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4. The Goal of History: Summing Up All Things in Christ (Ephesians 1:8b-10)

In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth (Ephesians 1:8b-10).

Introduction

We had invited some friends from church over for dinner after church one Sunday afternoon. It was one of those days when several pesky flies had somehow maneuvered around the screens on our windows and doors. We were all sitting at the table, about to offer thanks for the food. One fly was persistently landing on the empty plate of one of our guests. I had had enough. I stood up and swatted the fly. It was one of my best efforts. I hit the fly squarely and dealt him a fatal blow. There was only one problem—his badly maimed body landed in the middle of a very large salad, one that my wife had worked very hard to prepare.

Jeannette tried to salvage the situation. She hastily snatched up the salad bowl and took it to the kitchen counter. There, before the eyes of all, she removed not only the fly, but a large portion of the salad with him. It didn’t work. No one ate any of that salad.

There is a song (some might call it ancient), which goes something like this: “Little things mean a lot.” In biblical terms, it is the “little foxes which spoil the grapes” (Song of Solomon 2:15). In practical terms, it often takes but a very little thing to do a great deal of damage.

This week, there were a lot of folks who had no interest in art, who gave much thought to Michelangelo. “Michelangelo” is not a painting, it is a computer virus, a very subtle computer program which attaches itself to computer programs and lays dormant and undetected in your computer—until the date it is set to activate. At this point in time, your hard disk begins to erase all the data that you have taken months or years to store there. Something unseen and unexpected suddenly takes control of your computer and causes serious trouble.

Something devastating has happened on a much broader scale, which has resulted in suffering and distress, not only for mankind, but for the entire creation. The disaster happened in several stages. The first incident seems to have happened before the creation of man. It was the “fall” of Satan, which many understand to be described in Isaiah chapter 14 and Ezekiel chapter 28. Satan was created as a “son” of God,20 but he wanted the status of God rather to serve God, and so he fell, the first of a number of fallen angels, which are often referred to as demons.

After the creation of Adam and Eve, Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, resulting in their rebellion against God, for reasons strikingly similar to those of Satan (see Genesis chapter 3). The consequences of this fall can hardly be overestimated. All mankind became contaminated with sin, in every aspect of their being—intellectually, morally, socially, emotionally, and volitionally. While all men are not totally corrupt, they are corrupted in every part of their being. No part of our humanity is free from the presence and power of sin. Theologically, this fact is known as the doctrine of total depravity.

The devastating consequences of sin go far beyond that of total depravity. I call this the doctrine of total cosmic chaos. All of creation has been corrupted by the fall and shares in the curse resulting from man’s sin. This can be seen from Paul’s words in the 8th chapter of the Book of Romans:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now (Romans 8:18-22).

Thank God, the fall of man and the curse which has fallen upon all creation is reversible. It will be reversed by the coming of the King, and the establishment of His kingdom. This reversal and restoration of creation was to come about in a way that many would not recognize. It, like the fall and curse of creation, would have seemingly insignificant beginnings, but awesome consequences. Jesus summed it up this way:

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

The Lord’s coming in the form of a baby, born in a cattle trough, to parents of meager means in an insignificant village was far from spectacular. It was hardly indicative of the way in which the Messiah would come, a second time, to overcome His enemies and to establish His kingdom. While this kingdom had seemingly insignificant beginnings, it will eventually result in the reign of our Lord over the entire creation.

It is about this climactic conclusion of history and the coming of the kingdom of God of which Paul speaks in the first chapter of Ephesians. As unflattering as it may be to the human ego, the coming of Christ was not only to save men from their sins. According to Ephesians, man’s salvation is not the ultimate purpose of the coming of Christ. God’s eternal purpose is the “summing up of all things in Christ.”

If the corruption and chaos of all creation commenced with the fall of one man—Adam, the cure was also to come about through one man—Jesus Christ. Our text in Ephesians chapter 1 focuses on this climactic reversal of the fall of Adam and of the chaos and corruption it has brought about. In Ephesians 1:8-10 Paul speaks of the great reversal as the “summing up of all things in Christ.” Barclay has paraphrased them this way:

This happened because he made known to us the once hidden but now revealed secret of his will, for so it was his good pleasure to do. The secret was a purpose which he formed in his own mind before time began, so that the periods of time should be controlled and administered until they reached their full development, a development in which all things, in heaven and upon earth, are gathered into one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:8-10, Barclay’s paraphrase).21

The subject of our text is of vital importance. In the first place, this text describes God’s purpose for human history.22 Perhaps nowhere else is God’s purpose for human history so concisely summarized. Second, the passage we are considering in this lesson introduces the central theme of the Book of Ephesians. By understanding our text that we obtain the key to the message of the entire epistle.

