When you hear the word “together,” what comes to mind? The first image that flashed in my mind was of family vacations when I was young. I pictured my parents and three siblings riding in a car together on a mountain road, on our way to camping at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California. The togetherness I felt during our family vacations was one of the highlights of my life. According to Ephesians 3, the mystery God has now revealed includes three different ways of being together.
Though you and I have not been given the exact same “administration” as the Apostle Paul, we have been entrusted with God’s grace so that we might manage it well. In a sense, all that we have has been given to us and is therefore a manifestation of grace, including our life, our talents, our education, our opportunities. Yes, even our families, our jobs, our cultural power, and our financial resources are elements of divine grace. God has given us everything we have so that we might manage it well for his purposes.
In the first-century Mediterranean world, people thought they knew where to find the gods. They lived in temples, holy places set apart for them and the rituals associated with their worship. So, if you needed healing, you would go to the temple of Asclepius, the god of healing… The New Testament also teaches that God dwells in a temple (or in temples), but with a radically different sense of the nature of that temple.
God guides us in a wide variety of ways. The Bible teaches us. The Holy Spirit leads us. The community of God’s people discerns with us. Moreover, Jesus Christ can be the cornerstone of our lives, that which orients and supports everything we do. A literal cornerstone is the first piece of a building that is put into place. Yes, the cornerstone helps bear some of the weight of the edifice. But, more importantly, it determines the precise location and orientation of the building.
Ephesians 2:19 reveals that Gentiles “have become fellow citizens with God’s people.” Once we were “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But now, because of what God has done through Jesus Christ and his reconciling death, we who were once excluded from God’s people have become “fellow citizens.”
“Consequently” tells us that what we’re about to read depends logically on what has gone before. Specifically, we are going to discover some implications of the fact that Christ has reconciled Jews and Gentiles through his death on the cross, reconciling both groups to God and giving both groups access to the Father by the Spirit (2:14-18). The consequence of Christ’s reconciling work will reiterate the inclusion of the Gentiles among the people of God.
I must confess that I can easily take for granted this privileged access to God. I find it so familiar to draw near to my Heavenly Father that I can forget to be amazed that he welcomes me into his presence. Perhaps you share my nonchalance sometimes. Yet, whether you do or not, I would invite you to reflect on the fact that, because of Christ’s death on the cross, your sin has been washed away. You are now free and welcome to approach the Father.
Jesus was, to be sure, a unique preacher of peace. He alone forged lasting and pervasive peace through his death on the cross. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we too have been called into the ministry of preaching peace, or, if you will, peacemaking (Matthew 5:9). In our words and deeds, in our desires and intentions, we are to be people who commend, embody, and foster the peace of Christ. We are to do this not only in church and family but in every place God sends us.
We might think of reconciliation between people as a secondary result of the reconciliation we experience individually with God. In a sense, this is true. But, in Ephesians 2:16, reconciliation is seen differently. Here, Christ’s purpose is “in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.” In this surprising verse, Christ first reconciles Jews and Gentiles, forming them into one body. Then, he reconciles them to God as a unified body of people.
Though our situations might differ from that of the first Christians, we still find ourselves in conflicted relationships. Sometimes warring factions take up sides in the workplace. Sometimes this happens in families or churches. Often, this happens throughout a world shattered by racism, sexism, materialism, and a variety of other injustices. But God is not satisfied with our status quo. Christ died to bring an end to the hostilities that divide us and to form us into new communities that mirror the very unity of God.