The Exceeding Riches of His Grace: Consummation (continued)
Does that help you? It ought to help us. But here it is positively stated, and we are not far on in the letter where it says this: "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." Let us stay for a moment with this word "dispensation," just to get clear about it. The margin here says "stewardship," so the root of the word means "a house order," or "a household order, the order, the system, which obtains." But the word grows and is enlarged and it comes to mean something more than that. It comes to mean, "a carrying out, and putting into effect of the purpose." Dispensation or stewardship means, "the carrying out, the carrying into effect of the purpose of everything." in the fullness of times the whole purpose will be carried out and put into effect. And the apostle said that there was given to Him a stewardship of the mystery. He meant that he was called to have something to do with the putting into effect of what was in the mind of God.
So much for the moment, for the word here, "dispensation," if so translated, what is this putting into effect? Well, it says, "to sum up all things in Christ." And that is not satisfactory, because it is not adequate. Here it means, "to gather together, to reunite all things in heaven and in earth in Christ." And the emphasis is upon that word "together." That is a thrilling thought, that in the fullness of the times - the putting into effect of the purpose - means everything will be at last together. You may argue, we are together in this place. I wonder if it could be said of us all in an inward way, that we are absolutely together here. It is a grand thing, is it not, when we really are together in an inward way, in spirit, in heart, in object, in purpose, in outlook. That is a mighty thing. That is a grand thing. That is a fruitful thing. That is a joyous thing, being together as one. It is everything we desire. When you think of the opposite, that is, when you are not together, when two people who have to live under the same roof are not together, it is a miserable life. It is only an existence. Mark you, a company of people who have to meet outwardly together, but are really not inwardly together, it is not a happy state. There is a strain, there is an atmosphere, there is a lack. But it says that the putting into effect of God's purpose will be found at last in togetherness universally; that is the riches of His grace. But see the setting of that? My, what a history stands over against that.
The Bible from one standpoint is a record of the opposite to that togetherness. It is the record of the effect, or the result of an interference with God's purpose. It bean apparently outside of this world, what we could call the cosmic disruption in this universe. Various hints of it are given to us in the Word. In the Book of Jude, the apostle speaks about the "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation and are now bound in everlasting chains" (v. 6). Angels which "kept not their first estate." What a hint as to lucifer's primeval position. And then what? - coveting, just the next step up for him, coveting the place of the Son of God, coveting equality with God. And through that pride and ambition, he was bringing about that terrible disruption in the heavenlies. And that is not just something that happened, and was concluded in some undated period called, "before the world was," or "before times eternal." That very realm today, which is called the heavenlies, is the very atmospheric realm occupied by principalities, powers, world rulers of this darkness, hosts of wicked spirits - it is a realm of utter confusion and conflict. And sensitive believers know that it is an atmosphere of conflict and strife and disruption.
It began there, and then its repercussions came down to this created earth when God had made all things to His Own pleasure and satisfaction and said, "It is very good." So He put man into it and gave man his "helpmeet," the one meet (suitable) to help him. But it was not long before that thing which had happened above, broke in and disrupted the first human family, and Cain murdered his brother. So, family life is broken.
(continued with # 25)