For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will
- T.M.P. Vanderven
with permission from Clarion
Vol. 46, No. 20 (1997)
Sing: Psalm 25 : 2, 3
What better preparation for the day's activities is there then a study of a portion of God's Word, His revealed will. The quotation in the heading of this article precisely refers to that:
For He has made known to us in all
wisdom and insight the mystery of
His will ... (Ephesians 1:9).
The word mystery in this text does not refer to the rites and knowledge of a secret society of which there were many in Paul's days. The apostle does not equate the Christian religion with the mystery religions of his days. Paul uses the word mystery always in relation to disclosure, or revelation: God reveals His will in Christ to all who will receive it. This verse speaks of the truth of God in Christ which the church may know and confess, and which it is commanded to preach to the whole world. That is the opposite of keeping a secret! The gospel must be proclaimed openly and publicly. And what is this gospel which must be proclaimed openly and publicly to all who will receive it?
This passage does not suggest some personal, individualistic experience. We do not read here about a way in which we can escape from this dreadful existence and be catapulted to a higher realm of wisdom and understanding. In one long sentence, with the words as it were tumbling one over the other, the verses 3 through 14 speak of the mighty works of God the Father in Christ His Beloved; of God the Son in whom we have been made the people of His inheritance; and of God the Holy Spirit in whom we have been sealed and in whom the promise of the gospel has been guaranteed. And all that unto the praise of His glory.
God's glory - that is the focus of this mighty sentence. These words show the glorious works of our God. They speak of election from the beginning, of sonship by adoption, of redemption and forgiveness of sins, of insight into God's all-embracing purpose, of the privilege of becoming His people, of the Holy Spirit as seal - a continuous flow of blessings with which we are blessed in Christ; these spiritual blessings are more than, but certainly do include material blessings.
Verse 9 speaks of wisdom and insight. These words are repeated in Paul's letter to the Colossians (2:2,3) where Paul speaks of the riches which the believers may have,
... all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Indeed, there is no wisdom or understanding outside of Christ. Let me remind you of the Book of Proverbs which speaks of the wisdom of the Lord, putting a sharp and revealing spotlight on our everyday life, teaching us about the way we should live as Christians. And I certainly may add here, the way we should educate our children, the way we should work and study, the way we should spend our leisure time ... as Christians!
We live in a world of confusion and uncertainty; there is no one who can explain all things, not even the natural phenomena. Surely, there are what we call laws of nature; but scientists tell us that much of what is taught as scientific certainty turns out to be no certainty at all. The one theory attempts to remedy the faults of an earlier one, only to be replaced by newer views. Who can explain in full detail the reasons for the Soviet revolution? Today's world is faced with horrendous problems (political and economic, social and ecological, personal and relational) with few if any suggestions for reliable solutions. Indeed, we live in a world where things rarely add up - so many questions; so few reliable answers.
And yet, Paul wrote his song of praise also for our comfort in a confused 20th century. The mystery that has been revealed to us tells us that we may look forward to a time when everything will be brought again into a meaningful relationship under the headship of Christ. In Him all things hold together (Colossians 1 :17). It has also been revealed to us that we have a beginning of this eternal joy already in this life (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 22). We may know and believe that,
... He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:9,10).
Surely, knowing this mystery, in all wisdom and insight is a key element in the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2). Thus we can begin to understand that indeed the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
Parents and teachers may, through God's grace, be instrumental in helping each other understand a little more of that mystery of God's will which affects everything in heaven and on earth, including all things related to our lives within the family, the school, our work situation. All our activities, all the subjects and courses we study or teach, are part of the reality which, literally, is held together in Christ.
What a lesson for old and young (Proverbs 1:4,5) alike: we find here the basis of all reformed (that is, scriptural) education: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. You are a fool if you despise it; even more than a fool: you are heading towards eternal disaster and death. Therefore, young people, listen to the instruction of your father and the teachings of your mother. These are more valuable than the most precious man-made ornaments (Proverbs 1:7-8). And pray constantly.
Show Thou unto me, Thy servant,
All Thy ways and teach Thou me,
So that, by Thy Spirit guided,
Clearly I Thy paths may see.
Sins of youth remember not,
Nor recall my hid transgressions;
For Thy goodness' sake, 0 God,
Think of me in Thy compassion.
NIV Study Bible
Ephesians (Tyndale New Testament Commentary).
A Mirror of the Manifold Wisdom of God:
Outlines on the Letter to the Ephesians (J. C. Smelik).