I have learned something new and interesting (to me anyway) this week. I was translating Ephesians 1:7-14 for my sermon prep on Sunday when I came across one of those words that I don’t think I had ever paid any attention to before. The word is 17 letters long, nearly impossible to say, is used only twice in the New Testament (the other verse is Romans 13:9.
I cannot show you the word in Greek here on the blog, but the transliteration is, anakephalaiosasthai. The word literally translated means “to recapitulate,” or “to gather together under one head.” Its historic use is as a rhetorical device, such as when Paul uses the word in Romans 13:9, saying “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But here in Ephesians, the word seems to take on a totally different meaning. Here we find that “recapitulation” is actually God’s plan for all of creation in the fullness of time. Ephesians 1:9 and 10 tells us that God has revealed to us in Christ the mystery of his will, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Too often we think about God’s plan in localized terms. What is God’s will for my life? Which girl does God want me to date? Which job should I take to better serve the Lord? Those are all great questions to ask. But when was the last time you stopped to consider that your salvation, God’s plan for your redemption, is part of God’s bigger plan for the consummation of all things, for the entire cosmos, as they are drawn together under the headship of our exalted Savior, Jesus Christ?
One commentary put it this way,
Christ is the one in whom God chooses to sum up the universe, in whom he restores the harmony of the cosmos. Earlier, “in Christ” has functioned to indicate Christ’s being the elect representative in whom believers are included, but now it can be seen that God’s comprehensive purpose goes beyond simply humanity to embrace the whole created order. To be incorporated into God’s gracious decision about Christ is also to be caught up in God’s gracious purpose for a universe centered and reunited in Christ.
Or as we read in Colossians 1:16 and 20:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Calvin put it this way,
Out of Christ all things were disordered, and through him they have been restored to order. And truly, out of Christ, what can we perceive in the world but mere ruins? We are alienated from God by sin, and how can we but present a broken and shattered aspect? The proper condition of creatures is to keep close to God. Such a gathering together as might bring us back to regular order, the apostle tells us, has been made in Christ. Formed into one body, we are united to God, and closely connected with each other. Without Christ, on the other hand, the whole world is a shapeless chaos and frightful confusion. We are brought into actual unity by Christ alone.
For some reason, I have been sort of shell shocked by this concept this week. I hope that in my preaching I can do this justice. I encourage you to read the passage (Ephesians 1:6-14) again, praising God for His glorious grace as shown to us in Christ, who is the Lord of all.