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“. . . . Having made known tons the Mystery of His will. . . .(namely) to sum up all things in Christ. . . .even, in Him.” Eph. 1:8-10

The conclusion at which we arrived in our former article was, that the phrase “in all wisdom and prudence”, in verse 8, does not refer to the manner of God’s dealing with us, to divine virtues that prompted Him to cause His riches or grace to abound to us. It rather must he understood to designate the content, or at least a phase of the content, of the riches of grace, that God causes to abound to us in the Beloved.

Just ‘what this riches of wisdom and prudence refers to, we intimated in our former article in our attempt to show to what this phrase refers. However, we did not show yet what place this “wisdom” and “prudence” have in the divine scheme of all the work of God in Christ Jesus in this present world. This consideration must needs wait till we consider this just enumerated scheme of the work of God. We must consider the implication of the “Mystery of God’s will”, the reuniting of all things in Jesus Christ. As soon as this latter is rather clearly established we will be in a position to show how and why God has ceased, in this scheme of His work, all wisdom and prudence to be ours in such an abundant measure.

Before attempting to analyze and thus grasp the content of the various concepts in the verses 8-10, we must look rather carefully at the sentence construction in the text. Correct exegesis is at bottom, at least in a good measure, a matter of grammar. And this axiom may be considered to apply particularly in these verses.

Let us look at the text. Of course, you have a Bible at hand? What do you notice in verse 9? First of all, that the first part of the sentence reads as follows: “Having made known to us the Mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure”, does this modify the participle “having made known the Mystery of His will”, does it refer to the “making known”, telling us the divine standard, the measuring-rod of God according to which He imparted the knowledge concerning the “Mystery of His will”? Or must we conceive of this phrase as modifying the infinitive phrase “to sum up in one Head all things in Heaven . . . .”? If the latter, the phrase tells us that the work of God in connection with His entire handiwork, His Universe is executed according to His eternal good pleasure.

The second question that calls for an answer is: What is the relationship between “The Mystery of His Will” and the infinitive phrase “to sum up all things in Christ”? We believe that to this question we must reply, that in the latter clause we are told what the content is of the Mystery of God’s will. The technical grammatical term to express this relationship is: appositional infinitive construct ion. The idea is: The Mystery of His Will, namely, to sum up all things in Christ! Those of us, who have not forgotten all the grammar we learned, even in grammar school, will remember that we have this idea of apposition also with adjectives modifying nouns. Thus in the sentence: Roses, red and white were plentiful. Again, you will remember the appositional relationship of nouns. Thus: “John, the blacksmith worked all day. The noun, “blacksmith” is the same man as John, only it tells us something about the man which the name John does not. And so it is also here in this sentence under consideration. The clause: “To sum up all things in Christ” tells us the specific content of the “Mystery of His Will”.

We now proceed one step forward. The next question is: If the phrase: “According to His Will” refers to the infinitive phrase “to sum up all things in Christ”, and should it not modify the participle “having made known”, what is then its relationship to the concept “Mystery of His Will”? To this we reply: it is then appositional, that is, it then modifies the clause “to sum up all things in Christ” and thus it modifies the manner in which the content of the Mystery of God’s Will is brought about historically.

We might simplify this somewhat involved discussion by calling attention to the resultant meanings arrived at in the two divergent renderings of the text. Attend to the following:

   1. If “according to His good pleasure” refers to the “making known” then the sense of the text may be paraphrased in the following propositions.

       a. God made the Mystery of His will known to us to cause the riches of His grace to abound to us in the very specific blessings of “wisdom and prudence”.

       b. This act of Revelation, of imparting knowledge of the Mystery of His will was performed by God most emphatically according to the good pleasure of His will. Paul would then state this very specifically,

       c. But this would then not be the sole purpose of this modifying phrase in the text. The Apostle makes this “good pleasure” the antecedent of the relative clause that follows, namely, “Which He hath purposed in Him (Himself) to sum up all things in Christ”. Grammatically, the “good pleasure” must then be considered to be presented as not only the determining factor of the fact that the Mystery is made known and of the manner of its revelation, but also as determining the content of the Mystery.

Now we may immediately remark, that it is a very biblical axiom that both the content of the Mystery of God’s will, and the making known of this content, are executed by God according to His sovereign good pleasure. Thus we read in verse 11 of this same chapter: “Who (God) worketh all things according to the counsel of His will”. We surely must conceive of both the content of the Mystery and of the making known of the Mystery as falling under the “all things” that are worked, energized by God.

However, the fact, that it is thoroughly Scriptural to say that God makes the content of the Mystery of His will known to us according to His good pleasure, does not yet imply that such is the teaching of the Apostle in this particular phrase. Fact is, that we are strongly to deny this. We would call your attention to the following in the text, which we believe supports our contention, that the Apostle here does not explicitly teach that God makes the Mystery of Salvation known according to His good pleasure.

First of all, let us notice, that to assign such a twofold grammatical function to the phrase “according to His will” is very unnatural. Its construction and resultant meaning is forced. It seems to me that it is an attempt to read too much “theology” into this particular phrase.

