Summary: Seventh in a series taken from Ephesians 1, this series delves into the riches that we know through our relationship with Christ.

18 I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, "I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas."

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe. 22 God’s way seems foolish to the Jews because they want a sign from heaven to prove it is true. And it is foolish to the Greeks because they believe only what agrees with their own wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles,* Christ is the mighty power of God and the wonderful wisdom of God. 25 This "foolish" plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength. I Cor. 1:18-25

“God has made them all (the philosophers, scholars, and brilliant debaters) look foolish…”

“The goal of all life is death” – Sigmund Freud

“God has made them all look foolish…”

“The meaningless absurdity of life is the only uncontestable knowledge accessible to man.” – Tolstoy

“God has made them all look foolish…”

“What the meaning of life may be, I don’t know. I incline to suspect that it has none.” – H.L. Mencken

“God has made them all look foolish…”

“Since all of life is futility, then the decision to exist must be the most irrational of all.” – Emil Cioran

“God has made them all look foolish…”

There are three options, according to Albert Camus, when faced with the absurdity of life: one, suicide, is the coward’s way out; two, resorting to any kind of faith in God, is in Camus’ view “philosophical suicide”. What does Camus propose? The full, unflinching, courageous embrace of the absurdity of life. Life, according to Camus, “can be lived all the better if it has no meaning.”

“God has made them all look foolish…”

And Lord MacBeth opines that, “Life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

“God has made them all look foolish…”

Even King Solomon, in all his wisdom, declared that “life is meaningless”—though his take on the subject, indeed his definition, of “meaningless” was far removed from that of these supposed wise philosophers. Solomon was expressing what so many of us often feel: life doesn’t make sense sometimes; it just doesn’t add up. Try as we may to figure it out, we fail; just when we think we’ve got a bit of a handle on why something happens as it does, another mystery or three comes along and totally blows away our supposed understanding. Some begin to believe that, because they cannot figure out the answers to life, maybe life doesn’t really have any answers, that some of these learned men are right. If, indeed, there is no Creator, no Sustainer, then how can we possibly speak of life having purpose and meaning? And further, naturally, if life has no purpose or meaning anyhow, if there is neither reason nor rhyme, then why prolong life when circumstances become tough? It’s rational—if there is no God.

Of course, if you ask most Americans, they will say that they believe in God, but if you ask them what the purpose of life is, there will be many who will be dumbfounded, and further, many will not find the two questions particularly related in any way!

But when we come to Ephesians 1, we find that another of the benefits of God’s grace, “showered upon us”, as we read in verse 8, is that God has let the followers of Jesus in on a secret, a secret uncomprehended or unknown or unbelieved by so many PhD. types, unknown even in its detail to those followers of God who lived in Old Testament times, but not a secret to us. We find that recorded in Ephesians 1:9-10 (read, pray).

Unregenerate man looks at the uncertainties of this life and says, “because life appears to be random and often unfair, there must be no God; there must be no unifying purpose to be found.” But there are at least two fallacies to this kind of thinking:

1. The capacity to make moral judgments, to distinguish between good and bad, is itself a clear indicator of the existence of a moral law—and a Moral Lawgiver.

Every culture in the world has a code of morality, a system of right and wrong, of what is fair or unfair. Though significant differences might appear, those codes that vary somewhat from society to society are nonetheless surprisingly similar. C.S. Lewis brilliantly demonstrates, in Mere Christianity, that the only logical explanation for man’s sense of right and wrong is that an eternal God has placed it in man’s heart.

The first problem that so many “learned” people have with their analysis that “life is meaningless” is that the yardstick they use to try to prove their claim serves to prove, ironically, the opposite. How can you tell that life is absurd without a yardstick that is able to evaluate the difference between “normal” and “absurd”, and where does that yardstick come from? Where does your moral compass come from?

2. We have limited perspective.

My favorite children’s story to illustrate this is the story of the Five Blind Men from Hindustan, who chancing upon an elephant, each describe the totality of what an elephant must be like based upon their observation of one part of the elephant’s anatomy. Each, by only grasping a little portion of the whole, came to conclusions that were limited and erroneous.

