Making Known the Wisdom of God
Ephesians Lesson #094
February 21, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, as we have sung these hymns focusing upon Your goodness, Your grace, Your power, the fact that You sustain us throughout the worst of our experiences, the worst of times, we are so grateful for Your grace. We do not deserve it as creatures who have sinned and rebelled, who continue to sin and rebel even as believers.
“But we are thankful for Your grace that You have saved us in a way that is not dependent upon who we are or what we do or what we think but is dependent upon the work of Christ on the Cross. Simply trusting in Him.
“You’ve given us Your Word, not only the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, but also Your written Word. It is on the basis of Your written Word that we are sanctified as our Lord prayed in John 17: we are to be sanctified by means of the truth; Thy Word is truth.
“Father, we take this time to study the Scriptures because these are the meanings, the information content of the Scripture which contains this exceedingly magnificent promises that we just heard about from Peter, that it is through Your Word that we are transformed.
“We are to avoid as much as we can being pressed into the mold or conformed to the world system around us. It is Your Word and Your Word alone through Your grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ.
“Father, we pray that You would help us to understand these wonderful things that the Apostle Paul has written about that are true for our lives, that should shape our understanding of who we are. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
We are studying the section in Ephesians 3 related to what has been revealed to Paul that he calls “the mystery.” Here the emphasis is on that which has been made known: on being enlightened, and on this new revelation.
That is given to us through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, as well as the group he describes as the apostles and prophets, which speaks of the New Testament prophets. The foundation of the Church has to do with the apostles and the prophets.
We will step back to Ephesians 3:6 to catch the context, but primarily going to Ephesians 3:10–13.
First, let’s focus our attention back on this immediate section, Ephesians 3:6–13, so that we can think about what Paul is saying here as we wrap it up.
Ephesians 3:6, “… that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.”
The gospel is the good news. We don’t always act like it’s good news, but it’s the good news, the great news that Christ died on the Cross for us, and that we can have eternal life. When we get a grip on what that means, this is something we should clearly want to tell the world about.
The focus here is that it is through the gospel that there is a change in the relationship of Jew and Gentile. We studied through that in Ephesians 2:11–22: this new entity that has come into existence.
As Paul talks about this, his focus is on this new entity that he describes as a new man, a new body, a new household of God, and a new temple—four different metaphors. We’ve been in this section for about four or five months, but this is so profound!
There are sections and verses here that are used as proof text for so many different teachings or doctrines of the Scripture related to the church, related to this dispensation, and related to the purpose of God in this dispensation. It is one of the most significant chapters or sections in all of Scripture.
Here Paul talks about the gospel, Ephesians 3:7, “of which—and that relative pronoun ‘which’ refers back to the gospel, so of this gospel—I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” That power is His omnipotence.
He makes the point here that at the point of his salvation, when he trusted in Christ on the road to Damascus, Jesus Christ appeared to him in a bright light. He saw Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. He saw Him physically, bodily in terms of His resurrection. It wasn’t just something that appeared, that if he had stuck his hand out it would’ve passed through this immaterial image.
No, it was a physical material appearance of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who said, Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” He was persecuting the Church, so even there Jesus is identifying the Church Age believers as His body. Paul was persecuting Christ by persecuting the Church.
It was at that time that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned him as an apostle. He was gifted with the spiritual gift of apostleship, which he describes as “the gift of the grace of God which was given to me.” We studied this phrase in detail at previous times in this section that this is not talking about his salvation.
This is talking about that which came with his salvation: his spiritual gift of apostleship, his commission as an apostle and his mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles. This wasn’t the only group he was to take the gospel to, but he was to take it to the Gentiles, and he is distinctively stated to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
You may not realize it, but there has been a lot of confusion over the word “gospel” for almost 2,000 years. What is the current meaning of “gospel?” In various passages, you have to be careful because the way we use “gospel” is in a rather restrictive sense. In other words, we’re answering the question, “what must I do to not go to the Lake of Fire and to go to Heaven when I die?”
That is what we identify as the first stage or Phase 1 of salvation. There are three different meanings to salvation. Dr. Earl Radmacher, who was the president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary for many years, used to call it “the three tenses of salvation:” that we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.
