The Fullness

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Most of us have a favorite verse of Scripture and, if asked, could tell why we like that text a lot. Could we also explain how the verses just before and after our favorite impact and help unpack its full meaning?

Without revealing its location yet, I’ll tell you my favorite verse for today and walk you through an exercise to help us “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, another favorite). Here’s my never-heard best verse, in New King James English:

. . . that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him

How do you feel? Did you get a spiritual buzz from reading my favorite? Maybe not. Now read it again, if you will, and out loud if you can. If you know where this verse is in the Bible (without looking), you’re one in a hundred. If you never heard it before, or don’t recall hearing it, you’re not alone.

‘Tens’ sections

Did you notice how the verse is divided into three parts of ten words each, plus a two-word ending? Look at it again, count, and think hard about what you just read and heard.

The first ten words link this verse with the previous verse in the text. They continue its thought by telling us when God the Father will finally complete His perfect will, His good pleasure, His self-purpose — things He has already made known and begun, as the previous verse says. And when will His perfect will, good pleasure, and self-purpose finally be completed? My favorite verse promises it will happen in the fullness of time.

When will that be? The urgent thing now is not to calculate a time in the future when God will declare time to be full. Rather, it’s to focus on grasping the core truth of today’s verse — its middle clause (read it aloud): “He might gather together in one all things in Christ”!

Those ten words reveal the essential content of God’s perfect will, good pleasure, and self-purpose (of the previous verse), which He will accomplish when time is full. Those ten words are at the heart not only of our verse but also of the Christian gospel. They are good news for a broken world. Good news indeed!

Our verse’s third ten-word segment amplifies the “all things” of its main middle section. Check it out, above. And its final two words — in Him — reaffirm the main section’s 9th and 10th words on how this ultimate unification of all things will be achieved: in Christ. Got it?

Meaning

Time to review: Read our best-verse-never-heard aloud again (below), emphasizing the middle ten words in italics. Then we’ll tell its location:

. . . that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him (Ephesians 1:10, emphasis added).

What does this remarkable verse by Paul early in Ephesians mean? Think about it before reading the next sentence.

In the context of this epistle and the new covenant, our verse speaks in far-reaching terms about God’s plan to reconcile all persons who are separated from others and alienated from Him by their sin, to renew all pieces of the natural order that are polluted and dying because of our sin, and to do all this by and for His Son, Jesus Christ.

This separation and corruption among people and things are not described in our verse or its near context. Naming a few examples will help make it clear. Jews vs. Gentiles, male vs. female, and slave vs. free are among the splits in Scripture. Think also of nation vs. nation, rich vs. poor, white vs. black, and other social, ethnic, gender, religious, and political schisms — the realities of our human condition.

Changed by God’s love

What a divided and damaged world we inhabit! Our diversity is not the big problem, but our selfish heart hatred for people unlike us will ultimately divide and destroy us all, if not checked.

The Christian gospel announces that our selfishness and heart hatred can be checked — forgiven and transformed by God’s love in and through Jesus. As we confess our sin and turn to Christ in faith and fellowship through the written Word and Holy Spirit, love, acceptance, and forgiveness for others kicks in. Put Him to the test today, and watch reconciliation go to work big time!

Help change today’s best verse from never heard to ever heard. In a hateful and hostile world, people need the marvelous message of reconciliation with God, others, and nature — now! And they need the amazing assurance that universal peace will surely come when, in the fullness of time, all things on earth and in heaven will be reconciled, gathered together in one body, even in Christ.

We bless the Lord for the spiritual reconciliation we have found in Jesus. In gratitude for our peace with God, we practice life with others now as if the final reunion of all people and things in perfect harmony were a reality. In our hearts and prayers, it already is!

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Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.