One Day, We Will Rule with Christ

Live Look at the Book | Portland

So, here we are at Ephesians 1:7–10:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, 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.

That’s a very complex sentence. In fact, all of Ephesians 1:3–14 in the original Greek is one sentence. It’s a long sentence and very involved with lots of prepositional phrases. So, we want to take it apart just a piece at a time.

Redemption Through His Blood

“In him, we have redemption through his blood.” So, now that redemption, which we saw earlier as the forgiveness of sins, is shown to be by means of the death or the blood of Christ. So, all of that election, all of that predestination that is going to lead to our praising God’s grace, doesn’t happen without Christ’s work on the cross. So, that had to be planned as well, which raises enormous questions with vast implications about the creation of the world and God’s plan for the world.

Because if we were chosen in Christ and we were destined for adoption through Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ means through his blood (which it does), then the death of Christ had to be planned just like our salvation was planned. And if the death of Christ was planned, so was everything leading up to it planned, namely the fall. God created the world knowing it would fall because he planned before the foundation of the world that we would be adopted through and redeemed through the blood of his Son, which couldn’t happen if people didn’t kill him.

Therefore, killers had to be in the world in order for there to be an atonement for us. So, God’s purpose is not ever to play catch up like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was going to happen. Here’s plan B, C, D.” There is no plan B. It’s all plan A because it was planned “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:5). So, we’re redeemed through his blood; that had to happen in history so that our ultimate destiny of praising God’s grace would come about.

Costly Redemption According to Riches of Grace

“The forgiveness of our trespasses” happened through blood. “According to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:9). It was not cheap. Not cheap. It was enormously costly and it flowed from God being rich in grace. I think I put two other places where this happens. In Ephesians 1:18: “[May] the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance.” And Ephesians 2:6–7: “[He] seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages, he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness.”

So, three times in Ephesians 1–2, you have this reference to God’s riches. And surely he’s laboring to say, “You’re never ever poor in Christ.” I love the passage in 1 Corinthians 3:21 where people are boasting. They’re saying, “I’m of Paul, I’m of Cephas, I’m of Apollos.” And Paul says, “Why do you boast in men?” And you know what his argument is?

For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)

You Christians own everything. So, relax. You don’t need it now. Kids get themselves in trouble. They’re called prodigals. They get themselves in trouble by demanding inheritances ahead of time. You have an inheritance. It’s called everything. Everything — all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. The world, life, death, fellow heirs with Christ who made the world, owns the world. It’s coming.

The problem of the prosperity gospel is timing. What it means to be a king’s kid does not mean to drive a BMW and live in three houses and have four chalets on four beaches. That’s not what it means to be a king’s kid. A king’s kid has all the houses and all the lands and all the BMWs, if there are noxious cars in the kingdom. Doubt it. Maybe electric cars. You own it all. So, what does that imply for your lifestyle now? Just flat out for kingdom purposes, right? Not accumulate, accumulate, accumulate. Just a simple life. We like to call it wartime lifestyle because simple. I’ve got a computer, for goodness’ sake. This thing is not simple that I’m working on here. It’s a Wacom tablet connected to that computer over there, which probably costs three thousand dollars. This is not a simple lifestyle. This is a wartime lifestyle.

Everything flat out for kingdom purposes, and it’ll look different. You just don’t need to have the symbols of wealth. America teaches you that if you make a lot of money, you should look like it. Where’d you get that? It’s okay to make a lot of money. Just give 90 percent of it away and drive a Chevy. They’re good cars. Or a Toyota. It’s okay. Little simple. You have immeasurable riches that are yours, and out of those riches come every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places for you.

Ephesians 3:14: “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father.” This is his second prayer — second prayer after Ephesians 1:17.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (Ephesians 3:14–16)

If you feel weak in your inner being, you should contemplate the riches of God. Not your riches. Not your resources in yourself. Just preach to yourself, “I get strengthened in answer to prayer according to riches of glory.” God is not poor. God is never at a loss for how to strengthen me and help me and meet my need. And he loves to do it in clay pots so that all the power belongs to him.

So, riches. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches” (Ephesians 1:7). It was a wonderful overflow of riches when he gave his Son for us so that our sins, our trespasses, could be forgiven.

Lavishing Grace with Wisdom and Insight

He lavished this grace; he lavished this upon us “in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:8). And frankly, I’m not sure whether that refers to our wisdom and insight or God’s wisdom and insight. I read commentaries again getting ready for this to try to figure this out. And what have I missed in staring at this book? And commentators are divided, and I’m divided.

