All Things in Christ
...which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. (Eph. 1:8-10 NKJV)
Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:8-10 come in an immediate context of praise to the Father (Eph. 1:3ff.). The Father is to be praised due to comprehensive redemption in the Son (Eph. 1:7-12). The Son’s work affects everything (Eph. 1:10). According to wider canonical teaching, the incarnate Son functions as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), the anti-type of Adam (Rom. 5:14). Christ is the One who is head of all things (Eph. 1:22) and recapitulates all things (Eph. 1:10). It was the Father’s good pleasure to assign this glorious task to his beloved Son.
All things are being summed up or gathered together by Christ. Our Lord Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Lord of the saved and Lord of the lost. He is Lord of the devil and Lord of demons. He is Lord of the old creation and Lord of the new creation. All things that have been made have been made by him, through him, and for him (Col. 1:16). And all things that are being remade are so by him, through him, and for him. Indeed, all things that are, are for him (Col. 1:16). God is getting glory (i.e., creaturely praise) for himself through what he does through his beloved, incarnate Son.
For these things, and many more, we must praise the Father for comprehensive redemption in the Son. This view of the ministry of our Lord in relation to the glory of God is the testimony of Paul and the entire Bible.
In light of the brief treatment above, I will discuss the issues of protology, hermeneutics, biblical theology, and preaching.
Ephesians 1:8-10 has massive implications for many biblical doctrines. It informs Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. I think it also informs protology, the study of the first things in the Bible, concentrating initially on the things revealed to us in Genesis 1-3. Our Lord does takes creation to a place beyond where it was at its inception: An immutable state of glorification (Luke 24:26, 46; Acts 26:22-23; Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:11), making the earth into a special dwelling place of God among men (Rev. 21:1-4).
The garden of Eden was the first special dwelling place of God among men on the earth (Gen. 3:8), the earth’s first temple (Ezek. 28:11-16). The garden was Adam’s starting-point. The Lord made the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18) with image-bearers in communion with him. Adam’s vocation included filling the earth with sinless sons of God (Gen. 1:28) then entering God’s rest (Heb. 3:14-4:11) in its fullness. He failed his calling, but our Lord achieves what Adam failed to attain, bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10).
Glory was the plan from the beginning. Eschatology precedes soteriology, as Geerhardus Vos said long ago, “The eschatological is an older strand in revelation than the soteric.” God made the heavens and the earth that they might be brought to glory by the obedience of one of his sons. The first son failed; the last Adam succeeded. Though “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), there is One who never sinned. Since Adam was the first sinner, he fell short of the glory of God. Since Christ never sinned, he did not fall short of the glory of God. Our Lord, according to his human nature, was glorified at his resurrection as a reward for his obedience. God has devised a way that we, too, might gain that glory.
Second Thessalonians 2:14 says, “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB). As John Owen comments, “The glory of our Lord Jesus Christ," could be taken as "the obtaining a portion in that glory which Christ purchased and procured for them." Christ purchased glory for all he came to save, doing so as the last Adam. He suffered to satisfy the justice of God, and his obedience unto death resulted in exaltation, an entrance into glory. And all those who are his will enter into glory as well (Heb. 2:10).
The last Adam takes his seed where the first Adam failed to take his. Adam sinned, he violated the covenant of works, falling short of the glory of God. Christ did not sin, he perfectly upheld the stipulations of the covenant of works imposed upon him (precepts and penalty) and entered into glory as our fore-runner. Gaining the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ means that all gospel believers will be glorified as their Lord was (Phil. 3:20-21). All gospel believers are brought into a state of glory by the obedience of the One (Rom. 5:19), which obedience was his “righteousness to eternal life” (Rom. 5:21 NASB; emphasis added). The first man sinned; the last Adam obeyed and brings many sons to glory with him. Adam’s sin also brought upon the creation a curse, a distorted order of existence. This, also, the incarnate Son renovates. Christ brings creation to its eschatological goal. But creation’s eschatological goal was part of its protological potential though dependent upon the obedience of God’s son, Adam. Christ is the obedient Son who recapitulates all things (Eph. 1:10), thus bringing all things to their intended terminus.
Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology
What about hermeneutics? Adam as a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14) and Christ as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) have hermeneutical implications. Ephesians 1:8-10 requires that we understand Adam’s vocation and his canonical function in order to understand our Lord’s vocation properly. Since Adam was a type of Christ in the garden, we should expect both correspondence between Adam and Christ and escalation in Christ as anti-type.
Christ is both like and unlike Adam. Anti-types are greater than their types. Christ is greater than Adam. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeds. Paul’s understanding of Christ is conditioned by a rich typology, and we cannot understand him without recognizing that typology. In fact, without the Adam-Christ typology we cannot correctly understand the Bible in general. Hermeneutically speaking, the principle of typology is essential.
