God’s Economy (1)
… having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that 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. Ephesians 1.9, 10
Getting and staying focused
All this talk about work can sound more like a course in economics than in understanding the times as Christians, so that we might know what we should be doing. In fact, our study is little bit of each.
When, during his first campaign for the presidency, Bill Clinton took up the mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid!” he did so to remind himself to keep focused on the thing that mattered most. By constantly speaking on economic issues he was able to put his opponent, the incumbent President Bush, in a bad light and to excite people to listen to and embrace his ideas for how to fix a limping economy.
While certainly much else was going on in the country and world besides the economy, Mr. Clinton’s ability to keep himself and his campaign staff – and the majority of the electorate, as it turned out – focused on this primary issue created a groundswell of opinion and action that vaulted him into the presidency from almost nowhere.
It was the economy then, and it’s the economy now. But not the getting-and-spending economy of our secular, under-the-sun world.
It is the economy!
The economy that matters above all else is not the free, commercial, materialist economy of our American republic, but the eternal economy which God has proclaimed and is establishing through our Lord Jesus Christ. In the field of the world, God is working His own plan, administering His own economy, and enlisting His people in an entirely different agenda than what our secular neighbors feverishly pursue.
Our text mentions this idea of a divine economy under the rubric of a “dispensation.” Other translations use the word “plan” or “administration” here, which is a little closer to Paul’s meaning. God, Paul insists, has a plan for administering everything that takes place in the field of the world until the harvest.
That word dispensation, plan, or administration is, in the Greek, oikonomia – economy. It means an order, an administration, a way of “keeping house” that flows from a set of priorities through a bank of resources into a new order on earth, one that reflects the way things are in heaven, on that makes of the field of the world a wheat field for a glorious harvest to the Lord. There is a divine economy, and God is setting it up in our midst, right now, today, and every day of our lives. And it is this which matters supremely in our secular age.
We are part of that great plan, and thus it behooves us to understand as much as we can about it, so that we know what to do in the divine economy according to God’s purposes and designs.
Notice four things about the divine economy as Paul introduces in it our text.
First, it is a program established for now. In his Pentecost sermon Peter announced that, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the pouring out of God’s Spirit, the “last days” had begun (Acts 2.14-17). Paul says Jesus came in “the fullness of the time” to inaugurate His great work of redemption in the last days (Gal. 4.4). The “fullness of the time” in which the divine economy is unfolding is now. We are living in the last days, the fullness of times, when the Lord of heaven and earth is establishing and expanding His divine economy throughout the field of the world.
Second, that divine economy embracesall things. Everything in heaven and on earth is subject to God’s unfolding plan, in which we have an interest and a part.
God’s purpose in doing so, third, is to unite earthly things with heavenly things so as to effect peace and harmony between the two realms. God is making things right on earth – all things: human lives and relationships, work, culture, institutions, the affairs of nations, indeed, the whole vast cosmos and creation. God is making things right with Himself, according to His original plan that all His creation should be “good” and “very good.” Nothing is off limits or beyond His reach as God sets up His economy.
Finally, all this is being accomplished through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only those who know Jesus and have entered into His Kingdom can take up the glorious work of laboring with God to advance His divine order on earth as it is in heaven. He is doing His work through the work of His saints, as they join the Son of Man in sowing the Lord’s field with good Kingdom seed.
What a glorious privilege and opportunity! What a high calling! It is the economy – the divine economy – that matters most. Let us not stupidly miss it – and our exciting place in it – by being distracted to lesser things. Keep focused on God’s plan for living under the heavens, and we won’t become mired in the vanity of vanities lifestyles of those who are still trapped in their under-the-sun world.
1. Why is an economy – a plan or administration – a good way of thinking about what God is doing in the field of the world?
2. How are you aware of God’s plan and administration, and how do you pursue in your part of the Lord’s field, your Personal Mission Field?
3. As you see it, what are some primary differences between God’s economy and the getting-and-spending economy of our secular age?
Next steps – Conversation: How much of your own life is consciously being order, arranged, and pursued under the umbrella of the divine economy? Talk with a Christian friend about this question.
T. M. Moore
For a more developed view of the Kingdom, and of the Gospel of the Kingdom, order a copy of our book The Kingdom Turn (click here) or The Gospel of the Kingdom (click here). You can download a free PDF of Vocational Disciplines, a complement to this week’s study (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.