“He has made known to us the mystery of His will, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10)
People often ask the question: “Is there any purpose to life? Do the events of history reveal an inner meaning? Is there some over-arching explanation to the universe that makes sense of the world? Or is life, as Shakespeare had Macbeth describe it: “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound of fury, signifying nothing”?
While many people cannot see the hand of God in anything that happens in the world, Paul is adamant that there’s a purpose behind everything. It’s certainly true that the meaning of these events is hidden from us, but Paul says that in Jesus Christ the mystery of God’s will is revealed to believers. This means that Christianity has profound explanatory power for anyone who is struggling to understand the meaning of life and is prepared to trust God’s word.
Now what is the nature of the mystery that God has revealed? It’s the truth that God is working to “unite all things in Him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.” Paul says that God made this mystery known to us by ‘setting it forth in Christ’.
Now the idea that Christ is ‘uniting’ or ‘bringing’ all things together is a reminder, as Calvin says, of the dreadful state we find ourselves in until God sends Christ to restore us. “Everything”, he says, “is ruined by Adam’s sin until Christ fixes it.” The “all things” that both Paul and Calvin have in mind include spiritual forces in the heavenly realms as well as the visible forces of this world. They include evil powers which struggle with the forces of good, conflict between the nations and strife between individuals. All these struggles will be reconciled in Christ through His death, resurrection and second coming. The Greek word for “unite” means ‘to head up’. In other words, everything will relate to Christ as a body relates to its head. The body will follow perfectly the desires and purposes of its Head. Christ will be the director, the supreme operator, of everything in heaven and on earth.
At the moment God’s plans are not immediately apparent because this is a polluted, divided and violent world. Nevertheless, Paul tells us that Christ has come to put an end to all of that. And He “sets forth” in His ministry how He will heal the earth and put an end to all the divisions that scar our lives.
How? In two ways: first, through His works and, second, through His words. Through His works He takes away the curse of death – spiritual bondage, blindness, deafness and disease. He also tames the wild forces of nature by stilling storms. And through His words He sets forth the principles by which this healing and reconciliation will occur. If our destiny depends on understanding God’s purposes in Christ, then the works and words of Jesus must occupy a crucial place in our lives.