Stage 1 is justification. What must I do to be just before God? How can I as a sinner be righteous before God? We can’t do anything. This is why Paul writes in Titus 3:5, it’s not by works of righteousness which we have done that He saved us, but by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. It is a reference to the fact that this is a work of God, not a work of man.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He who knew no sin—the Lord Jesus Christ—was made sin for us that the righteousness of God may be found in us.” At the instant of faith in Christ we are given—imputed is the technical term—we are reckoned to be righteousness by God the Father. The illustration from Zechariah 3 with Joshua the high priest putting on a new robe is the picture. We are clothed positionally as righteous; we have put on a new garment.
It’s interesting—as you know I’m teaching Church History on Monday nights; we will be back to that tomorrow night. One of the things that they did that had significance in the early church in relation to baptism was that they would take the new converts, and they’d put them through a course of study—CATECHESIS, where we get “catechism”—a course of study to prepare them for baptism.
They did these baptisms only once a year. They did them on the Saturday morning at dawn between Good Friday and Resurrection Day (Easter), and it was a rigorous time of study. They would take 40 days before that day to train and to teach and to instruct them. Some of the instruction we would say was not quite right.
Early Church fathers didn’t have it altogether, trust me, they had a lot of confused ideas: everything from physical washing of sin to baptismal regeneration; they had different ideas. But this 40-day period was where we got the concept of Lent. That wasn’t what they were doing then, but it eventually developed into the concept of Lent.
On that Saturday morning long before dawn, the new baptismal candidates would come and the men were separated from the women because they were baptized naked, and in the baptistery which was separate from the Church.
If you grew up in a Baptist church, you know they have the baptistery up behind the pulpit. I was in my first church, and the baptistery was actually under the platform. (I always wondered if there was a string somewhere and somebody’s going to pull if I don’t say the right thing and I’m going to get dunked!)
But in the early Church it was a separate building, designed so that the men and the women were kept separate from one another. They would go in, and first thing would take off their garments. Then after they were immersed they would put on a new garment.
I’m not sure how well they taught what this was all about, but the symbolism was that we have put off the old man, and when we are saved—Romans 6 which is referencing the baptism by the Holy Spirit—that what happens when we trust in Christ is the old man dies—what we were before we were saved.
Trouble is, we still have a sin nature. The old man is everything we were before we were saved, and we become a new creature in Christ. So, they would put on the new garment, and that’s what that symbolized. In some ways they were on target.
Unfortunately, today the purpose for baptism has been lost, but it is to teach a very abstract doctrine, which is our position in Christ, our new identity in Christ. That we are new creatures in Christ through a very concrete symbolism of being immersed in the water, which is to be identified with Christ in His death and burial. The result of that is we are cleansed of sin and become positionally cleansed and positionally forgiven.
Then as we come up out of the water that is identification with His resurrection, His new life, which is the foundation for understanding our sanctification. That’s what we see in baptism, and that’s how we teach it here at West Houston Bible Church. Its purpose is, just like the Lord’s Table is, to teach through the symbol so that people can come to understand these abstract doctrines.
In Phase 2, we have the spiritual life. It’s important to understand that Phase 1 and Phase 2 are not connected. This is a problem in Roman Catholic theology, in which you don’t know if you’re saved, Phase 1, unless you see it in Phase 2.
They run concurrently; they are connected together. They haven’t distinguished the two. But justification takes place in a millisecond, a nanosecond. When we trust in Christ we are declared just, and that does not necessitate our spiritual growth afterward.
This is a holdover from Roman Catholicism within the tradition of Reformed or Calvinistic churches. Others have picked this up, and we all fall prey to that. We see or hear someone say something or who lives a certain way, and we look at them and say, “How can that person be saved? Look at what they said. Look at what they’ve done. That person has denied Christ.”
They take a verse out of context in 1 John and say, “See, you can’t deny Christ and be a true believer.” But they forget the fact that every believer still has a sin nature, and every believer can commit every single sin he could commit before he was a believer.
There are believers who never hear very much about how to grow after they are saved. They never understand Phase 2; they only understand Phase 1. They continue living and thinking and acting and talking just like they did as an unbeliever.
There are some believers who do grow some, and then they decide that they are really attracted to the world and they go right back to it. They are exemplified in Scripture in the parable of the two sons, the Prodigal Son. There are a lot of lot of believers who are living like the Prodigal Son, and they are wallowing in the pigsty with nothing to eat but the husks of corn because they rejected grace.
