“. . .Having made known the Myistery of His will to us, namely, to sum up all things in Christ . . . . even in Him”.
Our former article ended in the midst of our discussion of the Scriptural idea of the concept “Mystery”.
We might notice, that the concept “Mystery”, in Scripture, does not refer to something that is necessarily hidden, and, that can therefore never be known by the mind of finite man, but that it most emphatically refers to that which is hidden by God and in Him until and when He pleases to reveal it to us. After God has made it known, revealed it to us, it is no longer a secret; from now on it is open and manifest to the sons of men.
This, of course, does not mean to imply, that we fully comprehend. There are, indeed, limits set by God to our understanding of the things which are infinite. That is true also in the truth of the “Mystery” of the Scriptures. Yet what God has made known of it is indeed apprehensible to the sanctified and enlightened understanding of the children of God.
We might also point out, that the central content of the “Mystery” is none else and nothing less than Christ Himself. It is in the Christ, the Son of God in the flesh that the Mystery of God is unfolded before our eye of faith. Christ is the Mystery. He it is who He is. We do not explain Him, but He explains Himself to us. He testifies of Himself that He is the Son of God. And always He points to Himself as the one in whom the Father’s good pleasure is realized—realized even to the raising up of the dead in the last day!
Let us now further turn our attention to the text.
What strikes our attention first of all is, that this “Mystery” is further defined by the Apostle as being the Mystery of His will. The term “will” (Theleema) emphasizes the fact, that it is solely by a free act of God that He has planned this “Mystery” and has made it known to us. There was not force outside of God to move Him to make Himself known; neither was there any urge of necessity from within. What God reveals of Himself to us of His purpose and plan was an act of sovereign good-pleasure and nothing else. This is clear not only from the current usage of the term “will” in Scripture, particularly in the New Testament, but it is a truth which the Apostle emphasizes once more in the next clause in this verse.
In the next clause of this verse we read, that God works the Mystery of His will, namely, to sum up all things in Christ, “according to His good pleasure”. This good pleasure of God (good pleasure—to think it well) is the ultimate standard of all God’s dealings in history. The text presents this good pleasure as determining the world’s happenings from Alpha to Omega, from its genesis to its consummation in the day of Jesus Christ.
It is very important that we bear this emphasis of the Apostle in mind. It is a factor to be remembered not only in reference to the content of the Mystery. It is also the standard according to which God makes the Mystery known. It is true that the latter does not receive the emphasis here, but it is a Scriptural truth none-the-less. Not for one moment may we lose sight of the fact of God’s good pleasure in this Mystery. It is Mystery of His will.
It seems that the Apostle cannot get finished with expressing the thought that we have attempted to explain in the former paragraph. He once more emphasizes this truth by adding: “Which (the good pleasure) He purposed in Him (Himself). It should be noticed that although the apostle here repeats the matter emphasized in the former clause, he does not merely repeat He adds a new idea, namely, that this good pleasure is the divine purpose. There is a goal set up by God toward which all things are directed. And that goal is set before God as being realized in Christ Jesus, our Lord. This latter we would emphasize, even in the face of the possible reading which makes “in Him” in the clause “Which He purposed in Him” to be rendered reflexively, namely, “in Himself”. We believe that the latter reading is to be rejected, and that the former one is correct. God din to purpose in Himself to unite all things in Christ, but God purposed it in the historical Christ. For this last observation we offer the following grounds.
In the first place, we would like to call attention to the fact that the verb “to purpose” literally means in the original Greek: to set before. To this must be added, that the verb is written in the “middle voice”. The idea of such a middle voice in Greek is that the action in the verb, in this case in the “setting before one”, to purpose, is that the action is somehow performed in relationship to the one performing it. God purposed, set before Him, somehow in relation to Himself in eternity. He set the destiny of the world and all things before Himself. The reflexive idea is already contained in the verb. It would be unnecessary repetition to add “Himself” as referring to God in the light, of this consideration of the “middle voice” of the verb.
Next we would not fail to notice, that throughout this entire section of the first chapter of Ephesians, great emphasis is placed on the fact, that God’s purpose is realized solely and altogether in the Christ. And also that God’s purpose stands in this Christ because thus it has been made In Him! Notice the following: “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ even as we have been elected in Him” vss. 3, 4: “Which He has graced to us in the Beloved”. vs. 6: “in whom we have the redemption through His blood”, vs, 7: “To sum up all things in Christ. . . . even in Him” vs. 10: “in whom we have also been made a heritage” vs. 11. Hence, it is quite according to the Apostle’s mode of reasoning and His emphasis to interpret the pronoun to read “him” and let it refer to Christ, and not to read it “himself” and refer to God.
Finally, we wish to point out, that this interpretation is in accordance with the expressed statement of the Apostle in. We quote: “According to the eternal purpose (God’s setting it forth before Himself) which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Here it is explicitly stated that God’s purpose was made in the Christ.
