The Purpose of the Mystery
in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, (3:10–11)
The purpose (hina with subjunctive verb) of God’s revealing the mystery of the church is that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places, namely, the angels. Angels are also spoken of in such terms in Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16. In Ephesians 6:12 Paul uses similar words in regard to fallen angels. God has brought the church into being for the purpose of manifesting His great wisdom before the angels, both holy and unholy. The New Testament emphasis is on the holy angels’ concern with the church, but it is obvious that the fallen angels can also to some extent see what is going on, though they have no desire or capacity for praise.
This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, Paul continues to explain. Everything God has ever done has had the ultimate purpose of giving Himself glory. As Paul declares elsewhere, “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6), and “All things have been created by Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
The church does not exist simply for the purpose of saving souls, though that is a marvelous and important work. The supreme purpose of the church, as Paul makes explicit here, is to glorify God by manifesting His wisdom before the angels, who can then offer greater praise to God. The purpose of the universe is to give glory to God, and that will be its ultimate reality after all evil is conquered and destroyed. Even now, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1). The church is not an end in itself but a means to an end, the end of glorifying God. The real drama of redemption can only be understood when we realize that the glory of God is the supreme goal of creation. Holy angels are especially made and confirmed in purity and praise as creatures who will forever give God glory (Ps. 148:2; Heb. 1:6), and the redemption of fallen men enriches their praise. Redeemed people, then, are to enhance angelic praise and some day in heaven to join in it (Rev. 4:8–11; 5:8–14; 7:9–12; 14:1–3; 19:1–8).
Even the fallen angels glorify God, though they do not intend to do so. It was their very rejection of His glory and the seeking of their own glory that caused them to be cast out of heaven in the first place. Yet Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). God is glorified through the fallen angels by continually frustrating their rebellious plans and showing the futility of their evil intentions to destroy His church. His holy wrath also displays His glory, since it is a revelation of who He is (cf. Rom. 9:19–22).
The angels can see the power of God in creation, the wrath of God at Sinai, and the love of God at Calvary. But above all they see His manifold [multi-colored, multi-faceted] wisdom that is made known through the church. They see Him taking Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female—who together murdered the Messiah and were worthy only of hell—and making them, by that very cross of murder, one spiritual Body in Jesus Christ. They see Him breaking down every barrier, every wall that divides and making all believers one in an indivisible, intimate, and eternal union with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and every other believer from every other age and circumstance. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Jesus said (Luke 15:10). Every sinner who repents and turns to Christ adds another spiritual stone to God’s temple, another member to His Body, and becomes another forgiven and cleansed sinner who is made eternally one with every other forgiven and cleansed sinner. The holy angels not only are interested in the salvation of men (1 Pet. 1:12) but constantly watch the face of God in heaven to see His reaction to the treatment of His saved earthly children (Matt. 18:10, 14), standing ready to carry out any mission in their behalf.
When Paul admonished the Corinthian women to show submission to their husbands through the custom of wearing long hair, he reinforced the command by saying it was given “because of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10), so as not to offend their sense of submissiveness and to give them greater cause to glorify God by the obedience of the church in the matter of proper male and female responses. They are led to praise the Lord when they see the right relationship in the church overruling the perversion of man’s relationship engineered by Satan and sin. After Paul had stated certain principles regarding elders in the church, he wrote, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias” (1 Tim. 5:21). Angels are exceedingly concerned about the discipline needed to produce holy behavior and pure living in the church as well as godly leadership (vv. 17–25). After all, says the writer of Hebrews, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). They minister to and watch over the church.
In the classroom of God’s universe, He is the Teacher, the angels are the students, the church is the illustration, and the subject is the manifold wisdom of God.
10. That now to the principalities and powers. Some are of opinion that these words cannot apply to angels, because such ignorance, as is here supposed, could not be found in those who are permitted to behold the brightness of God’s countenance. They choose rather to refer them to devils, but without due reflection; for what could have been regarded as extraordinary in the assertion, that, by the preaching of the gospel and the calling of the Gentiles, information was, for the first time, conveyed to devils? There can be no doubt that the apostle labours to place in the strongest light the mercy of God toward the Gentiles, and the high value of the gospel. For this purpose he declares, that the preaching of the gospel exhibits the manifold grace of God, with which, till now, the heavenly angels themselves were unacquainted. The wisdom of God, therefore, which was manifested by uniting Jews and Gentiles in the fellowship of the gospel, ought to be regarded by men with the highest admiration.
