We are looking at verses 3-14 of Ephesians 1, which constitute a single paragraph. In the Greek text it would appear that these verses actually constitute one sentence. The entire paragraph is Paul's summary of the blessings that Yahweh has graciously bestowed on the believer in order to manifest His glory. These verses are in the form of a Jewish b'rakhah. Rabbi Sha'ul is blessing Yahweh for all He has given us.
When reading Paul we must remember that he was a Torah-trained Pharisee who was adept at Jewish learning. Forgetting Paul's Jewish perspective can lead to misunderstanding his writings.
I have said that I believe that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. Aside from the issue of in what language the New Testament was originally written, the primary question should be, "What language did Yeshua and His Talmidiym speak when teaching?" The answer is Hebrew, and thus we must understand the Bible from a Hebraic perspective.
Last week we looked at:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace Ephesians 1:7 NASB
Implicit in the biblical doctrine of redemption is that God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We were enslaved to sin and had no power or means to free ourselves. God did not need our help in paying the price. In fact, it is an insult to Christ if we think that we can add anything of our own to the great price that He paid.
which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight Ephesians 1:8 NASB
This verse starts with, "which," that is: "in which grace." "...which He lavished on us."—the word "lavished" refers to a superabundance, an excessive amount, and an overflowing measure. It can be illustrated by ocean waves. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They never stop. God's forgiveness is like that for those who are redeemed through the blood of Yeshua.
Some scholars link the next phrase, "In all wisdom and insight," with the preceding phrase, meaning that God gave us wisdom and insight to understand our redemption and forgiveness. Or, it may (as in the RSV) point ahead to the next blessing: that God has given us wisdom and insight to understand the mystery of His will, or His plan, for the ages:
For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ Ephesians 1:9 RSV
These words, "wisdom and insight," overlap in meaning. They constitute what grammarians call a "hendiadys" —a fancy word from the Greek phrase "one through two." You get one idea through the use of two words. The Greek word used here for wisdom is: sophia. To a Greek, wisdom is knowing some things.
The Greek idea of wisdom is understanding the "why" of things. If you were to stand at the airport and watch the planes coming and going, you might be able to get a general idea of the overall plan of the various flights. As you watched them take off, land, circle the runway, and taxi in, you could learn some things about the overall plan.
But if you were to go into the tower with all the radar showing the visible location of every plane and hear the tower's communication with the planes, you would learn much more. At once you would be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of the men who control the aircraft. You would see WHY the plane must circle the runway before it lands. You would see WHY the plane on the ground must wait for clearance to take off. You would understand WHY that plane stopped its taxing and returned for repairs. The why and wherefore of all these movements becomes plain once you can see the overall picture. This is the western idea of wisdom—understanding the WHY. But to a Hebrew this is NOT an illustration of what God does when He gives us wisdom. Wisdom does not consist of a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us. It is not the ability to see WHY God has done what He has done in a particular case, and what He is gong to do next.
To an Eastern thinker, wisdom is like being taught to drive. What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things, and the soundness of your judgement as to what scope a situation gives you. You don't ask yourself, "Why is this road so slippery?" or "Why is the turn so sharp?" or "Why is that car parked where it is?" or "Why did they suddenly stop right in the middle of the road?" Does the "why" really matter? Instead of asking "why," you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation.
To drive well, you have to keep your eyes focused to notice exactly what is in front of you. To live wisely, you have to do the same thing. Wisdom is properly evaluating circumstances and making right decisions. It's the ability to respond correctly to the circumstances of life. In Hebraic usage, wisdom described the individual who possessed moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct—a wisdom derived from his personal knowledge of Yahweh.
Wisdom is not understanding the WHY, but responding correctly to the circumstances of life. Wisdom is acceptance of, and adjustment to, Yahweh's revealed truth. Herbert Hoover defined wisdom as: "knowing what to do next."
