The Manifold Wisdom Of God

Posted in: 2004
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 28, 2008 - 8:16:40 AM

March 17, 2004


“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” (Ephesians 3:10)

This verse has perplexed many Bible students for generations. Hopefully, we can shed some light on it.

Heaven’s aristocracy, the principalities and powers, have known much of God’s purposes. Since they are more intelligent beings than men and since they have had the advantage of being created in closer proximity to God ― they have known much of His purposes and plans throughout the ages. However, they were taken by surprise when the glory of the Mystery burst suddenly upon the world scene after Acts 28. The Dispensation of the Mystery, “which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,” (Eph. 3:9) and which had been “hid from ages and generations,” (Col. 1:26) it was even hidden from the principalities and powers.

The Church was to be the vehicle of instruction through which they were to learn the “manifold wisdom of God.”

With the revelation of the Mystery, with its “unsearchable riches of Christ,” and the bringing together in one body, both Jew and Gentile, this made up a new calling― the One New Man. It is quite evident, that the principalities and powers had a desire to learn of the “manifold wisdom of God.” Just as the angels had a passionate desire to stoop down and look into the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (1 Peter 1:11-12), so did these beings want to understand what God was doing.

Many Bible expositors say that the manifold wisdom of God is being made known to the principalities and powers now by the Church. It has been said that the Church of the Mystery is “the chosen and predestinated vehicle of instruction, not to men, nor angels, but to principalities and powers.”

Years ago, I pondered whether or not we as members of this new calling, were making known to the heavenly rulers a side of God’s wisdom that they had not been privy too. Could we be instructing these powers by how we lived our lives in view of our understanding of present truth? By “walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called” (Eph. 4:1), or by keeping the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), or by “submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21) were we making known the manifold wisdom of God?

In fact, we too taught these at one time. However, the closer we looked at the matter, the more convinced we were that, strictly speaking, the members of the Church which is His body are not presently making known to them the manifold wisdom of God. The closer we stuck to the context of the passage the more persuaded we were that the principalities and powers knowledge increased greatly by the dispensational change itself.

When the splendor of the Mystery and all of its ramifications were comprehended by the invisible princes—they learned the multiple facets of the wisdom of God. The ushering in of this Secret Administration and the creation of the One New Man was the medium through which they were schooled in another aspect of the wisdom of God.

The key word in Ephesians 3:10 is; now, “To the intent that NOW unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”

“The ‘now’ has reference to the time the Apostle Paul received the revelation of the Mystery. The word ‘now’ cannot mean now as well as then. ‘Now’ refers to then; that is, when this Mystery was made known. The ‘now’ does not refer to the entire period covered by this Dispensation.”

Consider the word “now” in the following verses.

“as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” Eph. 3:5

“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers” Eph. 3:10

“but now is made manifest to His saints” Col. 1:26.

“Now” cannot mean that the Mystery had been revealed before. The “now” refers to the time of its revelation—neither before nor after—but NOW.

It was through the Church’s coming into existence that the heavenly powers learned another side of God’s wisdom. They learned how perfectly wise God was in joining the Jew and Gentile together in one body. They learned it then—at its creation. We, as members of the Church, are not now making it known to them. They were made known this facet of the wisdom of God at the time of its revelation.

We have pointed out many times, that in studying Scripture or any ancient document, the student should endeavor to transport himself mentally back in time to the time of the writing. When Paul wrote the revelation of the Mystery in Ephesians and Colossians and said, “as it is now revealed,” he meant—that was the time the revelation was made manifest. We should not read that, and apply it to the year of our Lord, 2004. That would be foolish.

The Mystery “from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Eph. 3:9), and “hid from ages and generations” (Col. 1:26), and not made known to the “sons of men.” It was even hidden from the principalities and powers, including all the heavenly hosts. It has been pointed in the Book of Daniel, that these heavenly powers had access to the “scripture of truth” (Dan. 10:21) and understood them. They knew prophecy. But they didn’t have any idea that God had an “eternal purpose, which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).

Putting the idea in plainer words; God had a plan that originated in His mind before the foundation of the world. This plan was an unchangeable one. It existed at all times (or ages) without a change. Nothing could have happened to have changed His purpose. The “eternal purpose” centered in Christ Jesus. It was to be His Grand Design, His Masterpiece—his ultimate purpose. This was hid in God’s Heart. Holy Writ never spoke of it. There was no hint, type, or shadow of the Mystery in Scripture until it was revealed to the Apostle Paul after the Acts period closed.

None of God’s people, or any of the heavenly rulers, knew His magnificent Secret. When Paul wrote about it was when the principalities and powers came to know the “manifold wisdom of God.”

They saw that God created a new calling, the Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head. The other callings of God had a hierarchy—the church in the wilderness, and the Israel of God. Each of these two had men who were rulers over others. Not in the calling of the Mystery—it has only One Ruler—the Lord Jesus Christ. This calling plays no active role in the affairs of men and governments today. As part of His Fullness, we are awaiting the blazing forth of His glory—the Blessed Hope. With new bodies, fashioned like unto His glorious Body, we will take our station in His service and perform the service (good works) which He “before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

The “manifold wisdom of God” was made known to principalities and powers by the act of God bringing together Jew and Gentile into One Body. Not by what we do or don’t do.

In closing, it seems fitting that I should “shoot this across your bow.” In Colossians 1:26 we read, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” Consider, “to His saints.” What caught the eyes of my understanding was the word “saints.” Saints does not always refer to the people who believe God. This was pointed out in great detail in the studies of “Mount Daniel,” therefore, we will not go over it again—except to say “saints” can refer to the “holy ones,” the “watchers,” and the “angels.” Angels are also referred to as saints in Jude 14, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints.” These saints are clearly a reference to angels.

The Greek word for “saints” is hagios which means, “most holy ones, or most holy things, or saints.” Holy ones can refer to the heavenly powers as well as men of faith.

Colossians is a shorter, more condensed version of Ephesians. I have referred to Colossians as the “Readers Digest” version of Ephesians. Paul repeats himself in Colossians regarding a number of subjects. Could he refer to the principalities and powers of Ephesians 3:10 as the “saints” in Colossians 1:26?

Now made known to principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10)
Now made manifest to His saints (Col. 1:26)

May the Lord give us greater understanding as we consider the whole council of God.

Tom L. Ballinger