He calls it πολυποίκιλον σοφίαν, manifold wisdom, because men are accustomed to try it by a false standard, confining their view to a particular department, and thus forming a most inadequate conception of the whole. The Jews thought, for example, that the dispensation under the law, with which they were acquainted and familiar, was the only form in which the wisdom of God could be seen. But, by making the gospel to be proclaimed to all men without exception, God has brought forth to view another instance and proof of his wisdom. Not that it was new wisdom, but that it was so large and manifold, as to transcend our limited capacity. Let us rest assured that the knowledge, whatever it may be, which we have acquired, is, after all, but a slender proportion. And if the calling of the Gentiles draws the attention, and excites the reverence, of angels in heaven, how shameful that it should be slighted or disdained by men upon earth!
The inference which some draw from this passage, that angels are present in our assemblies, and make progress along with ourselves in knowledge, is a groundless speculation. We must always keep in view the purposes for which God appointed the ministry of his word. If angels, who are permitted to see the face of God, do not walk in faith, neither do they need the outward administration of the word. The preaching of the gospel, therefore, is of no service but to human beings, among whom alone the practice exists. Paul’s meaning is this: “The church, composed both of Jews and Gentiles, is a mirror, in which angels behold the astonishing wisdom of God displayed in a manner unknown to them before. They see a work which is new to them, and the reason of which was hid in God. In this manner, and not by learning anything from the lips of men, do they make progress.”
10 The conjunction hina begins this verse, indicating that now Paul specifies a purpose, while raising the question of where to attach the purpose clause it introduces. God’s display of his “wisdom” (sophia, GK 5053) to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” could depict the purpose for God’s giving of grace to Paul (v. 8), for Paul’s preaching ministry (v. 8), for enlightening everyone (v. 9), or for hiding the mystery in the first place (v. 9). A decision is not easy, and one can sympathize with the NIV translators, who simply started a new sentence here: “His intent was …” Again, while proximity suggests only the final option—God’s hiding of the mystery—Paul probably intends that all these factors converge to display God’s wisdom. In sum, God’s purpose in formerly hiding the truth—and now making it known through the gospel that Paul was called to preach—was that now his amazing wisdom will become evident to the heavenly powers through the church. As this grand scheme now unfolds in the church—Jews and Gentiles in one unified body—the rulers and authorities observe God’s polypoikilos, “very many-sided” (BDAG, 847), or variegated (NIV, “manifold”; the word occurs only here in the NT), wisdom.
Who are the “rulers and authorities”? Recall the discussion at 1:21. Since their location is the “heavenly realms,” I take them to be nonhuman—the powers of evil Paul mentions later (Eph 6:12; cf. 1 Pe 3:22)—though Paul elsewhere uses the terms of human authorities (Ro 13:1, 5–6; Tit 3:1). These hostile, supernatural enemies of God who try to thwart his purposes are put on notice that God has accomplished what he set out to do, despite their ongoing evil designs. Against all odds and in the most unlikely of ways, the church exists; all these rulers and authorities can do is marvel at God’s wisdom.
Two issues remain in this verse: what is God’s wisdom that becomes evident, and how is the church the instrument for revealing it? Paul has already used the term “wisdom” (sophia) in 1:8, 17. With regard to God’s wisdom that he grants to people, it denotes the insight and ability to live life appropriately, in the ways that reflect God’s perspectives and values. Paul speaks of God’s wisdom as his intelligence and understanding that determined how he acted to reach out to lost people (1 Co 1:21). It may be used as synonymous with his knowledge (Ro 11:33). In this context of administration, hidden mystery, appointment of Paul, and use of apostles and prophets to reveal, Paul may very well intend “wisdom” to encompass God’s orchestrating of history in such a way that redemption might be secured and Jews and Gentiles joined in this new entity, the church.
