[God] 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.
God has a surprising plan for the cosmos. As we saw in last Thursday’s devotion, at just the right time, God will “bring unity to all things, things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (1:10). Other translations say that God will unite, gather up, or sum up everything in Christ.
As we reflect on God’s plan, we might wonder why God has chosen this particular plan. Why does God want to bring all things to unity in Christ? Why is this necessary? What is God’s ultimate purpose in this plan? If we’re going to make sense of God’s plan, it would be good to be clear on God’s why.
The why begins in a story that lies behind Ephesians 1. It’s the framing story of the whole Bible, found in the first three chapters of Genesis.
In Genesis 1, God creates all things in a carefully ordered way. He sees that his creation is good, even “very good” (Gen 1:31). God creates humankind in his own image, as male and female, delegating to them authority over his good creation (Gen 1:27–30)… In Genesis 3, they succumb to temptation and do the one thing God told them not to do (Gen 3:6). To use the theological term, they sin. As a result, God’s perfectly ordered world is shattered. The first evidence of this brokenness comes in the relationship between the man and the woman, who try to hide from each other (Gen 3:7). Then they try to hide from God (Gen 3:8)… Human sin leads to brokenness in the world, as natural processes malfunction and human work becomes painful and difficult (Gen 3:16–19). God’s world is broken, though not completely dysfunctional or destroyed, because its created order continues to underlie all things. (Roberts, Ephesians, 31-32).
So, then, why does God want to unify all things in Christ? First of all, because God created all things to be very good. God values and takes delight in the goodness of creation and wants it to be unified, well-ordered, and fruitful, just as he intended it to be from the beginning. Second, the creation is messed up because of human sin. Things are not working the way God wanted them to work. But God will not abandon his creation, even as he will not abandon the creatures made in his image. In God’s good time, he will put all things back together, summing up and restoring them in Christ. Salvation, then, has everything to do with the human beings who were responsible for messing up the world. And it also has everything to do with the messed-up world, with the restoration of all things on heaven and earth. God wants his creation to be very good again.
God’s plan speaks powerfully to the longings of our hearts. Given the alienation we feel from God, we long to be in intimate relationship with God. God’s plan includes such intimacy. Feeling our brokenness, we long for wholeness. God’s plan promises that we will be whole. Seeing injustice and suffering in our world, we long for the peace of God that establishes God’s justice over all the earth. God’s plan involves justice rolling down like waters. Worrying about the debasement of our physical world, we long for the pristine and productive world God created in the beginning. God’s plan will bring renewal to all things, things in heaven and things on earth.
As we wait for the fulfillment of God’s plan at just the right time in the future, we begin to experience, however incompletely, the healing, restoration, and renewal of God’s grace. In our families and workplaces, in our churches and neighborhoods, in our public life and in our private souls, God is at work, even now beginning to unite all things through Christ. And, as we’ll see later in Ephesians, we are called to join God in this work, to be agents of reconciliation and renewal through the Spirit of God alive with us.
Something to Think About:
As you think about the relationship of Genesis 1-3 with Ephesians 1, what ideas, images, or emotions come to mind?
If God’s plan for the future involves uniting all things in Christ, how might you begin to participate in this unifying plan now? What might this mean in your workplace? Your community? Your family? Your church?
Something to Do:
Take time to reflect on where, in the context of your daily work, you experience the brokenness of creation. How might God bring wholeness and unity into your work? What might God want to do through you? As you think about this, do something that God puts on your heart.
Gracious God, your plan for the future expands our minds and inspires our hearts. We long for all things to be united in Christ, for our broken world to be restored, for our own infirmities to be healed. We are eager for that time when you choose to execute your plan.
In the meanwhile, Lord, not only do we hope for the future, but we also begin now to experience a bit of the future in this day. We receive forgiveness for our sins. We are blessed to know you personally. We experience healing, not only personal, but interpersonal. Your justice, however elusive at times, is revealed as your people live according to your standards and extend your reign into this world.
When we fall short of what you intended from the beginning, we ask that you will forgive. Moreover, we offer ourselves as your agents in this world. Use us even now to bring unity, reconciliation, healing, justice, and peace to this world. To you be all the glory! Amen.