It’s true that the work of salvation and the lavishing of grace through redemption upon people who are trespassers is in accord with the wisdom and insight of God. This is a wise way to run the world. That’s true, and that may be what it means. I’m inclined to think it is God’s wisdom. But it’s also true that one of the things he lavishes us with is wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5). That sounds like lavish. That was James 1. So, either way, it’s biblical. It’s true. Another one of those situations where it’s hard for me to decide, and yet either way you go, you’re not going into error because both are biblically true, even if we can’t know for sure right here which one it is.

“Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose” (Ephesians 1:9). So, here you have another one of these piling up of words, will which accords with purpose. You say, “What’s the difference between will and purpose?” And I think that the reason for piling words up like that, like the will of his purpose, the purpose of his purpose, the will of his will, is to show you how completely this is from him and not from forces outside of him constraining him to act against his will, but his will accords with what?

His purpose. It doesn’t accord with me, and I tell you what to do. It accords with his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan. Big. This word plan here, oikonomia, is a household stewardship. That is, it’s a plan for running a house that you give to a steward, and he’s charged with making it happen. So, God has “a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Christ,” in him, “things in heaven, things on the earth.”

Now, this is difficult. What does that mean, “unite all things in him”? So, the purpose of election, for destination, redemption. Another way to describe that purpose was “unite all things in him.” This word “unite” here, anakephalaioó, it’s only used twice in the New Testament. And let’s see if we can see where. I’m going to pass over for a moment this word mystery here. Well, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll do that, and then we’ll go to unite because that’s the order I think I have them.

What is the mystery of his will? “He made known in his wisdom the mystery of his will. He made known the mystery of his will according to the purpose” (Ephesians 1:9).

Here’s Ephesians 3 where the one aspect of the mystery is defined with crystal clarity. Ephesians 3:3–5:

The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed

Now, I think last night I said, when you see that word “as,” it might mean it was never made known at all and now it is, or I think this is correct, it was hinted at and made known with dim pointers and shadows and foretastes, but not as it has been now with clarity. So, what is it?

As it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:5–6)

The great, stunning, glorious gospel mystery is that God was moving for two thousand years through Jews to save the world, not just Jews. And that was hinted at. There are a lot of clues to that in the Old Testament. Lots of them. Like Jonah goes to Nineveh. Lots of clues, but nothing like what we have here that the law is being put away. Circumcision, which is a great obstacle, is being put away. And I’m sending you now to the nations, Paul, and you’re going to say to those nations, “You may join the rich root of the Abrahamic covenant and be grafted in as branches that are foreign and drink of all the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament.” That’s the mystery. So, most in this room, probably not all, are ethnically non-Jews, and the whole Bible is making the point, salvation is from the Jews. Jesus said that. Salvation is from the Jews. If you don’t become a Jew, you can’t be saved.

It says that in Romans 2. And every Gentile becomes a Jew, not by lawkeeping anymore, but by believing messiah Jesus. And when you believe messiah Jesus, you’re grafted into the seed of Abraham, which is Christ. And when you’re in the seed, all the promises are yours. That’s the mystery. So, my first answer to the question back here in Ephesians 1:7–10, when it says,

“In all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:8–9)

At least one aspect of that mystery is, all this redemption that God is achieving for his people Israel includes the nations, all of them. So, go make disciples of all of them and extend the Abrahamic promise to Gentiles and invite them to be people of Israel. Oh, the implications of this in the Middle East are absolutely enormous, absolutely stunning. Stunning what this would do.

On the one hand, it sounds like Jewishness is exalted, which in a sense it is. And on the other hand, Jews are cut down. It’s not uniquely yours; it’s theirs. Palestinian Christians are one with you. You Christian Jew, you Christian Palestinian, one new man before the cross. The mystery of God’s will is to make for himself one new man. I’m quoting chapter two now. That’s where we’re going to end, Lord willing, in a couple of hours. The mystery of his will at least includes that. However, that’s not what he’s saying here explicitly. You got to wait until Ephesians 3 to see that.

Uniting All Things in Christ

Here it looks like the mystery has more to do with this. “The mystery of his will, according to the purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time,” to do this. This seems to be a part of the mystery or a bigger statement of the mystery maybe, namely “to unite all things in him.” Now, what does that mean?

