We come to the second section of chapter one. Using Loyd-Jones' idea we come to the second painting in the Ephesians gallery. Paul expands on his instruction about what we have in Christ. In the first section he has described how God blessed us, chose us, and predestined us for the purpose of being His sons. Now he moves into a more detailed description of salvation beginning with a definition of 'redemption.' The beauty and immensity of what we have in our forgiveness unfolds in these few words.
I often wonder what to teach people who want to grow in Christ. What are the most important ideas to grasp in order to know God? I think Stott's observation about Paul is helpful here, "He peered back ‘before the foundation of the world’ and on to ‘the fullness of time,' and grasped hold of what 'we have' now and ought to 'be' now in the light of those two eternities" (Stott, 44-45). What should we know to help our growth? The fact of eternity past, present, and future. That there is a timeline beyond our human understanding. In that timeline, we were chosen, we are saved, and we will see all things come together in willful submission under Christ. There is a symmetry and completeness in Christian theology, as seen in the Scripture, where we see God's full plan.
We are released from bondage to sin by Christ's surrendering His blood on the cross. His blood provides forgiveness. In this letter, redemption and forgiveness are the same. Each defines the other. Redemption is the forgiveness we have in Christ through His blood. This is also the continuation of the purpose of our adoption. Christians are adopted to become "holy and blameless" (1:4), neither of these can be accomplished without His blood.
God provides forgiveness to us through Christ 'according to His grace.' Paul even uses 'lavished' to describe how gracious God is. It matters not how we sin or how much we sin, He forgives us according to His grace. Just as He is infinite, so is His capacity to give grace. This argument does not open the door for continued sin, it simply observes that when God chooses a person, even the most heinous sin has been covered. This idea speaks to both God's grace and the merit of Christ's death.
So many humans choose to look toward their own sin and the capacity they have to sin. In reality it is the depth of our arrogance that allows us to think that our nature, our sin, our capacity for anything can be greater than God's capacity to forgive or His capacity to see His plan through both individually and universally. The text states that our sin capacity has nothing to do with forgiveness, it is God's capacity to love and grant grace that determines outcomes.
Through Christ we have redemption. While reminiscent of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament, it is His sacrifice that those gestures point toward. There is a sense of temporary-ness in the OT, here we have the permanent forgiveness forever purchased by Christ. This is seen specifically when the author of Hebrews says, "He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12).
This redemption has a measure, "according to the riches of His grace." To understand this measure, think in terms of diminishing. If it were out of His grace, the His grace would reduce. Much like taking a bucket of water out of a barrel. If you take enough buckets, the barrel will become empty. However, if you receive something "according to," it means that you receive up to the amount of water in the barrel. In God's case infinity provides a good perspective of the size of the barrel. You receive up to the entire amount that He possesses, and He possesses infinite grace.
The text also uses the description "lavished." One of the meanings of the Greek word is to have more than enough. God gives to His children more than enough. Remember in verse five, we are adopted. We are His children and He gives to us all the blessings of heaven and He lavished grace to us. Our Father does not scrimp on giving.
Nestled in the middle of the passage is the phrase, "according to the kind intention" (9). God is showing us kind regard. What we are given in Christ is from kindness. Kindness that required savagery. His Son was ravaged by created beings in order to show kindness to us. We are experiencing love, grace, and forgiveness because of His unique work on our behalf.
The final outcome of our redemption does not end with us or with eternal life. In His "wisdom and insight" He has made the picture more clear to us. The "mystery" has been revealed in the gospel. As Paul defines it here, the mystery includes all the world being brought under the administration/rule of Christ. That is the salvation of the individual and the culmination of the universe in submission to Christ. Christ is ruler of all, right now. However, in the future there will be a culmination of all things under His rule. This is not a statement of universal salvation, but of universal submission. The curse will be removed and we will live in a perfect world without the threat of sin and death. (In chapter 3 the mystery will be even more defined)
I think of this mystery as macro-redemption in conjunction with micro-redemption. In the micro-redemption we are individually made partakers of Christ. We are adopted into God's family. The macro-redemption concerns the universe. As John Stott stated, "In the fullness of time, God’s two creations, his whole universe and his whole church, will be unified under the cosmic Christ who is the supreme head of both" (44, Stott). The curse will be negated and sin will be no more.
Right now the universe is haywire. People cannot decide if we should go to space, the moon, Mars, or stay here and fix things. One thing seems to be agreed upon, the world needs help. Whether it is from environmentalism, capitalism, or religion, the world is not in good shape as it stands. That is agreed upon for the most part. The solution to these problems is part of what divides us.
However, the solution is not up for debate. The clock is ticking toward an ultimate destination determined long ago. All things will be summed up in Christ. All will be brought into reconciliation with the Creator. We will see what complete alignment with a singular purpose will look like in the universe. The singular purpose will be complete willing submission to Christ. The universe will run the way it was designed to before the fall of mankind. This idea is not fatalism, but it is sure. Far from fatal it moves us toward life; eternal, glorious, and perfect life.
Your reaction to those sentences define the problems we face as a species. If your reaction was to say "no way" or some variation of that sentiment, you are part of the rebellion that has caused the issues we face. If your reaction is, "even so, Lord come quickly," you are part of those who understand the solution. Hopefully, you also understand the depth of the problem and the grace in the solution.
Paul describes, in this section, a unique picture in which all things culminate in Christ. The issues will be dealt with, and the problems solved. There will be no debate or discussion. The end of what we know will be a recreating of what was, without flaw or deviance. The curse will be removed.
The passage also tells us that "in His wisdom and insight" He has made all these things known to us. This "mystery" drives His grace and the redemption we experience in Christ. We are forgiven to share in this culmination or renewal. Those of us who are redeemed, by His sovereign will and purpose, will know peace for themselves and the entire universe.
Just as God shows grace and kindness to us, He will show it to the universe when He takes away the curse because of Jesus' sacrifice, and renews the universe for His glory. He will bring all things into submission to Christ. Jesus is Lord over all of creation, but in the future He will be Lord without rebellion from the creation.
This passage taught the Ephesians about the love the Father has for them. They are taught the way their salvation occurred. They are prepared for the future under Christ and His lordship and rule.
For me, I am reminded of the truths that saved me. I know God loves me and is continually kind to me. This truth must be the lens through which I see the joys and struggles I face each day. In the struggle, I know God shows me abundant grace. In the struggle, I know God is kind toward me. In the struggle, I know all things are moving toward consummation in Christ. In the struggle, these truths bring me peace and hope. God is moving things toward Christ's summation which will be for our ultimate good.
How do these truths impact me daily? First, the salvation I have in Him is not by my doing. I did not initiate it, nor do I maintain it. The facilitator, acquiring agent, and the maintaining power all come from Christ. It is completely a God thing and not a me thing. So, when I have feelings or do things that do not honor Christ, I do not worry about my salvation. I focus on repairing my relationships with those around me and with God. I confess my sin and trust He is faithful to forgive me. That brings freedom and security that I would not have if things relied on me.
Second, redemption is far bigger than my salvation.Redemption has a universe wide application. The curse will be gone at a point in the future. That fact brings me hope for the future. Someday, we will live in a universe that is not marred by the curse of sin. We will not fight with our own sinful nature. We will do the right things without hesitation.
These things bring me hope. Without Christ being the maintaining agent, I would not last long. My heart would wander. So our sin, our failures can be brought to Christ. He forgives us, because He is the gracious Lord of all.