So how can the church make plain how intelligent and resourceful—how wise—God is? Certainly the church’s very existence and the unity displayed among its disparate components are evidence of God’s wisdom. Paul’s appeals in chs. 4–6 may also give believers instructions for conducting their lives in ways that put God’s wisdom on display to the rulers and authorities. How dazzling is God’s wisdom in redeeming for himself a people through a death on a cross (1 Co 1:23–24)! Paul does not hint at how he thinks the powers will respond to the church’s demonstration of God’s wisdom. Will they cease and desist? Will they worship God? History gives no cause for accepting either of these responses. Probably this confirms to the rulers and authorities Christ’s victory, their inevitable defeat, and the judgment to be brought on them when God sums up all things in Christ (1:10). What a comfort and encouragement these assurances are to readers who fear the powers aligned against the church and who regularly experience the powers’ very real assaults! Nothing can thwart God’s program; even the malevolent powers will succumb to God’s sovereign plan. As the readers engage in this spiritual warfare, they know that in the end they will stand (6:12–13).
10 This new, comprehensive community is to serve throughout the universe as an object-lesson of the wisdom of God—his “much-variegated” wisdom. The compound adjective here used is poetic in origin: its first occurrence is in Attic tragedy. The variety of divine wisdom is spelled out (without the use of this particular adjective) in Wisdom 7:22–23: “For in her there is a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent and pure and most subtle.” “The being of God,” says Schlier, “… reveals itself in the economy of grace as the one divine wisdom in various forms and modes, one after another—as the predestined wisdom, as the wisdom shown in creation, in Christ, the personal Wisdom, and lastly in the church as the wisdom which is multiformi specie and yet one, in Christ.” The “hidden wisdom” of God, decreed before the ages for his people’s glory, to which Paul makes brief reference in 1 Cor. 2:6–10, is expounded here for the readers of Ephesians.
There is no need to limit the “principalities and powers” in such a context as this to hostile forces. All created intelligences are in view here. When the foretelling and accomplishment of the Christian salvation are said in 1 Pet. 1:12 to be “things into which angels long to look,” something of the same sort is intended as we find here. The wisdom of God revealed in the cross of Christ and in its saving efficacy in the lives of believers upsets all conventional notions of wisdom and demands their reappraisal in the minds of the spiritually mature (1 Cor. 1:18–2:6).
The “principalities and powers” learn from the church that they too have a place in the plan of God. The reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles in this new creation is a token of the reconciliation in which they in their turn are to be embraced. In Col. 1:19–22 the cosmic reconciliation which God has planned is anticipated in the experience of believers in Christ, whom “he has now reconciled”—and the means of reconciliation in the one case as in the other is the saving work of Christ, who has “made peace through the blood of his cross.” The church thus appears to be God’s pilot scheme for the reconciled universe of the future, the mystery of God’s will “to be administered in the fullness of the times,” when “the things in heaven and the things on earth” are to be brought together in Christ (Eph. 1:9–10). There is probably the further implication that the church, the product of God’s reconciling work thus far, is designed by him to be his agency (existing as it does “in Christ”) for the bringing about of the ultimate reconciliation. If so, then Paul, who is the direct instrument of God in creating the present fellowship of reconciliation, is indirectly his instrument for the universal reconciliation of the future.
3:10 / What had remained hidden “for ages past” (3:9) is now (nyn) made manifest. This verse makes one of the most inclusive statements about the church in the entire nt. Simply put, it announces that the church has a cosmic function in the plan of God.
With this verse, the author reaches the climax of his development on the “mystery/plan of God.” C. L. Mitton calls this “God’s master plan” and outlines the sequence by which this revelation took place: “It was made known first to Paul (3:3), then to the apostles and prophets (3:5), then to all men (3:9). Only then, as God’s reconciling power in Christ became effective in his Church and produced a united fellowship out of elements which in the world had seemed irreconcilable, did the powers of evil realize what God was achieving” (p. 127). This unfolding of God’s plan as presented in Ephesians may be diagrammed in the following way:
|Apostles and prophets (3:5)
|All mankind (3:9)
|Angelic powers and rulers in the heavenly world (3:10)
In this last stage God’s plan comes full circle: What was alluded to in the opening hymn of praise (1:10) is now complete. The grand purpose of the church is that through its agency, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. These angelic rulers and powers are those beings mentioned in 1:21 and in 6:12. Colossians used similar expressions when it taught Christ’s—and consequently the believer’s—victory over these evil forces (Col. 1:16; 2:15, 20; cf. also Rom. 8:38; 1 Pet. 3:22).