But they are still saved, just as the Prodigal was still the son of his father. He was still saved. He had squandered his inheritance, but he was still saved. So when he eventually went back, the father welcomed him back because he was still part of the family.
We have to understand that concept of grace. Phase 1 is separate from Phase 2, which is our spiritual life our spiritual growth. And it is not inevitable or necessarily the result of Phase 1. This is where you get into the problems, a holdover from Roman Catholic theology, and into what we call Lordship Theology, that if you’re not growing spiritually, then how do you know? How do you quantify it? How do you measure because fruit can be imperceptible?
In fact, if you are a gardener and grow anything that bears fruit, from the time that you plant the seed and a seedling comes up until the time that this plant has grown and matured enough to bear fruit—60, 90, 120 days goes by—so that the bearing of fruit is the product of a mature plant. The bearing of fruit in the spiritual life is the product of maturity; it is not immaturity. It is not something you see with brand-new believers because they don’t have any content yet. That is Phase 2.
Eventually there will be Phase 3, which is our glorification when we are absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord. If you are justified, then it is inevitable that you will be glorified. That’s what Romans 8:28–29 is all about.
We also talked about it this way in terms of the three tenses of salvation. At Phase 1 we are saved from the penalty of sin. The penalty of sin is the fact that God declared to Adam and Eve in the garden that “on the day—at the time, that’s just a Hebrew idiom for at that instant—“you will die if you eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Well, they didn’t die physically; they died spiritually. Because something did happen, indicated by the fact that when God came to them in the garden, they ran and hid because they were afraid. They were never afraid before, they never hid from God before, so that tells us that they were alienated from the life of God; they were alienated from God, separated by God. That is what we mean by “spiritual death.”
Every person is born spiritually dead, but that’s the judicial penalty that God assigned to disobedience. We’re all born spiritually dead, separated from God under that penalty which will eventually become eternal spiritual death. But we’re saved from that penalty. Christ, when He died on the Cross for our sins, paid that penalty in full—TETELESTAI.
Romans 6:7–8 is all about the spiritual life, as we grow. We are saved from the power of sin. We are to consider ourselves dead to sin—that is, separated from its power. That is symbolized in baptism when we’re separated from the world. We’re identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, so that there is that separation from who we were before we were saved. It is a legal position before God.
That happens at that instant of salvation, but we have to consider ourselves dead to sin. We have to understand that’s the reality of who we now are. We have put off the old man and we are to put on the new man. We are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice it’s grace and knowledge; you have to have knowledge.
We live in the Information Age, and there are a lot of people who confuse information with knowledge. You can get on the Internet and search on any number of things and find all sorts of disparate and contradictory opinions on everything, which can lead you to a certain level of skepticism: can we know anything?
This last year as we’ve gone through this pandemic with the COVID-19, all of us have experienced the fact that if you get 20 experts you get 30 opinions, because they change their minds a lot. You can get in a debate with anybody, and you can both cite 10 world-renowned experts that say that you must wear masks, and in fact, let’s double up on them. And then you can find 10 world-renowned experts who say masks don’t do anything. We’re just left going, “Well, who do we trust?”
You go through question after question of so many things, and how do we know what happened? Look at politics and the fake news, and one person says this, and the other person says just the opposite. Where do we go to learn truth? One thing that I know is when I’m in the Scriptures, I know I have truth, and I know exactly what it means, and I can understand that.
We are identified with Christ, we’re given this new identity, and we have to consider ourselves— “reckon” in the King James translation—reckon ourselves dead to sin; that is, separated from the power of the sin nature.
As we grow spiritually, which is summarized I think in Romans 12:1–2, it says do not be conformed to the world: don’t be pressed into the mold of the culture’s norms and standards and way of living; but be transformed by the renovation, the overhaul, the transformation of your mind, your thinking. You have to get rid of all the old garbage and put in the truth of God, and that is what sanctifies us. We’re saved from the power of sin.
Then when we die physically or if we’re part of the Rapture generation, at that instant we are absent from the body, face-to-face with the Lord, and we no longer have a sin nature to deal with. Some of us are going to look in the mirror and wonder who that is! Because once that sin nature and its consequences are removed, we are not sure who we are anymore. That’s going to be very interesting for most of us.
Teaching all of this is Paul’s concept of the gospel—not just Phase 1, what must I do to have eternal life? But all of this, the good news, the great news of our salvation, which includes all three of those things.
