Home > Uncategorized > The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 8 of 155)

The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 8 of 155)

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ephesians 1.8b-1.10: With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Yesterday’s verse told us of the central and foundational truth that we have forgiveness of our trespasses through the death of Jesus Christ. Today, Paul has moved to praising God’s plan. In order to see the whole sentence at once, I thought it would make sense to go beyond the usual format; we were already half of a verse ahead, and so after today we will find ourselves 2 verses ahead. This is OK, as it will give us time for reflection later on (I still intend to hold to the promised number of parts to this series).

Anyway, I find this to be a difficult sentence, partly because it doesn’t seem to stand so well alone. I noticed that, if you look at verse 8, in this translation (NRSV), it is actually one sentence and the beginning of another. There seems to be disagreement among translations where the sentence breaks should be in this opening chapter, and I think that I heard somewhere that this is because, in the original Greek, there were no sentence breaks for a large section of the first part of this chapter. A quick google search has confirmed this for me (verses 3-14). In other words, much of this we have been looking at is all part of one long and sustained thought that Paul is having, and our translators have broken it up into smaller pieces, in order to fit better with the natural way we read and write English.

I suppose “the mystery of his will” that God has made known to us can be taken to be all that Paul has already described: God glorious grace in adopting us as his children, and in the forgiveness of our trespasses that we have through Jesus. When he says, “with all wisdom and insight,” Paul is either praising the wisdom and insight that God has in this plan itself, or that he has in making it known to us. Other translations attach this clause to the end of the previous sentence, so that the wisdom and insight is in lavishing his grace on us. Or perhaps I am trying to hard to find the object that this clause modifies; really God has wisdom and insight with respect to everything we have been talking about.

Anyway, he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to, again, his good pleasure. We must think of God as being joyful in revealing finally the heart of this beautiful mystery, the centerpiece of his plan, his incarnate Son and what he has done for us–things into which “angels long to look.” I’m reminded also of Christ telling people that many wise men and prophets longed to see what they were seeing, but did not.

The plan is for the fullness of time. I love this phrase. While we can barely imagine the future, and quickly forget what has gone before us, God’s plan takes everything into account, the fullness of time, the whole of history. As time fills out, the wisdom of God is revealed. He sees time all as a whole; it is practically unimaginable to us how God sees the whole story of our world. One of the reasons, though, I think that the bible even exists is to give us something of overview of this. It is the only document in the world where the background, guiding point of view for the whole project, so to speak, is actually God’s point of view, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

We are told that the plan is to “gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” This is a key aspect of Paul’s understanding of God’s work in Christ: it is bringing together heaven and earth. The work of Christ is to unite God’s realm, heaven, to man’s realm, earth. This is quite a comprehensive task! He is swooping down, drawing us up, reordering the creation so that it finally fulfills its purpose, for us and for all that he has made.

This fits well with all that Paul has already been describing. Recall how we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing.” For the first time, human beings have, through the work of Christ, access to God, and the power of his Kingdom, like never before. We have been drawn closer to heaven, because we are united to Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father. And through this, the power of the Kingdom of God is being brought to all of creation, and so the salvation of the world is being realized.

Tomorrow’s verse:

1.11: In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will…

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  1. September 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

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