In March of 2008 I undertook a study of Ephesians with the junior high and high school students I work with. It was exactly a year later that we finally concluded our study. I didn’t intend to take a year studying Paul’s letter to the Ephesians…it just happened.

I chose to study Ephesians with the students on a whim. I had taught on the Sermon on the Mount, the Life of Christ and a few topical lessons along the way. This would be my first attempt to study God’s Word with the kids expositionally, straight through a book. I chose Ephesians almost at random. It was an epistle and we hadn’t studied any letters yet. Also I had been strangely drawn to the book the month prior to beginning the study; this way I could justify studying the book while “on the clock”! Little did I know that the message of Ephesians would profoundly alter my view of scripture as a whole.

As I immersed myself in study, I almost immediately discovered something I began to call “God’s Eternal Purpose.” I realized later that I, of course was not the first to discover this concept nor employ the term. However, I believe my understanding of God’s Eternal Purpose is uniquely shaped by the message of Ephesians. This understanding, in turn, shaped my mindset regarding the entire story of scripture.

I just read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the first time over the last two days. In the book, scientists from another planet build a computer whose sole purpose is to answer the “Ultimate Question”–the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. After seven and a half million years of pondering this mystery the computer (dubbed “Deep Thought”) delivers a very disappointing answer: 42. Needless to say, this leaves the people unsatisfied.

The problem, Deep Thought insists, is not with his answer, it is that he was never really given the question. For this he must build the greatest computer in the universe, which he calls “earth.” Each being on earth will be part of a giant computer program that will run for a set amount of time before delivering the correct “question” to the answer “42“. Unfortunately, five minutes before the program finishes it is destroyed by the tediously bureucratic Vogons to make way for a highway for interstellar space trial. So long, Earth.

In Douglas Adams’ story, the purpose of all earth beings is to discover”the question to the Ultimate Answer.” Those concerned already have the answer, but what’s the question?  Similarly, we Christians believe we know the “answer” to the “Ultimate Question.” Millions of Christians confess that the chief end of man is “to Glorify God and Enjoy Him forever.” I can’t help but wonder, however, if maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Perhaps we have the right answer precisely because we’re asking the wrong question.

So, I propose a new question. Instead of asking what is our chief end, let us ask what is God’s Chief End. And in light of whatever answer we discover, let us then craft our purpose from our understanding of his purpose.

Next time I hope to explain some of what I discovered concerning God’s Eternal Purpose during my study of Ephesians and how this relates to God’s Mission as portrayed in the narrative of scripture.