With All Wisdom and Understanding

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.

Ephesians 1:

In an earlier reflection, I explained that the eulogy in Ephesians 1:3-14 is actually one long sentence in Greek, comprising 202 words. This is one of the most complex sentences in the whole Bible, not only because of its length, but also because of the peculiar nature of Greek, which allows for considerable variability in the connections made between phrases. So, for example, the phrase "in love" in verse 4 can go with what preceeds "he chose us in love," or what follows, "he predestined us in love." In many cases, the finest scholars have come to no consensus on which option is the best.

We face a similar conundrum in verse 8 concerning the phrase "with all wisdom and understanding." The NIV connects this phrase with what follows: "With all wisdom and understanding, [God] made known to us..." But other fine translations, such as the Common English Bible, link this phrase to what comes earlier, "his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding." Another challenge comes from the fact that the phrase "wisdom and understanding" can refer either to God's own wisdom and understanding or to the wisdom and understanding that God gives us.

Part of what makes interpretation of this verse so tricky is the fact that all options are theologically valid. God did lavish his grace on us with all of his own wisdom and understanding. And God did lavish his grace on us, including giving us wisdom and understanding. And God did make known the mystery of his will with his own wisdom and understanding. I'm inclined to believe that Paul made use of the flexibility in Greek to build a bridge between God's gracious gift to us of wisdom and the wisdom of God in revealing to us his purposes. As my friend Thomas Yoder Neufeld writes in his commentary on Ephesians, "The phrase with all wisdom and insight is thus cleverly placed to relate equally well to both grace and revelation."

Where does this leave us as we reflect on this verse? I am struck by the fact that God is the source of "all wisdom and understanding." Yes, it's true that we can gain knowledge through the use of our human faculties. But even these ultimately come from the God who designed our brains and sensory abilities. Yet, the ability to exercise wisdom, to know not just facts but what really matters, to choose what is best, comes as a gift from God. Thus, if I want to be wise, then I must open myself to God. I must seek him. And I must be ready to receive his truth and guidance.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you define "wisdom"? Can you think of people who are wise? What qualifies them as wise? Why are they wise? In what areas of your life do you need divine wisdom today?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of wisdom and understanding. Thank you for helping me to discern far beyond my own capabilities. Thank you for revealing your truth, your purposes, your plan.

Help me, dear Lord, to pay attention to you, to seek you, to rely on you. Keep me from self-reliance that presumes I have sufficient wisdom in myself. May I always be open to that which you want to communicate to me and through me.

All praise be to you, God of wisdom and understanding, God of grace and revelation. Amen.

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