvation. I say to you who may have been sprinkled, or to you who may have been immersed; to you who may bow at your altars, or to you who may come to the communion table; — I do not place all these rites on a level, certainly, for some are of God and some are not; but I do place them all on a par in this respect, that they enter not into the essence of our salvation; — and I say to all of you, “These things cannot save you, for ‘Christ is all.’” Be you who you may, and do you what you may, you shall not be saved because of your natural birth, nor because of any supposed holy acts that you may perform, neither shall you be saved by any transactions that may be the work of a human priest. You must have Christ as your Saviour, and you must rest in him alone, or you cannot be saved. He is the one foundation; and “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” for “Christ is all.” The Lord Jesus Christ sums up everything that ordinances can possibly mean, and all that pedigree and descent can possibly bring, and he is infinitely more than all of them.
Read on in this Epistle, and you will find that, as race and ceremonialism are both put into the background, so also is culture: “There is neither Barbarian nor Scythian, but Christ is all.” Of course, it was for many reasons much hotter to be a Roman citizen than to be a rude barbarian, and it is much better now to be a civilized man than an untutored Indian of the Wild West; but so far as vital godliness and the soul’s salvation are concerned, there is no difference. The simplest and most illiterate, upon believing in Jesus Christ, shall find that “Christ is all.” And the most learned and most fully instructed, if they bring any of their learning and their culture, and put it side by side with Christ as a ground of trust, shall sorrowfully discover that none of those things can be placed on an equality with him, but that “Christ is all.”
I rejoice, brethren, in this truth. If the gospel of Christ were something eclectic, which could only be received by a superior few, what a poor prospect there would be for the great mass of people among whom we dwell! If the gospel of Christ were a matter so deep and profound that it could not be understood except by years of educated thought, where would they be who are this day lying upon the bed of sickness, expecting soon to stand before God, who have never had any culture, and perhaps can scarcely read the letters of a boy’s schoolbook? Blessed be God, we have a remedy for sin’s sickness which the Great Physician understands; and if he is well acquainted with it, it matters not whether the patient fully comprehends it or not! Blessed be God, the effect of Christ’s medicine does not depend upon the degree in which we can realize how it acts; but if we receive it by faith, if it penetrates into the heart, if it takes possession of the affections, it will work in us that wondrous change by which we shall be delivered from the love of sin, and saved both from its condemnation and its power. Thank God for a simple gospel! Blessed be his name that “Christ is all”! If, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, you have learnt that Christ died for the ungodly, if you know that he is the Son of God, and the one great propitiation for sin, and if you accept him as such, you have that which has delivered you from going down into the pit, for God has found a ransom even for you.
Once more. By this expression, Paul means us to understand that all conditions and positions of men in this life are put on a level before Christ, for he adds, “There is neither bond nor free; but Christ is all.” “When the gospel of Jesus Christ came into the world, it contemplated the saving of bondmen as well as of freemen. Of course, there was a great distinction between being bond or free, and the apostle wrote, “If thou mayest be made free, use it rather;” but as to the real power of God’s grace, there was no distinction between the noblest citizen of Rome and the poor slave who wore an iron collar, and was fastened, like a dog, at his master’s gate. Christ’s grace could enter into the heart of the servile, as well as into the heart of the noble, and could work alike in each. Now, hear ye, sirs. It is well that you should be industrious, that you should be thrifty, and that you should make your way in the world; but this is not the way to eternal life. What though you should work till your finger ends were raw? What though you labour during the livelong day and night, and stint yourselves of needed sustenance, that you may hoard up gold and silver? With all this, you cannot buy salvation, or be an inch nearer to it. “Christ is all.” And if you lie penniless upon a workhouse bed, there is that in Christ which can save you. If you beg your meat from door to door, yet shall you not stand at a disadvantage with this great and blessed gospel, for it comes freely to you with this message, and, as it asks of you no learning, so it asks of you no wealth, no rank, and no position; for, from first to last, “Christ is all.”