Here’s the one other place that the word “unite,” anakephalaioó in Greek, is used in the New Testament. The one other place, Romans 13: “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up.” That’s the word, anakephalaioó, same word, united. “Summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).

So, I summed up, summed up it. So, here’s one commandment. If you get that commandment, you see what all the others are leading to and summed up by. Love your neighbor as yourself is the thing that all the commandments are trying to get across. Take that over to chapter one and see “unite”, sum up. Sum up all things in him. Christ answers the question. I’m groping for how to see it and say it. Christ answers the question, “What’s the sum of all things?”

Here’s a more English idiom that might get at it. What do all things add up to? What do all things add up to? Answer: Christ. As you say, what does history add up to? What does salvation add up to? What does American culture add up to? What does the fall and the cross add up to? What is everything about, Alfie? Can tell how old you are, whether you laugh at that or not. What’s it all about? And the answer is, it’s all about Christ. Everything exists for Christ. Everything is about praising the glory of the grace brought by Christ. That’s where everything’s going. I think that’s what he’s getting at here to try to help us see the Son of God that has been eternally existing with the Father, when they conceived together in the mind of the Trinity to create a history of redemption that would end in an eschaton of everlasting joy for created beings, they did it this way.

They did it this way so that Christ would be magnified at the end as the sum, the sum of all things. Or let’s see, here’s another way to get at it maybe. So, here’s Ephesians 1:20. This is just mind-boggling. I said I was going to refer you to this when I quoted Revelation 3 about those who conquer are granted to sit with him on his throne like he conquered and sat with his Father on his throne. This is what I was talking about. So, here we are at the end of chapter one. “God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand.” Now remember we’re trying to answer the question, what does it mean that the purpose of this plan is to unite all things in Christ or to sum up all things in Christ?

What does that mean? “God raised him from the dead, seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named in this age or in the age to come. He put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body,” and then this mind-boggling statement, “which is his body.” So, he’s the head over the church, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Just mind-boggling statements. Oh, what? And I’m going to argue that that’s helping us grasp what it means that all things are united in him. So, all things will be summed up, all things will be united in Christ and here it’s through the church.

“He’s given as the head,” so he’s already said he’s got universal dominion. He’s above every rule, every authority, every power, every dominion. He’s just total universal resurrected rule over the universe. And as a way of implementing that for the coming ages, he is put as “head over all things for or to the church.” So, he’s ruling all things for the church. The headship of Jesus over the church is a way of ruling or being preeminent over all things. How so? What do you mean? It’s his body.

Now you got Christ pictured as a body and the church, millions and millions and millions of saved people over the centuries are his body. That means they are “the fullness of him who fills all.” He’s head over all things. He’s going to fill all and he’s going to fill them with his body, and he’s going to be in all those people. This is the way I’m taking this. Each one of those statements is a big exegetical choice. He is filling all things with his body, and he’s in all those people so that when they fill the universe, he’s filling the universe.

Ruling with Christ

Now, is that right? What even does that mean? Here’s Revelation 3:21. “The one who conquers,” you remember there’s seven of these, seven letters to the seven churches, and in each one some word given of hope to those who conquer, meaning faith is the victory that conquers the world. Faith means that they survive all the persecution and they don’t give up their faith. They conquer by believing in Jesus. And what are the promises given? Here’s one. “The one who conquers, I,” Jesus, “will grant him to sit with me on my throne as I conquered.” Gethsemane, “Not my will but thine be done.” Triumph. So they’re Satan. So they’re Judas. So they’re Pharisees and people that are trying to finish me off. So, there. I am conquering by holding my course to the end, “just as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

Okay, what’s the picture here? The Father has a throne, rules all things. The Son conquers by obedience and faith, and he sits with the Father on his throne. What does that mean? Try to let the imagery say something more than just imagery. Wouldn’t it mean you now share with me in my rule, the right to rule, over the universe? That’s what thrones signify. A throne is where a king sits to signify he rules. So, the Son now has passed all of his tests. He sits with the Father, and they co-rule the universe. And then to take your breath away, if you conquer, you sit there too.

This is why you have to pray when you read the Bible because you do not right now have emotions appropriate for that truth. You don’t. None of us do. One of the things I long for in the age to come is the removal of all barriers to emotions that are appropriate to the realities taught in the Bible. Right now it’s just daily frustration that I cannot rise to a level of exquisite delight, thankfulness, admiration to that statement right there. I’m held back by nature. I’m held back by sin. I’m held back by personality, genetic stuff going on in John Piper, and I’m held back by environmental stuff, kids, marriage, church, age, memory. There’s just a conspiracy of restraint on my affections for God, and that’s coming to an end someday for all you people, Swedes included.

