One of the biggest struggles for us as American Christians, it seems, is our radical individualism. Even in our devout spirituality, we are very self-focused, and we often tend to forget about the larger purposes of God that transcend us. In Ephesians 3:1-7, Paul declares that the mystery of God with regard to the place of the Gentiles in His people has been revealed. He also reminds us that we have a place in the proclaiming of that truth. The mission had captivated him and become the driving force of his life. Beginning in verse 8, though, Paul steps back and provides an even broader, birds-eye view of God’s plan with regard to the revelation of this mystery. God’s plan is much larger than just saving us, and we do ourselves, and the world, a grave disservice if we fail to recognize this grander perspective. We need to remember the larger purposes of God so that we do not lose heart.
In 3:8, Paul says that grace was given to him to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. That is a glorious message, but the sentence continues into verse 9 – Paul was also given grace “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:9-10).
These verses can seem complicated, but if we give them proper attention, the point becomes clear. Paul’s “basic” task was to proclaim the blessings of Christ which were mentioned in verse 6. But, as he carried out that task, he was also doing something else: he was revealing the plan of God which had been “hidden for ages”. Paul recognized that God has never acted without a purpose. He has always had a plan, but that plan involved certain things remaining “hidden” until the proper time. But what was that plan and purpose? According to Paul, it was to make known God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (3:10). One of God’s central goals in carrying out His grand plan of redemption – preparing the way for Christ, sending Him to live and die and rise from the dead, and using Paul and the other apostles and prophets to proclaim the good news about Him – is to display His incredible wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This is a grand plan that clearly transcends this physical, tangible world. God’s goal is not just the salvation of sinners or even the redemption of this fallen physical world but the display of His incredible wisdom even to spiritual, unseen rulers and authorities that dwell in the heavenly places.
By “rulers” and “authorities”, Paul is referring to spiritual beings – probably angels – that dwell in the heavenlies. These “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” most likely include both good and bad angels, but when Paul uses the term he often is alluding to the bad more than the good (see Eph. 6:12 as an example). By redeeming sinful people – sinful Gentiles no less – God is making a point to these spiritual beings. He is revealing something to them about Himself. Specifically, He is making clear to them His infinite wisdom. He is making it clear that his wisdom is so vast and “manifold” that it far surpasses the wisdom of anyone else. As he does in many other ways throughout Scripture, God is demonstrating His superiority and His greatness – even to spiritual beings.
And we should take note of Paul’s statement that God is demonstrating His manifold wisdom to these creatures “through the Church.” It does not seem that Paul is referring here to anything specifically done by the Church but rather to the very existence of the Church. That is, by the very existence of the Church, God’s wisdom is manifestly proclaimed – not only to the physical world but to the farthest reaches of the unseen world. Those heavenly realms echo with recognition and praise of God’s wisdom because there is a group of sinners who have been redeemed by God’s grace through the person and work of Christ.
Why does this matter? Why do we care what God is declaring to the angels? Most importantly, it reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. Ultimately, our salvation and redemption is far more about God than it is about us. We can certainly praise God that He has saved us, but instead of focusing on the “us” part of that reality, we should focus on the “God” part of that reality. There was nothing in us that was deserving of salvation. It was the wisdom of God that brought it about. When we stand in glory, we will not sing our praises – as if we have done anything. We will sing the praises of God. Brother or sister, do you recognize that your very existence as a Christian is a testimony to the power and greatness of God. You are a monument that is meant to stand as a reminder of God’s incredible ability. Even the angelic beings look at the Church and see the incredible wisdom of God. We should consider this so that we might not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We should consider this so that we do not lose sight of God because we are so busy looking at ourselves. We should consider this so that we will remember that God’s purposes are being carried out, and they will not fail.