In this lesson we will endeavor to explain how it is that God has purposed to sum up all things in Christ, and how this relates to the Christian and his conduct in the church and in the world. We will begin with the principle as it is introduced in chapter 1, and then move to its final clarification in chapters 2 and 3. After this we will look for parallel passages in other Scriptures. We will then seek to discover biblical illustrations of how God’s purpose in this principle is being carried out in specific areas of life. Finally, we will seek to explore some of the implications of the principle for our daily lives.

Few themes are of greater importance than that which we are about to study. Beyond this, few themes are more difficult to grasp. Repeatedly in Ephesians and elsewhere Paul refers to the principle as a mystery, one which has only recently been unveiled, and the primary task which Paul has been given as an apostle. Twice in this epistle to the Ephesians Paul prays that his readers will be granted the divine enablement to understand all that is involved.

Let us prayerfully and carefully enter into this mystery, knowing that it is a truth vastly bigger than us, but one which can and should shape our lives. Let us listen well, and make these matters the subject of a life-long study, to the glory of God as well as for our own blessing.

Summing Up All Things In Christ

The exact term which is translated “summing up” is found only twice in the New Testament. Both times the term is used by Paul. The other use of the term is found in Romans, where Paul writes,

For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Romans 13:9, emphasis mine).

The term used here means, “to gather up into one.”23 It is a compound term, with the principle root being the word for “head.” I believe that the New International Version precisely conveys Paul’s meaning when it renders the text in this way:

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10, NIV, emphasis mine).

The teaching of the headship of Christ is referred to often in the New Testament, and it refers to His authority and rule. The purpose of God in history is to bring glory to Himself by bringing all of creation under the headship (the authority and rule) of Christ. This truth is taught in a number of other New Testament passages.

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:15-23).

15 And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1:15-20).

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? “Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, And hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. “For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him (Hebrews 2:5-8).

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:6-14).

Several truths and inferences emerge from our text in Ephesians and these other texts, concerning the summing up of all things in Christ:

(1) God has, from eternity past, planned to sum up all things in Christ.

(2) The summing up of all things in Christ is God’s plan for human history. It is also the climax, the culmination of human history. It is the conclusion of God’s plan for time, and the commencement of God’s plan for men in eternity.

(3) God is sovereign, in control of all history, so that His plan to sum up all things in Christ is certain.

(4) The plan to sum up all things in Christ is the result and the reflection of God’s infinite wisdom and sight (Ephesians 1:8; see also Romans 11:33-36).

(5) The summing up of all things in Christ centers in the person of Christ, in His first and second comings.

(6) The summing up of all things in Christ provides for the reversal of the fall of Adam, and the restoration of all creation from its devastating effects (see Romans 5:12-21 and 8:19-25).

(7) God’s plan to sum up all things in Christ was a mystery until after the coming of Christ. The plan to sum up all things in Christ is one made in eternity past. It is a plan that God partially revealed in time. This plan was a mystery in that it was not revealed in full and in that it was not understood.

I believe that it would be mistaken to think that the plan of God to sum up all things in Christ was not revealed in the past, but only revealed by Paul and the other apostles. When Paul speaks of the salvation of the Jews and the Gentiles in Romans 9-11, he frequently cites Old Testament prophecies as having been fulfilled in Christ and in the church. The mystery was that God revealed His plan in part and in pieces, and no one could put them together until after they were fulfilled in Christ. Even then, men could not understand it unless God explained it through His apostles and men were enabled to grasp it through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 3 and 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:6).

Let me try to illustrate it in this way. If you have ever watched any of the “Columbo” mysteries on television, you will remember that this seemingly inept detective first uncovers a number of “mysterious” pieces of evidence, which do not square with the explanations offered for the crime. Finally, Columbo puts the facts together and solves the crime. This is the way I understand the “mystery” of God’s purpose to sum up all things in Christ. The prophets spoke of the sufferings and the glory of Messiah, and how both could be true was a great mystery to them (1 Peter 1:10-12). Only after Christ’s first coming do we see how suffering and glory fit beautifully together, to the glory of God. So it is with every puzzling piece of those prophecies which spoke of God’s purposes in Christ, which did not seem to fit together to form one clear picture. In Christ, all the pieces fit, the mystery is solved, and all things are summed up in Him.