How do we get wisdom? In Scripture, wisdom is inseparably linked to fearing Yahweh:
The fear of is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 NASB
So, wisdom starts with a fear of Yahweh. To the Hebrew, wisdom is right living, responding correctly to life's situations. So, when you fear Yahweh, you will begin to live right.
This is a Hebrew parallelism. Parallelism is the expression of one idea in two or more different ways. If "wisdom" and "understanding" are parallel in this verse, and I believe they are, then the "fear of Yahweh" and the "knowledge of the Holy One" are parallel also. If we fear Yahweh, we will walk in wisdom, and if we know Yahweh, we will walk in understanding. To know Yahweh is to fear Him, and to fear Him is to walk in obedience.
In our day, the idea of "fearing God" seems old-fashioned to many Christians. But there was a time when to be called a "God-fearing man" was a great compliment. You don't hear that phrase used anymore today.
The reason that there is so little wisdom in the Church today is because there is so little FEAR of Yahweh. We do not know Him, so we do not fear Him. Yahweh is holy and He is to be feared. The fear of Yahweh should provide a primary motivation for, as well as result in, obedience to Him. If we truly reverence Yahweh, we will obey Him, since every act of disobedience is an affront to His dignity and majesty. Fearing Yahweh results in obedience, and this is wisdom. How can we come to really know Yahweh so that we do fear Him? There is only one way and that is through the Bible, which is Yahweh's self revelation.
True wisdom for man is adjustment to and acceptance of Yahweh's revealed truth. It lies in seeing himself, the creature, in right perspective to Yahweh, the Creator, and in acting accordingly.
Paul says, For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will:
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him Ephesians 1:9 NASB
"He made known to us the mystery of His will"—the word translated "mystery" is the Greek word musterion. Vines writes:
In the New Testament it denotes not the mysterious...but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense, a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed.
The Greek scholar A.T. Robinson said the Greek word "musterion," translated "mystery" here, means:
"Something that could not be known by men except by divine revelation, but that, though once hidden, has now been revealed in Christ and is to be proclaimed so that all who have ears may hear it" (Handbook to Ephesians, p. 19).
The Greek word occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament, three of which are in the Gospels (where it's used in the same context in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and four in Revelation. The remaining twenty occurrences are all in Paul's letters where it takes on the form of a descriptor for the Gospel.
Paul's use of this word is not to indicate a secret teaching, rite, or ceremony revealed only to some elite initiates (as in the mystery religions), but truth revealed to all believers in the New Testament.
In the general sense, the mystery is the unity of the cosmos under Christ (everything is put into its proper place in relation to Him [v10]), and in the specific sense, the mystery is the unity of the elect under Christ (Jews and Gentiles are one and equal in Him).
Let's talk again about the personal pronouns in this section. Who is the "us" in this verse? "He made known to 'us' the mystery of His will." To whom was the mystery revealed? Was it only to the Jews? Or does it refer primarily to the Gentiles?
that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, Colossians 1:26 NASB
This mystery, that "...now has been revealed to His saints..." is that which "... has been hidden from past ages and generations...", namely the Old Covenant era and people. "Now" refers to the time of the writing of the New Testament. So this mystery wasn't even revealed until around A.D. 50.
What is interesting is that the word "mystery" in Paul's writings occurs in close proximity to the word "stewardship." Paul associates the two words in seven out of its ten appearances in his own letters. His stewardship, therefore, is seen to be tied up with the deliverance of the mystery. We could almost say that it's the sum total of what's been committed into his hands. Paul was the apostle to whom?
to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:16 NASB
So Paul is delivering the mystery to the Gentiles. Please note that this mystery has to do with the Gentiles:
to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NASB
"To whom"—the antecedent is the "saints" of verse 26: "Among the Gentiles." Previously God made His revelation to a theocracy, the nation Israel. Now God brings the Gentiles into His program by the blood of Christ.
