“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9; cf., Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28-30; 9:11).
When I was a boy, fresh out of High School, my first job was working on a large sheep ranch northwest of Laramie, Wyoming. When it would come time for the shearing, the sheep that had run wild and were shepherded only by a couple of Border Collie Dogs, were now deprived of their freedom by herding them into a large sheep shed. The sheep protested by a lot of bleating and commotion. When they turned into the shearing room one at a time, we would grab the sheep and set it on its haunches, leaning it against our legs. Almost as if by magic, the sheep would become quiet and very docile in submission to the shears that relieved them of his wool.
This memory has left an indelible picture in my mind that illustrates the submission of the Lord Jesus Christ to the purposes and plan of God; indeed, God does have a plan and purpose to be worked out in time and eternity. I remember that Christ “was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
The submissive sheep is a precious illustration of the roll that Christ played in the drama of redemption. I further believe that God created sheep with a submissive, docile nature to serve as an illustration of how God would have members of the human race become “sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3) in submission to His eternal purpose.
GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE: WHAT IS IT?
All of God’s acts, in time, are the result of a plan devised by the Godhead at sometime in eternity past (Ps. 2:7; 90:2; 110:1; Isa. 14:24, 27; Mic. 5:2; Jn. 5:20; 8:26; 10:18; Acts 2:23; 4:28; Heb. 10:7-9). Theologians call this Divine-planning session the Everlasting Councils, out of which came what is referred to as the Doctrine of Decrees or, as we find it identified in our text, the “eternal purpose.” This eternal purpose is especially focused upon the execution and fulfillment of God’s plan for the salvation of men.
This eternal purpose is best understood and appreciated when it is “rightly divided” into its two major categories, namely: PROPHECY; that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21), and the MYSTERY: that “which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Eph. 3:9). These two categories will combine in the “Dispensation of the Fulness of Times” to consummate God’s eternal purpose.
GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE: WHO EXECUTES IT?
It is Jesus Christ Who personifies and executes the plan of God. He is the axis upon which the whole of human history turns. History is His-story and He is the centerpiece of all of God’s eternal decrees (Col. 1:16-18; Heb. 1:2-3). Christ was the preeminent subject which occupied the prophets of old. His work for saving man was progressively revealed and unfolded throughout Scripture until He came “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) to execute the plan of God (1 Jn. 3:5).
The very names, by which we have come to know Jesus Christ, disclose the nature of Christ’s mission in the plan of God.
(1) The Son. He has always been the Son; He did not become the Son at the incarnation. He is co-eternal and co-equal with God the Father. He is called “Son” because He is subservient to the Father’s purpose. Christ is the workman (Mk. 9:7). As a Son, He had come to do the Father’s will (Heb. 10:17).
(2) The Chosen—the Chief Corner Stone, Elect, Precious. Here Christ is the builder and the material chosen for the work that must be done (1 Pet. 2:4, 6).
(3) The Messiah—The Christ—The Anointed One. Here the Lord Jesus is given the Scriptural identification for the One Who was commissioned for special service (Dan. 9:25-26).
These descriptive names are indicative of at least two things:
(1) There really was a convocation called in eternity past by the Godhead in order to, among other things, make decrees to create and save yet un-created man.
(2) Christ was the member of the Godhead ordained to discharge the plan of God (Isa. 48:16-17; cf., Isa. 6:8; 25:1). It is also of great interest to note that God’s eternal purpose for the Nation of Israel was not kept secret, while His eternal purpose for the Church Which is His Body was kept secret until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul in the Dispensation of Grace (Eph. 3:1-5)!
Christ was aware of His roll in the purpose and plan of God even as a child. As a twelve-year-old boy, when He was questioned about His whereabouts, Christ said, “How is it that ye sought Me? Know ye not that I must be about My Father’s business” (Lk. 2:49)? Throughout His life and ministry, He was submissive to the Father’s will. He prayed, though in great sorrow, over the “cup” He had to drink: “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Lk. 22:42).
Christ qualified Himself to be the Mediator between God the Father and sinful man (1 Tim. 2:5), and because He was both God and Man through the virgin birth. As the God/Man, He was more than a representative of the two parties; He was equal with both parties and could be the “daysman betwixt us, that might lay His hand upon us both (Job 9:33).
It must be remembered that one of the major attributes of God is “love” (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). If that is true, then,, we must conclude that God’s eternal purpose and plan was born entirely and completely out of the essence of Who and what God is—love. It is impossible to conceive of a God Who is love with no responder to His love. Thus, we understand why He created and why He planned to save rebellious, sinful, and lost humanity. He took the initiative—that is grace! He wanted man to willingly love Him. In fact, we are told that “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). The Father has boldly declared His love for the world (Jn. 3:16), and His unwillingness “that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3:9).
It is this expressed love for lost humanity that provides the background and reason why Christ came. He said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Lk. 19:10). Thus, He, as the “Beloved Son,” was “obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross” (Phil. 2:8).