Thus have I taken the words in their connection, and they are full of important teaching. Remember that they mean just this, — that, to the man who is saved, Christ is all his trust. Our healing lies in his stripes. Our life lies in his death. Our pardon lies in his having suffered the punishment due to us. Our eternal life is in the fact that he once died for us, and that he now liveth to make intercession for us. “Christ is all.” You must not add anything to Christ as your ground of confidence; but just lean the weight of your sin, and your sorrow, and your necessity, and your desires, wholly and entirely upon him who liveth to stand for you before God. Christ, then, is all our trust.
And, as for our belief, Christ is all our creed. What he has taught us personally, and of his Holy Spirit through the Epistles, — what he gives us in his Word, — this is what we believe, and nothing else. The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of a Christian. “Christ is all;” and all the truth that there is in this Book is in him. This revelation of the Word of God is the self-same revelation as that which is made in the Christ himself, who is the true Logos, the Word of God. “Christ is all” as our creed.
And, further, Christ is all as our example. You may safely do what he did, and you may not do what he would not have done. You may judge of the right or wrong of everything by this question, — What would Jesus Christ do in these circumstances? You may know thus what you should do; and what you cannot suppose he would have thought of doing, you must not venture to do, for “Christ is all.” He draws a ring around us, and we must not go outside that circumference. He is the atmosphere in which we are to live. He is about us; he is above us; he is beneath us; he is within us; he is everywhere; and to us, if we be Christians, “Christ is all.”
There is the foundation of all our faith and hope, and I want you who preach, and you who teach the children, always to keep to this one truth, that “Christ is all.” Many other things have a measure of instruction in them; but Christ is all that is necessary. If you want to save men, if you wish truly to elevate men, if you desire still further to exalt them to the very highest degree of which human nature is capable, remember that “Christ is all” as your lever, and in him is your fulcrum, and in him is the power to use the lever. “Christ is all.” You need not go abroad for anything, for “ye are complete in him.” The ship is furnished from stem to stern in him. The house, from its foundation to its roof-tree, is all complete in him. “Christ is all.” Oh, to know him! Oh, to have him as our own! Oh, to live wholly upon him! Oh, to grow like him, and ever to keep before our mind’s eye this great truth that “Christ is all”!
II. Now we are going a step farther, to consider the second part of our first text: “Christ is all, and in all” This is a matter of experience, and it reveals to us now THE WORK OF GRACE PROCEEDS. Christ is in all his people, this gracious possession is the work of the Spirit of God, by whose means Christ is formed in us, the hope of glory.
To my mind, it is a very beautiful thing that the Lord Jesus Christ, when he comes into the soul, does not annihilate any part of the personality, but shines in each separate being, for he is not only all, but he is in all his people. There is, for instance, the Greek, — the “Gentile” — shall be the word. Very well, the grace of God does not turn the Gentile into a Jew; he remains a Gentile, but Christ is in him, and therefore he is made into a now creature. There have been some beautiful specimens of holiness and grace found in many of the Gentile nations dwelling in the islands of the sea, or among all sorts and conditions of men scattered up and down the world, and Christ has shone gloriously in them. Then comes the Jew. When he is saved, Christ is in him. The apostles of Jesus were mostly, at least, of that race, and many later believers have been of the seed of Abraham; but Christ has been in them, and gloriously has he displayed himself in them. The Lord Jesus Christ, dwelling in the Jew, leaves him still a member of the house of Abraham; but, through the presence of the Lord Jesus within him, how wondrously his whole character is exalted! Then you have the man who is circumcised and the man who is uncircumcised, and in each of these, if he be saved, Christ dwells, and each one therefore lives according to his light, and his knowledge, and his standing. Christ enters into the barbarian, and though in certain natural respects he remains to a large extent what he was before, yet, as soon as ever Christ enters into him, all of his barbarism that is sinful disappears. He still retains the free spirit of the child of the wilderness or the son of the woods, but how grandly has Christ displayed himself in such men as he is! The personal piety of a Red Indian, or of an African freshly taken from the wilds of the Dark Continent, has been as brilliant and as beautiful, — certainly as fresh, and bright, and clear, and striking, as the piety of the most educated of the Caucasian race. Whether he be barbarian or Scythian, if Christ is formed in him, the hope of glory, it is only another form of the same exquisite beauty.
