By David Faust
God created mathematics, so he can do unusual things with it:
• With 100 warriors he can rout an army of 10,000 (Leviticus 26:8).
• In the hands of his Son, five fish and two loaves equal dinner for 5,000 (Luke 9:10-17).
• Following his own unique timetable, God can pack a thousand years of significance into one 24-hour day, or he can take a thousand years to accomplish something we wish he would do instantly (2 Peter 3:8).
Every school child knows that one plus one equals two. But sometimes in the Lord’s marvelous math, one plus one equals one.
Destroying the Barrier
It’s hard for us to grasp the level of racial animosity that existed in the first century. Hostility and prejudice between Jews and Gentiles were the norm, unchecked by civil rights laws. The two groups didn’t eat together or work together, much less worship together.
Greeks and Romans viewed the Jews as peculiar, stubborn people who were hard to understand and difficult to govern. Pious Jews avoided contact with non-Jews and went through elaborate hand-washing ceremonies after walking through the marketplace where they might have touched a Gentile. (Those little bottles of hand sanitizer would have come in handy back then.) Pharisees like Saul of Tarsus voiced daily prayers thanking God for not making them “a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.”
Yet the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to see these two irreconcilable groups in a new light—a light named Jesus 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 2:14).
Notice these remarkable statements:
“He himself is our peace.” Peace is not merely an abstract concept or an impossible ideal. Christ is peace personified. He embodies it. He is the reconciler, the peacemaker, the unifier.
He “has made the two groups one.” Only the Lord could take two utterly antagonistic groups of humanity and combine them into one united body. “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” (2:15, 16).
At the cross God broke down the humanly impenetrable barrier of hostility and hate, reconciling us with himself and with each other. Paul calls this a great mystery—“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” (3:6).
Reconciled and Recognizing It
God’s marvelous math unites people who used to be hopelessly divided. Then we must recognize and preserve what God has joined together. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3). After all, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (4:4-6).
A similar formula applies in the home. God takes a male and a female with two distinct personalities and joins them into a unit. “The two will become one flesh” (5:31).
Real interpersonal harmony is as rare as a snowflake in summer, and it often melts away just as quickly. That’s why authentic Christian unity—in a church and in a marriage—demonstrates so powerfully the reality of God’s grace.
1. What currently threatens the unity of the church where you attend?
2. Are you a peacemaker or a peace-breaker?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for June 8, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Kings 4, 5
1 Kings 6, 7
1 Kings 8
1 Kings 9, 10
1 Kings 11
1 Kings 12
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