(Eph 1:7-10 ESV) 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
This is the text I studied with my class this morning. As is so often the case, the lesson taught was not the lesson prepared. The emphasis this morning was on —
to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Now, I had intended to talk about the sense of unity of heaven with earth as in the previous post. But in fact I said,”The opposite of unity is separation. When did things that ought to be together become separate?” The class responded, “When sin entered the world.” Good.
I asked, what was separated? And I wound up writing on the board —
Man | God
Man | Life
Husband | Wife
Man | Man
Man | Paradise
Man | Creation
and what I forgot to put on the board but should have is —
Earth | Heaven
Now, to briefly explain —
1 and 2. The separation of man from God should be evident enough. The separation wasn’t utter, but left God pursuing man. And, of course, we find life when we find God, and separation from God destroys life.
3. The separation of husband from wife is found in —
(Gen 3:16 ESV) “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
“Rule over” is the Hebrew word for “rule” — the same word used of king’s rule over their subjects. It says nothing of “spiritual leadership.” “Desire” is found in —
(Gen 4:6-7 ESV) 6 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
“Desire” means desire to possess and control. Hence, the Fall in Genesis 3 resulted in strife in marriage.
4. The separation of man from man is less obvious in Gen 3, but we should take the story of Cain and Abel in c. 4 as illustrative of the consequences of the Fall. Cain killed Abel as a consequence of the alienation that came from the Fall. He saw his own brother as someone to kill to gain advantage.
5. Man was, of course, cast out of the Garden, which shows our separation from Paradise. It’s not until the unification of heaven with earth in Rev 21 that we will be restored to Eden. The tree of life will be planted in the middle of the city and its leaves will be for the healing of the nations.
(Rev 22:1-2 ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Of course, Ephesians is all about God bringing the nations into his kingdom, restoring the unity of man with man. And I believe at least part of the “healing” that will occur is the removal of the divisions among us, truly making us into a single people who worship God with a united voice.
6. The separation of man from Creation is subtle but quite real.
(Gen 3:17-19 ESV) 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Now, Adam was told to tend the Garden before the Fall, but after the Fall, Adam and the land were at odds. What had once been a joy became a burden. But Paul tells us that the problem is even deeper —
(Rom 8:19-22 ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
The creation itself groans in anticipation of the Second Coming, anticipating its cleansing and renewal by God — because now the creation is in “bondage to corruption.” The creation has been corrupted but God will redeem it.
Now, it won’t be explicit until later in Ephesians, but one thought that Paul pursues is in the importance of our being like God.
(Eph 5:1 ESV) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Given that God’s redemptive mission is to set right what was broken in Eden, what’s our mission? To restore right relationships.
Now, notice that the high points of the New Testament — the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Cor 13, Rom 12 — are all about how to get along. The fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5 are gifts given to help us get along! The virtues that Paul urges in Col 3 are virtues that help us get along with each other.
I’m not saying that getting along is the totality of Christianity, but it’s is at the core. Jesus taught that we’d be known as his disciples by our love and unity — by how well we get along!
But not just within our congregations, but also among congregations and across denominational lines. If we don’t get along, then we fail to imitate God, and we fail to participate in God’s redemptive work to unite all things in heaven and earth. That’s a much bigger goal than brothers and sisters in Christ getting along, but it starts with brothers and sisters in Christ getting along.