It is always a pity when our missionaries try to make other nations into English people. If we have pride enough to think so, we may regard ourselves as the model for others to imitate, but it would be a great pity if we should be such a model that every native of Hindostan must copy the Englishman. I like the worship of our black friends in Jamaica, and in the Southern States of America, with its delightful simplicity, its vivacity, — ay, and I venture to say, even its grotesqueness; and I would not have a black man begin slavishly to imitate the white man. Let him continue to be a black man, and let Christ shine in the black man’s face right gloriously. Ay, let a man be a brown man, or a yellow man, or a red man, or whatever colour God made him, the more he keeps to his own nationality, and reflects the glory of Christ from that angle, the more will Christ’s gospel triumph, and the more will Christ himself be honoured.
The apostle adds, as we have already noticed, “Neither bond nor free: but Christ is all and in all.” May the day speedily come when there shall not be a bondsman under heaven; but in those days of the worst of all slavery, the Christian slaves were among the most brilliant gems in the Redeemer’s diadem. Oh, what brave deeds they did for the Crucified One! I should think that it was harder to be a Christian freeman, in those days, than to be a Christian slave; but whether bond or free, whether the man took his place in the Forum among the senators, or his lot was cast yonder amongst the slaves, in either case, if Christ was in him, the light shone gloriously from him, and God was magnified thereby. Christ is all, and Christ is in all his people, each one remaining the same in his individuality, but Christ shining in each one.
I must again refer you to the connection of our text, and ask you to read in the 9th and 10th verses, where Paul says, “Ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” You recollect that Adam was made in the image of God, and that he lost that image by his sin; but when Christ enters into a man, and he is created anew in Christ Jesus, then he receives afresh the image of God. The image of God is Christ Jesus, for he is the express image of his Father’s glory. He that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father; and, inasmuch as Christ enters into all believers, and makes them like himself, the image of God is thereby restored in all believers.
So, note again, that because Christ dwells in him, every believer becomes a copy of Christ. Read the 13th verse: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Is not that beautiful, — Christ in every believer, that Christ the image of God, and that Christian the image of Christ, so that, just as Jesus freely forgave, so does every Christian freely forgive? Do you find it difficult to forgive one who has wronged you? Then you will find it difficult to get to heaven. If you cannot enter heaven unless you are like Christ, how can you be like Christ unless you can freely forgive? This seems a grand opportunity for you to stand on the same platform with Christ, and in some respect to do the works of Christ when, having been slighted, ungratefully treated, misrepresented, slandered, and injured, you can say, “I as freely forgive you as the Lord Jesus Christ forgave me.” This is the token and evidence that Christ is in you, when you become imitators of Christ, as dear children. It is a remarkable fact, as I have often said to you, that, although our Lord Jesus Christ is more perfect than any other example, — indeed, the only perfect example, — yet it is more easy to imitate Christ than it is to imitate some of the best of his people. That is curious, but it is a fact. I know a brother whom I greatly admire, an eminent Christian, — I would not mention my own name in the same day with his, he lives so near to God, and is such a truly gracious man, — yet I could not imitate him. It is quite impossible that my nature should ever become exactly like his. Another brother, whom I used to know, — he is now with God, — was equally good, but he was as different from the other good man as anyone could be, they were as opposite as the poles, in their temperament and behaviour. The first brother I mentioned is solid, calm, quiet, unexcitable, and I should think that he very seldom laughs, and that even then he does not know that he has done it. My other friend used sometimes literally to roar with laughter; he was full of earnest love for the souls of men, and God blessed him greatly in his service; but he had a merry vein and a humorous spirit, and I was more at home with him than I was with the first one. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ is far more easy to imitate than either of my two friends, for sometimes I am so depressed that I cannot show all the cheerfulness of the one; and at other times, having such a humorous vein in my nature, I should be hypocritical and unnatural if I suppressed it, and always acted as if I were as solemn as death itself. But in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, albeit that there is never any mention of laughter, yet there were ripples of holy pleasantry in his life and in his character, though he was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He is more of a man than the best of other men, and more imitable, though altogether inimitable, than those who can be imitated, and perhaps can oven be excelled.