In order to understand this verse it is necessary to realize that the author is assuming an ancient cosmological system. In pre-Copernican times, astronomers believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that it had no motion. The earth was surrounded by a series of spheres that contained celestial bodies, such as the sun, moon, stars, and planets, which revolved around the earth. Beyond these spheres (usually seven) was the highest heaven, where God made his abode. In time, it was believed that these spheres were inhabited by some kind of “heavenly beings,” which acted as sovereign rulers within these spheres. These heavenly powers could be either good and friendly or evil and hostile.
With respect to salvation, some religious systems, such as that of the Gnostics, believed that the human soul had to pass through these spheres as it ascended to its permanent abode with God in the highest heaven. But as it moved upward, it was confronted by the rulers and authorities of these spheres, who, in most cases, were hostile and needed to be placated or appeased in some way so that safe passage through the spheres could be guaranteed. This developed into elaborate systems of magic, sorcery, and astrology, many of which were current during Paul’s time.
The central message in the book of Colossians is that Christ has defeated these evil powers through his death on the cross. Consequently, they no longer have any control or authority over humankind; believers share in that victory by virtue of their faith in Christ and by virtue of their union with his death and resurrection in baptism (Col. 2:20).
Ephesians retains a similar cosmology: Christ is exalted and rules “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given” (1:21); the Christian is engaged in a battle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (6:12); and in 3:10, these forces exist as witnesses to what God has done and is doing through the church. Thus, all forms of life—whether on earth or in the far regions of the cosmos—know about God’s eternal plan and purpose.
Scholarly interpretations vary greatly in their approach to the cosmology presented in Ephesians and Colossians. Some believe that the concepts are obsolete and need to be demythologized, that is, reinterpreted in terms that have meaning for the modern era. A good example is Barth, who understands these concepts as politicoeconomic structures of society rather than as cosmic intelligences (cf. notes on 1:21, 22). At the other extreme there is the position represented by Stott, who takes exception to the kind of interpretation given by Barth and others. Stott does not accept the view that Paul was referring to earthly social structures that are included in the redemptive activity of God. In his book God’s New Society, he provides a short history of the study of the principalities and powers (pp. 267–75) and makes a passionate appeal that readers of the nt understand them as supernatural beings rather than as “structures, institutions and traditions” (p. 273).
It is unclear what effect this revelation of God’s mystery through the church is to have upon these heavenly beings. All the text says is that through the church they might know the manifold wisdom of God. Are they objects of God’s redemptive activity, or are they merely cosmic spectators to a drama that is being worked out on earth through the church? The rest of the nt is silent on this subject, and only a few verses allude to some kind of intelligent activity among the angels (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:12).
The author describes the unity of the church as the manifestation of the wisdom of God—wisdom to the extent that God’s divine purposes were being accomplished throughout all the “past ages” down to the present time. Only an all-wise God could bring hostile nations and powers together into a unified whole.
God’s wisdom, the author continues, is manifold. This is a translation of the Greek polypoikilos, which basically means “many-sided” or “varied forms” (neb). God’s manifold wisdom is like looking through a kaleidoscope that reveals an amazing array of shapes and colors as one turns it gently; it is like beholding a marvelous tapestry that a designer has woven from a variety of different strands (Stott, p. 123). In this verse, the author has a magnificent vision of a triumphant and unified church that demonstrates the entire creative and redemptive purposes of God to all humanity (3:9) as well as to all cosmic powers (3:10).