So it's hard for me to see how the "us" of verse 9 can be referring strictly to Jews. I think the "us" and "we" of the first ten verses are referring to all believers. This changes in verse 11, we'll see that later.
"According to His kind intention which He purposed in Him"—the Greek word used for "kind intention" is eudokia, which means: "good pleasure." We've seen these words, "good pleasure," already in this passage in vs. 5, when referring to God's good pleasure in predestining us to adoption as sons through Yeshua. Yahweh delights in all that He does. There is never a time that Yahweh is constrained to do something. So when Yahweh has good pleasure in doing something, it is a glorious reminder to us that He is Sovereign; that He is watching over the universe that He created and takes pleasure still in His working in it.
It refers to the fact that Yahweh does what He does simply because it pleases Him to do so. In other words, He does not determine His plan based upon anything outside of Himself.
with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him Ephesians 1:10 NASB
"Fullness of the times"—It has the idea of completeness or having reached the goal. This is talking about the "age to come," which is the age that we live in.
The phrase "summing up of all things " comes from the compound Greek word anakephalaiomai, which means: "to sum up." The exact term, which is translated: "summing up" is found only twice in the New Testament. Both times the term is used by Paul. The other use of the term is found in Romans, where Paul writes:
For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Romans 13:9 NASB
Here it is "summed up." The term used here means: "to gather up into one." It is a compound term with the principle root being the word for "head." The purpose of God in history is to bring glory to Himself by bringing all of creation under the headship (the authority and rule) of Christ.
"Things in the heavens and things on the earth"—this is a figure of speech that expresses comprehensiveness. God's summing up all things in Christ reconciling all things to Himself as Paul says in Colossians:
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:18-20 NASB
Here Paul says that Yeshua is the head of the body. The obvious meaning of "head," which is the Greek word kephale, especially in this context and in Paul's use of this term as a description of Christ, is that of authority, supremacy, director, control.
"That He Himself will come to have first place"—"He" is the intensive autos, and should be understood to mean: "He himself, He and no other." The idea is: "He alone has become preeminent." The Greek word from which we get "first place" is the Greek word proteuo (prote-yoo'-o). Kittel defines it simply as: "to be first (in rank)." This pre-eminence is to be as wide in scope as it is possible to be. He is to be supreme in all respects and at every point.
"Fullness"—refers to the fullness of God's plan of reconciliation. In other words, Paul is declaring that the fullness of God's saving grace and provision of salvation resides totally in the work of Christ through the blood of the cross.
In Ephesians 1:10 we see that Yahweh was behind the scenes, administrating history, in accordance with His good pleasure, for one reason —to sum up all things in Christ.
And we see here that the content of the mystery that has been made known to us is the summing up of all things in Christ. All that has happened in history is because of Christ. Why are you here on the earth today? Because of Christ. Why didn't God kill Adam and Eve when they sinned? Because of Christ. Why did God save Noah and his family instead of wiping them out with the rest of the world because of their sin? Because of Christ. Why did God choose a nation unto Himself, give them Laws that they could not keep, and even when they sinned against Him, not wipe them off of the face of the earth? Because of Christ. He is the summation, the climax, of all of human history.
Some people want to use this verse as a defense of Universalism .They say, "Well, it looks to me as if He is trying to say that everybody is going to be saved. He's going to, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, gather together in one all things in Christ: things in heaven, things on the earth, even in Him."
We know from the rest of Scripture and also the Epistle to the Ephesians, for he talks about children of wrath in the very next chapter, that that's not the apostle's meaning. He doesn't mean that everyone is going to be saved—the doctrine of Universalism is not biblical.
Most commentators view verse 10 as talking about the end of time, or what they call "the eternal state." One commentator writes, "The summing up of all things in Christ is God's plan for human history. It is also the climax, the culmination of human history."
The New International Reader's Version translates Ephesians 1:9-10 as: "He showed us the mystery of His plan. It was in keeping with what He wanted to do. It was what He had planned through Christ. It will all come about when history has been completed."
