Jesus manifested the eternal purpose of the church on the cross – victory over the enemy and self. Our lives in Christ should remind ourselves, the world, and the devil that the battle has been won and that God’s will is fulfilled.
to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Ephesians 3:10-11)
I love the expression ‘manifold wisdom’ because it’s so all-encompassing. It covers every detail and leaves nothing to chance and is therefore perfect and complete. It is also the very foundation of God’s eternal purpose. His wisdom both formulates the purpose and fulfils it. In other words, He perfectly knows the what, how, and when. As such, the two cannot be separated. They work together in the will of God by His eternal nature. While wonderful and encouraging, we need to grasp the full measure of what Paul means so that we can fully understand the role of the church in God’s purposes. It’s easy to accept that we are His children or His people and never move further than that. Yet God’s manifold wisdom has decreed a far greater role for us which He accomplished through the cross. It remains for us to understand and walk in it.
God’s eternal purpose in biblical context.
When He created man, God had a very particular eternal purpose – to have a people all His own to love, worship, and serve Him. Mankind was created for the glory of God and for eternity. That is why Satan particularly targeted human beings. They were made by God for God, not simply to exist but to live in fellowship and intimacy. The devil consistently seeks to steal what belongs to the Lord. After the fall, God’s manifold wisdom began to unfold the eternal plan of salvation. The creation of the nation of Israel as God’s people was to reveal to the world what this meant. This is our first example of the real role of the church – to show others what it means to belong to God and have His love and care. It was to reveal God’s participatory role and intimacy with His people.
Through the long history of Israel in the Old Testament, He slowly reveals His eternal purpose and man’s inability to walk in it. That is also the revelation of the manifold wisdom of God. He not only shows us what He intends but also reveals very clearly that we cannot do it on our own. Everything in the Old Testament points us and leads us towards the New Testament and the coming of Christ. God painstakingly lays out each and every detail, preparing mankind for the outworking of His eternal purpose through the cross. But we should never come to the place where we imagine that the church is His ultimate purpose and that it ‘replaces’ Israel. The real truth is that the church is simply the fulfilment of His purpose, grafting the gentiles into the root stock of His people Israel.
God’s eternal purpose is for all men.
There are some Christians who live in the erroneous belief that Israel ‘had her turn’ and that God has abandoned the Jews in favour of the Christians. This is short-sighted and denies a fundamental characteristic of God – He never abandons those He has called His own. It’s true that for a while, He left Israel to her own choices, but the Bible is very clear that when the time of the gentiles is done, the Jews will have their chance. Even now, Jews are turning to Christ in ever increasing numbers, including rabbis and religious leaders. They are still God’s people, and while He has allowed them free will, He will not abandon them. The significance of the church is that His eternal purpose is that all men should have the opportunity to love, worship, and serve Him. We are all able to come to Him as His people.
We can understand this fully when we look back to the truth that God created mankind for His eternal purpose. At creation, the Jews did not exist as a nation set apart. Knowledge of and relationship with God was freely available to everyone. This still remains His ultimate purpose, and through Christ, every human being has equal opportunity to enter this ‘nation’ of God’s own people. Race or colour has no relevance. All are able to become sons of God through Christ. The church, then, isn’t a particular people set apart in addition to the Jews. It is simply the New Testament people of God in Christ, and Messianic Jews are as much a part of this as any other nationality. The difference is Christ who made possible what is impossible for us. Jesus is the seal upon the people of God through the indwelling Spirit.
God’s eternal purpose in spiritual context.
Satan’s rebellion unleashed a spiritual war that is ongoing and which will last until the Day of Judgement. While believers shouldn’t go around rootling for demons under every rock, we do need to be aware of the spiritual powers and principalities that continually operate around and against us. At the very heart of this conflict is the matter of free will, something Satan recognised and took full advantage of way back in Genesis, and every day since. Satan’s desire is very simple – to steal the people of God and so defeat His eternal purpose. He does this by influencing our choices and the exercise of our free will. Countless millions of people have chosen to turn aside from God toward eternal damnation by their own free will. Our decisions have profound spiritual implications in this ceaseless conflict. Every choice we make, either in the natural or the spiritual, has consequences.
At the fall, God made a spiritual pronouncement that was fulfilled in Christ – the defeat of Satan. I don’t doubt that as he whipped the crowds and religious leaders into a frenzy of hate, the devil thought he was well on his way to defeat God’s eternal purpose. The Son of God was on earth as the Son of Man – wholly human, which meant He could die. I’m certain that as Jesus hung dying on the cross, Satan revelled in the belief that he had the victory. It’s a reminder that while Satan knows a lot more, spiritually, than we do, he doesn’t know the full purposes of God. He certainly didn’t anticipate the resurrection or glorious ascension of Christ. The manifold wisdom of God brought about a victory that could never be denied, reversed, or altered. It was a perfect and complete fulfilment of His eternal purpose.
God’s eternal purpose in Christ.
We can only stand in awe when we see the magnitude of God’s perfect wisdom. With one single sacrifice, He accomplished what mankind could never even hope to achieve. In Jesus, God revealed Himself fully – every characteristic and aspect of His nature. He revealed His desire to have a people to call His own, a desire so great that He was willing to give Himself completely to make it possible. His victory ensured that separation no longer exists between God and His people. All barriers and limitations are torn down and all chains are broken. His eternal purpose is so completely fulfilled that nothing can affect it. Even the limitations and weakness of humanity is no longer an excuse. God has done it all and continues to do it all as we allow Him to move in our lives. It’s constant, ongoing, and powerful because it’s Christ Himself.
What Satan didn’t realise was that in killing the Son of Man, he was opening the door to the ongoing supernatural power of God at work in His people. The veil in the temple was torn, meaning that the final barrier separating man from God was removed. God’s eternal purpose was to have a people all His own, one in which He could dwell in the person of His son, binding us in relationship for eternity. Satan’s perceived victory was what accomplished his own defeat. In Christ is, for the church, a position of permanence. In Jesus, we aren’t simply citizens of a holy nation. We are sons of God, His children as well as His people. Our purpose is to live as such, to manifest the supernatural life of Christ over which Satan has no control. God has lifted His people beyond the control of the evil one forever.
The relevance of God’s eternal purpose for the church.
Today’s verse highlights a powerful truth intrinsically bound to God’s eternal purpose for His church. We are the living testimony of His victory, the symbols of His eternal triumph. Every single believer has a vital role to play in reminding Satan that he has been utterly defeated. Our new life in Christ and God’s supernatural power at work in us continually declare the victory. For this reason, we need to take hold of the full measure of salvation and learn to live in each of the promises fulfilled in Christ. Every time we resist temptation or obey God, we send a message to the powers and principalities. God has the victory and Satan is defeated. Remember, He leads us in His triumph. We are His triumphal procession, the living proof that He has accomplished His eternal purpose and that the victory is perfect and complete.
Thank You, Lord, for all that You have done for us. Thank You for reminding us that nothing can stand against Your eternal purpose and that our enemy is already defeated. Help us to live that victory, rejoicing in all that You are and in the intimacy You so graciously give us. Help us to be a living testimony of Your triumph in all things.