In the previous post (here) we noticed that God’s purpose according to the book of Ephesians is to reconcile everyone and everything to Himself and to each other. Today’s post will begin exploring a number of things Ephesians says will contribute to bringing all things together as one.
The first, and most important, is that God’s plan for reconciliation is Christ.
This is no surprise to us, of course, but it is a major emphasis in Ephesians. Notice that the passages we quoted last week to show what God’s purpose is also show that his plan for accomplishing that purpose is Christ.
“He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”Ephesians 1:9-10
Notice the italicized phrases “in Christ” and “under Christ.”
Quoting the passage from Ephesians 2 a little more broadly than we did last week,
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.Ephesians 2:13-18
Again, notice all the italicized phrases that show God’s plan to reconcile people to himself and unity people is to be accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Likewise quoting the passage in Ephesians 3 a little more broadly,
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.Ephesians 3:6-12
Again the italicized words show that it is through Jesus Christ that God plans to bring the world to himself and bring it together as one.
It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that the word “Christ” occurs about fifty times in Ephesians. In light of what we saw in the passages above, however, these many mentions of him take on new meaning. The nearly 50 references to Christ in Ephesians are not only due to him being so central to Christianity in general. Rather, in a book that strongly emphasizes God’s purpose of bringing people together, these fifty references are also telling us that Christ is God’s way for that plan to take shape.
The truth that Christ is God’s way of bringing the world together as one is a double edged sword. On the one hand, this recognition may cause us to think the plan is failing miserably. Though you can find unity among some of those who are in Christ, you can also find great division. God’s intention is that the unbelieving world look at the Christians and see unity and love and thereby know they belong to Christ and that God sent Christ (John 13:34-35; 17:20-21). Is that what they are seeing?
My take on this is that the problem is certainly not with the plan but with the execution. God’s plan for unifying the world in Christ is not the problem. The problem lies in our efforts to carry it out. This makes it imperative that we listen to what God tells us in Ephesians about how we can cooperate with his purpose. We will explore some of these ways in this series of posts.
The other edge of the sword is that we need to make sure that Christ is indeed the way we are seeking to bring the world together as one. You may know there are many other ways people are trying to bring the world together.
A few minutes of googling yielded these approaches and ideas about how to bring the world together as one:
Politics, policies, and governments
Socialism and Communism (combining the previous two ideas)
Be liberal; be conservative (blue flag, red flag)
Denounce people on your side who attack the other side and refuse to vote for them
“Get some decent, eloquent, positive candidates who believe the US can be a lot, lot better than Trump, the Christian Evangelical Nationalists, Fox TV and Steve Bannon.”
Stop being greedy
Pledge to stop hating others
Dialog and conversation
Hold corporate media accountable for the problems they create and the way the perpetuate career politicians
Avoid social media
Visit India and do what they do
Getting attacked by an outside enemy unifies those who are attacked
Conversely, find a set of people, label them as enemies, rally everyone to your cause of wiping the world of this plague. People have been using this since the beginning of time
Exclude the importance of race, religion, and ethnicity
Equal rights and treatment
Stop glorifying the virtue of diversity
Calls for justice
Segregation (keep different people apart)
Stop stirring the pot, picking the wound
Have young people devote a year to national service
Positive interdependence (make people mutually dependent on each other)
Become “Moonies” (Unification church)
Global Synchronized Events that inspire community-driven action campaigns for World Peace.
Etc., Etc., Etc.
These ideas vary in merit, of course, and my purpose here is not to evaluate them. Rather, it is to make us aware that people are advocating many approaches ostensibly for the purpose of bringing us together. If we are not aware and alert, we may well find ourselves devoting considerable energy to one or more of these that make sense to us. It is not my place to tell you how to spend your spare time. But I do think I am solid ground when I say that Christians must listen to God and cooperate with God’s purpose in the world, which includes not only reconciling everyone to himself and to each other but also to accomplish this through Christ. Christ is God’s way of reconciling the world.
Some of the ideas in the list above may not contradict Christ, and some of them definitely do. Regardless, however, it seems to me that if we believe what God tells us in Scripture, we will give our best energy, efforts, and time to addressing God’s purpose in the world in the way that He Himself has designed for that to happen—through Christ. Christ is God’s plan not only for reconciling the world to himself but also to each other.