You are my strength when I am weak You are the treasure that I seek You are my all in all.
Seeking You as a precious jewel Lord, to give up I’d be a fool You are My all in all.
(Song: You Are My All in All by Dennis Jernigan)
The phrase “all in all” occurs four times in the New Testament. Let’s notice:
1. Colossians 3:11, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”
Biblical unity is a result of Christ being “all and in all.” (a) Christ is to be “all.” He is to be our focus (Hebrews 12:1-2). He is to be our pattern of life (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21). (b) Christ is to be “in all.” He dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). His will is to live within us (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15). Relationships should be Christ-centered.
2. Ephesians 1:22-23, “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 Him who fills all in all.”
The church is, in God’s plan, to be filled with His fullness. A.T. Robertson explains, “We see in Ephesians the Dignity of the Body of Christ which is ultimately to be filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19) when it grows up in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; 4:16)” (A.T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, studylight.org). Albert Barnes comments, “Mr. Locke renders it, ‘which is his body, which is completed by him alone,’ and supposes it means that Christ is the head, who perfects the church by supplying all things to all its members which they need” (Barnes’ Notes, studylight.org). Both of these views take “fullness” in the passive sense (that which is filled) and as modifying its immediate antecedent – “body” (Gary Workman, The Book of Ephesians, Spiritual Sword Lectureship book, editors Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren). Either way – whether Christ or God is doing the filling – the church’s fullness comes from its connection with the divine.
Even today, spiritual life, maturity, and success can be found only through this connection. God’s word was given so that we “may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We “are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Jesus told the disciples that it’s vital that they abide in Him (John 15:1-8). The church and Christians should be Christ-centered and connected with God and His will.
3. 1 Corinthians 12:6, “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
The context concerns miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31). Some at Corinth were arrogant, puffed up, over the miraculous abilities which they had received (1 Corinthians 4:6-7).
Here is what they needed to appreciate. (a) The gifts that they had were from God (1 Corinthians 4:6-7; 12:6, 11, 18). (1) God worked “all.” He was the source of this power, not they, themselves. (2) He worked all “in all.” He distributed the gifts according to His will and wisdom (1 Corinthians 14:6, 11, 18). (b) These gifts were to be used to profit the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:7, 12-27; 14:26b; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
There is still an application. Instead of being arrogant, let us use whatever abilities we have to do the work of the church, to edify the body, to minister one to another, and ultimately to glorify God (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11). Christians who are Christ-centered seek to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:19-21). They realize that what ever abilities or talents which they possess are from Him, and ultimate credit belongs to Him.
4. 1 Corinthians 15:28, “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
How do we understand this? There are passages that seem to indicate that there will be no end to the reign of Christ (Luke 1:33; Revelation 1:6; 3:21; 11:15). However, this passage speaks of the Son being subject to God.
(a) Some believe that this has to do with Christ’s redemptive reign. (1) Wayne Jackson explains, “There is no problem if we recognize that the term ‘reign’ can be employed in different senses. In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle is discussing the Lord’s present reign as mediator between God and man – His redemptive reign (1 Corinthians 15:25 – B.H.). On the other hand, other passages address Christ’s regal glory as a divine being. In that sense – as deity – His will reign forever” (Wayne Jackson, Will Christ Reign Forever? Christiancourier.com). (2) Jim McGuiggan offers this explanation. “God gave glory and dominion to man but man refused to recognize his subservience to God. Man rebelled, refused to acknowledge God as his sovereign and sought to please himself… The ‘new’ Man (Jesus) will carry out God’s loving purpose and will at the same time acknowledge this submission to his Father by surrendering the royal power when he has completed the Father’s work (1 Corinthians 15:28)… This Man, acknowledged that his dominion was delegated to him!… What he surrenders is ‘delegated’ authority (it was ‘given’ to him; Matthew 28:18; John 17:2 and elsewhere). He does not now reign by virtue of his Godhead. When he complete the task of ‘delegated reign’ he will surrender that authority and reign by virtue of his deity!” [Drew Leonard, A.D. 70: Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism, pp.157-158 (quoting Jim McGuiggan, The Reign of God, pp. 96-97)]. Again, “At present he reigns with delegated authority. It isn’t primal authority, it is given to him. Prior to his incarnation, the word reigned by virtue of his Godhood. Having been made flesh, he takes the place of a servant and from that time to this he has exercised only what power that has been given to him. When the end comes… he will end that kind of rule. What happens then is another matter. Paul doesn’t go into it” (Jim McGuiggan, The Book of 1 Corinthians, p. 195).
(b) Some believe that the Son will continue in a role of subordination, even in the hereafter. Wayne Jackson writes, Christ was not subject to the Father before the incarnation (cf. Philippians 2:5-ff); he will be in some sense after his second coming. Why? The answer is not supplied. It could reflect a deeper level of devotion to humanity than anyone can possibly imagine from our vantage point – forever identified with the redeemed!” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 336). Much of what is to come remains a mystery.
There is a point that is being made that is not so difficult to understand. God will be exalted. The N.I.V. Study Bible understood this to mean, “The triune God will be shown to be supreme and sovereign in all things.”
Jesus lived a life on earth which glorified God (John 1:18; 17:4). He is still working towards this end. Let us be like Christ.