The Manifold Wisdom of God

by  Rev. D. H. Kuiper 

 "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been his in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ:  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."  Ephesians 3:9-12

We ask that you read this passage from Ephesians 3 once again.  Notice the words "to make all men see ... the fellowship of the mystery ... hid in God ... might be known ... the manifold wisdom of God." Clearly, this passage is a difficult one, and when we speak of the wisdom of God we deal with a subject of great depth.  Oh, the depths of the wisdom of God!  His wisdom is unsearchable and past finding out!  That God is the all-wise God means, first of all, that with God wisdom is original.  No one taught God or was His counsellor;  no one instructed Him in true wisdom.  But God is wise eternally and originally.  This implies that God is the only source of wisdom as well.  There is no wisdom anywhere apart from God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ. 

We ought to distinguish wisdom from knowledge, both in God and in man.  Knowledge stands for information, data, facts about one thing and another.  God knows all things;  in fact, knowing all things from the beginning, God brings all those things about powerfully and irresistibly.  But wisdom is that virtue according to which God frames all knowledge together, causing all things to work together in order to serve His purpose which He purposed in Himself.  We read in the above text of the eternal purpose of God which
He purposed in Christ.  That purpose was to attain unto the highest possible glory of His Name, through Christ and the Church which Christ is ordained to redeem.  Hence, God's wisdom is that He adapts all things to Himself, and all things to each other, that they work together to attain the one purpose of His glory!

When the apostle speaks of "the manifold wisdom of God," we are not to think that there are different purposes in the Godhead, or that there are different kinds of wisdom in Him;  rather the term, which has the literal meaning of a great variety of colors, emphasizes that the wisdom of God shows itself in a great variety of forms.  As a beautiful picture is composed of many different colors and shades, so the wisdom of God has many aspects, forms, implications, and threads. 

Fourthly, the wisdom of God is high!  His ways are higher than our ways.  We ought to live in daily, humble consciousness of that.  We know that all things work together for good for the people of God. But often times we cannot see how that can be true.  And then we are ready to murmur and complain about our lot in life too.  Here, also, we are to live by faith, not by sight;  faith in the manifold wisdom of God. 

Finally, we read repeatedly in Scripture, especially in Proverbs 8, that Christ is the wisdom of God. Christ is made of God unto us "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."  (I Cor. 1:21)  In Him is revealed the wisdom of God, by Him is taught the wisdom of God, and through Him is worked the
manifold wisdom of God. 

Scripture also has much to say regarding wisdom in man.  We are not only called by God to be holy, but also to be wise.  Strikingly, Scripture contrasts the wisdom of this world or of natural man.  In James 3 we read that the wisdom which is from below is earthly, carnal and devilish, while the wisdom
which is from above is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."  See also I Corinthians 1 and 2.  All these passages illustrate that the wisdom of God differs radically from worldly wisdom.  And the child of God is called to be wise according to the wisdom that is from above. 

What then is wisdom for man?  To know reality, and to reckon with reality every day of his life! And reality is what the Word of God teaches in regard to all things.  The Bible teaches that this world will be destroyed and all that is not of Christ will burn with fervent heat.  The foolish unbeliever says this will never happen;  I will eat, drink, and be merry.  The wise believer says, If all these things are going to pass away, what manner of persons ought we to be in all manner of holy conversation?  The Bible teaches that we are to receive God's good gifts with thanksgiving, using them for the support of His kingdom and the relief of the poor.  the foolish unbeliever looks at his goods and instructs his soul to take its ease for he has much goods laid up for many years.  The wise believer does not lay up treasure for himself, but is rich towards God and His kingdom.  The Bible teaches us to "Train up a child in the way he should go," and "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  The foolish unbeliever responds by saying that he will allow his children to express themselves any way they want, and to choose whatever religion they may wish. the wise believer knows that if his child is ever to have wisdom, first he must fear the Lord!  And the fear of the Lord is manifest by the keeping of His commandments! 

And so we could go on.  True wisdom, the wisdom that Christ has gained for His own on the cross, the wisdom that Christ works in us by His Spirit and Word, is that we live according to all the Word of God, reckoning with all the great realities of life as they are set forth by the Lord God Himself! 

