Vol. 10 No. 2 February 2008
By Andy Robison
The comprehension of
Aiming to determine the meaning of “principalities and
powers” from its various contexts is instructive. In
The phrase “heavenly places” augments the understanding of principalities and powers. Its contextual use militates against viewing it as the dwelling place of God, even though it is said to be the place to which Christ was raised and seated, obtaining a triumphant position “far above all principality and power and might and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21). Those obedient to the Gospel, saved by grace, were “made…alive together with Christ…and raised…up together…to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6). Indeed, this is the place of all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). If “heavenly places” designates only the realm wherein God dwells on His throne with Christ at His right hand, then how are Christians presently in the same location? These “heavenly places,” therefore, seem to indicate some unseen realm in which the “spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12), along with any evil principalities and powers are overcome by the victory that is Christ’s.
Wonder is more so inspired with these backgrounds in mind. If the many facets of God’s wisdom are made known to the unseen forces battling for the hearts of men in this world, how is this manifested in the realm in which men can see? And how is all this accomplished by the church? Many books, much less a brief article, could not exhaust the studied speculations on this subject. Nevertheless, here are some considerations from context.
How Is the Manifold Wisdom of God Made Known by the Church?
Through the Impartiality of the Church
The consummate Jew of apostolic times would have
harbored a great animosity toward Gentiles—those of a foreign
race. They were
viewed as inferior in that they were not specifically chosen to be
people. Yet, the zealous Israelite of Tarsus, the persecutor of
became a preacher of the Gospel who counted it a given grace that he
“preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of
Christ” (Ephesians 3:8;
At least that is the design of God in the church. The
charge that men in the church have corrupted this design serves as
testimony to the strength of racial division throughout the timeline of
humanity. Somewhere in the world, every generation faces those
self-deemed superiors who aim at some sort of “ethnic
provides some civil rights, but hearts of men still harbor hateful
churches of Christ in the
Through the Transforming Power of It
Some will counter that such a transformation of
ideologies is out of the reach of the common preacher of righteousness,
they will be correct, for the real transforming power lies in the Word
by which the church is made known. (Ephesians outlines how the Father
the church, Christ carried out the plan, and the Holy Spirit made it
3:1-11]). The Word of God, the Gospel that makes Christians, bears the
power (Romans 1:16;
May the present day church never forget the power of the Lord in washing, sanctifying and justifying those who previously were wretches almost beyond description (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). For all once so walked in the depravity of sin (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Through the Eternal Nature of It
The most immediate meaning of the expression of the manifold wisdom of God in the church, in the framework of Ephesians, is the eternal nature of it. In the two verses preceding this article’s text, Paul rejoiced in the grace of preaching “among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,” which he described as making “all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:8-9). That mystery, Scripture shows, is the ultimate plan of God throughout all history to save His people from their sins. Just consider:
That mystery was “hidden wisdom which God ordained
before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). He
planned this plan of
salvation “before the foundation of the world”
(Ephesians 1:4). Just read the
history of God’s dealings with mankind from Genesis on.
Marvel at the
genealogical accuracy, recording, every step of the way, the
progression to the
Christ, to prove His entrance into humanity’s realm was no
perfectly wrought, and that, according to the abundant prophetic
the Messiah. Note the divine interventions that preserved
God’s people from
crises that might have meant their premature destruction. If they had
destroyed, as, for instance, Haman planned in Esther’s time,
there would have
been no blessing for all nations through Abraham’s seed.
Providence of God acted. On other occasions, the miraculous was
(Exodus 1-12). God worked everything so that by the time Christ trod
“in the dispensation of the fullness of times”
(i.e., at just the right time) (Ephesians
The Godhead’s work in the establishment of the
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
When God planned this
church from before time, carried out
its establishment in the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial and
revealed it through the predicting Scriptures of the Old Testament and
fulfilling record of the New, He laid a devastating blow to all the
the devil (cf.