What does Ephesians 1:23 mean?
ESV: which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
NIV: which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
NASB: which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
CSB: which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
NLT: And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
KJV: Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
NKJV: which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Verse Commentary:
Paul concludes this chapter by referring to the church as Christ's body. This is a common metaphor, and relatively easy to apply. We are the "hands and feet" of Jesus in this world. We are meant to influence the people around us, caring for them and working for good. This means different Christians will have different talents, skills, and roles to fulfill in serving God on earth (1 Corinthians 12).

The second part of this verse, however, is much trickier to interpret: "the fullness of him who fills all in all." The most reasonable interpretation is that Christ fills, for Himself, the church with all blessings. This coordinates well with Ephesians 4:10–11, which also refers to Christ "fill[ing] all things." Christ doesn't need the church to be made complete, but God's plans do tie together all that the Father wills (Ephesians 1:10). The church, then, is something Christ makes full through His gift of all blessings.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 1:15–23 celebrates the value of our salvation in Christ. Paul's prayers for the believers of Ephesus not only include praise for their success, but an appeal for their growth. This passage heavily involves the supremacy of Christ. As believers, we are not only followers of Jesus, but also recipients of His blessings and power. Paul seeks to remind the Ephesian church that a complete understanding of Christ leads to a greater love and a stronger faith.
Chapter Summary:
The first chapter of Ephesians contains two main passages. The first describes the blessings Christians have been given as a result of our salvation through Christ. Paul explains these through praises directed to God the Father. The second section both commends the Ephesians for their reputation, and prays that Christ would bring them into an even fuller and more aware faith.
Chapter Context:
The first three chapters of Ephesians are doctrinal, while the last three are practical. Chapter 1 establishes Paul's view on the value of our salvation in Christ, and the blessings we obtain from it. He does this in the form of praise, directed at God, and describing in detail what it means to have an inheritance in heaven. Later chapters will build on these ideas as Paul connects who we are in Christ to how we should live as Christians.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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