Let us return to the subject of divine wisdom and notice that God reveals His wisdom not only, but also that God reveals His wisdom in definite stages.  The text from Ephesians 3 makes clear that some things God reveals early, and others He keeps hid for a long while.  First of all, God revealed His high wisdom when He created all things in the beginning, and when He created all things for and by Christ.  The wisdom of God was revealed by the perfection of each creature, by the order in which the creatures were made, and by the relationships that he formed between the creatures in the whole of the cosmos.  More, God's wisdom is revealed in creation in that it was all made with a view to the work of redemption and the heavenly creation.  We can look at creation as to its beginning, continuance, and end, and see Christ the Wisdom of God!  (See Psalm 104:24) 

Secondly, the wisdom of God is revealed more clearly and gloriously in the salvation of the Church which He calls to Himself in Christ.  What wisdom is revealed when God concluded all men in unbelief that He might have mercy on all.  What wisdom is revealed when God caused salvation to be humanly impossible, and then gave His dear Son to us through the virgin birth.  What wisdom is revealed in that God caused every aspect of salvation to be gracious, so that no one may boast in His presence. Examine salvation from every point of view and you will discover that it has so been ordained that every aspect satisfies the purpose of God in glorifying Himself! 

The text wants to carry us a couple of steps beyond the wisdom of God shown forth in creation and in salvation.  First there is the mystery which was hid from the beginning of the world and revealed in the fullness of time, namely, "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel."  (Eph. 3:6)  All through the Old Testament times, God his this purpose of Gentile salvation.  Since Pentecost the Gentiles have the unsearchable riches of  Christ preached unto them, and we belong to those Gentiles!  

Secondly, out text speaks of another mystery (verse 10). "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church manifold wisdom of God."  The apostle Paul is referring  to the various orders and levels of angels with those words.  the idea of these difficult words is that through all the ages God kept a certain secret from the angels;  a certain mystery was hid in Himself.  And now, says Paul, God reveals something to the angels.  As the angels observe the redemption of the Church by Jesus Christ, as they see the wisdom of God reflected to them in the salvation of the elect sinners, they also see in the work of salvation something that affects them, something of their own salvation!  Now that is surprising language:  are the angels saved by Christ, did Christ die for angels? The elect angels, those who did not join in Satan's rebellion, did not sin, and Christ did not have to pay for any of their sins.  But Christ's redemptive work does have significance for the realm of holy angels.  In Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:20 we learn that through the blood of the cross Christ has reconciled and gathered in one all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.  This has to mean that His death on the cross did something of outstanding significance also for the angels.  Christ made peace in the angel world, peace between angels, peace between the angels and God, because in the fall of Satan and his cohorts unrest and disarray was brought to the angels realm.  the angels lost their head when Satan fell, and Jesus Christ is now become their Head, even as He is the glorious Head of the Church!  Not only does Christ make Jews and Gentiles one, but He also united the elect angels with elect mankind.  that manifold wisdom of God the angels see, and in that wisdom they rejoice with the Church! 

All this God has done "According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (verse10)  That Christ Jesus is our Lord brings this all very close to us;  it brings us into the picture very personally!  Because Christ is ours, "we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."  (verse12)  the way into the Holy Place mad without hands, the way into the very presence of God Himself, has been opened to us.  With boldness every single child of God may come to the throne of grace and find help in time of need.

How can this be explained?  How can foolish, sinful, insignificant bits of dust come with boldness unto the holy, wise, majestic God?  Notice the words "in whom" (that is Christ), and the words "by the faith of Him" (that is Christ, too0.  For Christ is the objective ground for our access to God and for our boldness in coming to Him while faith in Christ is the personal or subjective means for knowing and possessing these rich benefits.

What freedom the child of God has and what a joyful life he may lead having been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross!  Exercise that confident access to God in your prayers;  demonstrate that boldness of faith in all your life!  Do this, not because of what you are or what you have done, but
because of who Christ is, and what He has accomplished!  Do you feel sometimes that you lack wisdom? then ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.  It shall be given to you.  Only, ask in faith, nothing doubting.  Ask in the Lord Jesus Christ!

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