GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE AND ECONOMY
The best way to realize the sketch of Ephesians is to identify its main points. First, this book reveals God’s eternal purpose. Many Christians have never noticed that in the New Testament there is such a special term, the eternal purpose. Even after I had been a Christian for nearly fifteen years and had studied the New Testament and read the book of Ephesians many times, I did not yet see this matter of God’s eternal purpose.
Ephesians 3:11 says, “According to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word eternal in Greek is derived from aion, meaning of the ages, that is, eternal. Ephesians speaks of the eternal purpose, and here purpose equals plan; both terms are correct and meaningful. Therefore, we may speak of the eternal plan which God planned in Christ. Verses 9 and 10 of chapter one also refer to the divine plan, the eternal purpose. Why is this plan called the eternal purpose? It is because this purpose was planned in eternity past and for eternity future. Therefore, it is the purpose of eternity, that is, the purpose of the ages. However, it must be accomplished in time. Between the two ends of eternity there is an interval, which is the bridge of time. Time bridges the two ends of eternity, and upon this bridge there is a process in which God’s purpose is accomplished. God’s purpose in eternity past and for eternity future is now being completed on this bridge of time.
Ephesians also uses the term economy. Ephesians 1:10 says, “Unto the economy of the fullness of the times.” In the King James Version this word is translated as dispensation. However, it does not refer to a period of time. It refers to a way of dispensing, thus an arrangement or management. In different translations this word is rendered dispensation, arrangement, administration, stewardship, or government, but the best word is economy. Because God has an eternal plan, He needs an economy, a dispensation, arrangement, administration, stewardship, and government.
In chapter three the same Greek word is used twice. Verse 2 says, “If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you.” The grace of God may be compared to the capital in a business. In order to fulfill God’s plan, God has an operation, and the grace of God is the spiritual and divine capital in God’s operation. Just as a corporation needs an economy for its capital, God’s operation requires an economy, a stewardship.
Ephesians 3:9 says, “And to enlighten all that they may see what the economy of the mystery is, which throughout the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things.” The King James Version follows a less trustworthy manuscript to translate economy as fellowship. According to the better manuscripts, the Greek word here is economy.
THE GOAL OF GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE
The second main point in Ephesians is the aim, the goal, of God’s eternal purpose. The church is a great matter; it was planned by God, and strictly speaking it is the very economy of God for His plan. God’s economy is wholly related to the church. What God planned and what He is operating to carry out is the church, so the church is the very center of God’s economy. This is the reason that this book particularly speaks of the eternal purpose of God and the economy of God’s grace. In order to understand the church, we must realize that it is the center of God’s plan and the very substance of His economy.
We may say that the aim of God’s eternal purpose is to have the church, but this is too general. If we study Ephesians with a spirit of revelation, we will realize that the aim of God’s plan is to have an expression of Himself in Christ the Son by the Spirit through a Body composed and built up with many regenerated and transformed people by the mingling of Himself with humanity. If we read Ephesians with the foregoing sentence in view, we will see exactly what is in this book.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)