GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE
According to the Holy Scriptures, God in His infinite wisdom and marvelous grace conceived and formed an eternal purpose to redeem fallen mankind through Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11). This purpose was formed “before time began” (Titus 1:1-3; II Timothy 1:8-12), and was gradually revealed down through the ages until it came to fruition in Christ, the gospel, the church, and the New Testament. To see the unfolding of this grand purpose is one of the most thrilling, exciting, and informative studies in which one can engage.
To make known God’s eternal purpose is the purpose of the Bible, and to come to an understanding of that purpose and enter into it is the greatest blessing of mankind because it results in the salvation of one’s soul—“receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:9). To grasp that eternal purpose amazingly expands one’s view of the Bible and enables one to see that it is not a “self-help” book, a “feel good” book, a “health and wealth” book, a “pop psychology” book, a book on how to eliminate poverty (see Mark 14:7) or slavery (see Titus 2:9-10; Colossians 3:22-4:1), a book on how to welcome and show hospitality to immigrants, or a book of myth, folklore, and human wisdom, with a few nuggets of good advice (“be a good person and have a good heart”) and perhaps a few bits of divine truth thrown in for good measure. Rather, the Bible is a divinely inspired revelation from God, setting forth God’s eternal purpose to save man through Christ and showing how one enters into and remains a part of that purpose.
In a sweeping doxology at the end of the book of Romans, Paul declared:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets (a little later we will see whether Paul had in mind Old Testament prophets or New Testament prophets, hf) has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27). Clearly, in this great text Paul speaks of two theological ages—the epoch of mystery and the epoch of manifestation. God’s purpose was called a mystery because prior to the coming of Christ it had not been revealed but had been “kept secret since the world began.”
In the Old Testament it was only intimated, promised, and predicted, but it had not become a reality. With the coming of Christ, however, the age of mystery vanished and the age of manifestation arrived!
The apostle Matthew explains that Jesus spoke in parables so “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:34-35). Quite clearly then, Christ began to make known that which throughout all the Old Testament had been a mystery—God’s eternal purpose to redeem man through Christ! The saved of mankind will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Of Christ the apostle Peter declares, “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times (“last days,” [Hebrews 1:1-2], hf) for you” (I Peter 1:20). In the infinite wisdom of God, the death of Christ was a “done deal” before time began! He was “the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8)!
Of those living in ages prior to the coming of Christ it is said, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13). It was further said of them, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us (those of us living since the coming of Christ, hf), that they should not be made perfect (complete, hf) apart from us” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
“Of this salvation the prophets [of the Old Testament] have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit, hf) who was in them was indicating when He (the Spirit) testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them (the Old Testament prophets, hf) it was revealed that not to themselves, but to us (those living since the coming of Christ, hf), they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven—things which angels desire to look into” (I Peter 1:10-12).
Paul spoke of “how that by revelation He (Christ, hf) made known to me the mystery as I wrote before in few words, by which when you read you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ (yes, we can understand the Scriptures!, hf), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets. . .” (Ephesians 3:1-7). Thus, by divine revelation “the mystery” has now been made known to the inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament and has been set forth by them in the New Testament scriptures (Romans 16:25-26). The church (the aggregate body of those redeemed by Christ) is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [the foundation laid down by them through the gospel], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
(To Be Continued)
May 8, 2018