Is the goal of our Christian life to be better people? I think this is one of the most awkward topics among protestants. We all seem to have this concept in us that we just need to do good and be better, and we tend to cast this same desire on God. When asking people what they think God’s desire or purpose is for them, I usually am told “be good and help others.” Even for those who emphasize loving God and having a personal relationship with Him, there is still this unspoken tendency toward legalism and moralism.
I think this idea of attempting moral improvement springs from a lack of understanding exactly what the Lord desires and what His eternal purpose is. In this post, my last on God’s eternal purpose, I hope to give you a clear and biblical perspective on God’s desire for an expression and where “being good” fits into this.
Consider this verse:
“I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” Galatians 2:20
If we don’t just gloss over this verse and assume Paul is just using flowery, superfluous language, we can see what a mystery and miracle this is! How is it possible that Christ lives in Paul? Why did God choose to do this? What significance does this have for God’s eternal purpose and our Christian life? I think this is best seen, as always, in the “book-ends” of the Bible, or the first and last two chapters.
“And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”
“Jehovah God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Genesis 1:26 and 2:7
It’s interesting to note that all the animals were created in Genesis “according to their kind,” but man was created according to the image of God. This is very significant and clues us into how Galatians 2:20 is possible. In the account of man’s creation in Genesis 2, God “breathed into his (man’s) nostrils the breath of life.” This breath is the spirit of man, as revealed in Proverbs 20:27 and Job 32:8:
“The spirit (neshamah) of man is the lamp of Jehovah”
“But there is a spirit (ruach) in man, and the breath (neshamah) of the Almighty gives them understanding.”
The same Hebrew word are used when describing the spirit of man and the breath of the Almighty, the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). I can’t get into what exactly the spirit of man is and its relation to the soul and body in this post, but I hope it suffices for me to say that it is the part in man that the Lord has given us to contain God and unify man with God as seen in 1 Corinthians 6:17:
“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”
So in creation, God made man according to His image and likeness, and He gave man a spirit that the Lord could dwell in and unite Himself with man. What was the purpose of creating man like this? Now let’s look at the last chapters of the Bible and see:
“Come here; I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in spirit onto a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.” Revelation 21:9-11
In my post on God’s building, I presented the point that the New Jerusalem isn’t a material building, but is symbolic of the church. This is clear in that the angel here said “I will show you the bride” and then shows him “the holy city.” It is interesting that John describes the city as “having the glory of God.” That seems border-line heretical according to many theological concepts in Christianity. Yet, we must see that this is God’s goal, as expressed throughout the scriptures (1 Cor. 2:7; 1 Pet. 5:10; 1 Thes. 2:12; 2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 2:10; Rom. 8:17, 30).
The modern concept of glory and God’s glory centers around a sort of praise and recognition of God’s sovereignty and deserving credit. However, the Word reveals that the glory of God is simply His expression on earth by men. God is primarily glorified not by our speaking well of Him or acknowledging Him, but in our living Christ and expressing God. When the Lord comes back, this will be manifested:
“When He comes to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed (because our testimony to you was believed) in that day.” 2 Thes. 1:10
Close attention should be paid to the “in” used in this verse twice. Paul did not say “by,” which would more easily match our concepts, but he used “in” to reveal the manifestation of God’s working and living within us as the ultimate expression in our glorification.
This is most clearly seen in the epistle on the church, Ephesians, which also is the book that uses the term “eternal purpose.”
“In order that now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenliness the multifarious wisdom of God might be made known through the church, according to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord” Ephesians 3:10-11
God’s eternal purpose is to make known His wonderful economy (plan) to the rulers and authorities through the church, which is His expression. The church is simply all the believers in Christ who have Him living in their spirit. In order for us to express God, we can’t simply be moral or do good. That is what the Jews tried to do and it failed. The way to express God is to let this Christ, who dwells within us, live in us! Paul made this incredibly clear right after telling us what God’s eternal purpose is:
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit into the inner man, that Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith…that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God…To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 3:14-21
God desires an expression. He created man in His own image, giving him the faculties necessary to express God (i.e. man’s inward virtues as copies of God’s attributes). The Lord breathed a human spirit into man that has the capacity to contain God. When we believe, the Lord enters into our spirit and makes us children of God (Rm. 8:16). The goal of our Christian life is not to try and use our God-given faculties to be good and try to express God like the Jews. Rather, the goal is to allow God to fill us with Himself and live in us and through us as our Lord and King! When the Lord is living in and through His church in such a way, we will truly be the fullness of the One who fills all in all and will have the glory of God as His expression, thus fulfilling His wonderful purpose (Eph. 1:23; Rev. 21:11). Praise the Lord!