10. The design of God in giving Paul grace to proclaim to the Gentiles the mystery of salvation heretofore hidden.
now—first: opposed to “hidden from the beginning of the world” (Eph 3:5).
unto the principalities and—Greek adds “the”
powers—unto the various orders of good angels primarily, as these dwell “in the heavenly places” in the highest sense; “known” to their adoring joy (1 Ti 3:16; 1 Pe 1:12). Secondarily, God’s wisdom in redemption is made known to evil angels, who dwell “in heavenly places” in a lower sense, namely, the air (compare Eph 2:2 with Eph 6:12); “known” to their dismay (1 Co 15:24; Col 2:15).
might be known—Translate, “may be known.”
by the church—“by means of,” or “through the Church,” which is the “theater” for the display of God’s manifold wisdom (Lu 15:10; 1 Co 4:9): “a spectacle (Greek, ‘theater’) to angels.” Hence, angels are but our “fellow servants” (Rev 19:10).
manifold wisdom—though essentially one, as Christ is one, yet varying the economy in respect to places, times, and persons (Is 55:8, 9; Heb 1:1). Compare 1 Pe 4:10, “stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Man cannot understand aright its single acts till he can survey them as a connected whole (1 Co 13:12). The call of the Church is no haphazard remedy, or afterthought, but part of the eternal scheme, which, amidst manifold varieties of dispensation, is one in its end.
Ver. 10.—To the intent—indicative of the purpose of the remarkable arrangement or dispensation according to which the eternal Divine purpose, which had been concealed from the beginning of the ages, was now made known—that there might be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places; that a lesson might be given to the unfallen angels. Their interest in the scheme of man’s redemption is often referred to (1 Pet. 1:12). Even the highest powers of heaven have yet much to learn respecting God. The dispensation of God’s grace to man is one of their lesson-books. Dr. Chalmers shows (‘Astronomical Discourses’) how this meets the objection that so dread a sacrifice as the life of God’s Son could not have been made for one poor planet; in its indirect bearings we do not know what other orders of beings have derived most vital lessons from this manifestation of the attributes of God. However men may scorn the salvation of Christ and all that belongs to it, the highest intelligences regard it with profound interest. By the Church the manifold wisdom of God. Through the Church, now constituted, according to the revealed mystery, of Jew and Gentile, all redeemed by Christ’s blood and renewed by his Spirit, there is exhibited to the angels the manifold wisdom of God. The precise line of thought is this: God, from eternity, had a purpose to put Jew and Gentile on precisely the same footing, but concealed it for many ages, until he revealed it in the apostolic age, when he appointed Paul his minister to announce it. The purpose of this whole arrangement was to enlighten the principalities and powers of heaven in the manifold wisdom of God. How in his manifold wisdom? In this way. During these preparatory ages, when God’s gracious dealings were with the Jews only, all kinds of false religions were developing among the heathen, and their diversified influence and effects were becoming apparent in many ways—the divergent tendencies of men, especially in religious matters, were being developed; but in the new turn given to things by the breaking down of the middle wall in Christ, the manifold wisdom of God was shown in transforming many of these most diverse elements, unifying them, building them up into a great spiritual body, into a holy, most beautiful, most symmetrical temple. When all things seem to be flying asunder into the most diverse and antagonistic elements, God gives a new turn, as it were, to providence, and lo! a glorious symmetrical and harmonious structure begins to rise.
10. in order that now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the iridescent wisdom of God. The church, therefore, does not exist for itself. It exists for God, for his glory. When the angels in heaven behold the works and the wisdom of God displayed in the church, their knowledge of the God whom they adore is increased and they rejoice and glorify him. That the designation “principalities and authorities” refers to angels has been established. See on 1:21 and N.T.C. on Col 1:16 and 2:18. By no means all commentators who adopt this position are in agreement, however, with respect to the kind of angels indicated here (3:10). Some defend the position that the reference is to evil powers exclusively. Robertson, in his Word Pictures, Vol. IV, p. 531, equates them with “gnostic aeons or what not.” Greijdanus states that although the reference is, first of all, to the good angels, the fallen angels need not be excluded (op. cit., p. 72). Now it is true, indeed, that the expression “principalities and authorities” is neutral just like “angels.” Gabriel is an angel, but so is Satan. In each case it is the context that determines whether the designation refers to angels in general, as in 1:21, to evil angels, as in 6:12, or to good angels. Even the addition here in 3:10 of the words “in the heavenly places” is not decisive in determining whether good angels or demons are meant, as 6:12 proves. Nevertheless, I still see no reason for disagreeing with Calvin, Bavinck, Grosheide, Hodge, Lenski, and a host of other leading theologians and commentators, in believing that 3:10 refers to the good and not to the evil angels. My reasons are as follows:
(1) Here (3:10) there is no reference to any conflict between believers and spiritual hosts of wickedness. In 6:12 the matter is entirely different.
