Longtime Tearfund friend C.B. Samuel shares some reflections on Ephesians 2 and God’s work of restoration in the world, which starts with God's reconciling love.
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... Ephesians 2:13-14
Ephesians 2:1-10 is about restoration of our relationship with God. The brokenness in society, in every aspect, is an overflow of the brokenness of our relationship with God: a relationship in which Paul, writing in Romans, would say that people did not honour God for who He is or who He was, and began to go in ways that are away from God.
And that created the havoc that we are in now. And so the restoration begins with God reconciling us into a relationship with him. Now, what Ephesians 2 says is that this restoration, especially our relationship with God, is something that we cannot actually do with our own capacities, because we were dead in our sins and transgressions. In other words, there was no way in which we could initiate that restoration.
And the reason is that we used to live according to the ways of the world. We were preoccupied with our own interests. And therefore we were incapable of restoration of that relationship with God. So the scripture is very clear that that restoration with God is something that happens because God takes the initiative and he made us alive.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:4 that God made us alive in his rich mercy, by his great love for us. Restoration is something that happens in our relationship with God, purely by a God initiative. And that is why when we talk about restoration in the world, and we talk about restoring relationships with people, we must accept the fact that it is an initiative that God should take. So we need to pray that God would move in the hearts of people to restore them to himself. And that’s very clear when we talk about restoration with God.
Restoration with God is something that happens because God takes the initiative and he made us alive.
The second important thing that we notice is that restoration is not only a restoration of relationship with God, but as Paul says in Ephesians 2:11 to 22, restoration is also something that restores relationships with one another. In 2:15, it says that God’s purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, or one out of the two, thus making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.
And so the reconciliation or the work that God did for us in Jesus Christ restores not only our relationship with God, but our relationship with one another so that there is a new community that is created. And this is what it is to be people who will restore relationships, where there are no differences on the basis of creed or caste or class or colour. We live in a world which is so divided. And this aspect of restoration is something that we need to work on because it is not easy, because it says that Christ had to die in order to break those barriers. It is painful, but it is something that we are called to do.
God is restoring us to be purposeful people
The third area of restoration is restoring us to be purposeful people. It says again, in Ephesians 2:10, we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This restoration of our relationship with God now also helps us to align ourselves to what God is doing in the world. And Paul later on in Ephesians 3 would say that one of the important things that God does is through the church, he wants to show his manifold wisdom to powers and principalities.
This restoration of relationship with God is something that affects our relationship with one another and also collectively, as a new community of God, we begin to communicate to the world God’s great work, his immeasurable riches, which means when our relationship with God is restored we also now are restored to be a people with a very definite purpose. We are not simply here existing in the world, but we are a people with a purpose, a mission. So restoration restores a purposeful engagement for us as the people of God.