There was a time when man walked completely with God--unclothed, unashamed, with no need to hide. "And the man and his wife were both naked," says Genesis 2:25, "and were not ashamed." In the fall, however, something happened that changed this immaculate relationship between man and God. They became ashamed and fearful, as evidenced in Adam's statement to God: "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself" (Gen. 3:10). Man had become alienated from God. To be alienated is to be foreign, not intimate, separated. And as is explained in Isaiah 59:2, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear."
If, therefore, sin is the cause of the alienation, then it is sin that must be dealt with in order to bring about reconciliation. Reconciliation is the reuniting of two things that have been separated or alienated from each other. Thus, God and man are reconciled by the taking away of the sin that separates them. Scripture is clear that this reconciliation, this salvation from sin, occurs only through Christ. "For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Paul offers an unflawed summation of the story of reconciliation:
"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them..." (2 Cor. 5:18-19)
These realities of alienation and reconciliation are fundamental to the spiritual growth process. Understanding what went wrong helps us know how it can be right again. Understanding what happened then helps us know what can be done to correct it now. The reconciliation offered through Christ is foundational because it puts Christ in His place and us in ours. In discussing the reconciliation of man and God in Eph. 1:9-23, Paul emphasizes Christ's role as the head of the body, the authority, source, sustainer, provider, and sum. His preeminence, all-sufficiency and loving grace give us the direction that we so badly need in our sinful state. As we grow spiritually, we are looking to Christ as we seek to understand the concept of alienation and grow to accept and flourish in our reconciliation with God.