World events may seem chaotic and confusing, but God is directing history toward a predetermined goal.
Even though followers of Jesus are caught in the swirl of cosmic forces, they are given insight into God’s plan for the ages.
— Ephesians 1.8b-10 – With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ,
As a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Wisdom and Insight
Some forces oppose God and oppress humans. They know nothing of God’s plan for the ages. They resist knowing it.
These people participate in “ungodliness and injustice of those who by their injustice suppress the truth” (Romans 1.18).
Paul analyzes the result of such behavior.
— Romans 1.21-22 – For though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless hearts were darkened.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians offer hope to foolish people who allow self-will to dominate their lives.
He writes, “And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6.11).
Not only does repentance and faith in Christ cause us to be washed, sanctified, and justified, it qualifies us to receive God’s revelation knowledge.
Fools become wise and darkened hearts are enlightened. God grants us wisdom and insight into his eternal plans.
The Mystery of God’s Will
God’s will is hidden from those who live according to self-will. They choose to “suppress the truth” (Romans 1.18) because they oppose God and oppress humans.
God’s will is a mystery because it is only understood as the knowledge that is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
What is God’s plan? It is “to gather up all things in him [Jesus], things in heaven and things on earth” (verse 10).
There are cosmic forces that threaten humanity’s well-being.
In the face of cosmic threats, the good news is that the Ultimate Power in the universe is God and he is moving history to a point where all things will be united under the headship of Jesus.
A Closer Look: Gnosticism
Gnosticism became a full-blown philosophy in the second century. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians contended with Gnosticism as it crept into the church.
Gnosticism comes from the Greek “gnosis” or knowledge. It involves a secret knowledge that allows humans to travel from a corrupt world to the pure glory of God.
The philosophy was dualistic. The world of pure spirit was good and the physical was bad.
There were emanations (or leaks as I like to think of them) from the purely spiritual or “fullness” that got so distant from the spiritual that they became physical.
The physical world and the human body were seen as corrupt. There were two quite different ways of viewing the body according to this philosophy.
(1) Asceticism – Some aspects of Gnosticism punished the body with ascetic behavior to free the spirit.
(2) Epicureanism and Hedonism – Other gnostic adherents indulged in the unrestrained pleasures of the body.
They believed that the body and spirit were not connected and that bodily behaviors did not affect the spirit of the individual. “Anything goes” was the belief of this branch of Gnosticism.
Three keywords are worth noting as we read Ephesians and Colossians. Paul used these words to give the correct meaning, as opposed to the gnostics.
— Wisdom and Insight – To the gnostics, these words involved a secret knowledge or a “password” that allowed people to return to the purely spiritual world where God or the gods lived.
— Fullness – The pure spiritual world was called “the fullness.”
Paul countered this view and wrote, “For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1.19).
In Ephesians, he wrote, “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1.22-23).
Some of the early church heresies arose because of gnostic thought. Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters of John counter this philosophy.
Bridging the Horizons
It is a gross understatement to say that evil is a major issue for humanity. History reveals different reactions to the reality of evil.
(1) Join Forces – Many humans join forces with evil. They deny God’s role in their lives and are the cause of oppression and injustice.
(2) Overwhelmed – Starving people like the refugees of the war in South Sudan or victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine may not have emotional circuits to process the evil of their existence.
To the multitude of people who are affected by evil, the message of Ephesians is that God is moving history to a place where the most loving and just person will be in complete control.
Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice” will be filled satisfied (Matthew 5.6).
(3) Special Knowledge – Evil and pain gives birth to all manner of philosophies.
Why God permits evil and suffering if he is a good God is a question that has been asked in every generation.
Gnosticism rightly claimed that humanity was so distant from God that evil existed. Gnosticism’s remedy for the situation was wrong and harmed people from the first century to the Middle Ages.
We do well to scrutinize people “in the know” in our culture. Are their answers consistent with what is revealed in the Bible?
(4) God’s Wisdom and Insight – These terms work together to describe the practical application of knowledge.
The consistent message of the Bible is that God is working in history to bring it to a climax. The goal of history is that God’s kingdom will be ruled by the most loving and just Being of All, Jesus.
Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1.22) and all things in heaven and earth will ultimately be subject to his rule (Ephesians 1.10).
The practical use of this knowledge is to live in an obedient relationship with Jesus. The wise make Jesus their head today, knowing that one day he will be the dominant force overall.
YouTube Video and Prayer
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.