Ephesians 3:7–8, “… of which—that is, the gospel—I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of his power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given …” That is, this commission to proclaim the good news that Jew and Gentile are now united together in one body.
How many of us have ever mentioned that when we were answering the question, “how do I get to heaven?” None of us! That’s because it’s not part of the Phase 1 message; it’s part of the Phase 2 message. Talking about the gospel, we see that the use of the word here “that I should preach,” EUAGGELIZO, where we get evangelism.
He’s clearly talking about proclaiming the good news. But it’s not that narrow good news of “what must I do to go to heaven when I die?” But it’s the broad good news that includes how to be born again and what the born-again person should do to continue to grow spiritually.
Ephesians 3:8, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that—I should evangelize—I should proclaim the good news among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
When I retranslated, I changed this, “… that I should proclaim the good news, the unsearchable riches of Christ” because the phrase “the unsearchable riches of Christ” is appositional: it is explaining the content of what he is proclaiming. “The unsearchable riches of Christ” isn’t the message of, “how do I get saved and go to heaven when I die?”
“The unsearchable riches of Christ” has to do with all of the wonderful things that God did for us at salvation that we can develop and exploit all of the assets that He has given us that we can grow spiritually. It should be translated “… should proclaim the good news, the unsearchable wealth of Christ among the Gentiles—or to the Gentiles.”
Ephesians 3:9, “and to make all see what is the administration—it’s not ‘fellowship’;” that was only in a few manuscripts which are the foundation of the Textus Receptus of the King James. The vast majority of manuscripts have OIKONOMIA there—the administration of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Christ.”
This is the mystery: previously unrevealed doctrine. It was hidden. God didn’t tell anybody. The angels did know, Satan didn’t know, the fallen angels, no human being in the Old Testament ever had a concept of what was going to take place in the future with regard to the body of Christ.
Again, note the emphasis on creation, “from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.” Creation is not some secondary doctrine. I’ve had arguments with Christians that say, “Well, that’s so distracting.” The foundation of the Bible is Genesis 1:1-2, and how many times do you have God’s work as Creator referred to throughout the rest of the Old Testament? If you think creation is a secondary doctrine, then you haven’t learned very much about the Bible. Again and again and again, that’s what distinguishes the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of Christians from all of the pagan gods and goddesses.
Ephesians 3:10, “to the intent—or for the purpose that—now the mount manifold—or the multifaceted—wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 3:11, “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord …”
God had a plan, He had a purpose, and He accomplished that in Christ Jesus. This purpose included previously unrevealed information—this mystery doctrine—about the Church Age.
Paul can’t avoid saying something new about what we have in Christ.
Ephesians 3:12, “… in who—that is, in Christ—we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
We now have this new position which gives us the boldness and the confidence to come before God’s throne of grace and find mercy and help in time of need. We have direct access to the Father.
He finally comes back to finish the sentence he started in Ephesians 3:1: Ephesians 3:13, “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”
To recap, this is how I’ve re-translated Ephesians 3:8, “… this grace was given, to preach the good news …” to proclaim the good news, to announce the good news. It is EUAGGELIZO, not KERUSSO, which is usually translated preach.
It’s the primary word which means to proclaim, as a herald going through a town would announce the news. It is not DIDASKO, which is the word for teaching; it’s not instruction. It is an announcement of good news telling people the gospel.
This is why I make this breakdown exegetically between a narrow gospel of just “what must I do to have eternal life and not go to the Lake of Fire?” It is that this includes the unsearchable riches of Christ. It’s much more than just the message of “how do I get to Heaven when I die?”
It is talking about the wealth that becomes ours when we trust in Christ and how to exploit that in our Christian life and walk. We have two infinitive verbals here:
- to proclaim the good news at the end of Ephesians 3:8, and
- to reveal to all what is the administration of the mystery, Ephesians 3:9
Those are the main ideas. The reason I’m making a point out of that grammatically is all of this is one long sentence, and we know how the Apostle Paul is when it comes to long sentences. In Ephesians 3:10, “to the intent that now—what is this purpose?—that the multifaceted wisdom of God might be made known.”
There’s a lot in between, but it has to go back to these two infinitives. The reason Paul is given this in proclaiming the good news of the gospel and revealing all that is going on in this dispensation, this administration of the mystery, is for the purpose of manifesting the multifaceted wisdom of God to the angels, to the principalities and the powers.