(8) The proclamation and explanation of God’s plan to sum up all things in Christ was a part of Paul’s special calling and a commission given him by God (see Ephesians 3:1-13).

Some Specific Examples of Summing Up

We have spoken in general terms of the summing up of all things in Christ. Now let us pause to consider some of the specific ways in which all things are summed up in Christ. These are only samples, suggestive of the many other ways in which God has brought all things together under the headship of His Son.

(1) God summed up our salvation in Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

(2) The sin of Adam, which brought sin, death, and condemnation upon the human race, God has summed up and reversed in Christ:

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:17-19).

So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

(3) The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant were summed up in Christ, through whom God’s purpose and promise of blessing has been fulfilled.

Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:15-16).

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29).

(4) The Old Testament Law of Moses is summed up in Christ, who alone has both fulfilled its requirements and born its penalty for sin.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor Galatians 3:24-25).

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And upon their mind I will write them,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:14-17).

(5) The Old Testament prophecies are summed up in Christ, who fulfills them.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which were written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).

(6) The rituals and ceremonies of the Old Testament Law were also fulfilled in Christ.

Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:17).

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says,” that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:3-5).

In many other unexpected ways, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament anticipations of Him.

“OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON” (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15).

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

(7) God’s rule over angelic and celestial powers is summed up in Christ: the fallen celestial powers are defeated by Christ and the unfallen are instructed by Him.

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Colossians 2:15)

“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out” (John 12:31).

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-11).

Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Ephesians 6:11-18).24

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10).25

(8) All of divine revelation is summed up in Christ.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-5, 14).

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:1-4).

(9) The cleansing of the heavens has been summed up in Christ.

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:11-28).

(10) The future of the earth and all creation, which groans under the corruption of sin, is summed up in Christ.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:1-9).

Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy (Isaiah 35:4-6a).

“It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord (Isaiah 65:24-25).

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now (Romans 8:19-22).

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).

(11) The judgment of the enemies of God is summed up in Christ, the One who will judge the living and the dead.

On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16).

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments” (Revelation 16:4-7).

(12) The blessings of God are summed up in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

(13) The glory of God is summed up in Christ.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:1-4).

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).

To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 25).

One Final Note of the Summing Up of All Things in Christ

The emphasis of this lesson has been to show how, in the eternal plan and purpose of God, the Father has determined to sum up all things in Christ. We should not forget, however, that when all things are summed up in Christ, the Son of God will, in submission to His Father, give up the position of preeminence, giving it back to the Father:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:22-28).

Conclusion

As we conclude our study of this text in Ephesians, let me point out several ways in which this passage affects our lives.

First, our text introduces the central theme of Ephesians. The summing up of all things in Christ is not only God’s purpose in history, it is the primary subject of the entire epistle. In Ephesians 1:9-10 Paul introduces the subject. In the closing verses of chapter 1, Paul prays that his readers might come to grasp this majestic truth:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:18-23).

In chapter 2 Paul shows how God has reconciled rebellious sinners to Himself, in Christ (verses 1-10), and how through the church, the body of Christ, God has reconciled Jews and Gentiles, although they were formerly enemies (verses 11-22). The church is presented, not as a parenthesis or as some kind of temporary institution, but as the culmination of God’s plan for human history, because the church is the body of Christ. If the fulness of the Father is in Christ, the fulness of Christ is in His church (see 1:22-23).

In chapter 3, Paul identifies the summing up of all things in Christ as a great mystery, but one which now is being proclaimed to all men. The proclamation of this mystery is one of Paul’s primary missions, a stewardship committed to Him by God. Many of his tribulations are a direct result of his faithfulness in carrying out this task (3:8-13).

God has purposed that until the Lord Jesus Christ returns, to subdue His enemies and to reign over all creation, the church is to be the visible manifestation of Christ to the world. The God who filled the Lord Jesus with all His fullness, now fills the church with His fulness. What a glorious privilege and responsibility God has given His church! God has created the church not only to manifest Christ, but to manifest His glory. Therefore, the conduct of the church and of each of its members is a matter of the highest priority. Chapters 1-3 describe the creation of the church, to the glory of God. Chapters 4-6 prescribe the conduct of the church, to the glory of God.

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Second, our text teaches the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. In our culture, we are told, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” In many ways, this is a good word of advice. But it is not true in terms of Christian faith. We are to put all our eggs into one basket, and that “basket” is Christ.

