The Exceeding Riches of His Grace: Consummation
We have been contemplating "the unsearchable riches of Christ" and their five-fold presentation in the first chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians. We have looked at election to adoption, from adoption to redemption, from redemption to wisdom, and the ability to see into the heart of it all. We now come to the fifth of these. We come finally to consummation in verse ten:
"Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in Him, I say, in Whom also we were made a heritage."
"To sum up all things in Christ." That is the consummation of the riches of His grace, for grace is the first great context of that word "riches."
It is helpful if we remember the standpoint of this great letter. The apostle who wrote it had in his other letters, or in most of them, been dealing with things now. All the problems, the requirements, the affairs of present life were pressing upon him continually. So because he had been in close contact with the present conditions in all places where he went among the Lord's people, in the numerous localities where the churches had been born, most of his letters up to this time were occupied with those present times of alarms and needs and problems and situations. But when he was released from all that, and that phase of his lie and ministry was closed, when an end to his journeying and his scattered preaching had come, and he was shut up in the prison in Rome, it was more than a release from local responsibilities; it was a release to his spirit out into the all-comprehending, the vaster ranges of all that in which the local things were set. He was now able to release all that was pent up in him, the accumulation of experience, of knowledge, of revelation. He had only been able to give it, so to speak, piecemeal, here and there and there, but now all that he had in his knowledge of the Lord could be set forth and given out in these final letters, and in this one in Ephesians particularly. When he is so able to unburden himself, his reach and range is no less than from eternity to eternity.
So he immediately, in writing this letter to the Ephesians, in what we call the first chapter, although there were no chapters when he wrote it, it was just one continuous outflow, here right at the commencement, he plunges into the eternity past. He says: "We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world." We were "predestinated, foreordained in Jesus Christ unto Himself." Paul is right back there in the past eternity, and before he had got through unburdening himself, he will have leapt right over into "the ages of the ages." You see, that is his phrase in this letter: from eternity to eternity. He is comprehending all that lies between the two eternities of what he calls the eternal, the timeless purpose of God in Christ.
It is both important and helpful for us to recognize that eternal standpoint. Helpful in this way, while you have got to face all that is in these other letters, as Paul did, all the problems of the Letter to the Romans, which took a tremendous effort on the part of the apostle to solve some of the fundamental problems of life, and the whole question of sin and of death and of justification, it is a tremendous letter. And what about the problems in Corinth? There were terrible problems in Corinth, which might have well-nigh made him despair, and give up everything and say, 'It is useless, just look at this, and see what these people are doing. Now look at these professing Christians, what is the good of anything, or what is the good of it all'; and he nearly goes down in despair.
And, then, he has all the problems in Galatians, and my what problems they were. He says in chapter four, at verses 11 and 12: "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are; ye have not injured me at all." Again in verses 19 and 20: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you."
But then you have got to take notice of those things, because they are facts, they are realities and terrible realities at that. As I see it they are calculated, they are designed, to take all the heart, and all the hope, out of you. Although we need not think back into those days, we have only got to look into the state of things among Christians today in what is called the "church", and we could easily give it all up and say, "Well, what is the good of it as we know it?" You have got to face it and take account of it and know that it is real. It is not at all imaginary. No, it is very real.
Now what are we going to do with it? Well, we are going to look back into the past eternity to see what was intended, and look into the future eternity and see it realized. God from eternity to eternity - through all these vicissitudes, all these difficulties and problems - at last is shown here to have exactly what he had planned back there in past eternity. It is going to be. The consummation of all things in Christ. Oh, yes, it will be as God intended before time was.
(continued with # 24)