What is more, Christ in each one of these believers creates them all into one body. Read the 14th and 15th verses: “And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” The same life is in all believers, — in you and in me; — well, then, we are one. The same life is in ten thousand Christians; then they also are all one. If the same life quickens them, and they live under the same influences, and they act according to the same rule, then are they one, and Christ becomes the glorious Head of a body which he renders glorious by quickening it with his own indwelling.
I like to think of this blessed truth, — Christ in all believers creating them into one body: this is the beginning of true unity. Here, for instance, is a man who says that he is baptized as I am; but if he has not the life of God within him, I cannot get on with him; whatever he may call himself, I am not in union with him. There, perhaps, comes a Methodist, and we begin to talk about the Lord Jesus Christ, and I find that he loves him with all his heart, and I know that I do, though I wish that I loved him more, and we two get on together directly; we feel that we are one in Christ because of the one life which quickens us. Do you not feel it to be so? Have you not been reading a book, sometimes, and said to yourself, “Oh, what a blessed book this is! How full of the divine life”? Yes; and after you have read it, you have been surprised to find that the person who wrote it was a Romanist, — for there are many books of that kind, — or the writer was a member of some church that, in many respects, lies in very dangerous error. You say to yourself, “I do not care where this man lived, or what he did, I am one with him as far as he is one with Christ.” The one common feeling of union to Christ, and Christ being in us, makes us feel that we are one with each other. Wherever there is, as Augustine used to say, “aliquid Christi,” — “anything of Christ,” — there our love must go forth, we cannot help it. Christ in you all makes you into one body, and unites you together in a mysterious and unique manner. There is not a parallel to it anywhere else; it gives such a living, loving, abiding, undeniable unity that, even if you wish to forget it, you cannot. If the man is in Christ, you must love him, do what you may, for you are one body with him.
Such is this manifestation of Christ in his people, that it leads, further, to the offering of one oblation. Read the 16th verse: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Yes; all God’s people love God’s Word; they all find a great sweetness in “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” they all delight to sing praises unto the Most High. Montgomery truly wrote, —
“The saints in prayer appear as one,”
but it is equally true that the saints in praise appear as one, and the saints in love to the Word of God appear as one, because Christ being in them, and Christ being one, they are knit to one another. Oh, how blessed it is for us to have Christ in us!
And lastly upon this point, all that I have said leads up to each one acting to the glory of one name, for if Christ be in you, the 17th verse is true of you: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” What a life to lead, — Christ taking such entire possession of a man that everything he does, he does as if Christ himself were doing it, because he does it in Christ’s name and by Christ’s power! As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” so that it shall no longer be yourselves that do it, but Christ that dwelleth in you. This shall sanctify the commonest actions of everyday life, and make the whole of the Christian’s career to be sublime, so that, while he treads the earth beneath his feet literally, he is also doing it spiritually, and all the while his conversation is in heaven.
I must just linger one minute here. You all agreed with me when I spoke about Christ being all, you understood clearly that he is the only ground of our hope; can you also go with me in this part of my subject, Christ is in all his people? Is Christ formed in you, the hope of glory? Do you know anything about an indwelling Christ? Verily I say unto you, the Christ on the cross will never save you unless there be also Christ within you; it is the Christ on the cross in whom we trust, but the outcome of that trust is that he is born in our hearts. His power comes from his love, his grace, his truth, himself; and we live because he lives in us. Do you understand this? If you do not, I pray God that you may, for, unless Christ be in you, you know what the apostle says: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate.” If you are disapproved of God, Christ is not in you; if Christ is not in you, you are disapproved of God. But if ho lives in you, you are “accepted in the Beloved,” and that life of yours shall never die out, but you shall by-and-by behold your Saviour’s face in the kingdom of his glory.
