One of the most common mistakes religious people have made has been the teaching that God’s purpose in the gospel (the good news) is to rescue fallen, sinful mankind FROM the world so we can live in heaven when we die. That is not God’s purpose at all. It is, rather, that we are saved FOR the world so we can fulfill God’s purpose both in the present and in the world to come. We were made to sit with God in ruling – caring for – his good creation. His purpose in saving us is so we can be restored to that place with him. In the Ephesian letter, Paul shows that this is what God has in store for mankind.
The first chapter of Ephesians begins with a bittersweet analysis of the human condition framed in the context of what God has done for us to remedy that condition. The bitter part is that man has sinned. That is actually a major understatement of the facts. We have royally messed up. We have turned everything on earth upside down. In these first few verses of Ephesians, Paul recapitulates the story of man’s fall and redemption and connects this to the eternal purpose of God – his plan for his good creation from the very beginning.
Having been made for relationship with God, we lost that relationship and no matter what we have tried, to either restore or replace that relationship, we have failed. The world that was made to reflect God’s glory, we have taken for our own gold mine or garbage dump. We have replaced the one true God with idols and images too numerous to enumerate and too evil to contemplate. Even our misunderstandings of God have become idols to the extent that we do not know the true God and reject him when he is presented to us.