“He is not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’.” (Acts 17:27b-28a) What does this mean to you? It can legitimately be taken in a couple of different ways, and both are, I believe, intended.
First, “in Him” means “from Him,” “of Him,” “by His provision.” That’s the way I have always interpreted this passage in my own mind, and I believe it is a true interpretation. But there is another sense which is equally justified by the text and equally true, though a little more difficult to wrap one’s mind around.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24b) We have no problem saying that God is everywhere, but think about it. What does that mean? God is spirit. Though we may think of Him in terms of the vigorous older man on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, that is a misconception. God fills the heavens and the earth. In Him we literally live and move and have our being. Not merely from Him, but in Him.
When Jesus teaches His disciples (including us) to pray, “Our Father Who is in Heaven, . . . ” the word He uses, ouranos, refers not only to the spiritual plane we think of as Heaven, the home of God. It does mean this, by implication, but the actual raw meaning of the word is: the expanse of the sky with all things visible in it, the aerial heavens (clouds, storms, thunder, lightning, birds, tall buildings, daisies, automobiles, etc.), the starry heavens (outer space). So we’re talking about a physical place, and the word translated most often heaven might be more accurately rendered (I’m told) heavens. It refers to everything we see–the space around us, above us in the earth’s atmosphere, and beyond us in outer space. “Do I not fill the heavens and earth?”
It sounds almost blasphemous, but scripture upholds the idea. We live our lives, whether in the Kingdom or out, in God. Literally in God. This is a little too big for most folks, myself included to comprehend. God, therefore (and for other reasons), reveals Himself to us in Christ. Jesus is God in the flesh, is co-eternal with God, is God Himself, and embodies the entire nature and fullness of God bodily. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9) Remember that God’s fullness fills everything, everywhere, and beyond. And that fullness dwells in Christ–all of it! Jesus told Philip, “The person who has seen Me has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the father’?” (John 14:9) Jesus and the Father are one–literally, fully, and in every way. He who has seen Jesus has seen the Father.
“He (Jesus) that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10) So not only was Jesus filled with all the fullness of the Godhead, but He now once again fills all things. So God is everywhere–including the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This almost begins to sound like pantheism, which teaches that everything is god, but it is a great leap from “God fills Heaven and earth” to “Everything is god.” Everything is not God, though everything is from Him and dwells in Him.
Now we go one step further. Not only does God the Father fill the Son in all His fullness, but the Son fills His church in all His fullness. “(the church) is His (Christ’s) body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way”. (Ephesians 1:23)
We don’t always, or even often, see this in the church. The church is made up of imperfect people, and too frequently of people who have made no firm committment to becoming disciples of Christ. The fullness of God doesn’t fill those who call themselves the church, but those who truly and fully believe that God has raised Christ from the dead, with all the implications of that mighty act.
This is one reason for Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians that the Messiah might dwell in their hearts through faith. It is only through true faith–faith that changes our hearts and therefore our actions and attitudes–that the Messiah may dwell in our hearts. Paul’s second request is that the Ephesians, being firmly established in love, might truly comprehend the immensity, the hugeness, the all encompassing and all filling love of God, including the Messiah’s love (this is something that can’t be known intellectually), so that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.
That fullness of God comes with heart knowledge of the love of God. It all, always comes down to love, doesn’t it? And the first step in real love is always to “love the Lord your God” with everything you’ve got. We can’t do that. But in God’s mercy and grace, He makes it possible. He gives the ability when we ask and keep on asking. And He will grant our earnest desire to know Him and to love Him, for He is not far from any of us. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being.
May the grace of God fill you and bring you into oneness with Him,