Brethren, we are not what we ought to be, we are not what we want to be, we are not what wo shall be; but we are something very different from what we used to be. The change in us is as great as in that blind man who said, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” The change is not merely external, but it is vital. The Lord has taken away the heart of stone out of our flesh, and given us back the heart of flesh which belonged to man in his unfallen nature, and then upon this heart of flesh he has also wrought wondrously, making it sentient to spiritual influences which once did not affect it, and writing upon the fleshy tablets of that renewed heart his perfect law. Glory be to the name of Jehovah, a notable miracle has been performed upon us, a miracle so marvellous that it is comparable to the resurrection from the dead, and in some respects it even surpasses the wonders of creation itself. We shall tell this story in the streets of the New Jerusalem, and we shall draw around us attentive crowds as we narrate our experience, and tell the tale of the sin which ruined us, and of the mercy which reclaimed us.
Thus have we gone up the second stave of this golden ladder. First, “Christ is all;” next, “Christ is in all.”
III. Now kindly turn back in your Bibles to our other text, — the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 15th chapter, and 28th verse, — “That God may be all in all.” First, Christ is all; next, Christ is in all his people; but THE CONSUMMATION, the top-stone of all is, “that God may be all in all.”
The passage in which this text stands seems to be a very difficult one to understand; and the common meaning that is given to it, by nearly every interpreter I have ever met with, I do not believe or accept. It seems to a great many to be taught here that there is to come a time, called “the end”, when the Lord Jesus Christ, having conquered all his enemies, is to resign his position, abdicate his throne, and cease to be King, “that God may be all in all.” Let us road the connection of the passage: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” The general meaning given to these words is, that there is to be a time when the mediatorial kingdom of Christ will come to an end of itself, and he will deliver up the kingdom to God, ceasing himself to be King. I can only say that, if this is the teaching of this text, it is not taught anywhere else in the whole Bible; nobody can find any parallel passage to it, or anything like it; neither do I believe that it is taught in the Bible at all, neither here nor anywhere else. And I can say that for this reason, that I cannot see that there is to be any end whatever to the mediatorial kingdom of Christ.
You perceive that it is the Son who is to be subject to the Father; but it is of the Son that we read in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” where the Father, manifestly speaking to the Son, in his complex person, declares that his throne is to be for ever and ever. Brethren, in the day when the Christ shall have overcome all his enemies, and death itself shall be destroyed, there will be no abolition of his mediatorial kingdom. There still stands in the Scriptures this promise of our Lord Jesus Christ: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Does that mean that we are to have a temporary reign with a temporary Christ, — a brief rule with a short-lived Monarch? I do not believe it.
Moreover, the priesthood enters into the mediatorial office most eminently; yet “the Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” If the priesthood is to continue for ever, — and Melchisedec was king as well as priest, — then the kingdom of Christ is to continue, world without end. Moreover, in the Book of the Revelation, — not to mention the almost innumerable passages to the same effect, — we find that, when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, it is added, “and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” When the kingdoms are brought back, they will be the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. Then we read of “the throne of God and of the Lamb and when all kingdoms are subdued, and the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, then we are told to expect the announcement, “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” What does all this mean but a continuance of that dispensation in which the Christ, the Son of man, as the Son of God, shall be still at the head of his people, still their Priest, and still their King, and still reigning? And that is exactly what this passage says, if you will kindly look at it again, and dismiss all previous prejudices from your minds.
The fact is, our Lord Jesus Christ has performed, and is still performing, a work which will end in putting everything into its proper order. Now, the proper order, according to the first Epistle to the Corinthians, the eleventh chapter, and the third verse, is this: “I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” This is how it stands: the woman with the man for her head, the man with Christ for his Head, and Christ with God for his Head. Such is the Scriptural order, — an order which has been disturbed all through except with regard to the Father and the Son, for God has ever been the Head of Christ. Now, Christ has come into the world to restore that right order from the bottom right up to the top; and it is to be so restored, first, by Christ becoming the Head of men, when he shall a have put down all his enemies under his feet, and when lie shall have put down all rule and all authority and power, “for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Christ is come into the world that all the evil that is in the world should be subdued, and he will drive it out of the world yet. There shall remain no power that shall dare revolt against the majesty of heaven. Over the whole surface of this globe, beneath the new heavens, and on the new earth, there shall yet be the kingdom established of which Jesus Christ shall be the supreme Head, and over which ho shall reign for ever, King of kings and Lord of lords. The Lord hasten it in his own time!
