This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
The Mystery Revealed
Meditation on Ephesians 1:8-10
...[A]ccording to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
I had to smile when contemplating this text. It was a text that many years ago had been given to a young man for his classical examination for ordination. I was one of the sermon critics. We had to bring the sad report that in his sermon, the lad had completely missed the point. In his sermon, he concluded that it is still a mystery to him why God chose him to be saved. Now while that is true for each of us sinners, that is not what the chosen text was about. We read in verse 9, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” What mystery did God make known? The answer is that in the fullness of time, God would gather together all things in Christ.
God, in the riches of His grace, showers or abounds that grace unto us or even into us. How can we know that? The answer: “in all wisdom and understanding.” According to the context, the grace of God has abounded into us exactly in all wisdom and prudence. Prudence or understanding is one of the fruits or results of wisdom. By wisdom, the person who knows God is given understanding of God’s will. This is not just an intellectual knowledge of the head, but heart knowledge. Knowing God and His will, we therefore know the way of salvation. It is very practical. Such a person walks in that way. He or she has discernment or distinction between the truth and error, between the way of the will of God and the way of evil, between the way of salvation and the way of destruction. This is not dead orthodoxy. In contrast, this is a true, living faith! God gives that to each of His people by the Holy Spirit.
God has made known unto us the mystery of His will! The entire knowledge of salvation, which was not known before the coming of Christ is now clearly made known. In the Old Testament times, God revealed that He would presently bring salvation in many ways: verbal prophecy and all kinds of signs, wonders, and types. God’s people understood that too. And as far as the mystery of God’s will was pictured in the old dispensation, the Old Testament saints were saved by faith.
So the mystery of the will of God does not refer to the fact that nothing at all was known in the old dispensation. It refers to the fact that with the coming of Christ, and only with the coming of Christ would God’s work and purpose be clearly revealed. Although there were prophecies, signs and wonders in the Old Testament, the will of God was still a mystery. It could not clearly be discerned. Who is the promised Mediator? How will He save? What will He save His people from?
When Jesus Christ, was on earth, He taught the people to know God by His teaching and miracles. But why was the cross necessary? Do you remember the grief of the two on the way to Emmaus? “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21)? What despair! They did not know what to make of Jesus’ death or the women’s report of the resurrection. Jesus had to open up to them the Scriptures to show them the necessity of the Messiah’s death. After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, He poured out His Spirit as He promised. His Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Suddenly, the disciples understood why Jesus had to die. They understood that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly kingdom. Then the disciples were able to be bold in preaching the gospel which before had been a mystery. By his Word and Spirit, Christ is gathering all the citizens of His kingdom.
But the mystery of the will of God also is revealed in regard to the ultimate purpose of all things. The Apostle Paul continued to write in our text, “according to the good pleasure of his will, which he hath purposed in himself” (that he set before him). What is that purpose of God? We have it in verse 10, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are one earth; even in him.” God delights in His own eternal counsel. It is according to His counsel that He does all things.
The contents of God’s counsel are set forth. Why was there the fall into sin? Why were there the flood and the saving of Noah and his family? Why was Abraham chosen? Why did God have His people as slaves in Egypt for 400 years? Why did His people have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years? Why did their dwelling in Canaan end with the captivity in Babylon for 70 years? Many would question these things. And we can go on with events today. Why is there this Covid-19? Why does the extreme wickedness of the world continue to develop? Why must there be tribulation and the final era of the Antichrist? Could and cannot God prevent so much misery?
The answer is that God is in charge, working all things in these various eras for the gathering and salvation of His people. The fullness of times in verse 10 is the whole New Testament era, and especially that very last time, the very end of the fullness of times when Jesus returns.
God works all things in time and history so that Christ will be the head of the whole world. He is not Head only of His church or of the angels, but all things in heaven and on earth. Adam was the head of the earth, but not of heaven. But when all things will be fulfilled, then all things in heaven and on earth will be united in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a gospel we have to tell to our children and to the world around us. We are able, because God has made known the mystery of His will. What comfort we have in the various trials we have to endure. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Christ will come to make up his jewels.