By Ben Owens | June 22, 2023
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul opens with a soaring declaration of all the benefits that Christians now possess as a result of trusting in Jesus. “In Him,” says Paul, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:7-8). These brief lines capture the essence of the Christian message. Yet, given their brevity, we might just read right on by, failing to consider their radiant glory.
Nearly three thousand years ago, King David wrote,
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork”
Humans have always been awed by the wonder of the night sky. There’s nothing quite like lying on one’s back in the open air, hundreds of miles from civilization. Those twinkling points of light pierce the thick velvety darkness in a vast and wondrous array. To take it all in is to be at once captivated and terrified. There’s so much more out there, beyond our beloved home.
The advances of modern astronomy have only heightened the wonder. The vastness of our universe is truly incomprehensible. With increasingly powerful telescopes came the discovery that the sun that sustains our world is one of billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. And our galaxy is itself one of billions in the universe. What’s more, we have learned that, not only is the universe incalculably vast, it is exquisitely fine-tuned. It’s governed by a set of mathematical constants and quantities, all of which appear to have been set to precisely the right values to allow for physics, chemistry, and life.
In His book, God’s Crime Scene, J. Warner Wallace offers an illustration to help us appreciate this absurdly precise fine-tuning. “Imagine covering the entire North American continent in dimes and stacking them until they reached the moon. Now imagine stacking just as many dimes again on another billion continents the same size as North America. If you marked one of those dimes and hid it in the billions of piles you’d assembled, the odds of a blindfolded friend picking out the correct dime is approximately 1 in 1037—the same level of precision required in the strong nuclear force and the expansion rate of the universe.”
This staggeringly perfect precision is everywhere in evidence in the laws of nature. Legendary astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle began his career as a convinced atheist. Decades of award-winning research drove him to a different point of view: “A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
King David was right. The heavens do declare God’s glory. And the apostle Paul declares the Lord Jesus Christ to be the “super-intellect” responsible for our universe’s exquisitely precise design. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
Here we return to the heart of the Christian message. The God responsible for the sublime glory of the heavens willingly took upon Himself the limitations of frail humanity. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He did this, not only so that He could experience our challenges and sympathize with our weaknesses, but so that He could die in our place. We are sinners, guilty before a holy God. Left to ourselves we are utterly helpless, hopelessly stuck in our wretched condition. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, bore our punishment. He died in our place, as our substitute.
In doing so, He paid the debt we could never pay. He came to be our propitiation, satisfying the Father’s perfect justice and appeasing His righteous wrath on our behalf. In the words of the ancient prophecy,
“He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
“In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:7-8).
The vastness and complexity of the universe is staggering. It is an expression of the awesome power and intelligence of its Creator. But the glory of the gospel is greater still. Here we were, a race of rebels, at war with this magnificent Creator. And our Creator took on flesh to rescue us from our own rebellion. The One who possesses the power of a trillion suns came to die, bloodied and battered, upon a Roman cross. Blaise Pascal once called Christianity “the religion of the humiliated God.”
In our day, the cross has acquired a kind of sanitized, religious quality. But in first-century Rome, the cross was universally regarded with horror. It was reserved for the worst of the worst. It was, in the words of Tacitus, “the extreme penalty.” A crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. The cross meant defeat. Humiliating, agonizing, decisive defeat. No one would go to the cross willingly. But Jesus did. And He did so that we might have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” That’s “the riches of His grace.” And He declared His victory-by-death by His resurrection from the grave.
But the story doesn’t end there. Paul goes on to declare that, on the basis of Christ’s work, "all things" will one day be completely restored. “[T]hat in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:10-11).
This is our hope. The gospel is not just about a personal spiritual transaction here and now. But it is a promise that, in Christ, all things everywhere will one day be restored. No more sin, no more death—only glorious, redeemed perfection forever. And all who have trusted in Christ are promised a share in that coming restoration.
The Architect of the universe became a man to be our Savior. That’s “the riches of His grace.” And—by the means of humiliation and death on a cross—He will restore all things. That’s “wisdom and prudence”.
Albert Barnes captures the sense beautifully: “The meaning here is, that, so to speak, God had evinced great “intelligence” in the plan of salvation. There was ample proof of “mind” and of “thought.” It was adapted to the end in view. It was far-seeing; skillfully arranged; and carefully formed. The sense of the whole is, that there was a wise design running through the whole plan, and abounding in it in an eminent degree.”
The same “super-intellect” responsible for the fine-tuning of the universe devised the glorious plan of redemption. His power and wisdom are on display in the heavens each night for all to see. And His love continues to call out to us from the rugged cross around which all of human history is divided.
So we trust Him. He alone is worthy. He is the only Savior. There is no other.
“For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”