Well, and what then?” asks one; “does it not say that he is to deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, and to be subject to the Father?” Exactly so. Supposing that India had been in revolt against our Queen, and that a Viceroy had been sent there, and that he had warred against all the rebellious tribes and kingdoms, and they had all boon conquered. He telegraphs to the Queen, “Your Majesty’s empire is at your feet.” Does he therefore cease to be Viceroy? Not necessarily in the least degree. He may still remain as ruler there, and yet have delivered up the kingdom. I believe that to be the meaning of this passage, that Christ has so conquered the kingdom that it is all God’s.
But what does it mean when it says that then shall the Son also be subject unto the Father? It means that he is subject now, and that even then he will continue to be subject to the Father; that is all. It cannot mean that, at a certain time, Christ will become subject to God, because he has been so ever since that day of his glorious humiliation when, for his people’s redemption, he took upon himself the form of a servant; and that condition is not to cease. He is still to be the Representative of God even when he shall have put down all power and all authority under his feet, and when God has put all things under his feet. It is manifest that he that did put all things under him is not himself under him; and it is clear, from the text, that even then God shall be the Head of Christ. I do not know whether you catch my thought yet, but it is just this, — all evil subdued, all the saints having Christ dwelling in them, Christ the Head of all these saints, and then God as God still, all the more surely and securely supreme over all things, for the Head of Christ is God, and God is all in all.
The conclusion of the whole matter is this, that every day this should be the great consummation to be kept in view, “that God may be all in all.” For this the heroic labours of the Son of man here on earth; for this, his cruel death, for this, his rising again; for this, his grasping of the mediatorial sceptre; for this, his ruling in providence; for this, his management of the world’s affairs; for this, his second coming and the glory of his saints. All this, while it continues to bring glory to him, has been done in subjection to his great Father’s will; he has accomplished it all as the Father’s Representative and Messenger, sent by him here to do it; and then, when it is all done, and he shall reign for ever and ever, even then the Son himself shall continue in that position in which he put himself long, long ago, “that God may be all in all.” Then will the whole universe, restored, and brought back to its proper place, be ordered according to the eternal covenant arrangement.
And the practical outcome of it all is this. I want you, beloved friends, so to live as to be persuaded that it will be so one day, that God shall be all in all; that there shall come a time when we before the throne of God shall stand, God in us all, and everything in us of God, when all his elect, all his redeemed, all to whom Christ is all, and all in whom Christ is, shall only know God as their all in all; God all in their very existence; God their all in every hymn; God their all in every pulsing of their joy; God their all in every hope; God their all in every memory; God all to them, and God in all of them to the very full; all redeemed, all delivered from the power of sin, all quickened into the divine and Godlike life, all summed up in Christ, Christ comprehending them all, and then Christ himself Head over all things to his Church, standing and giving unto God the glory for ever and ever, that the Father may be all in all. I see no abdication of a throne here. I see not even a change of dispensation, and I do not believe in any; but, as surely as God lives, our King lives, and our Priest still ministers before him; and still shall he be King over his people, though still, as the Christ, in his infinite goodness, abiding as subject unto God himself, God for ever and ever, and yet, in his complex person, making the Father to be all in all. Looking forward to that glorious consummation, we can join again in the jubilant hymn we sang just now, —
“Hallelujah! — hark! the sound,
From the centre to the skies,
Wakes above, beneath, around,
All creation’s harmonies:
See Jehovah’s banner furl’d,
Sheathed his sword! He speaks, — ’tis done
And the kingdoms of this world
Are the kingdoms of his Son.
“He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway;
He shall reign when, like a scroll,
Yonder heavens have pass’d away:
Then the end; — beneath his rod,
Man’s last enemy shall fall;
Hallelujah! Christ in God,
God in Christ is all in all.”
Now let us begin at the beginning. This is very simple: “Christ is all.” Then may the Spirit of God help us to go on to the next round of the ladder: “Christ is in all his people.” There is the difficulty; is he in you, beloved? Have you received him by faith? Then comes the third step; this may be at present full of mystery, but we shall see it in brighter light by-and-by: God shall he all in all. So shall he be to us even now. Amen and Amen.