All in All

A random search of any database of writings such as my digital Bible resource library, will show that authors use the phrase “all in all” to mean “everything considered.” We might say, “Everything considered, the trip to the doctor was a relief.” And of course, there is a great deal of meaning behind that comment when we make it. “The diagnosis may not have been all we wanted; but all-in-all, it could have been a lot worse considering the test results.” This is the way we use the phrase “all in all.” 

Most of the time the phrase as it appears in the Bible is used this way; but in other cases, it has a special meaning with reference to God. The apostle Paul uses it to answer the question, “How much will be under God’s rule when everything is said and done?” How much will be subjected to God? The answer is everything. After the final judgement everything will be subject to Jesus and then the saving work of Jesus will be complete, and he will return from the campaign to the throne room with God. This is what it means when Paul writes that Jesus “Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)

There is a lesson here on how to think about the negatives that we experience in life. We Christ-followers can reframe our negative experiences into God’s ultimate category of “all in all”. We can do this in advance — without waiting until we get to heaven. With Romans 8:28 in mind we can acknowledge that there is just one real category. There are no positives and negatives. God has only one category: “all in all”. When the calculations are all in and the sum total is finally clear, the math will not show a positive or negative integer. It will be labeled “all in all” because all (the total) will be “in all” — that is, in the category of all that has been submitted to God. 

So when I have a negative experience, it is not ultimately negative. It will go in the plus column instead of the negative column. God will work it out for good according to his purposes for me as I live out his call on my life. When Joseph didn’t know where to look next when his father Jacob had sent him out to check on his brothers, he might have given up and returned home, thus avoiding being sold by his brothers as a slave to a caravan headed for Egypt. Instead, he met a guy who knew where the brothers had gone, and he did find them (Genesis 37:15). He might have said to himself, “What a piece of good luck! “But then when he was thrown into the pit by his brothers, he might have changed that and said, “What a piece of bad luck!” 

Things are confusing that way. We don’t know how to categorize our experience. We cannot see far enough into the future to know how things might turn out. But God not only sees into the future, He channels both negatively and positively perceived experiences into one stream. That stream is called the “all in all.”  By faith we can dissolve the artificial categories, avoid any unnecessary unhappiness associated with the negative, and find joy in the all-in-all.  

1 Corinthians 15:28 & Romans 8:28. 

Stephen Williams 9/29/2023