All this is not mere repetition on the part of the Apostle. It must become evident that all God’s good pleasure is in the Christ, in the Beloved, who is the Eternal Son in our flesh! Well may we keep this in mind less we fail to catch the vision of the Apostle, lest we fail to see the wondrous glory of the Christ of God. Only when we see this all, will we also join with the Apostle to sing of the power of God’s grace to usward.
But the Apostle has more to tell us of the content of this purpose of God in Christ. The content of the Mystery of God in its broad scope is stated in the phrase “to sum up all things in Christ. . . . even in Him.”
We should notice, that the Apostle does not enter into many details in this passage. The Apostle only traces for us the main line of the Architectural structure of the building of God’s good pleasure. And, indeed, this is accomplished with masterful and bold strokes! Notice, that the building of God’s good pleasure encompasses “all things”. All things?! Indeed ! All things in heaven and on earth. Bold strokes! Notice the vertical lines. They run, they are traced from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth. Both heaven and earth are taken up! But, also, do not fail to notice the horizontal lines, which are traced by the Apostle. For this is not a mere, incidental detail. Nay, it is a fundamental feature. The line runs horizontally over the plain of the heavenly. The heaven of heavens and the fullness thereof. “All things” in heaven! What is true of the things in heaven is equally true of the things on earth. The lines of the building of the Divine good pleasure also are traced horizontally along the plain of the earthly. The earth and the fullness thereof belong to the Lord, and are all taken up in the work of Christ. Thus it is traced here by the Apostle. Thus he would have us see it. Thus it is in God’s eternal good pleasure in the Beloved! We hear the key note of this already in the first words of the Scriptures, in the book of beginnings. Do we not read: “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth”?
In passing we may remark, that this Architectural structure, as here traced by the Apostle, as elsewhere explicitly taught in his letters, and as suggested in Gen. 1:1, should warn us against limiting the work of God to man, more particularly to what is then, even mistakenly, called the immortal soul of man! To be sure man is the chief creature of God, to him God has given preeminence among all the creatures. For man is more than many sparrows in the sight of God, yea, more than the spacious heavens. Compare Psalm 8. But in the plan of God, man is never a micro-cosmos, a little world, a consideration by himself. God would glorify Himself in all the works of His hands. And in these works man must have the preeminent place. But we repeat: Man is not the sole consideration of God in His purpose of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Of this we hope to write more in this and in subsequent articles. Let us keep this in mind.
In order to see somewhat more of the plan of God in Christ in relation to “all things”, let us proceed in our discussion,
First of all, let us notice, that the verb “to sum up” is a composite verb in Greek, composed of verb and preposition. It is: ana-kephalaioo. Literally it means: to head up! In Classic Greek it is used to denote the summing up, the bringing to a unity all the arguments in a discourse. By thus doing an orator would bring his entire discourse to definite conclusions. In Rom. 13:9 Paul employs this composite verb in a sense that approached that of the just named orators. The Apostle is speaking in Romans 13:9 of the law of the Ten Commandments. He tells his readers, that this law is summed up (headed up) in One Word! It is concluded in the word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself! In the Scripture passage under consideration in this article, the Apostle employs the verb to denote that wondrous act of God, whereby He brings the entire Creation, the whole Cosmos to a unity under the Headship of Christ, Who was given as Head to the Church over all things! Thus the entire work of God, the work of God’s purpose in Christ over all things in heaven and on earth is stated in one word, to wit, in “summed up”!
In a former article we have emphasized that all God’s purpose is in the beloved. It was stated, that, except we see that God has blessed us in Him, we will never begin to see that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins “according to the riches of God’s grace”. That truth we considered a controlling motive in the work of God.
Although from a different viewpoint, we may nevertheless observe this controlling motive also here in this “summing up” of which the text speaks. For, notice, that God sums up, reunites all things in Christ, the beloved. And this beloved is to be “Head” over all things. It is true, that the Apostle does not say so with so many words. Yet, this is, very evidently, the idea of the text. This appears to be the case not only from the addition “in Christ”, but also from the latter portion of this first chapter of Ephesians, vss. 20-22. We quote: “Which (namely, His great power) He wrought in Christ, having raised Him out of the dead, and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavens, far above ail principalities and powers and dominions and lords (angel hosts) and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He has subjected all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church.’’
It is, therefore, quite clear, that Christ is the one in whom God would reunite all things in heaven and on earth. One may still have to give a further account of the specific nature of the Headship of Christ to the Church in distinction from His Headship to the angels, (compare) that we will grant. But this much is perfectly clear, Christ is to be head and Lord over all.
It, therefore, appears, that the Apostle chose a very beautiful and expressive word in the verb, “to head up”, to designate the act of God whereby He brings all things under Christ, yea, under Him!
There are other important aspects of the matter which we are discussing, that still call for comment. We know that the wisdom of God, even, in this very summing up of all things, is unsearchable. We cannot trace out all to the very end. We do not live under the delusion, therefore, that we shall be able to understand all. The aspects, however, to which we still wish to call attention are those clearly revealed, and, which, are necessary to somewhat keep in mind, to understand enough of this marvelous work of God, to be able to consciously live unto the praise of His matchless love and fathomless grace!