We are to cast ourselves totally and exclusively on Christ and Christ alone. We are to place our trust in none other for salvation, for sanctification, for our eternal hope, for spiritual blessings. It is in Christ and Christ alone that God has pours out every spiritual blessing upon men (Ephesians 1:3). It is in Christ, and Christ alone, that God sums up all things (1:9-10). There is nothing else and no one else in whom we can place our trust for spiritual blessing.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36).

For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

There are those who do not know or trust God who trust, “Not Christ but …” They will trust in science, or in philosophy, or in their own good works, but not in Christ. There are others who seem more broad-minded. These trust in, “Christ, or …” They believe that there are many ways to heaven, many different (but equal) faiths. One may choose to get to heaven through Christ, or through some other means. Many are willing to add Christ to the list of their “gods” in whom they trust, but this is not good enough.

Then there are those who profess to be Christians, and yet they trust in “Christ and …” They trust in Christ and medicine, Christ and psychology, Christ and good works. Often, this kind of person speaks of “integration.” Most often I hear the expression, “the integration of psychology and theology.” I must say it emphatically, my friend, there is no place for integration here, but only a place for subordination.

Paul will have nothing to do with anything less than this: “Christ only!” I must place my trust in Christ, period! He alone can save me. He alone can sanctify me. He alone can assure my entrance into His heavenly kingdom. He alone can keep me. He alone is my hope, my joy, my comfort, my motivation. Every spiritual blessing comes only from Christ.

But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Colossians 2:1-15).

Third, our text informs us of the supreme importance of the church and of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) in the plan and purpose of God. I have already mentioned the importance of our conduct in the church above. But here I wish to stress the importance of the teachings of Scripture concerning the structure, function, and ministry of the church.26

The church is supremely important in the economy of God. It is the “body of Christ” (Colossians 1:24) of which Christ is the head (Colossians 1:18). It is the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7; 21:9). It is the “fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). It is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is “God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19) and the “dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). No wonder God has given such specific instructions on the form and function of His church. The church is the manifestation of Jesus Christ, in whom God has purposed to sum up all things.

Imagine, for example, that you were the chauffeur of a man who sold all of his cars in order to buy one very rare and expensive automobile. The car you are now driving is your employer’s only car, a car which he prizes above all else. How would you feel as you drove such a car? This is how we should feel about our conduct in the church.

How is it, then, that Christians take Paul’s instructions to the church so lightly? Why is it that men feel that Paul’s instructions can be quickly changed or even set aside? Why is it that Paul’s practice and teaching in the New Testament are viewed as unique to a particular church, when Paul says otherwise?

I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).27

Why is it that we not only permit women to speak publicly in church and to lead, but now we even take pride in the fact that they can preach, when Paul specifically forbade this, and based upon the principle of the headship of Christ over the church, the very principle which Paul teaches in Ephesians (see 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; 14:33-36; 1 Timothy 2:11-15)? The subordination of the woman to her husband by her silence in the church is a picture of the subordination of the church to her “head,” Jesus Christ. Why have we concluded that Paul’s teaching was a culturally relative matter, when he clearly teaches it to be linked to a principle which spans time and cultures?

Why is it that God struck a man and his wife dead for lying to the church and caused the sickness or death of those who failed to properly esteem the body of Christ in the observance of communion? Why is it that the focus of much of what we do in church is not Christ and His cross? May God cause us to revisit those doctrines and instructions concerning His church which we have taken lightly or even set aside.

May God grant to His church a fresh vision of the glory of the church and of the supreme importance of our conduct in the church.


20 Angels are called the “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and 2:1, and perhaps also in Genesis 6:2, though this text is more debatable.

21 William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 83.

22 Barclay (page 83) titles this text, “The goal of history.”

23 T. K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1974 [reprint]), p. 18.

24 This text must be understood in the light of the context of the texts in Isaiah to which Paul is alluding, describing the armor which Messiah will put on the accomplish His victory over the enemies of God.

25 See also Revelation 20.

26 A word of warning must be sounded here. Let us not fall into the same trap as the Jewish religious leaders—thinking that right forms guarantees right function. Right forms don’t assure right function; they can only facilitate it. But often it is the churches who boast most about the right forms which have the wrong functions. Let us not forget the warning of Isaiah 10:1-17; Amos 5:21-27; Hebrews 10:8-9.

27 See also 1 Corinthians 14:33-36.

Related Topics: Christology, Ecclesiology (The Church)