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Description: All Things United in Christ
All Things United in Christ
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I think you’ve probably all realized very clearly that Ephesians is just a very different book from
Romans. The book of Romans is complex but Ephesians is the Greek condensed and the thought
condensed more than in any other book. Probably, we’ve said before, it is the most difficult Greek
that Paul wrote. The reason for it is he’s looking beyond time. It’s in a way, new for us because
we haven’t talked much about these things over the past years, but it does seem God’s time for us to
look at it.
I remember when it first occurred to me that there was a difference in the way you looked at things
according to the stage of life you were at with Jesus. You remember it’s that verse where John
speaks to the children and then he speaks to the fathers. He says, “I am writing to you, little
children, because you know your sins are forgiven.” [ I John 2:12] Then he says, “I am writing to
you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” [ I John 2:13] I think it must be in 1
John somewhere, and then he says, “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from
the beginning.” I always wondered, obviously, the fathers are regarded as pretty advanced and then
obviously that has some meaning who is from the beginning. But I really probably have not begun to
glimpse that until these recent two, I suppose two or three years now we’ve been talking about this
kind of thing.
So that’s what Ephesians is talking about. It’s really trying to go beyond the veil and through the
veil of the temporal and into eternity. That’s part of the reason why it’s so deep and stretches us
a bit. And that’s another of the reasons why I think Paul often uses different words to say the
same thing, or goes round a thing again.
Of course, I’ve said to you why Barth goes round, and round, in convoluted sentences saying the same
thing again and again. I’m afraid it’s why I end up going over the thing again because I think
you’ll be like me, you’ll get hold of it bit-by-bit. And bit-by-bit, you’ll begin to put one thing
together with another and you know how that goes, here you see certain things that I say or certain
things that somebody else says, but it’s really when you’re on your own in the car, maybe driving to
an appointment, or when you’re at home, or in bed, certainly things begin to gel and you begin to
see the thing as a whole. And so I’m praying that that will come to you.
So what we’re at loved ones, is Ephesians and I think we’ve reached Verse 10 and we’ve already spent
one, at least one Sunday on it. Ephesians 1:10, and here is where Paul says, “As a plan for the
fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Usually, even
in Romans over those years we would first of all try to understand the plain meaning of the words.
So, that’s what I just remind you of again, the word for plain is in the Greek. It’s actually “eis”
is “for” and “oikonomia” for “economy.” It will remind you actually those of you – well, in Irish
schools we used to have domestic economy classes. Not now in Ireland, but domestic economy was
cooking, and sewing, and all the things that the girls had to do in those days when they were
unliberated. I don’t remember any day when they were unliberated but – and you’ll get it there.
That’s “oiknomia” so that’s where it becomes economy.
So it’s “oikonomia” for the economy to “pleromatos,” that is “the fullness.” We probably have
that in English somewhere. “Of the times” is from the Greek word, “kairon.” So the two words
translated are “in the fullness of time.” Now, I just wanted you to see that that’s the word that
most of the bible translators -– that certainly the RSV translated as “a plan” for “oikonomia.”
Well, “oikonomia” is combination of “oikos” [house] and those of you who know the Greek a little
know that “nomia” is law. So it’s the law of the house. Then it comes to be the way that you run a
house, and then of course, it becomes the supervision or the administration of the house. That’s
how it eventually becomes in the RSV as a plan for the fullness of time.
The King James says, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times.” So dispensation is
another English word that is used to express the same thing. All of which can mean dispensation or
the government of the thing, the way of running the thing. And the American Standard Version is the
same, “Onto a dispensation.” The New American Standard is, “With a view to an administration
suitable to the fullness of times.” With the view is that word for, “An administration suitable for
the fullness of times.” Which is quite interesting. And this – ours, is, “As a plan for the
fullness of time.”
So what we’re talking about is then a way of governing life at the time of the fullness of times.
Now, this is quite important, it’s times, in the fullness of time Jesus came. It is time in the
singular. The time before Jesus is regarded as one time. After Jesus rises from the dead then
there are times, times of the Holy Spirit, the times of the persecution at the end of the world, the
times of the judgment. So that’s where the idea of dispensation of times comes in that there’ll be
different times. Here, of course, it’s talking about not just about the different times but the
fullness of times.
