I own a little farmhouse close to the town of Sunfield in rural Michigan. It’s a beautiful place, set on a hilltop and surrounded by great neighbors and farm fields. It’s also an old house, constructed around the turn of the century. No, not the recent turn of the century, the one before that. Which makes my little farmhouse over a hundred years old! The architect of the house was probably also the builder, who was also a farmer. So, the house is a little… miscellaneous. I discovered one aspect of this miscellany when my wife noticed that the ceiling of the living room would bend and flex every time my son, the giant, would walk into his room. We decided to replace the floor.
I removed the layers of the floor to get at the beams and discovered the problem. When the builder needed 18 foot floor joists, and only had 16 foot floor joists, he decided that he could ‘get by’ by nailing an additional two foot section to the end of the board using scrap lumber and political promises. There was a plan, but the builder didn’t follow it correctly. Over time, everything relaxed, creating a serious problem. With the advice of a great friend, who is also a carpenter, we shored everything up before my son, the giant, could crash through the floor and into the living room.
An architect creates a plan that the builder follows in order to make a sturdy building. This is the key image I used in explaining Ephesians 3:1-13. The Apostle Paul is in a Roman jail waiting for a trial. He has been falsely accused of allowing a non-Jew to have access to the Jewish temple. As a result of this false accusation, Paul has appealed to Caesar for a trial to decide the matter. While some may criticize Christianity because one of their primary spokesmen sits in a Roman jail, he’s jailed for following the plan that God intended all along.
God always planned for Jews and non-Jews to join one new entity, the church, through the work of Jesus Christ. Christians all enter a restored relationship to God through Jesus, no matter what their national, tribal or racial background. In the first century, when the New Testament was written, this was a revolutionary idea. Paul champions this idea as God’s plan all along, which results in a good start to the “building” that is Christianity. With a good start, there is no need to rip up the floor and replace bad joists. Unity in the church becomes the foundation for the future of the church. It’s so important for Paul that he’s willing to go to jail for it. And the Architect hasn’t changed the plan! Unity in the church remains foundational for the health and growth of Christianity.