Jesus is not contrasting service and worship and saying that worship is better. No, Jesus is contrasting “many things” with “One Thing.” We are consumed, absorbed, worried, and vexed with many things – serving, witnessing, preaching, giving, writing, singing, attending meetings, reading, studying, building churches, fellowshipping – when Jesus says only One Thing is needed, and Mary has discovered it, and it will not be denied her. What is the One Thing?In order to grasp God’s purpose for all things let us look at several Scriptures.
“Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:9-11).
What does this passage tell us? First, that there is a Will, and it has been revealed to us. Second, that God’s Will is “all things in Christ.” Third, that everything is working according to this purpose. Let us look at these three points more particularly.
The Revealed Will of God
There is a Will, a purpose, a reason, a goal towards which God is moving. Something is intended. A result is sought after. God is not floating us along aimlessly towards everything in general and nothing in particular, but He is moving us towards something. Since He exists outside of time, the End is already accomplished from God’s perspective. To us, who are still bound by time, things do move forward. We have a past, a present, and a future, while God inhabits all of these at once. Knowing that there is a Will and that the Lord is bringing us towards something is clearly for our benefit. God wants us to know His Will that we may enter into it and work in harmony with Him, cooperating together. Why does He not just do what He wants? Why bother to reveal it to us at all? Because we are part of the Will.
Most of the world’s philosophy is based on mankind’s attempt to answer these questions: who am I, where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going? These questions can only be answered when we consider them in the light of God’s ultimate Will. There is a purpose, a reason for being, a reason for creating, a reason for living; a purpose which is larger than us, but includes us.
I ate breakfast in a diner once that had a sign on the wall that read, “If there is a will, I want to be in it.” I’m not sure what the intended message was, but it immediately resonated with me. I want to be in the Will of God! And I believe every Christian wants the same thing.
All Things in Christ
What is the Will of God? “That… He might gather together in one all things in Christ.” God only has one need, one desire, One Thing that He wants to accomplish, and once we see this we will find everything else is peripheral to this One Thing. What does God wish to accomplish? God’s ultimate Will and desire is to sum up everything into Christ, so that Christ is All in All.
From henceforth, when I talk about God’s Will I am speaking of His eternal purpose and plan of summing up everything into Christ and putting everything under His feet. I am not talking about God’s will for you personally, or God’s will for your ministry or business. These may be terribly important to you, but what we are considering now is something which transcends these matters and touches upon the ultimate Will of God for all generations, all people, all nations, the whole of creation – the One Thing He is after.
Now we understand why Mary is said to have discovered that One Thing that God wants, that One Thing that He is after, and why she has forevermore taken her place at the feet of Jesus. Food, fun, fellowship, friendship, all is forgotten. She exists to wash His feet with tears, anoint His feet, and hear Him there at His feet. “Kiss the Son,” Psalms 2:12 says. In this matter it is not a kiss of greeting on the cheek, or even the kisses of His mouth which speak of the love between the Bride and the Bridegroom (Song of Solomon). It is kissing the feet in subjection to the One Whom God has appointed as the Heir of All Things. The kissing of the feet of the Son, and the sitting at His feet, is the acknowledgment of all that the Father has vested into the Son and the recognition that everything has been placed below His feet, beginning with US.
Everything Relates to This Will
Thus far we have seen that there is a Will, and that God’s Will is for Christ to fill all things. There is a third thing to be seen: “[God]… works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Everything that is spoken, revealed, or done by the Lord is connected in some way to the One Thing. We might call it the Cosmic Will, or the Universal Will, or the Mind of the Spirit, or the Prime Directive, or simply the One Thing. However we choose to describe it, that is what God is after. It is His Will, His Desire, His Purpose, His Need, His Heart.
If we read and apply ourselves to the Scriptures – the books of Moses, the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation – we will eventually see One Thing taking shape and coming into being. It is this one, continuous, unbroken thread of His Will which weaves its way throughout all of God’s dealings with man for the past six thousand years, having its beginning in eternity past and reaching its conclusion in eternity future towards One Thing.
But more importantly, we see that everything is moving in relationship towards God’s End. It is the “why” that explains God’s reason for creating the world, heaven, hell, the devil, and man himself. It is the motive for sending the Word to be flesh and live as a Man, to die on a cross, to be raised to life, and to be exalted to God’s right hand. It is the impetus which caused God to pour out His Spirit on all flesh and establish the Ekklesia. It is His purpose in judging the world and creating a new heaven and a new earth.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes it as the Mind of the Spirit:
“Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:27-29).
Einstein wanted to know the Mind of God. Here, we have it. If we change the order of the first verse, it may help us to see it more clearly without changing the meaning: “He makes intercession for the saints according to the Will of God BECAUSE He knows the Mind of the Spirit.” We know from the Book of Hebrews that “He who searches the hearts” is Christ, and He “that makes intercession for the saints” is Christ (Hebrews 4:12; 7:25).
Because Christ knows the Mind of the Spirit and He is making intercession for us according to the Will of God we know that all things work together according to His purpose. And to leave no doubt as to the purpose, we are told that the purpose is “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Christ as All in All.
We frequently quote these verses and interpret them to mean that no matter what happens, good or bad, God is going to make it all work out for our good, and it will all turn out right in the end. That is not all that Paul is saying. What he is telling us is that all things are moving in relation to God’s purpose of summing up everything into Christ. God’s End is Christ as All in All. Everything in heaven and on earth is moving in relation to this.
So in Romans we are told that God is “working all things together… according to His Purpose” and in Ephesians we are told that God is “working all things after the counsel of His own will.” The key phrase here is “all things”. How do we judge if a thing is of God or not? We need only determine its relationship to the One Thing. Either it is in harmony with the One Thing or it is one of the “many things” which may be good, spiritual, or moral, but does nothing to move us towards God’s eternal purpose.
God’s Goal: The Preeminence of Christ
Of course, there are other Scriptures which refer to God’s Will in Christ:
“And [Christ] is the head of the body, the church [Greek: ekklesia], who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence”(Col. 1:18).
Does Christ have the preeminence in this world? In the Ekklesia? In our family? In our heart of hearts? Not always. Sinners rule the world, “saints” rule the church, we rule our own families (which accounts for our failed marriages and broken homes), and we govern our own hearts, doing as we see fit. Yet the Will of God is clear: that Christ would have the preeminence in all things. Obviously we are not there yet:
“But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus… for whom are all things and by whom are all things” (Heb. 2:8-10).
Do we see it yet? Not in its fullness, no. We have a little here, and a little there. Where this has already happened, where we actually see and experience Christ having the preeminence, it is called the Kingdom of God. It is not a visible thing, but an invisible thing, for Jesus said the Kingdom is not seen, but is within you. Eventually the Kingdom of God will swallow up the entire Creation and Christ will have the preeminence in all things. Why? Because all things are for Him, and all things were by Him. That is what this verse is saying.
For now, when we abide in Him we are full of His Life individually, and this is a beginning, but it is largely invisible. He fills us and to some extent He is seen in us once we are conformed to His Image. But filling the Ekklesia is not the end, but the beginning. The end must include “all things,” not just the Ekklesia:
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phl. 2:9).
The key words in the verses we have discussed thus far are “every” and “all.” In these Scriptures our eyes are opened and our vision is enlarged to understand that God’s ultimate purpose is that Christ would have the preeminence in ALL things, that He would fill ALL in ALL, and that ALL creation would reflect His glory.
May the Lord continually open our eyes to give Him the One Thing He desires. Amen.