Appropriate Emotions and Fulfillment

I haven’t said that for years. I came to a Swedish church 33 years ago, and so I used to make jokes about Scandinavian emotionlessness all the time, and I find it helpful because every one of us, given our ethnicity, our personality, is wired with massive limitations. We talk about people being emotionally crippled. Guess what? All of you are. All of you are emotionally crippled. Some more, some less. You need to cut each other a lot of slack on this one because you meet people who are wired — say their daddy beat them up every time they opened their mouth emotionally. They never heard anything but anger. The only emotion they ever experienced for 18 years was anger. Those people are probably not going to rise to the level of emotional joy that you are. Miracles can happen in their lives, but God is pleased oftentimes to meet us halfway in our brokenness and halfway, not all the way. I know that’s true for me. I’m an Eeyore, Puddleglum personality. That’s why I write books about joy. Because I’m trying to be one.

People think, “Oh, he wrote Desiring God. He wrote Pleasures of God. He wrote all the joy happy books, so he must be a happy person.” No, I just want to be. I really want to be. More true than you know. So, here we have a truth. “I will grant,” John Piper, and all you folks put your name in here, “to sit down on the throne of the Son and throne of the Father,” which I take mean we are co-rulers of the world. So, you can go back here when it says, “which is his body,” the church is his body, “the fullness of him who fills all.” I’m going to connect those two texts like this.

The rule of Jesus will fill the universe by extending itself through the church because we’re sitting on the throne sharing the rule. That’s my effort to make sense out of, “He fills all.” That’s not like a big balloon, just a big doughboy or something. It’s, “You’re my body. You’re going to sit with me on my throne. You share my rule. I dispatch you. You get a galaxy, you get a galaxy, you get a galaxy, and you’ll be my regent there. You get five cities. You get ten cities.” I do believe it’s something like that. I fill the universe with myself, that is my body, that is you, because you are my rulers with me. You share my divine extended rule in the universe. And perhaps that is part of, “He set forth in Christ a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him,” to make him the sum of all things in heaven and on earth.

I’m groping. You can tell. This is just over my head. These are just about the greatest things you could talk about and join me in a lifelong quest to make sense out of them.

Numbers 14:21: “Truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” This is like an oath ready to be taken in the Old Testament. “The earth will be filled,” and I think you could say the universe there as well. Everything will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

The Sum of the Matter

So, to try to put it all together, when Ephesians 1:6 and Ephesians 1:12 and Ephesians 1:14 say that we exist for the praise of his glory, what we will be doing out there ruling over our galaxies as the extension of the body of Christ and thus the extension of Christ and the Father, so that the whole world is united under our corporate rulership, what we’re doing out there is not putting our thumbs in our armpits and saying, “I’m a ruler here. Everybody notice that?”

We’re going to be praising the glory of his grace. Just look at yourselves. Are you kidding me? You’re going to rule? You just look so ordinary. Not bad, just not special. You’ve been told you’re special way too often. You’re just ordinary and you are going to rule the world, and that’s going to so amaze you, you will spend all eternity praising grace.

That’s what it says in Ephesians 1:6, 1:12, 1:14. You will spend all eternity saying, “Can’t believe this. I cannot believe this. You, God, are amazing. You are amazing.” That’s what you’ll spend all eternity doing. You’ll see more and more amazing things about grace. Here’s a good way to sum it up. Colossians and Ephesians have a lot of overlap. Someday I’ll do Colossians maybe.

This is Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). I think that means, this “of” right here, I think means “over” because of this “for” right here. “For by him all things were created.” He’s the firstborn of creation because he created all things. He’s not created. He’s over creation. He created everything. “In heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

Sum. What’s the sum of the matter? What’s it all about? It’s him. He’s the sum of the matter. “And he is before all things. In him, all things hold together,” Unite all things in him, “and he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” That’s a nice simple way to put it. I like that. I can get that. In everything, Jesus preeminent, forever and ever.

So, we’re praising the glory of God’s grace and Jesus, the one who bought it and performed it and through his body extends it. Everything is about Christ. He will be preeminent in the end. You look around the world today with all the stuff, painful stuff, and our own culture collapsing it seems, and the wars around the world and the suffering, and you say, “What is this all about?” This is what it is all about.