Last Sunday my pastor urged us to meditate on the unsearchable riches of Christ, a phrase found in Ephesians. In my next few posts I’m going to share what I think of when I hear the phrase “unsearchable riches of God.” Writing about them is not, however, the same as meditating on them. But I’m doing that, too.
The word for “unsearchable” is by far the most common English rendering of the Greek word ανεξιχνιαστος , but it has also been translated boundless, unfathomable, fathomless, unsearchable, endless, unending, untraceable, unsurveyable, indetectable, untrackable, unexploreable, and inexhaustible.
The word I would use is not among these, but seems related to me. In scripture, the riches of Christ have frequently been overwhelming, and virtually incomprehensible. Sometimes this pearl of great price is actually unbearable to contemplate, literally stunning.
Heirs of God and Co-Heirs with Christ
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)
When we talk about being heirs, we’re talking about an inheritance. Anthropomorphic language to be sure, but that’s how scripture communicates. Scripture is always bringing things down to our level, using language we might be able to understand. We inherit everything God is, everything God has, just as Christ did. We are co-heirs with Christ. Whatever Christ is or has, we are and have as well. Nothing is left out of this inheritance because of our humanity.
Nothing is left out because of our humanity. This is one of the most personally relevant aspects of the Incarnation. Jesus was completely human, so for us there is no longer any “just a man,” or “I’m only human.”
If you are concerned about issues of arrogance and humility, that’s valid. Notice that Paul considers suffering as integral to receiving our inheritance. Indeed, embracing our suffering cannot be separated from receiving our inheritance. Like those movies about the deaths of rich uncles, there’s a catch. It is conditional, but not upon getting married or spending the night in a haunted house. Our inheritance is based on our actual embrace of suffering. What that means for you may differ from what it means for me.
Seated with Christ in Heavenly Places
God raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)
This unsearchable treasure is all past tense, meaning it’s finished, it’s a done deal. You may be seated in front of your monitor, but you are also (right this moment) seated on the throne with Christ. We are always in God’s presence, but our spiritual location is worthy of contemplation. Paul wasn’t telling us about something in the future, after we die. You and I have been seated on the throne with Christ for a while now. It is a presupposition, a fact, one of the assumption upon which we build our lives. What that means to you may differ from what it means to me.
Something is Missing in the Afflictions of Christ for his Body
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Col 1:24)
Even though this runs counter to all we’re taught in Sunday school, church, and many seminaries, it is nevertheless true. Something is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his Body, and that lack needs to be filled by us.
Whatever this suffering entails, it is not a punishment, and it is not to earn our salvation. This suffering is on behalf of the Body of Christ, the church, and is evidence of our love for one another. There is no separating our sanctification from suffering and love. Our rigid, limited doctrinal formulas makes it difficult to explore what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions on our behalf. It is, nevertheless, something we need to ponder, something to meditate on.
[This is the first of a brief series on the unsearchable riches of God, and is in the general category of “mysticism.” For more posts under the “mysticism” label, click here.]