GOD HAS BLESSED US WITH INSIGHT INTO THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL = THAT CHRIST SHOULD HAVE THE PREEMINENCE
All of us wrestle with the question: What is the will of God for my life? Why doesn’t God show me clearly what He wants me to be doing? Why does it seem so much like a mystery?
Review: In studying this first Chapter of Ephesians we have already learned much about who we are as Christians and what type of spiritual blessings God has showered upon us. Just as Paul was commissioned to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God and could be confident of God’s will for him, we have been commissioned to be saints — that is God’s will for us. We have been blessed with the riches of God’s grace = every spiritual blessing:
(1) First Spiritual Blessing — God chose us — to be holy and without blemish — to be saints; to be like the Lord Jesus
(2) Second Spiritual Blessing — God predestined us to adoption as sons — to be saints, conformed to the image of His Son
(3) Third Spiritual Blessing — God redeemed us and has forgiven us our sins — to free us from bondage to sin so that we can live like saints; willing servants of our Lord Jesus Christ
Now we are going to look at the Fourth Spiritual Blessing.
Klyne Snodgrass: Paul now shifts to the revelation of God’s plan and how that plan centered on Christ.
Frank Thielman: God made the mystery known to his people because it gave him pleasure to do this, and to do it in a way that made Christ of central importance. His revelation of the mystery to his people was part of his administrative work within history for accomplishing his ultimate purposes. . .
Here Paul says only that the mystery of God’s will, which he graciously made known to his people, reveals that God intends to sum up in Christ the disparate elements of the universe, both heavenly and earthly. Christ will emerge as the organizing principle of all creation.
Grant Osborne: One of the primary blessings lavished on us is knowledge—God’s “making known” (gnōrisas) the “mystery of his will” (1:9). Some have taken the “all wisdom and understanding” of verse 8 with what precedes, meaning that God has lavished his grace on us “with wisdom and insight.” However, it is best to take it with what follows, further defining the process of “making known” the divine mysteries to us. Wisdom and revelation are closely intertwined throughout Scripture, and God’s wisdom determined the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) when it was best to reveal the truths he had kept hidden throughout the old covenant period.
From eternity past God had decided how he would bring humanity back to himself through the death of his Son (see 1:5) and how he would bring history to an end, but he kept many of the details hidden until he determined the time was right. Paul’s point was that the time of fulfillment had arrived (see Mark 1:15), and the mysteries have now been made known. “Mystery” is connected in meaning with “apocalyptic,” referring to the process by which God reveals hidden truths (apokalypsis is the Greek title of the book of Revelation) and to the content of these truths.
All of this proceeds from God’s will—that which he determined long ago to do in order to redeem sinful humanity, bring this evil world to an end, and replace it with the new heavens and new earth. It is incredibly comforting to know that God’s sovereign will is ultimately behind the progress of history. This is called “salvation history”: God’s control of human history to end evil and bring about final salvation. Here, the mystery is the unification of the cosmos in Christ at the eschaton (the end of history). In 3:3, 4, “mystery” refers to the coming of Christ, in 5:32 to Christ and the church, and in 6:19 to the gospel of Christ. In Colossians 1:26–27 it is the inclusion of the Gentiles, and in Revelation 10:7 it is the events of the eschaton. In general, then, the mystery is the progress of God’s salvation from the coming of Christ to the end of this evil world and the arrival of the eternal reign of God.
This all takes place “in accordance with his good pleasure,” which demonstrates further the love of God for his redeemed people. He is pleased and filled with delight to see his salvation worked out in human history (as in 1:5) and to reveal to his followers the plan he has formed for accomplishing this. Note that this plan has been “purposed in Christ,” meaning that the Father and the preexistent Son devised this plan in union with each other. It was designed to be carried out by Christ in his coming to earth to become the atoning sacrifice on the cross (Phil 2:8).
In verse 10 we are told that this plan, devised by the Godhead “before the creation of the world” (1:4), was intended to “come into effect in the fullness of times,” a phrase paralleled in Galatians 4:4, which speaks of the birth of Christ in “the fullness of time.” This is similar to the summary of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled,” meaning that God’s plan has now completed the old covenant period and begun the new covenant with the arrival of the kingdom in Jesus. One could say here as well, “The time is up; God has arrived!” The term used for “plan” connotes the idea of administration, so one could translate this “come into effect when God administers and brings his plan of salvation to a close in history.” These days have initiated the end times, as God’s people will see
(1) his purposes fully realized in history and
(2) this world come to an end.