There is a vital relationship between aspects of hermeneutics and biblical theology. But what is biblical theology? It seeks to identify the laws, methods, adjustments, purposes, or philosophy of God’s self-disclosure as presented in Holy Scripture and to articulate redemptive history in light of these elements. A biblical-theological study of a concept or theme is one thing. What I am considering now, however, is biblical theology in its most inclusive sense. Thus considered, biblical theology seeks to identify the Bible’s own theology of the Bible, utilizing the principles and methods of interpretation found in the Bible (among other principles). More specifically, it seeks to ascertain the over-arching teaching of the Bible in terms of how the Bible understands itself. Biblical theology, in one sense, is a conclusion derived from the whole Bible as it interprets itself. In other words, it is the Bible’s over-arching narrative as revealed in the Bible and as explained by the Bible.
Understood this way, the narrative of the Bible can be reduced to a proposition. Some scholars do not think this is possible. They see no central theme in Scripture. But if someone asked you, “What is the Bible all about, when it’s all said and done? What is its goal? What is it aiming to communicate? Can you reduce it to a statement or two?” What would your answer be? Would you say, “That question cannot be answered”? Whatever your answer would be, you would be stating a conclusion based on your understanding of the various parts of Holy Scripture in light of its whole.
What biblical theology seeks to do in its most inclusive sense is to state the Bible’s over-arching teaching in light of how the Bible understands itself. Biblical theology utilizes general hermeneutical principles common to all men and sacred hermeneutical principles revealed by God in Scripture. Before it makes its final pronouncement and in order to make its final pronouncement, however, biblical theology takes the fruits of exegetical theology and synthesizes them. Once this synthesis is completed, concepts and themes emerge which end up telling the story of revelation, which ends up being the story of redemption and recapitulation by our Lord. Once these concepts and themes are identified, only then can they be reduced in order to give us the Bible’s theology of the Bible.
It is my contention that the Holy Scriptures exist to bring glory to God, specifically through what he does in the redeemer, the incarnate Son of God, in bringing many sons to glory and the recapitulation of all things (Eph. 1:10). The Bible goes from creation to the fall into sin and its wide-ranging entailments, to new creation via redemption by the incarnate Son of God, and all for the glory of the triune God.
Surely the truths in Ephesians 1:8-10 ought to inform our preaching as well as our Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, protology, and hermeneutics and biblical theology. All our proclamations of Scripture ought to be conditioned by the Scripture itself considered as a completed whole. If the completed canon contains a doxological thrust terminating upon what our Lord does, then its parts cannot be understood properly, and should not be proclaimed, without being conditioned by that doxological thrust.
If our hermeneutic is canonical, our homiletic should be as well. Though we have to preach the trees of the Bible, let us never forget to allow our sermons to be conditioned by the forest of which the Bible consists. This model of preaching does not threaten a robust exegetical method; it demands it. However, this kind of preaching does not stop the process of interpretation and the content of proclamation with modern, narrow exegetical concerns (e.g., human authorial intent or the understanding of the initial recipients). It seeks to preach the parts in light of the whole. It aims at divine intention in light of a completed divine revelation. And the divine intention of the whole of Scripture is to give all glory to God through what he does in the incarnate Son of God. This meta-narrative should condition our preaching.
Ephesians 1:8-10 is gospel revelation. It contains aspects of the good news of what God has done, is doing, and will do in Christ. He has done everything needed to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10) and no one can stop him. It is what the Father intended all along (Eph. 1:4-5). It is what God “promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:2 NASB). It is the covenant of redemption (Eph. 1:4-6), brought to temporal expression in the history of redemption (Eph. 1:7-12), and brought to believers in the application of redemption (Eph. 1:7ff. and 13-14).
The Bible is the record of God’s acts of creation, providence, and redemption recorded by the writers of Holy Scripture and, at times, interpreted for us by them. We have Holy Scripture in order to reveal to us God’s restoration program (i.e., the recapitulation of all things in Christ) which is brought into existence by what his Son does, through which he gets glory. These things being so, the Scriptures have a doxological trajectory throughout, tending toward and terminating upon what the Son of God incarnate does for the glory of God.
The recapitulation of all things in Christ is God’s supreme way of bringing glory to himself. This truth takes center-stage in God’s written Word. The glory of God is the purpose for which all things exist (Rom. 11:36), and he gets glory for himself supremely through his incarnate Son (Eph. 3:21). This ought to be the main thrust and constant theme of our ministries.
If God is in the business of getting glory through his incarnate Son and if his written Word is all about how he is going to do that, then pulpit ministries should be infused with the aroma of Christ, both in his sufferings and in his glory.
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 Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (1948; reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 140.
 John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 23 vols., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987 edition), 11:203; emphases added.
 See Geerhardus Vos, “The Nature and Aims of Biblical Theology,” Kerux 14.1 (May 1999): 4.
Richard Barcellos is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA, and Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology at IRBS Theological Seminary. He is the author of Getting the Garden Right: Adam’s Work and God’s Rest in Light of Christ.
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