A gated gospel?

While out for a run the morning after my exams, I discovered a little fenced garden I hadn’t noticed before. They’re quite common in London and I always feel slightly ambivalent about them. On the one hand, anything that means there are more trees and fewer buildings makes me happy – I’m not a natural metropol-ite and I think human beings need green spaces. But at the same time, most of these gardens – especially in more well-to-do areas – are fenced and padlocked, and only the residents of the houses that face onto the garden have a key.

Running by this garden, I really wished I was inside, running through the trees. Instead, I was outside, running along the pavement beside the fence, looking through the bars.

The only thing was, when I got to the gate at the other end I realised that it was padlocked open not padlocked shut. I’d just seen the fence and the gate and assumed I wasn’t allowed in, but actually this garden was open to all.

It made me think about my attitude to the truths of the gospel. Often I read a Bible passage like Ephesians 1 or Phillipians 2 or 2 Cor 3 or 1 Peter 1 (etc., etc.) and they say such beautiful things, they proclaim such a glorious, gracious Lord that I’m overwhelmed. But often what I’m overwhelmed by is a longing that secretly believes these things are not for me. Subconsciously, I think I’m outside the garden, gazing through the railings at the beauty within, but the gate is padlocked. These glorious truths, this glorious Person at the heart of the gospel, is to be adored, but only at a distance. Between us is a great chasm that I can never cross.

And in some ways that makes sense: that is our natural state. Ever since we rebelled against God in Genesis 3 we have been those outside the Garden, shut out despite our longing to be welcomed back in. We have been those separated from the Triune God by an unbridgeable chasm. As Paul puts it in Eph 2:12 (describing particularly the predicament of us Gentiles):

“you were at that time separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.”

But praise God that he can go on to say:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought nearby the blood of Christ14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility…For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

Because of our rebellion, we deserve to be forever on the outside, looking in, but in Jesus we are welcomed to enter. He has done it all – He spanned the chasm, He broke down the fence. And He took us with Him as He did it, in His body. Through His death and resurrection and His continued intercession for us before the Father, the gates of the garden are padlocked open for all who are, by faith, united with Him.

In Revelation 21 we find that that first Garden in Genesis 1, where God dwelt with human beings before we were cast out, will one day be renewed, but this time the Garden will be a Garden-City:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away….

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

…and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there….


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