(2) Both language and thought-content are elevated. Calvin’s comments may well be taken to heart. Says he, “Some prefer to refer these words to devils, but without due reflection … There can be no doubt about the fact that the apostle labors to place in the strongest light the mercy of God toward the Gentiles, and the high value of the gospel … Paul’s meaning is, The church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is a mirror, in which the angels behold the astonishing wisdom of God displayed in a manner unknown to them before. They see a work which is new to them, and the reason whereof was hid in God.”
(3) The fact that the church, as God’s masterpiece in which his excellencies are mirrored forth, is an object of interest and scrutiny to the good angels is clear also from other passages (Luke 15:10; 1 Cor. 11:10; 1 Peter 1:12; Rev. 5:11 ff.). Eph. 3:10 harmonizes beautifully with all this.
Now what the principalities and powers see reflected in the church is “the iridescent wisdom” of God. The adjective that modifies wisdom means literally multi-colored or much-variegated. Unless the word used in the original has lost its full etymological significance, and should therefore simply be rendered manifold (as in A.V., A.R.V., R.S.V.) or many-sided (L.N.T. (A. and G.)), which in the present highly elevated context is improbable, it calls attention to the infinite diversity and sparkling beauty of God’s wisdom. For both of these characteristics one is reminded of the rainbow. Hence, iridescent or something on that order (like “many-splendoured” suggested by Bruce) would seem to be a reasonable English equivalent, unless one wishes to retain the literal rendering multi-colored. In every phase of redemption (as well as of creation) the brilliance of God’s wisdom reveals itself. Since in chapters 2 and 3 of Ephesians (see especially 2:16; 3:6) the matter of the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile to God and to each other through the cross—which to the Jew was a stumblingblock and to the Gentiles foolishness (1 Cor. 1:22–25)—is never absent from Paul’s mind, it would seem that this is one of the manifestations of the divine “wisdom” which he mentions. Cf. Rom. 16:25–27, where the revelation of the mystery is ascribed to “the only wise God.” God’s wisdom reconciles seeming irreconcilables. So also the very word wisdom is again used in the text when elsewhere reference is made to the fact that the very rejection of carnal Israel results, by various links, in the salvation of all of God’s people: “By their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy … that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they [Israel] may now obtain mercy.… O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments; how untraceable his ways!” (Rom. 11:11, 31, 33). Accordingly, when in the past certain commentators, in interpreting the expression “iridescent wisdom,” have fixed the attention upon various paradoxes such as the following, that God in Christ produces life by means of death, glory by means of shame (the “shame” of the cross), the blessing by means of the curse, power by means of weakness, etc., they were simply following where Scripture itself had led them.
The true dimensions of the term “iridescent wisdom” are, however, much broader than this. There is not a single work of God whether in creation or, as here, in redemption, where that richly variegated wisdom does not manifest itself. It is seen in the church as a whole when it strives earnestly to live to God’s glory. It is seen also in every individual believer, drawn out of the darkness into God’s marvelous light. We catch glimpses of it now, as we study Scripture or as we reflect on the divine providence in our own lives. By the sea of crystal, where at last all things become crystal-clear to us, we shall see it as we have never seen it before, and, filled with rapture, we shall say, “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty. Righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages” (Rev. 15:3). The words of the Psalmist with reference to God’s works in the physical realm will then be applied, with emphasis greater than ever before, also to the spiritual realm, namely, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works, in wisdom thou hast made them all!” The more the church lives in harmony with its high calling, the more also will the angels be able to see in it God’s marvelous wisdom. To make manifest in its life and character the “excellencies” of its Maker-Redeemer, so that the principalities and the authorities may, indeed, see this wisdom is, therefore, part of the church’s Lofty Goal.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 96–97). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 255–256). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 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. 91–92). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 320–322). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 214–217). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 348). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ephesians (p. 106). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 158–160). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.