So you know, if you had a timeline, you’d go from infinity there and you’d come to – well 6 BC when
Jesus was born and then you’d come to 39 AD and then that would be the time and then these are the
times, and then that’s the fullness of times. So, this is a way of administering or the way that
God has of working. Or, the thing he has in mind for the end of the times. That’s what it is. So
that’s what we’re talking about. Paul is saying, “As a plan,” as God’s way of arranging things, as
God’s arrangement for the very end of everything, “To unite all things in him, things in heaven and
things on earth.”
Now I’ll just remind you the way we went back grammatically on it, what is as a plan for the
fullness of time? Well, it’s the previous verse [verse 9] shows you that, “For he has made known to
us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in
Christ as a plan for the fullness of time.” It’s his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a
plan. That is as a plan. So, the purpose set forth in Christ is in fact, God’s way of completing
everything at the end of the times.
Now what was the purpose set forth in Christ? Well, an easy way to find it was Romans 8:28, 29
really, because it states it pretty clearly there, the purpose that God set forth in Jesus. Verse
28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according
to his purpose.” Now, what is his purpose? Well, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And usually we have said, “Oh, that’s his purpose, that
we might be conformed to the image of his Son.” But no, there’s a further purpose, “In order that,”
introduces a purpose clause, we’re to, “Be conformed to the image of his Son,” for what purpose?
“In order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” And that’s where we left it last
day that our purpose, it is glorious to say we’re here to be conformed to Jesus’ image, but in fact,
that is secondary.
We’re here first and foremost to be brothers and sisters of Christ so that he will be the first-born
among many brethren. We’re really here so that he himself will be utterly and completely fulfilled.
And I think I said to you that to me, that’s very reassuring. I’m not a little insect, a little
Irish Ernest O’Neill trying to be like Jesus, I’m not. I’m somebody that God sees as part of his
own Son and God has built my future into his Son’s future and what his Son’s fulfillment will be is
partly through me. And it’s really quite important for you, yourself, to grasp that about your own
life. You are not just here by any means as your mum’s little girl, or your father’s little boy, or
friends of all the others here in this chapel but you are an integral part of God’s plan for his own
Son Jesus and so he has much more than a passing interest in you.
That’s where we get back to the strong verses in Colossians which set forth all that very clearly in
Colossians 1 describing Jesus. Colossians 1:15, “He,” [Jesus] “IS the image of the invisible God,
the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible
and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created
through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the
head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything
he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him
to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his
cross.” Then I’ll just say it simply even though I understand the import of the words, it’s almost
beyond human speech.
When our dear Father conceived of his Son Jesus from before the foundation of the world, sometime in
eternity, at that same moment he conceived him as the first born of all creation. I know that’s
very hard for us in a way to grasp, that at the same moment that God conceived of his Son as his
only begotten divine Son, at that same moment he conceived that his Son Jesus would be the
first-born of all creation. Would be the first-born, would be the first-born in the earth, would be
the first-born – he would be humanity. Our Father conceived of his Son and of the beauty and
glories of the Son as being displayed in such a way that he himself would enjoy them and that his
Son would enjoy them. So that’s why in Christ he made all things. And you remember in John it
says, “There was not anything made that was made but was made by him and made through him.”
Here it says in verse 16, of course, “In him all things were created and in him all things hold
together.” So God conceived at that very moment when he conceived Jesus, his Son he conceived of
us, us who would be his workmanship. Ephesians 2:10, “You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus for good words, which he has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God conceived
of all of us inside his Son. He conceived of the earth, and the world, and the planets inside his
Son. He created them inside his Son. He created even the principalities and the powers it says,
were created in him, and through him, and for him. So everything that God made was made inside his
Son because our Father is real. He’s real.
He did not want little playthings that he would make and look at from a distance and would not be
touched by. He cannot do that. He is not that kind of person. He has to be totally responsible
for all that he does, and thinks, and feels, and he has to face the consequences of it all.
Actually, we know that in our own hearts because we’re made in his image, we feel that that is
right. Yes, that is right. Our parents used to say, “Now you’re responsible for what you do,” and
we didn’t like it too much, but really we do believe that, that you are responsible for what you do
and you have to be responsible for facing all the consequences of what you do.
Sometimes that’s what maybe makes it a little hard even on parents, because we feel, “Well, you
know, they are your children and that’s what you signed on for when you had them.” And part of that
feeling we have of responsibility comes because that is our God. Our Father, cannot decide to make
a lot of funny little human beings, or funny little Martians and let them scoot around the universe
and then when everything goes bad just wash his hands of them. He can’t.
