That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven…
This is a disclosure of the magnificent and sublime design contemplated by God through means of the gospel. It is the "mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself." Our own individual salvation constitutes but a fragment of a vast and glorious scheme, which in due course shall be fully achieved. The influence of that atonement to which we owe our redemption is here seen extending itself far and wide in the universe of God, and forming the grand harmonizing and uniting bond among all the objects, however various, of His goodness, mercy, and love. Nay, we are perhaps here taught that its power is to be exerted and displayed in the final subjugation of all things without exception, including the reduction of sin and evil to their own place, as well as the ingathering of all that is good — under the universal sovereignty of God.
I. There is A GENERAL PLAN OR SCHEME, PROMOTED BY THE GOSPEL, and here called "the dispensation" or economy "of the fulness of times." It is, with reference to a plan, or dispensation, or economy, which God has in view, that He has made known to us the mystery of redemption. Every intelligent householder has some plan, according to which he directs all his energies and Jays out all his arrangements. His house, his farm, his estate, are managed and controlled for some definite object, and all his operations are conformed to some view or idea which he has formed for his own guidance. Different seasons of the year and various times come round upon him, but he keeps intelligently and firmly to his ruling purpose, and is not satisfied until the result of his plan has been fully realized. So God Himself, in the government of His whole household — the universal Father and the Lord of all — is represented as having a certain plan or economy, in accordance with which He is pleased to work through successive times, until the result He contemplates be finally attained.
II. WHAT, THEN, IS THIS GRAND RESULT CONTEMPLATED BY THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES? It is "to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth even in Him." But what are we to understand by this? What is the import of "to gather together in one"? And what maybe the full scope of "all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth"? The word rendered "to gather together in one" occurs once again in Romans 13:9, where it is rendered "briefly comprehended." "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." There its import is plain; for all the commandments are summed up, "briefly comprehended," "reduced to a head," "gathered together in one" in those two great commandments, love to God and love to man, of the last of which the apostle was giving instances. These two commandments are heads on which all the rest depend, from which they hang, in which they are summed up. This idea of summation, representation, headship, seems to belong essentially to the import of the word, and must not be lost sight of in the passage before us, where we read of the gathering up in one of all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. But as it is plain that "all things" do not naturally belong to Christ, but on account of sin the things on earth at least are in a state of alienation, separation, revulsion, we must here necessarily suppose that the word implies the idea of "bringing back" from that state and gathering up into the opposite state of union, harmony, love.
1. The angels may be included in this gathering together in one. Although the unfallen angels do not stand in need of redemption from sin or misery, yet they need to be preserved from the risk of falling, and may well be supposed to owe their security and infallibility in some way to Christ.
2. There is no question concerning the including, or gathering up in one, all the redeemed of mankind. Separated though they may have been in life — according to the times in which they have existed, the countries they have dwelt in, the names and outward distinctions they have borne — their union to Christ, and to each other, has been real. It will, at length, become visible.
3. But it seems intended in this passage, as it is in keeping with the representations of Scripture elsewhere, that the material creation is to share in the glorious ingathering of "all things in Christ."
III. THIS GATHERING UP OF "ALL THINGS" IS "IS CHRIST," EVEN "IN HIM."
1. Consider the wondrous person of Christ as the God-man, joining mysteriously the Creator and the creation — the Maker and His work in one — by an indissoluble and eternal union.
2. But consider, secondly, that Christ, thus completely fitted to represent the creation of God, by the assumption of the human nature, has been actually constituted head of all things, with all-sufficient power to accomplish the whole plan of God.
(W. Alves, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: