The Rich Variety of God’s Wisdom (Ephesians 3:10)

Today’s daily office epistle reading is part of the beautifully mystical letter to the Ephesians. In it, Paul talks about the “rich variety” of God’s wisdom. Here’s the passage in context:

Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 3:8-10]

Does wisdom have variety? Many Christians don’t think so. The goal for many Christians is to figure out the one right way to understand the Bible. Variety and heresy are the same thing. Orthodoxy is a single melody that can only be performed in absolute unison.

Perhaps it is precisely these Christians who set themselves up as rulers and authorities in the heavenly places to whom God wants to reveal the rich variety of his wisdom. Just as the first-century Pharisees were scandalized when Paul invited the Gentiles into the church, so too will today’s rulers and authorities be scandalized when the mystery of God’s wisdom is revealed.

How can wisdom have variety? My seminary professor used a brilliant metaphor to talk about the nature of truth. He said that truth is like a symphony that can only be revealed in its full glory with a full orchestra playing it. If only the horn section is playing, even if they are playing the exact right notes perfectly, the truth of the song will be deficient. Every part is needed.

So how does that metaphor translate into real life? An example might be the mystery of the cross. When the cross is evaluated by people who have never been crucified but are haunted by a vague sense of historical guilt on the periphery of their minds, it makes sense that its entire purpose is to erase the past and offer a clean slate. People who have suffered brutal violence first hand don’t need to be told that Jesus suffers with them; they know it intuitively. When the cross has no solidarity for the oppressed, it is as inadequate as it would be if it had nothing to offer the guilt of the oppressor. When it offers both solidarity and atonement simultaneously to every oppressed oppressor, it reveals the rich variety of God’s wisdom.

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