“Educated man”, who spends a quick-as-a-wink moment of time on a speck of a planet, makes a few observations about some supposed inequity in life and then musters the gall to reach the grand conclusion that life has no purpose, because there is no one or nothing to give it any meaning. Boy, I just bet Almighty God is quaking in His boots!

Listen, though, to Jesus’ prayer, “I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Paul, in I Corinthians 2, says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit Who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” And he adds, “we have the mind of Christ.”

God didn’t reserve His wisdom for the Einsteins and the Carl Sagans; He gives it to His children, you and me; we’re in on the secret! But I am glad that God does use some learned men sometimes as well, and one of these was the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who penned a fitting reply to our philosophers:

“Life is real, life is earnest, and the grave is not its goal; ‘dust thou art, to dust returneth’, was not spoken of the soul!”

So those who despair of the meaning of life are working with limited evidence from a limited perspective. But here’s the thing: according to Ephesians 1, God’s secret plan has been revealed to us. We, as Christ-followers, have been let in on the secret of what this world is all about, and the answer is: Jesus. Scan the headlines looking for His name, and it usually isn’t there. Open the secular history books, and he’ll get perhaps a nodding glance. The talk at work will run 10-1 American Idol to Jesus, or 20-1 the Steelers to Jesus. But He is the point of it all, the fulcrum, the zenith, Ground Zero of the entire universe and all of history is Jesus Christ.

God has showered His kindness on us (we see this in many ways; in some ways, verse 8 is a bridge between what has come before, God’s work in us and His revelation to us). And He has showered “wisdom” on us; that word in the original is sophia, which indicates an “understanding of ultimate things”. The word “understanding” there merely reinforces the point instead of making a different one. God has given to us practical insight into ultimate truth in His kindness. We are in on the secret of the universe. That secret plan includes the fact that, this side of Calvary and the empty tomb, we now understand

1. God’s Plan of Redemption in Christ

In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to do certain things in certain prescribed ways in order to please Him. He gave to His people the Law, so that they understood what to do, but one of the things that they could never fully grasp was the why of it all. Why did God prescribe that these things be done in certain ways? They made sacrifices to God, but they could only understand in part the significance of these sacrifices; it remained a mystery to them. We understand, though, that the sacrifices pointed forward to the time when Jesus Christ would be the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. God in the age of grace smiles with pleasure upon those who look to Christ’s sacrifice as their means of salvation; His plan of redemption, foreshadowed in the Old Testament, comes to fruition in the New.

2. The Reality of the Indwelling Spirit

When Jesus Christ, the agent of God’s redemption, is believed on by an individual, that person receives the Holy Spirit, living on the inside of his/her life. In the Old Testament dispensation, God’s Holy Spirit would come upon a person for a time and a purpose, but the Spirit is never said to indwell, in a permanent way, an Old Testament saint. David, in response to being confronted about his heinous sin by the prophet Nathan, prays—and we sing, “take not Thy Holy Spirit from me”. We sing it because that’s the way the Psalm is written; technically at that point, we are singing an impossibility, for God does not remove His Spirit; rather, His Spirit indwells believers. What was reality for David—that the Holy Spirit of God might leave him—is not a reality for us.

The people of God heard the prophet Jeremiah give the Word of the Lord regarding a future time when God’s law would be written on the hearts of His people—this is the work of the Holy Spirit on the inside that Jeremiah was prophesying, a mystery to God’s people of old, but because we’re in on the secret, we understand this today. We understand, as Paul says, that our very bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, that God dwells not in temples made with hands, but in our very lives.

If we really grasped that reality, would it change the way we live? Wouldn’t I think twice

• Before I went certain places?

• Before I made certain remarks?

• Before I allowed resentment to fester in my heart?

• Before I let my eyes feast on certain things?

• Before I fed that particular prejudice?

• Before I broke my vows of commitment made before God and my spouse?

• Before I plotted revenge?

If I really understand that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in me, and that I am thus holy by God’s declaration, won’t it cause me to make my every act one of worship?

