August 2009


See previous posts to get up to speed!

Point three:

God’s Eternal Purpose will be Consumated in the Marriage of Heaven and Earth.

I’ll make one final observation concerning God’s Eternal Purpose from these verses. It’s found in verse ten.

…as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The Christian’s ultimate hope is not to go to heaven when one dies; it is to see heaven come to earth. We’ve already noted that Paul anticipates a day when the universe is united under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He also anticipates a future day when God will dwell with man, even as he did prior to the fall. Then, God’s will will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.

This is the future aspect of God’s Eternal Purpose. It is clear then, that God’s Eternal Purpose has not yet been fulfilled. We are still in the midst of his purpose. For an excellent, in depth study of this concept, I highly reccomend NT Wright’s Surprised By Hope.

Application

When you look at the book of Ephesians, there is a very obvious division, as there is in many of Paul’s letters. The first three chapters are largely concerned with cosmic, philosophical, theological concepts. The latter three chapters of Ephesians bring those concepts to bear on the readers’ lives. For this post, we might ask the question of how our knowledge of God’s Eternal Purpose is to affect how we live in the present. In actuality, what we would be asking is how do we participate in God’s Eternal Purpose?

To answer that question, I want to take a look at some selected verses from the latter half of Ephesians. Once again, I have three observations

Walk Worthy: Maintain Unity (4.1-3)

Look with me at the first three verses of Ephesians 4. Remember, this is Paul bringing down to earth the eternal concepts he discussed in the first three chapters:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

The Ephesians are exhorted to walk worthy. How? By maintaining unity. Paul refers to the oneness of the faith as he appeals to them. There is one Lord, one faith, etc. Therefore, we must be one! After all, God’s Eternal Purpose has in mind the unity of the entire universe under the Lordship of Jesus. We, as a covenant community, must then maintain unity! We are called to reflect the future reality of the New Earth in the present…the final eschaton has burst into the present in the covenant community of the Church. In that way, we participate in his Eternal Purpose.

Imitate God: Maintain Purity (5.1-5)

For a second observation, let’s examine verses one through five of chapter five:

Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Not only must we walk worthy by maintaining unity, we need to maintain purity. It is so easy to let sins like the ones Paul mentions in these verses sneak into our lives. Foolish talking, crude joking, lust, covetousness (the sin of our nation and culture!)—these often go unchecked. One might even argue that our entire economy is based on covetousness and greed!

When the world looks at the church does it say: “Lordship of Jesus? It doesn’t look like you are living under his Lordship! You look exactly like us!”

But think of it this way: sin, no matter how seemingly small, is the fundamental problem with the universe. God’s Eternal Purpose in large part exists to eradicate this cancer from the earth. Will God’s people indulge in such evil?

Paul makes clear that God’s people will not indulge in it. Those who do, he says, have no part in the Kingdom of Christ and God.  This is very sobering.

Let me clarify that Paul always acknowledges that Christians sin, but if we live in lives of unchecked sin, our conscience never convincing us of our need for repentance, then we may be demonstrating that we do not truly know Christ, that we do not have his Holy Spirit within us.

As Christians, we participate in God’s Eternal Purpose by taking sin in our lives seriously and dealing with it ruthlessly. Not only do we maintain unity, we must maintain purity, and be a people set apart from the world, a people truly under the Lordship of Jesus.

I might add that this would include sins of ommission as well as commission. When we abdicate our responsibility to be people of peace and justice, we are not faithfully anticipating the New Creation, are not participating in God’s mission, and are certainly not maintaining purity. We are allowing the systemic evils of this world, the very evils God’s Purpose is to destroy, to continue and to flourish. We must be militant against all forms of impurity in our world, both personal, corporate, national and global.

Engage in Battle (6.10-12, ff)

Finally, please look with me at verses 10-12 of Ephesians 6.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Do you realize that we are engaged in battle? God’s Eternal Purpose involves a battle against evil.

When Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, Jesus said, “I say unto you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build by church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Let me ask you something about gates. Have you ever seen an attack gate? You don’t “fire” a gate. You don’t “lob a gate grenade.”  Gates aren’t offensive weapons. They are defensive. Do you realize what that means? Jesus is saying that his church is to storm the gates of hell. He’s using hell as a metaphor for evil, for the forces of darkness that Paul refers to here. He’s saying there’s not a chance in hell!

Do you realize that we are engaged in a battle? Where are we storming the gates of hell? In a previous post I said that God’s Eternal Purpose largely has to do with mission. It’s not enough to maintain unity, though it is essential. It is not enough to maintain purity, though it is necessary. We must engage in battle. We must fight back the tide of evil, we must reach out to a lost world, we must participate in God’s Eternal Purpose.

So, how are you storming hell’s gates? More importantly, how are we as a church engaging in the battle. How is your local expression of the Church engaging in battle, and how can you lead them into the fray?

If we wish to participate in God’s Eternal Purpose then we must maintain unity, maintain purity and engage in battle.

I have been posting excerpts from a sermon series I recently preached at my church. We have been studying Ephesians 1.9-10, with an eye to discover the “Chief End of God.” Our first point is that God’s Eternal Purpose Has Been Revealed. Our second is this: God’s Eternal Purpose is in Christ.

As we’ve already said, in the greater context of this passage Paul is listing spiritual blessings that we have. He says that all of these blessings are in Christ. So too is this blessing explained as being in Christ. Specifically it says in verse nine:

Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ.

In other words, God’s purpose in the universe, his eternal will and plan have been set forth in Christ. It is totally consumed with and hinges on the person and work of the second person of the trinity, of God’s incarnate son Jesus, who is the Christ. Everything that God is doing in this world is wrapped up in Jesus. It all points to him. It is all for him. It all happens because of Him.

Notice how Paul refers to Jesus. He refers to him as Christ. The King. The annointed one. It’s a title. Jesus as King. God’s eternal purpose has to do with Jesus being King, being the Christ, being the ruler of His people. This is only further brought out in verse 10:

…as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Other translations emphasize the thought here by saying the universe will be brought under one head, Jesus Christ.

All of history, then, is working toward the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The universe will be united by its confession of the Lordship of Christ. However we define God’s Eternal Purpose, it must include Jesus as being the supreme head over all of Creation—the acknowledged King.

Much of present day Christianity is guilty of deemphasizing this all important aspect of Christ’s Lordship. Christ’s Lordship (read: Kingship) assumes a Kingdom wherein he is king. In fact, the context of all the epistles, indeed the whole New Testament, is that of God’s Kingdom come and coming.

Notice also that there is an emphasis in these verses on unity. A chief aspect of God’s Eternal Purpose and of Christ as King is that this fragmented, divided world will be unified. We’ll talk more about this in future installments. (This also has huge implications concerning Christians’ present day mission. We’ll get to that soon too)! Suffice it to say that the great drama of Creation, Fall and Redemption finds its denoument in the unity of all things under Christ…in fact, in the marriage of heaven and earth. We will examine this last point next time. v

In review, we can really, truly know from God’s word what His purpose is in the Universe. And one thing we know for certain is that it is intimately bound to the concept of Christ as King and supreme head over all Creation.