It’s popular in our day to talk about God’s purpose in a very personal way. Thousands, perhaps millions, of Christians, semi-Christians, quasi-Christians, and nominal Christians are daily walking about searching for their purpose in life. Many of them are looking for God’s purpose for their life. Is this biblical?
Without getting into the nuances of judging books by covers, I do practice judging books by the language used to market them. In the sales copy for The Purpose Driven Church, Warren points to “the five New Testament purposes given to the church by Jesus.” Again, I haven’t read the book, but his sales copy says Warren shares a “proven” five-part strategy for churches that includes fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry, and evangelism. While all of those may be great things, if they are not tied to God’s single eternal purpose, I’d say his message misses the mark.
I’ll say the same thing about his message to individuals. The five purposes he outlines for individuals are these:
- Real worship
- Real fellowship
- Real discipleship
- Real ministry
- Real evangelism
Of course, I’m sure I’d find things in Warren’s books with which I agree, but as good as these five “purposes” are, if Warren does not tie them to God’s overriding eternal purpose, I’d say he misses the mark.
On the question of whether or not God has a single purpose for you, for me, for any of us in this life, I’ll say that He does but that purpose — or purposes if you wish to expand it to be more multi-faceted — is derived from His eternal purpose.
What Is God’s Eternal Purpose?
Yesterday, I discussed God’s eternal purpose. If you’ve forgotten it, you should review it. But here it is again, in a nutshell:
His purpose was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10–11, Berean Study Bible)
Let’s note three things about God’s eternal purpose:
- It is accomplished in Jesus Christ
- It will be accomplished through the church
- God wants to make it known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms
In summary, it’s not about you.
Three Things About Which God Concerns Himself
Since it isn’t about you, or me, what is God’s eternal purpose about? In essence, it’s about Himself. It’s about Himself in Jesus Christ. Going deeper still, it’s about God expressing Himself in Jesus Christ through the tabernacle of His church.
So, it’s not about you, or me, but it’s about you and me. God’s purpose is tied to a collective (the church) representing a single entity (Himself in Christ). Going further, this entity is on display for the benefit of the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.
Got your head wrapped around that yet?
Regarding God’s eternal purpose, there are three things about which God concerns Himself. Those three things are:
- The care of the cosmos
- The care of the church
- The care and salvation of man
God has an eternal purpose, but He fulfills it through the care of these three things, which he holds dear to the center of His heart. Let’s discuss them individually.
The Care of the Cosmos
When I talk about the cosmos, I am talking about God’s created order. In other words, everything which God has made.
The first chapter of Colossians, verses 15–16 read:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. (Berean Study Bible)
All things, visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth, were created by, for, and through Jesus Christ. He is the firstborn over all creation, the beginning and the end, the ruler of all things. Christ is pre-eminent. Some translations say “supreme.” He is all in all, and He is over all.
In the Gospel of John, first chapter, the first three verses, it reads:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.
These three verses are parallel to the first chapter of the Old Testament, the book of Genesis. The first verse reads:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Christians believe that God, through Christ, the living Word, in the beginning, created everything there is. All the heavens and the earth, and everything within them. God created it all. This is what we call the cosmos.
In the New Testament, the Greek word kosmos translates into “world” in English. However, its connotation is very different in each use depending upon context. In John 3:16, most Bible scholars believe the word “world” references all the people of the world. I don’t disagree, but I also believe there is a hint here toward God’s entire created order. The text reads:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Kosmos, literally translated, means “ the entire ordered system.” While many Bible scholars say the word is pointing to the entire human population, others say it refers only to the elect — those who ultimately have saving faith in Christ. I think it includes both categories but encompasses so much more. Consider:
- God called His entire creation “good” — After the sixth day, when God created man, He looked at “all He had made” and said it was “very good.” ( Genesis 1:31, Berean Study Bible) This is significant because after Adam sinned, God cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17, Berean Study Bible), but He does not plan to leave it in that state forever.
- God is reconciling all things to Himself — In Colossians 1:19–20 (Berean Study Bible), it says that “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” In other words, Christ did not die on the cross merely for the salvation of men, but for the reconciling of “all things” in heaven and on earth. The cosmos.