3. The Inclusion of Jew and Gentile—equally—into the body of Christ

Because Jesus died on the cross, God offers to all men, irrespective of heritage, culture, language, or station in life, the opportunity for eternal life; this was a mystery revealed by God in our dispensation.

God had said to Abram, “through your line all of the families of the earth shall be blessed”, but the Jews had largely forgotten—or never really understood—this. While there were proselytes who came into the fold of Israel, they did so by becoming Jews, essentially. We read in the book of Acts that it was a difficult concept for many Jews to grasp, though, that God’s intent in Christ was to draw all men and women—Jew and Gentile alike—to Himself just as they were, and into one body in Christ. The gospel, in modern parlance, we might describe as being for the “religious” and the “non-religious” alike (though that wording is inadequate, of course). We don’t think a whole lot about the revolutionary nature of this today; we more or less accept the inclusion of all people into the body of Christ, all who come to Him by faith, even though we sometimes do a poor job of modeling this to the world. We still allow racial and cultural and denominational barriers to separate the body of Christ; there is a time and place—and it’s probably more often than we do it—for us to join hands with fellow believers and tear down some of the walls that separate us!

4. It All Adds Up to the Glory of Jesus

This is the culmination of it all, the main, key point of the mystery: God will, in His time, “bring everything together under the authority of Christ” (v.10). In some translations, it says that God will “sum up” everything in Christ, a Greek word that speaks of adding a column of numbers and putting the answer at the top. History, then, will be summed up in Christ; all of the “numbers” will add up and we’ll see that the sum total is the glory of Jesus, that history is not merely a random chain of events, but rather the unfolding of God’s plan and intent for history. One day, we are promised in Scripture, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul calls this a “mystery”, and so it is, because who would guess this? Look around us at the world in which we live. Hezbollah attacks Israel, and Israel responds. Terrorists fly airplanes into buildings and threaten holocaust. AIDS ravages entire countries in Africa, and civil war ravages others. Poverty is seen worldwide. Tinhorn dictators squash freedom under their thumbs. Corporate greed and graft are widespread. Materialism runs rampant in well-off nations like ours; even some big name preachers justify such greed. We have lost our grip on the seriousness of sin; instead of running from it, we use it as entertainment. To so many in our world, the name of Jesus Christ is something we invoke only behind the doors of a house of worship; we are not focused on Jesus, not thinking about Jesus, not believing that what Paul says here can have any relevance to our lives and our world, and yet, the mystery is that everything we see, everything about this world and its history, will find its summation in the glory of the name of Jesus. Who’d have guessed it?

The challenge for us is to live continually in the light of this eternal perspective, to at all time remember the secret that God has let us in on, that everything is about Jesus.

1. This impacts the decisions I make today. Do I have the eternal perspective that everything is about Jesus, that what matters most is the building up of His kingdom, that the most important thing I can do in life is to be in line with His will and His plan for my life? The world says, “hang the consequences; go for whatever you think will make you happy”; the Christian, on the other hand, asks, “how can I use my time, and the other resources God has given me, such as my money, my mind, my possessions, everything, in the accomplishing of eternal priorities?”

2. I can trust God in the things that I cannot understand. Haddon Robinson did a masterful job at National Conference of preaching on the book of Ecclesiastes—the entire book, by the way. I quoted Solomon in the beginning this morning; he said, “life is meaningless”, in that we can’t figure it out. Haddon told us, though, that despite the fact that we can’t figure life out in all of its twists and turns, the writer of Ecclesiastes assures us of three truths: God is sovereign, God is loving, and God is just. And because of this, he said, among other things, “I can trust when I cannot trace.” Just because I do not or cannot understand God’s ways doesn’t mean that I cannot trust Him, because He is in charge and is working out His plan.

God has let us in on the secret, enough of it that we can know what we really need to know to please Him. His purpose in this world has been made clear, that Christ will be glorified by every thing that has breath, that all of creation will point to Him.

Does that reality affect the way you plan your schedule? The words you say? The attitudes you hold?

Is life, as MacBeth suggested, merely a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? No, we might respond; it is a tale written by God, full of purpose and meaning, signifying the glory of Jesus.