Herein, He executes the Father’s will by making reconciliation between the two warring parties, “Having made peace through the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in Heaven” (Col. 1:20).
Finally, His cry, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30), tells the whole world that the “bill of debt” has been paid in full. He has blotted “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross” (Col. 2:14). The redemptive part of God’s plan was complete! With His victorious resurrection, He “spoiled principalities and powers. He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).
THE ETERNAL PURPOSE: WHO ADMINISTERS IT?
God’s eternal purpose seems to fall into five natural divisions, or perhaps we should say is administered by five great agencies or agents. It is clear from the first eleven chapters of Genesis and Romans One that the Gentile Patriarchs were first responsible for the discharge of God’s purpose on earth. With their failure in unbelief (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28), God gave them up and the administration of His plan was entrusted to the Nation of Israel (Rom. 9:4; Jn. 4:22). Again, through the blindness of unbelief (Rom. 11:1-25), a change of administration was necessary. This time in a totally unannounced or unanticipated move, God placed the administration of His purpose into the capable hands of the “wise masterbuilder” (1 Cor. 3:10): Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He, together with those who follow him as “ambassadors of Christ,” discharge the grace and plan of God with the appeal for sinners to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Then, the Lord Jesus will return to take the reigns of administration as the “King of Kings” for 1,000 years. The final administration of the eternal purpose is the “Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.”
THE ETERNAL PURPOSE: WHAT SECRET DID IT HOLD?
The secret portion of this eternal purpose is the reoccurring theme and basis for all that is taught in Ephesians 1 through 3. This is especially precious to those of us who are privileged of God to have been born in this Dispensation of the Grace of God, and to be members of the Church Which is His Body through faith in Christ. God’s secret purpose was to:
(1) Bless us “with all spiritual blessings … according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3-4). This stands in contrast to the blessings promised to Israel (Rom. 9:4).
(2) Predestinate us “unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself … according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5).
(3) Make us “accepted in the Beloved,” give us “redemption through His blood,” and give us “forgiveness of sins … according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:6-7).
(4) Instructed us in “the mystery of His will … according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself. That in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him” (Eph. 1:9-10). This revelation graciously allows the Grace believer to view the whole plan of God from beginning to end—including the secret part. He is now able to orient to time and the dispensations. It allows him to appreciate the grace of God at work in and through the different dispensational agencies and prepares him for the final dispensation and eternity future.
(5) We are enriched with “an inheritance, being predestinated … according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11; cf., 2:7; 3:8, 16).
(6) To reveal “what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe … according to the working of His mighty power” (Eph. 1:19).
(7) To reveal, “by the Church the manifold wisdom of God … according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 1:19).
Now, please note the italicized emphasis that I’ve placed upon the phrase “according to.” This is because, in every case, it is translated from the Greek preposition KATA, which establishes a criteria for action or activity, thus, proving that the eternal purpose of God was not a developing program but was forever established by decree in eternity past during the Everlasting Councils.
THE ETERNAL PURPOSE: HOW IS IT CONSUMMATED?
There will come a time in the future “Dispensation of the Fulness of Times” – during the “world [age] which is to come” (Eph. 1:21) – when God will “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10), and “put all things under His feet” (Eph. 1:22; cf., Col. 1:15-20; Rom. 8:19-23; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 11:15). This is that promised day of the “restitution of all things.” God’s eternal purpose will have run its course! All creation and saints of all ages have awaited its arrival.
God’s eternal purpose has been to build Himself a permanent “habitation” with believing men. This permanent dwelling place will be in the New Earth, New Jerusalem, and the New Heaven (Rev. 21:3). There will be “no temple” (Rev. 21:22) as such but, rather, the Godhead together with believers of all ages “groweth” together into a “Holy Temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21).
Paul’s use of the construction metaphor, “all the building fitly framed together,” naturally suggests that this building is made up of three or four walls being carefully put together, by use of a Divine blueprint, into a completed building. (See my Bible Study tract: Building with Paul.) Here I suggest that the four walls are the Patriarchal Church, Old Covenant Church, New Covenant Church, and the Body of Christ Church.
This same grouping of believers fits naturally into the eternal state and God’s eternal purpose without loss of identity or inheritance, thus, The New Earth—the Patriarchal Church; The New Jerusalem—The Old and New Covenant Church; and the New Heaven—The Body of Christ Church. This means that in eternity future, none of the categories of the Redeemed (Jew, Gentile, and Body of Christ) will sacrifice their distinctive identities or “hope” – Israel will still be Israel (Isa. 66:22); Gentiles will still be Gentiles (Mt. 25:34, 46; Rev. 21:24-27), and the Body of Christ will still be the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:24-27; 3:11; 1 Cor. 12:12-13), and together we shall “reign with God forever and forever (Rev. 22:5).
Who is our life shall appear,
Then shall we also appear
With Him in Glory!
Oh, that will be glory for me! Glory for me!
When by His face, I shall look on His face,
That will be Glory, be Glory for me!