We have seen that when the goal of the ages is expressed in the words "that God may be all in all", something essentially different from the blind unintelligent unconscious obedience of all creation is involved, for man is a rational being, he is a moral agent, he is actuated by desire, he is influenced by example, he can turn away from the truth, he can say "no" to his Maker. He can be rewarded for service or punished for iniquity, and if God is yet to be "All in all", with regard to man, then such a goal presupposes a working of laws, and movements of grace that are unknown to the present world of created things. In this article we devote ourselves to the examination of those passages, other than 1 Cor. 15:28, where the expression "all in all" is used.
While an exact verbal parallel with 1Cor. 15:28 does not exist, there are four other passages in which the variation is so slight that it would be sacrificing genuine illumination for mere pedantic scruples if we denied ourselves the benefit of their comparison. The passages are as follows: 1 Cor. 12:6; 1 Cor. 15:28; Eph. 1:23; Eph. 4:6; Col. 3:11.
Let us examine these passages. The first one has to do with "spiritual gifts" (1 Cor. 12:1). These spiritual gifts were very diverse in character. One believer had the spirit of wisdom, another the gift of healing, yet another the gift of prophecy, another the speaking in an unknown tongue; nevertheless, however diverse these gifts may have been "All these worketh that one and self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" (1 Cor. 12:11). As an illustration of this "diversity in unity" the Apostle takes the human body, with its head, its hands, its feet, its organs of sight, of smell, of hearing, and even those members which have less honor, or are uncomely; and he declares, that "God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him" (1 Cor. 12:18).
Paul then reverts to the original theme, namely that of "spiritual gifts" saying "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28). Now all this is but an expansion of the statement of verse 6: "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God Which worketh all in all" (1 Cor. 12:6).
In order to perceive the strong emphasis that is in this verse on the idea of "inworking", let us give the verse a literal translation "diversities of energema (inworkings) but it is the same God which energeo (inworketh) ta panta en pasin the all things in all".
We defer 1 Cor. 15:28, until we can approach it armed with the knowledge gained from other sources. Our next passage therefore must be Eph. 1:23. Here we meet with a quotation from Psalms 8, which figures also in the context of 1Cor. 15:28, namely the expression "all things under His feet", but as this demands separate treatment, we concentrate for the time being on the actual passage which uses the expression "all in all". "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth (ta panta en pasi) "all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23).
Just as in Col. 3:11 Christ and the church anticipates the goal of the ages, so Eph. 1:23 anticipates the goal as expressed in Eph. 3:19 "That ye may be filled with (or unto) all the fulness of God." Christ fills all things. He that descended to the lower parts of the earth, ascended also far above all heavens, with this object "That he might fill all things" (Eph. 4:10). Not only must He fill all things, we find in Colossians one an intermingling of creative power and supremacy and redemptive preeminence associated with the idea of fulness.
The next passage indicated is Eph. 4:6, where the emphasis is upon the unity of the Spirit, and the completely satisfying fulness of our God and Father.
"Who is over all, and through all, and in you all" (or as it may read "in all things to you') (Eph. 1:6) a passage that clearly anticipates the day when "God shall be all in all."
The last reference is Col. 3:11. Its context take us back to the original creation of man and the evident purpose there expressed (Col. 3:10), but this demands a study itself. Here, moreover, the new man is stressed, another anticipation of that day when He shall make "all things new". This aspect too we must consider separately. The immediate stresses the passing away of all those differences of race, creed and caste, of Greek and Jew, who in their new relationship find their wisdom and righteousness alone in Him (1 Cor. 1:30); of circumcision and uncircumcision who find their full acceptance in Him (Gal. 6: 15,16); of Scythian, bondman and free who alike find their complete emancipation in Him.
Nothing short of this spirit will fulfill "the End" (1 Cor. 15:24) towards which the purpose of the ages slowly but surely moves. This, and nothing short of this, will fulfill the words of 1 Cor. 15:28 "That God may be all in all."