Secondly, be it pointed out, and that most emphatically, that we feel that to make “according to His good pleasure” modify “making known” is at variance with the logical line of the Apostle’s reasoning. The point that the context makes is that God has caused all wisdom and prudence to become our possession. But how? By making known to us how God makes known the Mystery of His will? Is that important here, even though, be it repeated, it is in itself a biblical truth? To ask this question is to answer it. What is the issue then that is of importance? What the Apostle is attempting to tell us, and indeed does teach us, is, that God has given us this wisdom and prudence in making known the fact that He would reunite all things in heaven and on earth din the fullness of time, and that, too, according to His good pleasure. And this latter observation is, to our mind, the determining factor.

To bring out clearly the teaching of this text we would paraphrase its meaning in the following propositions. This will at once give us a certain line of reasoning to follow in our discussion of the various concepts in the text, and thus we will the more easily be able to gain the conception of the text as a whole.

Attend to the following:

  1. God has made known, revealed to us the Mystery of His will.
  2. The Mystery of His will consists in: to sum up, to reunite under one Head all things that are in heaven and that are on earth.
  3. That this uniting into one of all things in heaven and on earth is performed by God according to established plan. This plan, although designated by various terms in Holy Writ generally, is here called: His good pleasure.
  4. Finally, that in this making known of the Mystery of His will thus conceived, God has caused all wisdom and prudence to become ours in a large measure, and that, too, in the riches of His grace.

Having thus determined the grammatical relationships of the clauses in this portion of Holy Writ, we can now proceed in attempting to determine the meaning and implication of the various concepts given here.

The first concept that calls for explanation, is, undoubtedly, “The Mystery of His will”. What especially calls for study and comment is the term “Mystery”.

Of this term Dr. Hermann Cremer in his “Biblical Theological Lexicon” makes the following comment both as to the etymology and as to the current usage of the term in Classical Greek. Says he: “Musteerion (Mystery, G.L.) from muoo, to close, to shut, e.g. the lips, the eyes; . . . .it is also used of closing wounds. Hence, too, a locking up, or that which serves for locking up, and what obstructs, hinders, excludes perception or communication—mystery. In Classical Greek (the term is) usually in the plural, (ta Musteeria) as denoting secret politico-religious doctrines, the Mysteries, especially of the Eleusian mysteries, wherein some secret information, which has in turn to be kept secret, was communicated to the initiated”.

As to the idea of the term in its current usage in Classical Greek, Dr. Cremer draws the following conclusions. Says he, “Mystery does not properly denote that which is wholly withdrawn from knowledge, or cannot be known, but a “knowledge of hidden things which is in itself to be kept secret, or which is unknowable without special communication of it.” And to prove this observation, he quotes the remarks of a scholiast (an ancient annotator of classical texts) on Aristophanes and Diagoras.

This data and these conclusions from the usage of the term in Classic Greek does not, it is true, teach us anything positive as to the proper Biblical conception of “Mystery”, more particularly, as we meet the term in the writings of Paul’s epistles. Yet from this we do learn some important matters. By way of contrast, we learn, that, as we trust will become evident in our study of this term from the Scriptures, in the mouth of Paul, who spoke by revelation, the term receives a new content and is set in a new and different thought world. But even so, this does not mean that the term in Scripture loses its fundamental etymological meaning that it has in Classic Greek. The fundamental, the formal notion of the term remains, namely, that it refers to something hid, which cannot be known unless it first be revealed. In Holy Writ the superstitious elements fall away that in the Greek Mysteries, were associated with the term. The term, so to speak, becomes sanctified in the service of God and His church.

Here in the book of Ephesians we meet quite often with the term “Mystery”. Thus in Eph. 3:3: “How that by revelation He made known unto me the Mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge of the Mystery of Christ”. Again in Eph. 3:8, 9 we read: “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and make all men see what is the dispensation of the Mystery, which from the ages hath been hid in God, who created all things in Jesus Christ.”

From these passages, especially when compared with Col. 1:26, 27, we can gain a rather clear conception of what Paul understands under this term.

Paul speaks here of certain matters which were “from the ages hid in God, creator of all things”; but now they are no longer hid, they have been made known, yea, so known, that they can be openly preached in all the world. The logical content of the mysteries are now through the preaching a matter of public knowledge!

The apostle seems to draw the following lines in this matter.

  1. That the subject matter of the Mystery is centrally: Christ, the Christ of God conceived of as the Anointed of God to be the True Prophet, the Great High Priest after the order of Melchisedee, and the King at God’s right hand having all power in heaven and on earth. Thus Paul says in Col. 1:27: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this Mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” All the Mystery of God is contained in the Christ; outside of Him there is no Mystery known. All that was formerly hidden is known in Him. Compare Heb. 1:1. And again says Paul: “To make known the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Hence, centrally, Christ is the content of God’s Mystery. All that was hidden in God, and that has now been made known, is embodied in Him!
  2. Shall man, any man know this Mystery, then it must be revealed, uncovered to him. This was uncovered by the Son of God in the flesh, who yet is in the bosom of the Father. John 1:18.

(To be continued)