He has two purposes he states through these infinitives. First of all, to evangelize the Gentiles, because he’s the apostle to the Gentiles.
Is he ignoring the Jews? No, he’s not. Every time he went to a new city, he went to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. He goes to the synagogues. Why? Because they have the Old Testament Scriptures. They know the prophecies of the Messiah, they know who the true God is, they know the basics of Old Testament prophecies and messianic prophecies, and he can start there to show that those were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
It always created a division, so he was kicked out, but a number of them went with him, forming the seed of a new congregation. He evangelized the Gentiles, revealing or disclosing this new information about this dispensation …
… that God’s doing things differently: now Jew and Gentile are united together.
The purpose for this is given in Ephesians 3:10, “… to the intent—or for the purpose—that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”
I took time to go through this concept of the principalities and powers as the different descriptions of the different hierarchies of authority within the angelic ranks, both the elect angels and the fallen angels. They’re all learning something by watching us; that is, the Church, but specifically now in this Church Age generation.
What makes it different now that they couldn’t learn before? Think contextually. It’s this new entity of Jew and Gentile together as one new man, one new body, one household of God, one new temple. We are the object of the scrutiny of both elect angels and fallen angels, the demons. They’re learning something about God. He’s teaching; He’s got us on display for a purpose.
The word that is translated “now:” I know some people are going to say, “Well, you’re pushing the case a little bit here.” I understand that, but I think this may very possibly be the case. He says, “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be known to the church.”
“Now” here is the Greek NUN. Sometimes we split things kind of close. There are two words in Greek for “now:” NUN and ARTI. In a lot of cases, they overlap. If I were to have a diagram up here, I would have two intersecting circles, but there would be a big area of overlap.
“Now” means now in a lot of cases. But in some cases both words are used in context, but they are not both used in this context. Where they’re both used in context, they have a different sense.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see through a mirror enigmatically,” it is ARTI. He’s talking about the fact that these gifts—knowledge, wisdom, tongues—that were partial or incomplete are now abolished, and tongues will cease. He is saying but now we see through this mirror enigmatically, a reference to God’s revelation, that it’s incomplete and it’s insufficient, so we don’t really see the whole picture yet.
The mirror is only halfway built, so that we can’t see ourselves fully and accurately. Then in 1 Corinthians 13:13 he talks about what does continue, and he uses the other word NUN. So the first is, “but now we see through a mirror darkened.” In other words, he is saying now in this very narrow timeframe—right now, while we don’t have a complete Scripture—we see through this mirror enigmatically.
“… but now,” and he uses NUN; it’s a broader “now.” “But now in this Church Age what abides, what continues?” That’s in contrast with what he said before that wisdom is incomplete, knowledge is incomplete, but when the perfect comes, that which is incomplete will be done away with.
These revelatory gifts, wisdom and knowledge, will be done away with when something comes, so that would mean that it’s some revelation that completes things, so that wisdom and knowledge are no longer incomplete.
We have the giving of the Word of God, what continues? Not tongues, not knowledge, not wisdom. What continues in the Church Age and characterizes the Church Age are faith, hope and love.
1 Corinthians 12:13. “And now—in this Church Age—abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Some people interpret the perfect as the being in the presence of God in one way or another, at the Rapture, at death, the Second Coming, whatever it might be. But the reality is that Romans 8 says that hope that is seen is not hope. So, when we are face-to-face with the Lord our hope is seen, so hope doesn’t exist anymore once we’re face-to-face with the Lord.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen. But when we’re face-to-face with the Lord they are seen. We won’t be operating on faith, we won’t have hope when we are in heaven because our hope is realized and we’re face-to-face with the Lord, so there’s no more need for faith. It’s not the evidence of things not seen, we’re seeing.
The reality is that faith, hope, and love are not talking about what’s going to abide in Heaven, but what’s abiding here on the earth in the Church Age. And it clearly means that some of the revelatory gifts, like tongues, cease with the completion of the Canon.
“Now” in Ephesians 3:10 is the same word. I think that Paul is using this in the same way that NUN means now in this Church Age, in this administration of the mystery of God “… the manifold wisdom—POLUPOIKILOS (where we get polka dot. Just thought you needed to know that.) It means variegated, something that is different. It’s talking about the many facets of God’s wisdom.
