In Ephesians 1:7b-10a, the apostle Paul says this:
“. . . in whom [Christ] we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his [the Father’s] grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth . . .”
I want to draw your attention to verses 8-10a:
“. . . which [the riches of God’s grace] he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth . . .”
In this passage, Paul is in the middle of a lengthy sentence in which he describes the main blessings that God has blessed His children with. He has just finished telling his audience that they have redemption in Christ through His blood, the forgiveness of their trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, and now he moves on to the next group of related blessings that He has given to His children.
First, God has made the riches of His grace to abound toward His children in all wisdom and prudence. Another way of translating this would be that He has lavished His grace on His people in all wisdom and insight.
Notice, first, that, not only has God demonstrated the riches of His grace by sending His Son to redeem His people through His blood, and to buy the forgiveness of their trespasses, but He has also lavished these riches of undeserved favor on His children. This speaks of giving them a superabundance of grace, or, as the apostle John put it, grace upon grace. And it’s not just the amount of grace that is meant by this — it’s how this grace has been given.
And how has it been lavished on God’s children? “In all wisdom and insight, making known unto us the mystery of his will . . .”
What does it mean that God has lavished His grace on His children in all wisdom and insight? Well, the rest of the passage tells us: by “making known unto us the mystery of his will”. So, it’s not God’s wisdom and insight that is mentioned here, but His children’s.
Why can’t this wisdom and insight be God’s? Well, because He is wise, but He doesn’t need insight to give people grace, since He knows all things. Also, the fact that Paul immediately follows this statement with, “making known unto us the mystery of his will” implies that wisdom and insight is required in order to know the mystery of God’s will. Why? Because it’s the mystery of God’s will. What does that mean? That it’s a secret that can only be known if God reveals it to someone. And how does He reveal it to people? By giving them wisdom and insight.
So, what is wisdom? Well, we shouldn’t understand it exactly as Proverbs describes it, because Paul isn’t writing to a Jewish audience, but to a Gentile audience that were pagans before they became Christians. So, what does Paul mean by it? It means the right exercise of the mind in grasping the truth, or understanding it. Basically, it means knowing and understanding God’s Word and believing it.
So, what is insight? This goes farther than wisdom, and refers to an appreciation of the truth, not only by the mind, but by the emotions, so that the truth is now pleasing to the one who is given this insight.
God has lavished His grace on His children by giving them wisdom and insight, so that they know the mystery of His will. But what is the mystery of His will? Well, first of all, it is God’s will to save His people from their sins through the blood of His Son, and forgive them all their trespasses. In a name, God’s will is the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul tells us elsewhere that Jesus Christ is the mystery of godliness.
But Paul tells us specifically what he means by God’s will in this passage:
“. . . making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, TO SUM UP ALL THINGS IN CHRIST, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth . . .”
As I said, Christ is the embodiment of God’s will. The gospel is the news of God’s will being accomplished.
But why did God make known to His children the mystery of His will? “In accordance with his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times . . .” The words “good pleasure” would be better translated “kind intention”, but His kind intention is according to His good pleasure.
So, first, God made known to His children His will due to His kind intention which he purposed in Him. Who’s the “Him” here? It is best to see this as referring to God the Father Himself, and not Christ, as the rest of this chapter may lead us to believe, since it doesn’t make much sense for God to purpose things in, or through, His Son, and Paul would be saying a very similar thing further on in this passage: “to sum up all things in Christ”, so he’d be saying “God purposed in Christ to sum up all things in Christ,” which is unnecessarily repetitious.
Therefore, we see that God made His will known to His children due entirely to His kind intention that He purposed in Himself. But why did He purpose to do this? “. . . unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times . . .” This would be better translated “. . . with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times . . .” (NASB).
So, why did God purpose to make this will known? In order to administrate, or manage His creation, in a way that was suitable to the fullness of the times.
What does Paul mean by the fullness of the times? He tells us in Galatians that, when the fullness of the times had come, God sent forth His Son. So, what is the fullness of the times? This time in which we are living, the last days between the two comings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But how exactly, and why, is God administrating in a way that is fitting for the fullness of the times? “. . . to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth . . .”
This is the essence of the mystery of God’s will; this is the essence of God’s kind intention that He purposed in Himself; and this is the administration of the fullness of the times — summing up all things in Christ, the Anointed One, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth.
But what does this mean? The phrase “to sum up” can also be translated “to gather together into one”, and means to bring everything together in perfect unity and completion.
But what are these “things” that Paul is referring to? They are all things, whether they be in the heavens, or outside the earth, or on the earth. We can get a better idea of what Paul means by this if we look at a passage that is parallel to this one in Colossians 1:15-20:
“. . . who is the image of the invisible God [Christ], the firstborn of all creation; for in him were ALL THINGS created, in THE HEAVENS and upon THE EARTH, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and UNTO [FOR] HIM; and he is before ALL THINGS, and in him ALL THINGS consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in ALL THINGS he might have the PREEMINENCE. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; and THROUGH HIM TO RECONCILE ALL THINGS unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon THE EARTH, or things in THE HEAVENS.”
So, what does this passage tell us about what things God is summing up in Christ? Well, the beginning of the passage speaks of all things that were created, which were created for Him, then it talks about Him having preeminence in all things, then God reconciling all things to Himself, both things on the earth, and things in the heavens. Notice how similar those three relationships between Christ and creation are to what Paul says in Ephesians about God summing up all things in Christ. What is the conclusion? That all things, without exception, are being summed up in Christ. That, is, the whole creation, primarily the people of God, is being gathered together into one in Christ — in who He is — the supreme Prophet, High Priest, and King — and what He has done, and is doing as the sacrifice for our sins and the Prophet, High Priest, and King.
So, if you’re a believer in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, how does this passage apply to you?
- God has lavished His grace on you in giving you wisdom and insight to make you know the mystery of His will.
- God did this to you according to His kind intention that He purposed in Himself, with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times.
- God is summing up all things, including you, in Christ, including things in the heavens and on the earth.
If you don’t have wisdom and insight into the mystery of God’s will — the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are not included, in a good sense, in the summing up of all things in Christ, but you are outside of Christ, and will be cast into the eternal outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, if you don’t change your mind and believe that God has sent His Son to earth to become a man, to punish Him for our sins, to raise Him from the dead, and to seat Him on His throne as the Lord of the universe. God is now commanding all people everywhere to change their minds because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through the Man He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. Change your mind and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead as the only grounds for God’s forgiveness of your sins, and He will forgive you and give you eternal life.