Two weeks ago as we studied Ephesians chapter 1 verses 8 and 9. We focused the fact that when we accepted Jesus, God gave us the wisdom and ability to understand his plan, the mystery of his will. He gave us the ability to understand that he sent Jesus to ransom us, to pay our debt to God in full. And we looked at why non-believers just can't get it; they can't understand why we would have faith in Jesus.
We ended with the introduction of some of the aspects of the mystery of God's will, a part of which is that Jesus came as the unifier of man; to mend all the natural divisions, Jew and Gentile; Greek and barbarian; whatever other divisions that man can devise to engender hate.
This week I want to pick up with verse 10.
The NIV reads:
So God made his plan known to us which he purposed in Christ:
The word purposed seems stilted to me; it is not clear in the English. The Greek word is protithemai which means to propose or to determine or to decide. So I think that Paul is telling the Asia Minor churches that God had explained his plan, his solution for the problems of man, which he had decided to roll out through Jesus; that his plan was Jesus.
He then goes on to say that this plan was made known to us and brought to us through Jesus with an eye on "an administration suitable to the fullness of the times".
First let's find out what an administration is, before we work on what the fullness of times may be.
The Greek work is oikonomia which means the administration (of a household or estate). The most literal of the translations translates it as a dispensation. The more dynamic translations use the word plan.
Most Biblical scholars find it helpful to break the history of man down into a series of different periods of time, during which God dealt with man in different ways or with different instructions; almost like different stages of development of the relationship between man and God. Some scholars have broken it down into dispensations, or periods of:
Another way to look at dispensations is the dispensation of:
It is not important just what units of time or structure you use, but it is useful to realize that the behavior of both man and God differs from era to era; or from dispensation to dispensation.
Those who find this useful are referred to as dispensationalists. That is not bad, but the term has come to denote the more flagrant misuse of the idea, or those who come to the conclusion that God changes his plan from dispensation to dispensation, or changes the rules and so on.
God does not change, and his ultimate rule does not change.
Of course how he trains man changes from period to period.
From what Paul says in verse 10, which the YLT [Young's Living Translation] translates as:
...I think you have to surmise that Paul was a dispensationalist. He thought in terms of dispensations of time, periods where certain conditions existed or behaviors existed. Since Paul was a dispensationalist in the pure sense of the word, I am comfortable in joining him as a dispensationalist.
So Paul says that God made his plan known to us, which was executed through Jesus, and was designed for the conditions or the situation which will occur in the fullness of times.
So when is the fullness of times?
Fullness comes from the Greek word pleroma which means completed.
Times comes from the Greek word kairos which means a specific time. This is different from the Greek word that would be translated as days or hours or the running of time. That would be chronos which is related to the passage of days, months or years. Kairos denotes a predetermined, appointed point in time.
So Paul says that God's plan has been explained to us to be executed through Jesus, and is designed for the solution at the time the goal is reached; when the appointed time has arrived; when the plan reaches fruition; at the goal line.
This is God's end game, and now we know it. Not just an interim strategy, but the end game.
Let's break this sentence down and leave out some of the intervening clauses.
He made known to us the mystery of His will, 10 that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth…
God's plan is that everything in heaven and on earth will be gathered in Jesus.
Sometimes there are little known facts that you don't need to know, but that you must hear. There are words that are hard to find a place to use, but once you know them, it is great fun to try to find a place for them… like plethora, or plenipotentiary.
Well the Greek word translated here as gathered is anakephalaiomai -- [Ana-kafala-io-my]. This is not only a fascinating word, but also one with some relevance to a phrase we use in English.
When the Greeks "summed up" a column of numbers, or totaled them, they put the total at the top of the column, instead of at the bottom as is our custom.
The fact that they put the sum at the top of the column, is where the term "sum up" started. They literally summed up the column to the top.
Various translations translate this as gathered together or gathered. The sense is to gather everything together in Christ. Note that Paul says that absolutely everything is gathered in Jesus, on earth and in heaven. He says it again in Colossians:
One of the cop-outs we try to use, is that life is a combination of the secular and the sacred -- that Jesus is concerned about our souls, but our secular life is separate, different.
Paul says baloney!
Everything on earth and in heaven is gathered in Jesus, it is all his to worry about. Remember that two weeks ago we started the discussion about what drives history and the destiny of man. Some say the dynamics are controlled by sociological or psychological dynamics. Paul says that the history of man and the destiny of man are merely the playing out of the plan of God, which is to have Jesus gather it all in at the end.
That does not mean that every man will be saved, but it means that every man will be under the power of Jesus. Remember:
Great thinkers have wrestled with what dynamic controls the destiny of mankind. G. N. Clark, in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, said:
In the introduction to "A History of Europe", H. A. L. Fisher writes:
Andre Maurois says:
We are living in an age in which men have lost their faith in any purpose for this world. But it is the faith of the Christian that in this world God's purpose is being worked out; and it is the conviction of Paul that that purpose is that one day all things and all men should be one family in Christ. As Paul sees it, that mystery was not even grasped until Jesus came and now it is the great task of the Church to work out God's purpose of unity.
...we will pick up in verse 11 and deal with the summing up of the Jews and the Gentiles and then go on to the expectations of the Church.