In light of my last three posts on the erroneous doctrine of heaven being the goal of believers, I figured this would be a good follow up post. Unfortunately, proving false the doctrine of heaven as the believer’s future dwelling place tends to leave Christians distraught and without a hope or goal in life. I’d like to provide a replacement hope and goal, presenting what the apostles looked towards as the hope and goal for all God’s redeemed.
Purpose and Plan
“According to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord” Ephesians 3:11
“And to enlighten all that they may see what the economy of the mystery is, which throughout the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things” 3:9
Here in Ephesians 3 you see two major things: a purpose and an economy. I started this blog with five posts on what God’s eternal purpose is, but I have yet to fully explain what God’s economy is. For those who have never heard the word “economy” in this context before, it can be understood as a “plan”. The word has more meaning however, and I will touch on that later.
Back to the point though, God has an eternal purpose according to Ephesians 3:11. This purpose has been with God for all eternity, and the fulfillment of this purpose is what God desires and will enjoy for all eternity. The economy is the means by which God achieves His purpose.
Christ as the Means
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not one thing came into being which has come into being.” 1:3
“You have created all things, and because of Your will they were, and were created.” Revelation 4:11b
“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” John 1:14a
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 1:29
“Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 12:24
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we all are witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He has poured out this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:32-33
Christ is the center of God’s plan and the means by which He accomplishes His purpose. The Son of God created the heavens, the earth, and man for the will of God. He was incarnated as the man Jesus, lived a perfect human life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, was buried, raised on the third day and was exalted to the right hand of God. Now as Lord and Christ, He has poured out the Spirit for the fulfillment of God’s purpose.
What I want to discuss in this post and most likely the next is what God is doing TODAY and what is our hope and goal. The Lord may have said it was finished on the cross, but that was only in regards to the accomplishment of redemption and the release of the resurrection life (John 7:39). To claim that the Lord is not doing something today is erroneous, and there is another “finished” that will take place in the end (Rev. 10:7).
Need for More
“I now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body, which is the church; Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship of God, which was given to me for you, to complete the word of God” Colossians 1:24-25
We see two crucial things in these verses: something is lacking in the afflictions of Christ and there is a stewardship of God. Before you start picking up the stones, I’ll add that the afflictions of Christ lack nothing whatsoever in regards to the accomplishment of our judicial redemption. The context here is “for His Body,” which is what God’s goal is today, the Church (on what the Church is, see Church (just so you know, it’s not a brick and mortar building…)).
The building up of the Church is what God is trying to do today. This is the goal of God’s economy, and in order for it to be accomplished, God needs stewards. The “completing of the word of God” here not only refers to the literal finishing of the New Testament, but also the speaking of the full mystery of God (see vv. 26-27). This still needs to be done today, since the Bible still seems veiled and mysterious to most. I will also make note here that the word “stewardship” here is the same greek word as “economy” in Ephesians 3:9.
“Making known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, unto the economy of the fullness of the times” Ephesians 1:9-10a
“Nor to give heed to myths and unending genealogies, which produce questionings rather than God’s economy, which is in faith.” 1 Timothy 1:4
Oikonomía, the greek word for economy, is a very particular word with a very particular meaning. Some versions of the Bible translate it as “administration” or “dispensation,” but the anglicized form of the word preserves the meaning best. Oikonomía is composed of two greek words: oikos, meaning house and nomía, meaning law. So the word literally means a house law or a household administration.
The word is often translated as “stewardship” in relation to those who are administering in the economy (as in Colossians 1:25 above). The implication of this word is that God has a household in which He is distributing things via stewards. This is truly profound, and we must consider this more.
Paul tells Timothy to avoid teaching anything that doesn’t produce God’s economy, i.e. that doesn’t lead to the distribution or dispensing in God’s house. He tells the Ephesians that the economy that God planned and purposed was according to His good pleasure or heart’s desire. While there may not be 100 verses in the Bible on God’s economy, the few that exist tell us that the entire Bible and all of God’s work is governed by this economy and produces this economy for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose!
What’s Being Dispensed?
“If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you” Ephesians 3:2
“To me, less that the least of all saints, was this grace given to announce to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ as the gospel” 3:8
“A man should account us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:1
God is a mystery. He is unapproachable and unknowable. But, the mystery of God is Christ (Col. 2:2) who declared God to us and expressed Him in His fulness (John 1:18; Col. 2:9). Christ also is a mystery however (Eph. 3:4), for He is the resurrected, ascended, glorified Christ who is Lord of all and who also dwells within all of His saints. The mystery of Christ is the Church, who is His Body, fullness, and expression (Eph. 1:22-23; 3:10, 19, 21).
Inside God’s household, which is the Church (1 Tim. 3:15), there is a dispensing that occurs. What is being dispensed is the grace of God, the riches of Christ, the Spirit. Within God’s house there has been apportioned to each member grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Eph. 4:7). This grace allows us to participate in the stewardship mentioned by Paul in 3:2! We have been given grace that we might perfect one another unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ (4:11).
“But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ, out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16
Every member of the Body of Christ has a supply, even a rich supply. This supply is the Spirit that is within, but it was never meant to be hoarded! It is for the Body, and must be dispensed into the other members. The operation in the measure of each one part is the way that the Body is built, i.e. the economy of God is produced for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose.
I’ve fully exhausted my word count, but I appreciate those who read to the end. I’m nowhere near finished with this topic, for it is deep, complex, and crucial for the believer’s vision and purpose in life. Some ask, “what is God’s purpose for me?” But how many ask what God’s purpose is for Himself? If we figure this out and see how we can participate in said purpose, the former question is answered along the way. Our purpose in life should be to live for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose.