Why do we humans want to distinguish ourselves as different in some way? Rather than unify, we segregate into multiple disparate groups, disagreeing–even fighting–with those who don’t agree with us. This even spills over into our spiritual life. An examination of world religions reveals Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, and various others. Christianity itself has quite a long list of denominations, and according to Wikipedia, even these have numerous subcategories. This is amazing, not because of its informational value, but because it is God’s heart is that we all be one in Christ.
“Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” (Ephesians 1:9)
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times [when the time is right] He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Ephesians 1:10)
God’s plan is the unity of all His followers. This is not an artificial and forced ecumenism that some religious leaders attempt to achieve by organizing services with representatives from various denominations—at times even including non-Christian leaders. Rather, it is God’s plan for all who submit their will to Him.
At the time these verses were written, there were two broad categories of people: the Jews, to whom God had revealed Himself, and all others, referred to as Gentiles. As the possessors of God’s revealed Law, the Jews recognized their special status, and avoided mingling with the pagan Gentiles. The thought that the salvation God had provided through Christ was for all was unfathomable to them. It is in this context that these verses were written:
“Don’t forget that you are Gentiles. In fact, you used to be called “uncircumcised” by those who take pride in being circumcised [the Jews]. At that time you did not know about Christ. You were foreigners to the people of Israel, and you had no part in the promises that God had made to them. You were living in this world without hope and without God, and you were far from God. But Christ offered his life’s blood as a sacrifice and brought you near God.
Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit. You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God’s own Spirit to live.
Christ Jesus made me his prisoner, so that I could help you Gentiles. You have surely heard about God’s kindness in choosing me to help you. In fact, this letter tells you a little about how God has shown me his mysterious ways. As you read the letter, you will also find out how well I really do understand the mystery about Christ. No one knew about this mystery until God’s Spirit told it to his holy apostles and prophets. And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.
God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news. I am the least important of all God’s people. But God was kind and chose me to tell the Gentiles that because of Christ there are blessings that cannot be measured. God, who created everything, wanted me to help everyone understand the mysterious plan that had always been hidden in his mind. Then God would use the church to show the powers and authorities in the spiritual world that he has many different kinds of wisdom.
God did this according to his eternal plan. And he was able to do what he had planned because of all that Christ Jesus our Lord had done” (Ephesians 2:11-3:11, CEV)
God’s heart for those who follow Him is reflected in Jesus’ prayer to the Father before His death and resurrection:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, [why?] that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
Even though there are many different religions, through Jesus, there are but two kinds of people—those who are God’s in Christ, forgiven and loved, and those who have not submitted their will to Him. All who belong to God are called by one name—Christ’s—and share one future: eternity with their Lord and Master!
Thank You for Your incredible plan to bring everything together in Christ. May Your name be forever praised, and may we bring You glory! Amen.