GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE (Part 2)
“Before time began” God promised eternal life through Christ and the gospel (Titus 1:1-3; II Timothy 1:8-12). This is known as God’s “eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11). Throughout the ages of the Old Testament this purpose remained hidden (a mystery), but it “has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Timothy 1:9-10).
Paul wrote to the Colossians concerning “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:26). It was revealed by “His word through preaching” (Titus 1:3), and concerned things “which now have been reported to you through those (the inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament [Ephesians 3:5], hf) who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven” (I Peter 1:12)—“the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (I Peter 1:25b).
God’s eternal purpose was not for the Jews only (the fleshly descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob), but included the fact “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). God’s purpose reached its fruition in the church as the ultimate demonstration and display of the manifold (multi-faceted and many splendored) aspects of the wisdom of God. As Paul put it, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:8-11)!
By His death Christ “abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is the law of commandments contained in ordinances (the Old Testament, hf), so as to create in Himself one new man from the two (Jews and Gentiles, hf), thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both (Jews and Gentiles, hf) to God in one body by the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16). The “one body” is the church which Christ purchased with the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20; Acts 20:28), which He Himself established (Matthew 16:18), of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23), of which there is but one (Ephesians 4:4), and of which He is the Savior (Ephesians 5:23)! It has “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” and is the “whole building” that has been “joined together” and that “grows into a holy temple in the Lord . . . for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:14-22).
God’s eternal purpose is also referred to as God’s wisdom. In a magnificent passage in which he disavows speaking by the wisdom of men (I Corinthians 1:18-2:5) Paul goes on to affirm, “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).
Paraphrasing a prophecy from Isaiah 64:4, Paul declares, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared to those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). Rather than referring to heaven (as I often hear this verse used), Paul is talking about God’s grand scheme of redemption (His great eternal purpose) which people of the Old Testament had not seen or heard and which had not entered their hearts. But now “God has revealed them (the things previously unseen and unheard and which had not entered the heart of man) to us (the apostles and prophets of the New Testament [Ephesians 3:5], hf) by His Spirit” (I Corinthians 2:10). In turn, having “received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that [they] might know the things that [had] been freely given to [them] by God,” the apostles and prophets went on to speak “these things,” “not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches . . .” (I Corinthians 2:12-13). This is a strong and irrefutable affirmation of the verbal inspiration of what the apostles and prophets of the New Testament spoke and wrote in making known God’s eternal purpose—set forth with such clarity that, as Paul elsewhere declared, “when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4)!
Christ is the centerpiece of God’s eternal purpose. It is that “which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11). Thus, “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Into the hands of wicked men Christ was “delivered by the determined counsel/purpose of God” to be crucified for the sins of all mankind (Acts 2:22-24).
Indeed, it may be said, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (I Timothy 3:16). All who by faith in Him and obedience to the gospel become participants in God’s eternal purpose have the blessed assurance of knowing “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Have you entered into God’s eternal purpose?
May 15, 2018