That’s why he made them all inside his Son. He did not make us outside himself, he made us inside
his Son because he knew that if he was going to have brothers and sisters of Christ they had to be
true brothers and sisters. They had to be as free as his Son was, as free as he himself is. He
knew immediately that once he gave them freedom they could do anything. Of course, I think what
we’ve often said is hard for us to realize, or to understand is that God, because he has an infinite
mind, could foresee everything.
He could foresee everything. Which in a way, is not unreasonable because most people who would make
that guitar would sense what its capabilities are. Indeed, the great violin makers undoubtedly
chose the wood and chose everything else because they know what the potential of it will be. We
ourselves, when we make things, we make them for a purpose and the more expert we are the better we
know what their full potential will be and we know what they will do under certain conditions. So
it is not foolish at all to believe that God, of course, with his infinite mind, foresaw everything
that would happen. Foresaw it all and yet was committed to one thing above all else, to maintain
our free will.
Why? Because if we ever lost our free will we would cease to be brothers and sisters of his Son.
We would cease to be able to love him. We could cease to be able to enjoy him. So God made us
inside his Son with the same freedom of will and determined that he would bear whatever took place.
He would bear whatever took place. That’s what he did, he has borne everything in his Son, Jesus.
He has borne every harsh word that you and I have spoken to each other, or to our parents, or to
anybody else, he has borne every cruel thing we have done, every careless heartless thing we have
done, he has borne every little Jewish child that Adolph Hitler destroyed in the gas ovens, he has
borne every one that has been murdered in New York City this past week, he has borne every child and
every little one that has died of Aids.
Our Father, in his Son has borne all that pain down through the centuries and bears it even today
and still holds us inside himself, still holds onto us. It has to be like holding sulfuric acid in
your hands, as it burns through your hands you still hold onto it. It has – well, that’s a pathetic
example but it has to be that kind of thing. He has held onto us and borne us down through the
years so that his Son who set forth all this plainly on Calvary, so that his Son who would allow all
that to be destroyed in his own human self, and his own spiritual only begotten being would rise
above it, and raise us up with it, and give us another chance. Of course, only that way were we
ever able to have a true choice in a way.
In a way you were only able I suppose, to have a true choice when you could see here in this life
the life that you would have lived outside Jesus. Then we all see that, I mean, we’ve seen it over
the past years, the life that we would live outside Jesus and then we see that that is the life that
has been destroyed in Christ on Calvary. That is the life that has been put to death on him, in him
and the life that we now have is the life that has been renewed and raised up in him. That’s the
life that Jesus will raise up at the end of the ages.
Now, you can see a little more why this verse runs as it does, “As a plan for the fullness of time,
to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Because, Jesus was in Himmler.
Himmler sent thousands of Jews to the gas chambers, but Jesus was in each Jew. Jesus is in the
murderers bearing all the pain, all the agony, being forced against his will into this terrible life
and he is also in the victim of the murderer. And in the fullness of times, our Savior will unite
all things in himself.
Now we cannot tell the destiny of everyone, but we can see that this scripture teaches clearly that
at the end of everything all things will be united in Jesus and he actually will be the only one who
has the right or the ability to unite all things, because he will be the only one who has been with
every little widow that has wept to her death at the end of her life. He is the only one who will
have been with every little seven year old boy that has died unexpectedly through some dreadful
disease in India. He will be the only one who has been in Al Capone as Al Capone has gunned down
the American policemen. But he’ll be the only one who has been in the home of that policeman when
the widow heard of the death of her husband.
Jesus himself is the only one who has been in every situation that has ever existed in the world.
So he is the only one who can unite them all in the end and make sense of them all. Even Satan
himself works under the control of Jesus and of his Father. Even he can only do what his Father
allows him to do in Jesus and that’s why Jesus often implied that he was held back, that Satan was
held back, would be released at a certain time and then would be once and for all thrown into the
lake of fire.
But maybe that will help you a little to begin to think of the truth that Jesus is going to be the
one that finalizes everything and he is the one that holds all things together inside himself. And
that’s all the more reason for getting to know him intimately because, obviously, he’s the one that
will make the decisions, and he’s the one that will decide what’s going to happen. So the more we
understand our Savior the more understanding we’ll have of what will happen at the end of the days.
But certainly, God states plainly that, “That’s my purpose in all of this, to unite all things
together in my Son, things in heaven and things in earth.”
So of course it shows us plainly that Jesus is the center of everything. You know he is the reason
for everything. Everything leads to him. Everything has come from him and everything will return
to him. He is the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Let us pray.