- Man is God’s steward over creation — Genesis 1:28 tells us that God blessed Adam and Eve and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “subdue” the earth. He also charged man with ruling over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every creature. The word “subdue” in Hebrew is kabash. It means to “bring into bondage.” In other words, man is to literally rule over the creation. Quite often, especially in conservative Christian circles, what is emphasized is the violent nature of subjugation. I’ve heard Christians actually advocate for the “rape and pillage” of earth as our God-given right. I don’t believe this is what God had in mind. In Genesis, chapter 2, verse 15, the text says God put man in the Garden of Eden to “cultivate it” and “keep it.” The Hebrew word for “cultivate” in that verse is abad, a word which means to work and to serve. In some contexts, the connotation is to “work and serve” as a slave in bondage to a master. So we have what appears to be a conundrum. Man is to both subjugate and serve as a slave to the created order. I believe the view that God had in mind with man’s relationship to His creation is that we are to keep it, cultivate it, rule over it, and care for it as God’s representatives within the order. We are to care for what God called “very good” as if God Himself were doing the caring. We are stewards over God’s created order.
So God cares about His creation. Not just a part of it, not just a sliver or a slice of it, but all of it. He wants us to care for it too.
The Care of the Church
God’s eternal purpose will be carried out by His people. In the Old Testament, God wanted to fulfill that purpose through Israel. But Israel failed. In the new covenant, God fulfills His purpose through the church in Christ. You cannot separate Christ from His church. After the ascension, the church is Christ.
Even a cursory read through the New Testament clearly shows that God has a high regard for His church. Simply by analyzing the many names for the church, and how God speaks about His church, we can see that one of God’s most important concerns is the care of His church. Here are just a few ways the New Testament refers to the church that Jesus Christ built.
Each of these idioms used to describe the church are God’s way of indicating His value for the church. He has given the church the great responsibility for representing His will, His authority, and His plan for all of creation and all of mankind in what Christians call the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20, Berean Study Bible).
He tells us to love all people (Matthew 22:39), but says the world will know we follow Christ if we love one another (John 13:35). The entire New Testament is about how Christians ought to love God and love each other so that we are to be the best representation of God, who is love (1 John 4:8), on earth.
His purpose for the church is to express His love for all. To do that, the church must love itself, and its members must love each other. We are God’s dwelling place, after all.
The Care and Salvation of Man
One of the most unfortunate misunderstandings modern Christians have about God is that salvation is the end goal. We have so convoluted God’s purpose that we have twisted it to mean that God’s ultimate goal for all of creation is to save me, or us, from going to hell.
That is not God’s ultimate purpose.
He certainly does not want to see anyone perish, but that is not His ultimate goal. Yet, he does care about the concerns of man, the destiny of man, and the livelihood of man. But for His own will and pleasure. It is imperative that we maintain an eternal mindset and not a self-centered one.
We express God’s love for the world best when we share the good news with it. God sent Christ to die for the sins of man, not for man’s benefit but for God’s. He is building a kingdom, a dwelling place for Himself on earth, and we are that dwelling place.
Everyone who believes in him will be saved (John 3:16). This is God’s message for the world, and He has given this message to the church to share with the world. He wants everyone to hear the gospel message and turn from their sinful ways. His will is for everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9) so that no one will perish. He wants us all to become His dwelling place together. The church is His temple.
The day is coming when there will be no more repentance. Until then, the door is open to anyone willing to align themselves with God’s purpose and join the throng of the saints proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
While God includes us, individually and collectively, in His plan, it is not all about us. We are not the central element of God’s plan, though he cares for us.
Our duty is to align ourselves with God’s purpose for creation, His church, and all of mankind. We can put God to the test. His promises are true and will be fulfilled at the time He has ordained them to be fulfilled.
Allen Taylor has been walking (and wavering) with the Lord for 28 years. He has served local churches as a Sunday school teacher, a small group leader, a worship leader, a prayer group leader, and a minister of the Word. His journey isn’t over yet, and he still needs discipling.
Leave me a comment below. How are you caring for God’s creation?