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Ray Bell | Coromandel Valley, South Australia
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Coro Baptist Church
272 Ackland Hill Road
Coromandel East, South Australia
Coro Baptist Church
P.O. Box 264
Blackwood, South Australia 5051
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God the Father All in All
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Coromandel Baptist Church

Sunday 17 January 2010 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Philippians 2:1-11

God the Father, All in All

On Sunday we continue the series on the Fatherhood of God, on this occasion taking up the fact that God the Father will be ‘all in all'. This phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 15:28, where the apostle Paul speaks of the great culmination of history in which the Father is fully worshipped and adored. It echoes the phrase that Paul uses in Philippians 2:11, where Paul also says that all ‘will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'. That Jesus is Lord is glorious, and incontestable. His Lordship, however, is because of his love for and submission to the Father's will. It is not something he has constructed of himself, by his own hand, for his own purpose. Thus, as he is worshipped and adored, the Father is glorified, and the whole family of the Father, adopted in and through the Son, stands settled under the Father's hand. The whole of creation will be at rest, since the Lord of all will be the Father's beloved Son, who will lead the whole creation to its appointed glory.

It goes without saying that the relationship between the three Persons of the Triune Godhead has been the subject of much theological reflection. What we can readily say is that the primacy of the Father in relation to the Son and the Spirit in no way diminishes their status...all are ‘coequally and coeternally God' with regard to their essence. However, in regard to the Persons of the Trinity there is an effective and functional headship that has been expressed in the old phrases ‘the first, second and third Persons of the Trinity' (referring to the Father, the Son and the Spirit respectively). Sometimes the Father is called the fons divinitatis, i.e. the ‘fountain head' of the Trinity. The Son is the Son of the Father. The Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. None of this diminishes the deity of any of the Persons (in the same way that we might say ‘The Vice President is second only to the President', without implying that there is a difference in their fundamental human nature). The delight of the Son and the Spirit is that the Father be glorified, and the delight of the Father is that they be exalted.

Given all this 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 gives a beautiful description of the action of the Father and the Son in bringing the whole creation to its goal. The passage is speaking of the resurrection. Jesus has been raised from the dead, but as the ‘first fruits' of those who are yet to be raised. The goal is the parousia i.e. when he is with us in person, when his presence is revealed. As the Last Adam, Jesus presents the whole of the creation (now the same as the ‘kingdom of God' cf. Rev. 11:15) to God the Father, after he has finally abolished all rule and contrary authority (1 Cor. 15:24). This he has effectively done already in his death and resurrection (cf. Col. 2:13-15), but at the parousia, the victory is made manifest to sight through the general resurrection of the dead (thus 1 Cor. 15:26 cf. Rev. 20:14a). Currently, God the Father is the one putting all things under the feet of his beloved Son (1 Cor. 15:27), but when all things are brought under his rule, the Son in turn gives all things to the Father, that God (the Father) may be all in all through Jesus' subjection to the Father.

How can this be? In this passage Paul is speaking of Jesus as the Last Adam. As such, he is the head not just of a new humanity, redeemed by his blood, but of the whole of the creation. He is the fulfilment of Psalm 8 (cf. Heb. 2:5-13). All things are now under the feet of the True Man. In him, the living image of the Father is seen and-fully realised-is revealed to be the one ruling over all things. As the True Adam, our Lord Jesus leads the whole of creation in worship and submission to the Father, the creator-redeemer of the cosmos (as made clear in Phil. 2:8-11).

However, Paul is not simply saying that the Father will mean ‘all things' to us (after the manner of our poetic description ‘You mean the world to me'), but that the Father will be all in all. This parallels Paul's words in Ephesians 2:19-23, where the apostle speaks of the Father demonstrating his power in the resurrection of the Son, by which means he is now seated at the right hand of the throne of heaven, over all powers and dominions, for all ages. All things are now under the feet of the Son, whom the Father has given as head over all things to the Church. This church is ‘His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all'. Because believers are in the beloved Son, they are inseparable from him. The fullness of Christ himself (i.e. that fullness that Jesus knows from the Father) is ours in Christ.

It is not as though God has Jesus, the Beloved Son, and then other multitudes of adopted sons, who are more or less beloved. No, rather in the Beloved Son, we are all as loved as the Son by the Father! We are one with Christ in God! Then, on that day, God will be ‘all in all' in terms of our experience and knowledge of this. There will be no room in us, in Christ, for any one else but God the Father. No idolatry will be possible. And, because of this, our joy will be full. The status we have in Jesus now, is no less than that which we will have then. Now we know it as in the seed taking root in the heart by faith. Then we will know it in the full harvest of the Spirit without hindrance. The status we have in Christ now is no less than what will be our status then. The difference will be in the manner of its possession.

Can we see ourselves this way, even when we feel the pain and shame of our failures pressing in on us? These have all been defeated on the Cross and put of out of action through the resurrection. In the Father's eyes, we are his beautiful and perfect children in Christ. His dealings with us are full in accord with our status. There is no wrath abiding on us in Christ. All sin has been removed in Christ. In Christ the Father's face shines fully upon us. In Jesus, we are both justified, and sanctified, and so now we await only the glorification that comes with the full adoption, the redemption of our bodies. And, can we see one another like this? Do we look at one another as we really are, in Christ? Do we really see ourselves and our brothers and sisters as new creations? All are immersed in him, loved totally by him. Do we see this, even under the conditions of God's loving discipline upon us? If we have the slightest shred of legality in relation to God (to refer back to Thomas Chalmers) we raise a matter of distrust between God and man. We become Job's comforters too quickly (not that one should ever join Job's comforters, be it quickly or slowly!), in that we wrongly assume so readily a connection between suffering, punishment, sin and wrath. In Christ, however, we are the beloved of the Father, in the Beloved himself.

Thus, in this current creation, we are led by the Spirit of Father to cry ‘Abba, Abba', as the continual outpouring of the heart before him. We will see more of this next week, but we know that this-the most tender and deep (and dignifying) of all utterances-is only possible in the total knowledge of the forgiveness of our sins.

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