The final point of this section shows the true goal of his plan: “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” The Greek can be translated “to sum up all things in Christ,” but there is a difference of opinion as to the exact meaning of the verb. It includes the verb kephelaioō; some link this with kephalē (“head”) and translate “bring under one head, Christ.” However, the verb here does not connote headship but denotes “summing up” an argument. So it is best to interpret this as God summing up or unifying all creation in Christ.
The primary theme, “in Christ,” appears twice in the verse—“sum up all things in Christ, things in heaven and earth in him.” Christ will bring together all aspects of God’s diverse and disparate creation in himself. In 1 Corinthians 15:27–28 and Ephesians 1:22 God will place everything under Christ; in Colossians 1:20 God will reconcile all of creation to himself through Christ; and in Philippians 2:10 all things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will bow at his feet. This passage in a sense brings together all of these. Every part of creation—including the cosmic powers (Eph 3:10; 6:10–16)—will submit and pay tribute to Christ.
I. GOD BLESSED US WITH INSIGHT INTO THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL
Why? So that we don’t stumble around in the dark, never understanding how our life fits together and makes sense.
Instead, we can live as saints with insight into the will of God, understanding God’s purposes and plans for the future.
A. This Blessing of Wisdom and Insight is Practical
“which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight”
There is no dichotomy between head and heart knowledge in the Greek mind; your heart can only know through the head.
- Wisdom — the larger concept — wisdom in its broader sense; insight into the true nature of things
- Insight — the wisdom of action; the practical use of wisdom; the understanding that leads to right action
(cf. title of Christian radio program — “Insight for Living“)
These 2 Greek words are linked together in the Septuagint:
1) Solomon — 1 Kings 3:12
2) Proverbs (written by Solomon) — 1:2; 8:1
obviously not an academic subject or just ivory tower knowledge in view
John MacArthur: Sophia (wisdom) emphasizes understanding of ultimate things — such as life and death, God and man, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell, eternity and time. Paul is speaking of wisdom concerning the things of God. Phronesis (insight), on the other hand, emphasizes practical understanding, comprehension of the needs, problems, and principles of everyday living. It is spiritual prudence in the handling of daily affairs.
Klyne Snodgrass: No distinction is intended between the terms “wisdom” and “understanding.” The two words form a hendiadys—one idea conveyed through two words. . .
Does [the phrase “in all wisdom and understanding”] belong to verse 8b or verse 9a? Does Paul mean that God’s grace was lavished on us in all wisdom and understanding, or that with all wisdom and understanding God made known to us the mystery of his will? Either is possible, but the latter seems more fitting (cf. a similar theme in 1:17; 3:10–11).
Stephen Fowl: Paul’s combination of “wisdom” and “prudence” here connects wisdom, which involves knowing God, including one’s proper relation to God (e.g., Prov 1:2–7; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Isa 33:6), a wisdom that may stand in contrast to the wisdom of unbelievers (e.g., 1 Cor 1:21–25; 2:6–7; 3:19)—with prudence, which employs that right understanding of God and one’s relationship to God in order to live faithfully in concrete situations.
Recall that the prepositional phrase “in love” at the end of v. 4 can refer back to the discussion of our election and modify the participle “he predestined” in v. 5. Similarly here the prepositional phrase “in all wisdom and prudence” both reflects back to the grace that God has caused to abound in believers and points forward to the participle at the beginning of v. 9, referring to the means by which God has enabled us to comprehend the “mystery of his will.”
B. God is not Stingy with His Blessings (not like Scrooge)
v.3 — “every spiritual blessing“
v. 7 — “the riches of His grace“
All wisdom and insight
He made to abound unto us
Illustration: of a cup running over — granting something to someone richly so that they have it in abundance
2 Cor. 9:8; James 1:5
C. God Graciously Revealed This Insight to Us in the Proper Context of His Program for the Culmination of History
“He made known to us the mystery of His will,”
- Described as “the mystery of His will“
“mystery” = something once hidden and not revealed, but now made known openly — a secret (Not something we can’t take in or understand even when it is declared to us)
Background in pagan religions — special esoteric knowledge for the initiated; Instead by God’s grace it is practical knowledge for all of the saints
Once God reveals a mystery, He does not want it to remain a secret;
Problem: natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God
Concept applied to:
- divine plan of redemption as a whole
- particular things belonging to that divine plan
- inclusion of the Gentiles — 11:25; Ephes. 3:3, 9
- Transformation of Christians alive on earth at Christ’s coming — 1 Cor. 15:52
- Union of Christ and the Church — 5:32
- Mystery of lawlessness — 2 Thess. 2:7
- He wants us to know this and has determined that we shall know it
“according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him”
“according to His good pleasure“
“which He purposed in Him” = setting before oneself and so determining
- Understood in the proper context of his program for the culmination of history
“with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times”
“fullness of times” — kairos
Stephen Fowl: The phrase “fullness of times” is similar to Paul’s usage in Gal 4:4 where in “the fullness of time… [Christ is] born of a woman.” The difference is that in Galatians the birth of Christ signals the climactic moment in the world’s history. In Ephesians the plural “of times” indicates the end point, or telos, of God’s will, that toward which everything is ultimately moving. . .