What always comes to my mind when I think of this many-faceted thing, is a many-faceted sphere. I just can’t get it out of my head. You know what I’m talking about—a disco ball. It would spin and reflect all the light. That’s the many-faceted idea here. There are untold billions of facets, little faces, to God’s wisdom. We have to understand what that means.
We’ve talked about the fact that this is being made known. How is it being made known? It’s through the church, through us. Who’s it being made known to? The principalities and powers. It’s being made known to the angelic host, fallen as well as elect.
What does it mean that this manifold wisdom of God might be made known, being demonstrated? I want to talk about this verse, and then we will come back and talk about what wisdom is.
“Might be made known …” This is GNORIZO, which is a broad, general term for just making something known that wasn’t known before. The word that we talk about in terms of revelation, APOKALUPSIS, in the Greek means to make something known that wasn’t known before. GNORIZO is just a broad general term for that.
He is “making this known .…”
GNORIZO is also a synonym in one of its senses with a more precise word that we studied in previous lessons, Ephesians 2:7, ENDEIKNUMI. This word really has a legal sense of bringing and laying out evidence before a court. ENDEIKNUMI means to demonstrate a truth, to prove something, to exhibit it so that people can learn from it.
Paul talked about this in Ephesians 2: we are saved. What happens when are saved? We are given new life in Christ; we are made alive together with Him; we are raised with Him and seated together with Him in the heavenlies.
That’s the Church Age. That’s what happens with us positionally in Christ. That’s related to what happens at the time that we are saved with the baptism by the Holy Spirit. The parallel passage over Colossians 2:12–13 makes that point a little more clear than Ephesians 2:7.
We are evidence in the trial of the fall of Satan and the angels. God is demonstrating something about His grace and His wisdom to the angels. He’s showing the exceeding riches of His grace.
Several phrases here in Ephesians talk about this:
“… to the praise of the glory of His grace …” Ephesians 1:6;
“… the riches of the glory— the wealth—of His inheritance in the saints …” Ephesians 1:18.
“… the exceeding greatness of His power …” Ephesians 1:19
“… the working of His mighty power …” Ephesians 1:19B
“… God who is rich in mercy …” Ephesians 2:4a
“… because of His great love with which He loved us …” Ephesians 2:4b
“… by God’s grace …” Ephesians 2:5b
Over and over again, all of this speaks of the grace of God. This is what is being put on display, is God’s grace right now. He is teaching the angels something about His grace and the significance of His grace. So, if Satan were to try to make the case, how can a good loving God send His creatures to the Lake of Fire, God says, “Look at Me display My grace! You guys just abused it, destroyed it, and there are consequences for doing that. And because it’s so serious to abuse My grace is why the penalty is so horrible.”
Slides 18 and 19
He is demonstrating this legally to the angels. This is what is made known by the Church to the principalities and powers.
Slide 20 Skipped
Let’s talk about the word “wisdom,” the manifold wisdom of God. The Hebrew verb is chakham. It has a CH at the beginning and a K in the middle, and it has to do with making wise. But we have to understand what wisdom is in the Bible.
A minute ago I referred to how we live in an age where we confuse information with knowledge. Well, people also confuse knowledge with wisdom. Information is not knowledge. We can get all kinds of information off the Internet, but that doesn’t mean we know anything. Knowing is the result of the process of learning and making it part of our thinking. So, information isn’t knowledge, but knowledge isn’t wisdom.
Wisdom is the creative and powerful application of knowledge to a situation, so that wisdom has this idea of skillfully taking the principles, the truths that you know and applying them in different ways and different situations in your life. Which in turn produces a work of art in our lives; it produces something of beauty. That’s what wisdom is; it is often translated skill. I have some examples.
In Exodus 28:3, as Moses is being instructed by God on how the tabernacle is to be built, He also tells him that He is going to give certain skill to the craftsmen who are going to make everything. The heads of the craftsmen were Oholiab and Bezalel. God gave them wisdom—that is, skill at woodworking, skill at metalworking, working with the jewels, working with the gold and the silver, skill in the weaving of the fabrics and the embroidery of the fabrics. It produced something that was incredibly beautiful.
Exodus 28:3 God said to Moses, “So you shall speak to all who are gifted—chakham, gifted or wise—but skillful is really the sense of biblical wisdom. It’s not the Greek concept of an Aristotle or a Plato or a Socrates. It is the skill at developing or applying something.
