The Son Redeemed Believers in the Historical Past Part 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)
by John Lowe
In the book of Leviticus, 10 times the Holy Spirit connects the atonement of the blood with the “forgiveness” of the sinner’s sins. Jehovah God knows no other way except the blood-way. It has been God’s way since the Garden of Eden. Adam was covered with the skins produced by a blood sacrifice . . . innocent animals gave their blood to provide coats of skins for Adam and Eve. Later, the son of Adam thought he would get away with a bloodless offering—but he did not. Abel “by faith” brought a blood offering and God accepted it. Cain, in his own wisdom, brought fruit . . . bloodless. God rejected Cain’s offering. Since that hour God has demanded blood—and without blood there is no remission—by every animal, innocent and without blemish, slain in sacrifice according to the direction of Jehovah God, God was saying through the death of that animal, “My Lamb, My Son, is going to die!”
Then one day, John the Baptist pointed to a Man and cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
A little later, on a cruel cross planted on Mount Calvary, the Lamb of God poured out His blood. The eternal purpose of Jehovah God was achieved. Jesus said before he died, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). What a marvelous statement—in our language only three words, but in those three words, He was saying, “I have accomplished what I came to accomplish! My Fathers plan for remission of sins is complete. My blood has been shed. I have laid my life down. It is accomplished!”
Through the blood we have forgiveness of sins; and the forgiveness of our sins is “according to the riches of his grace.” I am sure you who are saved will agree with me that there are not enough adjectives in all the languages of all the world to describe the riches of God’s grace. Thank God, I am forgiven through “the riches of His grace” . . . not the meager labor of my hands!
The measure of “redemption” is expressed in the phrase, “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” God’s endowments are in proportion to the abundance of his riches. He does not give in small portions but with unbounded liberality. If redemption were according to the measure of man’s merit, there would be no redemption. But who can measure the riches of God’s grace? “Grace” is God’s voluntary and loving favor given to those He saves. We can’t earn it, nor do we deserve it. No religious or moral effort can gain it, for it comes only from God’s mercy and love. Without grace, no person can be saved.
We need to pause to meditate on the grace Paul is describing here. If we grasp the nature of the love God has demonstrated on the cross (Romans 5:8) we will realize that it is not a reluctant but a lavish love!
8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, I believe the King James is better here—“Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”
A certain Bible teacher used to say to his classes that Paul puts emphasis on intelligence in religion. Paul teaches here that not only has God’s grace brought redemption and forgiveness; it has OVERFLOWED—this is the literal meaning of the word “abounded”—in the additional gifts of “wisdom and prudence.” Wisdom may be defined as “the knowledge that sees into the heart of things, which knows them as they really are. Prudence is the understanding which leads to right action.” The one is intellectual knowledge; the other is practical understanding. One satisfies the mind; the other leads to right conduct.
How suspicious of God many Christians seem to be. We do not trust Him; we doubt His goodness; we taste little of the sweetness of His grace. Here is what will dissolve paralyzing fears, cringing doubt, suspicious unbelief: “the riches of his grace . . . Lavished upon us” (1:7-8). And we have these riches already in Christ!
9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,
In giving these gifts (1:8) Christ bestows upon believers a capacity for comprehending something of God’s purpose for the universe—“the mystery of His will . . . which he purposed in Christ.” The word “mystery” denotes the thoughts and plans of God, which are hidden from human reason and comprehension and must be divinely revealed, if they are to be known at all. It refers to a secret, but one which has been made an open secret in the gospel. Here it has to do with the secret of God’s dealing with the world.
The New Testament uses the word mystery in a special sense. It is not something mysterious in the sense that it is
hard to understand. It is something which has long been kept secret and has now been revealed, but is still incomprehensible to the person who has not been initiated into its meaning. So, in the New Testament sense, a mystery is something which is hidden to the heathen but clear to the Christian.
What for Paul was “the mystery of his (God’s) will?” It was that the Gospel was open to Gentiles too. In Jesus God has revealed that His love and care, His grace and mercy, are meant, not only for the Jews, but for all the world; and always at the back of his mind is the one great mystery revealed in Christ—illustrated in a variety of different ways. At the heart of this mystery is that God plans to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.
This mystery, which God has made known to us “according to His good pleasure,” is defined as follows; “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (9-10). These words give Paul’s description of the scope and content of God’s purpose for the universe. In short, it is “the establishment of a new order, a new creation, of which Christ shall be the acknowledged head.” Christ already is “head over all things to the church” (1:22)2
; this passage declares it is God’s intent that he shall be head of a regathered, reunited universe.
It is the good pleasure of God to reveal unto us the deep things of the Word, and of the world to come. He has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. James invites: “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” The wise man, Solomon, declared: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
The Scofield Reference Bible (p. 1014) lists eleven mysteries in the New Testament. Yet, even with all these, did you know that God hasn’t told us everything? There are a lot of things God hasn’t told us. And there are a lot of questions I would like to ask God myself, because I don’t think anyone down here knows the answers. Someday He will reveal them to us.
10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
This verse pertains to the carrying out of God’s purpose, in Christ, and it suggests a particular point in time that completes a long prior period; or you could say it pertains to the carrying out (administration) of the purpose of God when the time is ripe. Paul says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4). The phrase “the fullness of the time” means that God has acted at the time when He saw that all things were ready. And now the full range, the cosmic scope, of His saving design is made clear. God plans to unite—to gather up, bring into focus—everything He has made, in Christ. Christ is to be the principle of the unity. Where disorder had reigned, there is to be order; where conflict, harmony—God’s order, Gods harmony.
“When the times reach their fulfillment” is the third and last of the dispensational1
ages. It will be the time when King Jesus will set on the throne in Jerusalem and reign over the house of Israel in the millennial kingdom here on this earth. You will find the description of this kingdom in II Samuel 7:8-17, Zechariah 12:8, Isaiah 11.
“To bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” translates a Greek word which literally means “to head up” or “to sum up.” This word was sometimes used in military affairs to describe the heading up again of scattered troops under the leadership of their commander. Paul seems to picture all of God’s possessions as having been scattered in the conflict with the forces of evil. It was His purpose that He would gather up all these scattered holdings and put them under one supreme captain, Jesus Christ.
The expression “all things” is almost equivalent to the phrase “the totality of creation.” This phrase is further defined by the inclusive phrase, “all things in heaven and on earth.” It would be wrong to see this expression as implying ultimate salvation for all people. It rather points in a general way to the restoration of unity and harmony in God’s universe. “Under Christ” points up the truth that the focal person in this restoration is Jesus Christ. The ultimate destiny of the universe now rests in the hands which once were nailed to the cross.