Friday, November 2, 2012

What Is God's Eternal Purpose?

Paul begins to pray for the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3:1, but is 'interrupted' and instead talks about his ministry to the Gentiles. We are blessed by God for this divine interruption, for in this 'aside' Paul discloses to us the meaning of life itself! What an important parenthetical statement! He actually uses the words 'eternal purpose.'
...God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord...                      Ephesians 3:9b-11, ESV
Have you ever thought about what this Scripture is saying?!
A few observations:

1. Through the Church (v10a). This verse informs us that the church is at the center of God’s eternal plan! It is Plan A for the universe! God's eternal purpose is to display his glory to the universe through his church! Do you have a low view or commitment to the church? Then according to this Scripture you are wasting your life, giving yourself to things that are NOT what God is most excited about, pouring himself into, etc

2. God’s Manifold Wisdom (10). Manifold – ‘many colored’ (Stott, O’Brien) [interesting term when speaking of a multi-ethnic church in chapters 2 and 3!]. Multi-faceted. God’s glorious wisdom is inexhaustible, yet he has chosen the church as the means by which to display himself. God's character and attributes simply MUST be seen and enjoyed and glorified and appreciated. This is God's eternal purpose, and the meaning and purpose of life.

3. God’s Glory Displayed to the Universe (10). God is displaying (‘showcasing’ – Piper) his attributes through the new humanity Christ created at the cross – the unified, multi-ethnic church!

God is showing himself off to all. John Piper explains that if we are a show-off it is sinful, because we are not ultimate. But God is. He is showing off his glory, and this glory is ultimately satisfying for us. Therefore, it is sinful for us to show off, but it is true and right and loving for God to show off.

4. Rulers and authorities in the heavenlies (10b). God specifically mentions displaying his glory through the church to the heavenly beings. Angels and demons. Peter has written about angels being interested in our salvation in 1 Peter 1:10-12 (they are not eligible for salvation [Heb 2:16], but see God’s glory in the saints). Demons will not be persuaded by this revelation, but God is giving it to them nonetheless. They will see their defeat and God’s eternal triumph through the church!!! And we display God’s glorious wisdom to the universe when we live in obedience to God’s plan; when we demonstrate the unity and love in the diverse body of Christ (the ‘duty’ described in chapters 4-6 of Ephesians). Our failure to live this out is ultimately an attack on the glory of God!

5. Eternal Purpose (11)! This display of God’s glory through the church is described as God’s eternal purpose. This has already been accomplished in Christ by his death and resurrection, and is now being worked out in our lives. God’s purpose will not fail, for he works all things according to the counsel of his will (1:11).

We must see how central a role the church plays in God’s eternal purpose. The purpose of God – the meaning of life itself and the reason we are here – is to display God’s glory in Christ through the church. God’s purpose must become our own. This eternal truth calls for commitment to Christ and his church. Not convenience, but commitment – like Paul demonstrated (he was in prison for his ministry to the church when he wrote this!). Even to the point of laying down our lives and suffering for the church’s continued good in Christ.

John Stott asks, “How can we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How can we push to the circumference what God has placed at the centre?” Because we do not see the glory of it. It is simply not worth it to us. Today’s text could change our lives if we have eyes to see it. God’s glory through his church is worth whatever inconvenience, whatever hurt, whatever persecution may come.
Quite simply, we must make God’s glory in the church our life purpose and our highest commitment.

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