So they see this happening at the end of time instead of the end of the age. According to Scripture, ages end, time does not. The end was very near in the first century:
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 1 Peter 4:7 NASB
The end was that of Old Covenant Judaism. Paul is talking about the end of the Jewish age and the consummation of the New Covenant age.
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11 NASB
"In Him also we"—Paul begins with "In whom," which in the NASB is at the end of verse 10. Who is the "whom" to which Paul refers? It is "Christ" from vs. 10, the one in whom all things in the heavens and on the earth has been summed up. Throughout this eulogy, it is clearly seen that apart from our union "in Christ," we have nothing. All of God's blessings center in and come from Yeshua the Christ and what He did for us on the cross.
"Also we have obtained an inheritance"—the Greek word kleroo (klay-ro-o) translated: "obtained an inheritance" occurs only here in the New Testament and is difficult to interpret, as seen by the various translations. It literally means: "to be chosen by lot." Since the verb is passive and there is no direct object, it is probably supposed to be rendered, most scholars feel , by the term: "chosen as God's inheritance." So we could render it: "In whom we have also been chosen as God's inheritance."
Paul is not simply reiterating what he has already said in vs. 4, "He chose us in Him from before the foundation of the world." Here he is saying that whoever "we" may be, they "were chosen as God's portion." Do you recognize this terminology of being "chosen as God's portion?" Look at the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:
"For the LORD'S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. Deuteronomy 32:9 NASB
This is a Hebrew parallelism, the expression of one idea in two or more different ways.
I think that Paul is saying in verse 11 that Israel is Yahweh's inheritance. I think the "we" here is referring to Israel. We look more at this next week. Paul is saying what he did in Romans 9 that the word of God has not failed! The promises have been fulfilled in Christ and are flowing out onto the children of Israel. But we see that it is not all of the children of Israel according to the flesh who fulfilled the promise, because in verse 12 Paul clarifies that it is the Israelites who have trusted in Christ who have been chosen as God's portion.
"Having been predestined according to His purpose"—again, Paul brings up this predestination thing. As we saw back in vs. 5, the word means: "to decide beforehand." Well, you may say, "fine, it means to decide beforehand, but maybe that decision by God took into account my will and my desires." I think that Yahweh did take into account our will and our desires when He predestined us for salvation, but the accounting He took was that our will was dead in trespasses and sins, and our desires were for those things that were ungodly and would never lead us to Him. And it was because of Yahweh's accounting of our will and our desires that He predestined.
"According to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will"—did you get that? In eternity past Yahweh had a plan, and in time He is working His plan. Yahweh works "all things" according to the counsel of His own will.
Again, objectors try to argue that "all things" couldn't possibly mean: "all things." If it did, it would rob us of our "free will" and it would make God the author of evil. Some say that catastrophes such as earthquakes and hurricanes are outside of the "all things" of Ephesians 1:11. They can't square these events with a loving God.
The Scriptures clearly teach that God's sovereign will involves everything that takes place in life. All events in time proceed from His plan, and absolutely nothing takes place by chance. Let me give you a couple of things that the Scriptures reveal about God's sovereign will:
1) It is certain: He works all things after the counsel of His will. The things that happen in this life are simply the working out of what God has planned from eternity. So God's sovereign will is certain. Daniel teaches this:
"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' Daniel 4:35 NASB
God's sovereign will cannot be frustrated by men, angels, or anything else. The sinner who tries to defy God's plan may shake his fist to the heavens, but God has determined how many times he shakes it, and whether that man will live to shake his fist tomorrow. God's will is certain.
2. God's sovereign will is exhaustive: It includes the germ as well as the galaxies, the fly as well as the Pharaoh, the mosquito (malaria) as well as the monarch. God determines who lands on Park Place. Some of you are familiar with the poem:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the rider was lost;
For want of a rider the battle was lost;
For want of a battle the war was lost.
