Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.

—Ephesians 1:8

What is wisdom? It is the skill to achieve the most perfect ends by the most perfect means. Both the means and the ends have to be worthy of God. Wisdom is the ability to see the end from the beginning, to see everything in proper relation and in full focus. It is to judge in view of final and ultimate ends and to work toward those ends with flawless precision.

God Almighty must be flawlessly precise. God doesn’t bumble. The British used to say of themselves, “We muddled through,” meaning they got through somehow, playing it by ear, hoping for the best and taking advantage of situations. They’ve done it well for the last thousand years. That’s the way we have to do it, but God never works that way. If God worked that way it would prove that God didn’t know any more than we did about things. But God works with flawless precision because God sees the end from the beginning and He never needs to back up. AOGII130

Thank You, Lord, that You don’t have to muddle through and hope for the best. Thank You for the flawless precision with which You work. Amen. [1]

1:8 It was in grace that He chose us, predestined us, and redeemed us. But that is not all. God has superabounded that same grace toward us in all wisdom and prudence. This means He has graciously shared His plans and purposes with us. His desire is that we should have intelligence and insight into His plans for the church and for the universe. And so He has taken us into His confidence, as it were, and has revealed to us the great goal toward which all history is moving.[2]

8 At the end of v. 7 and into v. 8 Paul specifies the source of this astonishing gift of forgiveness: God’s riches of grace. As before (1:2, 6), grace accounts for God’s actions, and this grace came not sparingly but lavishly. Paul views God’s grace as “riches,” a word that can denote material wealth (e.g., Mt 13:22; 1 Ti 6:17). God imparted his riches (see also 1:18; 3:8, 16) to his people when he graced them with redemption and forgiveness. And beyond these awesome gifts, the gracious God lavished additional riches on his people—“all wisdom [sophia, GK 5053] and understanding [phronēsis, GK 5860].”

“Wisdom” has a rich use in the OT, but Paul is the principal NT writer who uses the term (e.g., 1 Co 1–3 of human versus divine wisdom; Ro 11:33 of God’s wisdom). Wisdom speaks of how one approaches or lives life. One can live according to human wisdom, what James terms “earthly” wisdom (Jas 3:15), or according to divine wisdom, God’s approach to how life ought to be lived. The Wisdom literature of the OT, especially Proverbs, personifies wisdom as a guide to correct living (e.g., Pr 1:8–9:18). In addition, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Pr 9:10 NRSV). So beyond redemption and forgiveness God provides his people with wisdom—the insight and ability to live life appropriately.

The second term, “insight” (NIV, “understanding”), adds little to our understanding of “wisdom.” Though classical Greek distinguished the meanings of these words, probably their juxtaposition in Proverbs 3:13, 19 and other places in the LXX shows their virtual synonymity in the biblical uses. In keeping with the expansive style of this section, where synonyms and genitive constructions add color and emphasis, “insight” restates “wisdom”: to live wisely (Eph 5:15) is to live with understanding. They mutually define each other in the structure known as “hendiadys”—one idea through two words.[3]

1:7b, 8 the forgiveness of our trespasses … In all wisdom and insight. Redemption brings in the limitless grace of God (Ro 5:20) and forgiveness of sin (cf. Mt 26:28; Ac 13:38, 39; Eph 4:32; Col 2:13; 1Jn 1:9). It brings divinely-bestowed spiritual understanding. Cf. 1Co 2:6, 7, 12, 16.[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1909). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 50–51). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Eph 1:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


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