in this context the administration of the fullness of times is when God brings all things in heaven and earth to their proper end through and in relation to Christ. The array of various images for describing this point in time should remind Christians that this truly is a mystery. Nobody knows when this will happen, how it will happen, or exactly what it will look like. The result, however, will be in accord with God’s will, and the result will represent the fulfillment of God’s best intentions for creation. Thus it must require the renewal of all things rather than their destruction. Moreover, at this point humans will be brought into a new and ever-deepening union with God. All Christian discussion of these ends will need to operate at least within these parameters. Obviously, these parameters can comprehend a variety of other images; they also, however, exclude images suggesting that God’s intentions can ultimately be thwarted or that Christ’s lordship will be constrained in any way.
- chronos — Gal. 4:4 — time measured quantitatively in days and months and years
- kairos — seasons; the critical epoch-making periods foreordained by God; the decisive times of fulfillment in the purposes of God
Here we are looking at the final culmination of human history; the close of a series of periods (dispensations) each of which had its peculiar character — speaking of the millennial kingdom and the eternal state with the new heavens and the new earth that will be ushered in
History is headed somewhere — the idea of a great household of which God is the Master and which has a certain system of management wisely ordered by Him.
II. THE UNIFYING PRINCIPLE OF THE WILL OF GOD IS THAT CHRIST SHOULD HAVE THE PREEMINENCE
“that is, the summing up of all things in Christ,
things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him”
Andrew Lincoln: It is not until v 10b, with the thought of the summing up of all things in Christ, that the content of the mystery of God’s will mentioned in v 9a is expressed. .
The summing up of all things in Christ means the unifying of the cosmos or its direction toward a common goal. In line with this letter’s close links with Colossians, a similar thought about Christ and the cosmos had been expressed in the Colossians hymn in terms of reconciliation and with explicit soteriological connotations (Col 1:20). Both passages appear to presuppose that the cosmos had been plunged into disintegration on account of sin and that it is God’s purpose to restore its original harmony in Christ. . .
The divine purpose is to sum up all things ἐν Χριστῷ. The ἐν αὐτῷ phrase at the end of the verse after the elaboration of τὰ πάντα repeats this thought.
Klyne Snodgrass: While the primary intent in this text does concern the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose at the end of time, Paul viewed that fulfillment as already having begun in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. He is already Lord of all times. Just as redemption is both present and future, the revelation of God’s will points both to the present and the future.
Illustration: In your job you need insight into the unifying principle that should govern your actions (Often: “to make money”)
Greek word for “summing up” — the Greek practice was to add up a column of figures and put the sum at the top. They would want to know “What’s the top line?” just as we ask “What’s the bottom line?” this is what is really important and ties everything together and helps make sense out of all the other numbers.
Also used of repeating summarily the points of a speech, gathering its argument together in summary form.
3 Ideas present in this picture:
1) Restoration — never lose sight of God’s original creation and what was lost through the Fall
2) Unity — in the end, all things will be restored to their intended function and to their unity by being brought back to the obedience of Christ; the gathering together of objects now apart and unrelated into final, perfect unity
Rom. 8:20-22; Heb. 2:8
Remember the Lord’s Prayer — “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven“
3) God wants to exalt His Son — He wants Christ to have the preeminence in everything; He will accomplish this purpose ultimately in history.
Clinton Arnold: This expression [“to bring under headship once again”] contributes to Paul’s larger argument that Christ is the solution to the problem of rampant rebellion against God, especially in the spiritual domain. Christ has begun to exercise his headship over the powers, but there will come a time when all of creation will have to submit to his authority as sovereign Lord. The final “in Christ” reiterates—in a way that seems redundant but is here simply emphatic—that Christ is the one who will serve as God’s agent in bringing all the rebellious creatures in all of creation under God’s sovereignty. Paul expressed a similar idea to the Philippians when he declared that there will be a day when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10–11).