If God doesn't control the "nails" then wars cannot be controlled. R. C. Sproul, in his book, The Sovereignty of God, said one of his childhood heroes, race car driver, Bill Vukovich, was killed in the Indianapolis 500 when he was going around a turn, and his car lost control because a $.10 cotter pin broke. James says, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." Not only are our lives under God's sovereign control, but so are our actions.
Think about this: The fulfillment of any one prophecy requires control of the whole universe, lest something prevent its occurrence. Judas and Pontius Pilate had to be born in a certain century, and therefore, their parents had to marry at a given time and for this many other conditions had to be carried out, and these conditions depended upon even more remote events. Take the prophecy of:
God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. Genesis 15:13 NASB
God caused Jacob to migrate to Egypt to fulfill this prophecy. Was it possible for Jacob to will not to go to Egypt? Can man's will prevent God's plans from coming to pass? Is it beyond your paradigm to say that God controls men's will? Consider this, Abraham moved south to Gerar, in the kingdom of Abimelech. Abimelech became enamored with Sarah's beauty and took her for his own. Did he lie with her? No, why not?:
Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Genesis 20:6 NASB
Abimelech could not have chosen to have sex with Sarah, his will was not free. God's sovereign will is exhaustive, He determines the president's personal plans:
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1 NASB
God determines the numbers that come up when the dice are thrown:
The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33 NASB
God rules over all the affairs of men:
"It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. Daniel 2:21 NASB
No one can act outside of God's sovereign will or against it. Centuries ago, Augustine said, "Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: He either permits it to happen, or He brings it about Himself." God calls ALL the shots, He rules over all. Why is that? Because He is God. The sovereignty of God is asserted, either expressly or implicitly, on almost every page of the Bible.
The Christian who has a mature understanding and trust in God's sovereign plan is spiritually prepared for anything. He doesn't understand why he had to endure some difficulty, but he will know that his experience was part of the sovereign plan of an all-wise and loving God. All of our "Why is this happening to me?" questions must ultimately have the same answer—our loving God, in His sovereign wisdom, willed it so. His plan is perfect.
Now let's be honest, when circumstances don't go the way we want, the way we've planned, we usually get upset. Would you say that was true? If we believe that God controls every event in time, if we believe that nothing happens apart from His sovereign plan, then why do circumstances upset us? The answer to that question is this: We get upset by circumstances because our will conflicts with God's will. We don't like God's plan. We want it our way. Listen, believer, it is not only important that we live in obedience to God's moral will, it is also important that we live in submission to His providential will.
What ever it is that we are going through, we may be sure that our Father has a loving purpose in it. We need to learn to submit to God's providential will even when we don't understand.
Let me give you a biblical illustration of a man who submitted to God's will of providence even when it meant great pain to him. Eli was the high priest of Israel. In 1 Samuel 3 we learn how God revealed to the young child Samuel that He was about to kill Eli's two sons for their sinfulness. The next day Samuel communicates this message to the aged priest. It is difficult to conceive of a more difficult message for a parent to receive. The message that his children are going to be suddenly killed, under any circumstances, would be a great trial for any father. Yet, this was the message to Eli. What was his response when he received these tragic words from Samuel? What did he say when he heard the awful news?:
So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him." 1 Samuel 3:18 NASB
Believers, that is submission! He knew Yahweh and he trusted Him. He didn't argue with Him or try to talk Him out of His plan. He simply bowed to Yahweh's sovereign will in humble trust. When is the last time things went contrary to what you wanted, and you said, "It is Yahweh, let Him do what seems good to Him?" Job's response was similar:
He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21 NASB
Job says, "Baruch HaShem Yahweh! In the loss of all ten of his children Job takes a knee in humble submission and blesses Yahweh. In all of life, in every circumstance we are to bless Yahweh. Bless His holy Name!
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