“So you shall speak to all who are gifted—wise, skillful—artisans, whom I filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.”
Exodus 35:25, “All the women who were gifted—chakham, wise or skillful—artisans spun yarn with their hands …” as they did all the material for the curtains and everything.
Exodus 36:1, “And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted—chakham, skillfull—artisan in whom the Lord has—notice the Lord puts the skill in them—put wisdom—chakham—and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary.”
This is the idea of wisdom, and it is to take things in our life, the things we learned from Scripture, and to apply them to the circumstances of life, so that it creates something beautiful.
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We have a promise in James 1:5. James 1:2–4 talks about counting it all joy when you encounter various trials or tests because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:5 addresses the fact that, well, what if I hit these trials and tests of my faith, and I don’t really know what to do? Then pray about it.
“But if anyone is deficient in wisdom—if you don’t know enough to apply to the situation to create something beautiful and artistic for God—he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.”
When I was a junior in high school, I had a day when I had finals in chemistry and algebra. As you know I’m not a numbers guy, I’m not really a science guy, and I wasn’t going into the chemistry final with great grades. And I prayed a lot and claimed this promise; that was erroneous! God didn’t answer that prayer because that wasn’t what the promise was about.
This is about wisdom in applying God’s Word to the tests of faith. God gives it generously, graciously “… without reprimand, and it will be given to him.”
All of this goes back to understanding how Paul ended the first part of Ephesians 2: that we, the church—Jew and Gentile together—are his workmanship. I covered this when we went through it. The Greek is POIEMA, from which we get “poem,” which is a beautiful way of crafting language. It has to do with creating something that is of beauty, creating something that is a work of art, creating an artistic masterpiece. That’s what God is creating in the Church and that we are to walk in good works.
Three things stand out for us in summary.
1. God is creating a masterpiece, and that masterpiece is the uniting of Jew and Gentile together in this one new body designated as the body of Christ. But it’s identified in Ephesians 2:11–22 as a new man, a new household, and a new temple.
This is something of beauty. This is who we are. This is our spiritual identity in the church.
2. Wisdom is another term used to identify Christ in many Old Testament passages, incorporating several things:
a. The Work of Christ: 1 Corinthians also draws our attention to God’s wisdom in the plan of salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:23, “… but we preach—proclaim—Christ crucified—the Phase 1 message—to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,”
We have heard that there are some in the free grace movement who have opted for what we call a “cross-less gospel.” And that was so divisive that back 10 to 15 years ago, it almost destroyed Chafer Seminary because some of the faculty members and some of the other leaders had bought into this. The board and George Meisinger took a very, very strong stand, that we have to preach the Cross and Christ crucified.
1 Corinthians 1:23–24 Paul says, “… we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jew and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Christ is the wisdom of God, so part of what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 3:10, the manifold or multifaceted wisdom of God, is that Christ is the center of that.
1 Corinthians 1:30, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”
1 Corinthians 2:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery—connecting it to the Mystery Doctrine—the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”
b. The body of Christ, the Church, never before seen in history, not anticipated, not expected, not prophesied. That’s part of the wisdom of God.
c. The grace of God in this Church Age.
It is beyond anything seen before. There was grace in the Old Testament. John 1, “with Christ came grace,” but there was grace in the Old Testament.
The result of this is Ephesians 3:12, which we will come back to next time.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study this passage and dig out all the richness and wealth that is here.
“Father, help us to understand our identity in Christ that we are identified with His death, burial and resurrection, so that the power of the sin nature is broken. And yet too often rather than considering ourselves dead to sin, we consider ourselves alive to sin, and our lives, our thinking are not much different from unbelievers.
“But there is to be this transformation that takes place, but it’s not apart from Your Word, it is through Your Word. We are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Father, we pray for anyone who is here that is unsaved or someone who’s listening to this message that doesn’t know how to get to heaven, that the message is clear, it’s simply by faith in Christ Jesus, trusting Him alone.
“Faith alone, not faith plus works not faith plus cleaning up your life, just trusting in Christ alone. It’s Christ’s work exclusively that saves us. Father, we pray God the Holy Spirit would make that message clear to anyone who needs salvation.
“Father, we pray for us that we might take this message to heart, transforming our lives because we are indeed new creatures in Christ, and we pray this in His name, amen.”