Text: Ephesians 2:1-10
Shattered. Shattered is a word that requires a specific kind of situation to be useful. If shattered is an appropriate word, then the situation it is applied to is a negative one. We are never thrilled and overjoyed when we shatter a piece of china, a baseball shatters a window, or we read of a shattered marriage. We don’t describe a Superbowl or World Series win as a shattering experience. When shattered is useful, other words also come to mind: shambles, tattered, broken, useless, beyond repair. Genesis 3 reveals to us a shattering.
Genesis 1 and 2 are the creation account. Over and over again through Genesis 1 the Word of Scripture repeats the refrain, “and it was good.” And the account culminates, after the creation of humanity, “and it was very good.” Genesis 2 describes a life in a beautiful garden, Adam and Eve surrounded by a place where they could find fulfilling work for eternity, where they could be completely and perpetually perfectly provided and cared for, and where they were free to live in perfect and continual communion with God. Just as God designed and created them.
But then comes Genesis 3. You know the story. Enticing but forbidden fruitful tree with the mysterious title of “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” A serpent. The woman wandering through the Garden looking for something to eat, alone. The known command to avoid that mysterious tree. A suggestion that that’s not what really could have been said. An implication that God was afraid of what we might become. A temptation. A surrender. A bite. Fear. Death. Expulsion. Barred reentry. Pain. Genesis 3 is a shattering. What was beautiful torn asunder irreparably.
“You shall not eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for in the moment you do so, you shall surely die.” Die? What’s death? They had no concept. But they learned about toil and hardship. Wearing the skins of animals about them, they learned the personal fear of death through Abel. And the world has not been the same since. Ten generations from Adam to Noah. Ten generations for God to say, “I’m done with this.” For God to be grieved in His heart for ever having made man or created anything. And the story doesn’t improve from there.
We are a shattered people. We are broken, utterly. Paul’s words to the Romans regarding this shattering cannot be improved upon. Listen to what he writes starting in Romans 1:21.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…. [and he goes on] 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God?
Broken. Shattered. Disgraced. Lost. Dead. These are the words that describe us. We are without hope, abandoned, dead in our trespasses and sins. We eagerly chase after those passions, seeking some kind of fulfillment, just like Eve and then Adam chased some kind of fulfillment in that forbidden fruit. We delight in the murky world. But we delight in it to our ruin.
Genesis 3 and all that follows it is a stark contrast to the hope and promise found in Genesis 1 and 2. We are all children of the debacle of Genesis 3. We are all sin-stained, broken, shattered people. We all begin our lives in the darkness of the world, lost in the crazy pursuit of our own pleasures. We are all pawns of the prince of the power of the air. That spirit that makes itself so evident on the news and in the movies and shows we watch – that is the same spirit to which we are all enslaved in our lives.
As Paul relates all of this to the saints in Ephesus, he is able to use the past tense because of the first two words of verse 4: But God. “4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses”. Genesis 3 is a shattering of the wonders of God’s acts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Even so, we serve a big, awesome, mighty, powerful God. Amen? Genesis 3 is, thankfully, no match for the God of Genesis 1 and 2.
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul recounts how we are a broken and shattered people. How we are utterly lost and without hope. More accurately, he recounts how we WERE these things. In the next four verses, Paul offers hope into the shattering. Because God is a powerful God, because God’s desires that brought about the creation of Genesis 1 and 2 remain, verse 4 can begin with those words, “But God.”
What are God’s desires? He desires a people, a people with which He can share His love. He wants to love and to be loved in return. “But God…because of the great love with which he loved us.” He loves us. Incomprehensibly. We cannot understand the depth, the height, the width, the sheer vastness of His love for us. Despite the events of Genesis 3, or perhaps particularly because of the events of Genesis 3, God’s desires grew even greater than they had been.
Paul lists them: He desires to show mercy. God is a merciful God. He delights in not giving people the punishments they deserve. This in no way limits His perfect justice, rather it completes it. God is rich in mercy, and He desires to show that mercy particularly to we who are shattered by the fall of Genesis 3. But His desires go beyond just not punishing us with the punishments our sins deserve. His desires are greater yet. He also desires to seat us with Christ. “…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
In the Garden of Eden, God enjoyed intimate communion with Adam and Eve that He had created. He walked in the Garden in the cool of the day and communed with his very good creation. They fellowshipped. They chatted. They enjoyed the wonder of the world together. They spent time with each other. This was the intent. God’s rich mercy makes that possible again by making us alive out of our death – unshattering us – raising us once again to a place where we are with God in Christ. We are raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places.
We were shattered. We – the ones who are faithful believers, forgiven, washed by the blood of Christ, recipients of God’s rich mercy – we are now restored, redeemed, made alive. We are with Christ. What we were has been transformed into what we are now by God’s working out His desires for us.
And that’s the final point of these first ten verses of the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In verses 8-10, Paul emphasizes that this is God’s work. Genesis 1 and 2 was all about God creating the world. Genesis 3 is our shattering of it. Much of the Old Testament is a revelation of the chances God has given humanity for us to work our way back to God. But it doesn’t work. We are shattered. We cannot put ourselves back together. So the grace, mercy, and love of God reach out and do the work for us. It is God’s work to save, redeem, and restore us. To unshatter us. There is nothing in it in which we can boast or take pride.
We arrive as broken people into a broken world. It is absolutely outside of our power to work our way out of the brokenness into some semblance or working order. That’s the hard truth. We absolutely cannot help ourselves. Salvation comes from God and God alone. He desires eagerly to give it to us. But it is a gift to us. We cannot purchase it. We cannot earn it. We cannot manufacture it. We cannot create it. We cannot even imagine it. We can only accept it as the gift that it is.
And then the beauty of the gift of God’s grace in salvation begins to work itself out in our lives. Finally, in this merciful gift, we can get a glimpse of the simplicity and beauty of Genesis 1 and 2. We can become once again God’s workers doing God’s work in God’s way – the very thing we were always intended for. And we can do it by simply choosing to receive the extended offer of God’s great gift of salvation wrought by God Himself on the cross of Christ.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God saves us, redeems us, restores us, unshatters us. And he gives us work to do. Good work. Tasks prepared uniquely for me and uniquely for you that we should do them. Works that benefit us greatly. Works that benefit God greatly. Works that benefit a lost world greatly. Works that no one else can do or accomplish, because they are created specifically for the blueprint that is you or that is me. God gives us these things, too, that we should do them and so fulfill the great calling and plan of creation in bringing about what will be the new creation.
You know the shattering. We all do. We all begin there. The great news is that God is a powerful, awesome, mighty God who can overcome our shattered world and shattered lives and broken spirits. His love, his mercy, his grace, his blood, they all work to raise us, revive us, restore us, complete us. Many of you know this, too. God loves you. God loves you more than you can know or imagine. He created you. He has planned for you. He has died for you. He has mercy and grace abundant for you. He has works for you to do.
We were all shattered. But we have no need to remain so. For God redeems. We were shattered. But we can be redeemed because, “But God.”