Sunday, June 25, 2017

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon God's Eternal Purpose ]

Lonnie Branam

The Bible says in Ephesians 3:8—11, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the etc~rnal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This passage describes an event which took place before the creation events of Genesis 1. The inspired apostle mentions the eternal purpose of God which He purposed in Jesus Christ before the world began. The beginning of the Bible revelation does not begin in the book of Genesis but in the book of Ephesians. The events of Ephesians 1. happened before the events of Genesis 1. I present for your consideration the Bible topic, “God's Eternal Purpose”. The word purpose in the Greek means a resolve, a design, and a plan. God's eternal purpose is His plan. It is called the eternal purpose because it was designed and formulated in eternity before the material universe came into existence. Before earthly time began, the Bible reveals that God the Father had laid out a future plan which would embrace thousands and thousands of years. God has seen fit, in His goodness, to permit humans to know the thoughts and reason— ings of His mind in eternity and before the material universe came into existence.
The first thing Paul reveals about God's eternal purpose is that it was a hidden mystery for a long period of human history. Paul declares that one reason Christ called him to preach was, “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”(Ephesians 3:9). The eternal purpose of God is called a mystery because it had not been revealed or made known to man. In Colossians 1:25,26 Paul said, “1 am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” We learn from this passage that God's purpose is no longer a mystery because God has made it known to Christians. More light is shed on this fascinating subject in Romans 16:25,26, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” We learn from these scriptures that the religion of Christ contains certain truths which were not made known in previous ages of history. The Bible divides human history into three periods: 1. From Adam to Moses; 2. From Moses to Christ; and 3. From Christ to the end of the world. The only other ages of history before the Christian Age were the Patriarchal Age and the Jewish Age. The Patriarchal Age extended from Adam to Noses and covered a period of some 2500 years. The Jewish Age, also called the Mosaic Age, embraced 1500 years and extended from Moses to the death of Christ. The Christian Age began about 33 A.D. and has lasted a little over 2000 years, and we presently live in the Christian Age. When Paul says that the eternal purpose of God was hidden from ages and generaiond, he means it
was not made known in Patriarchal and Jewish times. For reasons not explained, God did not see fit to reveal his eternal plan to those who lived from Adam to Christ, a period embracing 4,000 years. However, it is no longer a mystery for Paul declared the everlasting God commanded it to be made known so that all nations might obey it.(Romans 16:26) It is a wonderful thing to live in the Christian Age, for we have been given special divine truth which was not known by others who lived from Adam to Christ. The first thing to remember about God's eternal purpose is that it was a mystery for 4,000 years, but it is no longer a mystery. The apostles have revealed it and that which has been revealed and explained is no longer a mystery. How shall we explain the prophecies of the Old Testament, if God's eternal purpose was hidden in the Old Testament perid? There were indeed brief hints of this mystery in the Old Testament, and the prophets did make prophetical statements about God's eternal purpose. However, the prophecies were not understood by the people and God's plan remained a mystery in spite of the prophecies. Even the prophets themselves did not fully understand the prophecies they uttered. I Peter 1:10,11 says, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Had the Jews understood the prophecies they would not have crucified their Messiah. Now, what was this mysterious plan or purpose of God? What was this eternal purpose which was kept secret from all other ages but the Christian Age? Paul tells us two aspects of the mystery in Ephesians. The first point in God's eternal purpose was that the Christian religion was to be the one universal religion for all nations. Ephesians 3:6 declares that one part of the mystery was, “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” The precise line of thought is as follows. God, from eternity, had a purpose to put Jew and Gentile on precisely the same footing, but concealed the fact for many ages, until He revealed it in the Christian religion. The Jews could read many Old Testament prophecies which said that the Gentiles would be brought to God. However, they had no idea this meant the law of Moses would be abolished and replaced by another law which would put Jews and Gentiles on the same level. Paul was imprisoned for teaching that Gentiles could be saved and that they did not have to keep the law of Noses. Paul received a direct mandate from heaven to preach the revolutionary truth that the message of salvation was for the heathen as well as for the Jews. This was the cause of his imprisonment and most other difficulties which troubled him. Unbelieving Israel continues to oppose this great truh. Many Gentile religions today oppose God's eternal plan and refuse to convert to the Christian religion. This plan was devised before creation, and God will reject all who reject Christ and His religion. The greater pert of the Jewish nation rejected this idea of one religion for all races on the same level. However, the Jews lost the favor of God with God when they rejee God's eternal purpose to unite the human race with the one universal religion of Christ. According to Ephesians 2:15, it was God's idea to create in Himself of Jew and Gentile one new man, so making peace between these two divisions of the human race. This was to be brought about by bringing both Jew end Gentile into the one church which Jesus purchased with his blood. It was not known that such an organization was to come into being until the Christian Age which began in 33 A.D, Such a religious organization was and is a new thing on earth, a new order of men and women religiously. Before the New Testament church existed, all people were either Jews or Gentiles, but as people were called out of Judaism and paganism into the Church of Christ, each one was given individually the new name of Christian. Collectively, they constituted the Church of Christ, a new and third division of humanity. I Corinthians 10:32 declares, “Give no offence, either to the Jews, or to the Gentiles, or to the church of God.” When God revealed that He was abolishing the law of Moses as a system of religion to make way for the religion of Christ, the Jews rebelled, for the most part, and were unwilling for God to have His way. In their rebellion to God's eternal purpose, they took Judaism to be God's best and final form of religion and made a furious attempt to stop the progress of Christianity in the world. Moreover, many of the Jews who accepted Christianity never really conceded that the law of Moses was abolished and refused to give full fellowship to Gentile members of the Church of Christ. The idea of one religion for all races is still a very cxplosive truth in the twenty-first century. The human race recognizes twelve or thirteen world religions, and the nations of the world have rejected the ides of one religion for all races, even as the Jews did. They will be shut out of heaven for this rebellion. The preacher who goes into the different countries of the world with the message that the Christian religion is the one true religion for all men, is sure to get into trouble. For example, it is against the law for Christians to meet for public worship in the country of Turkey. and other Arabic countries. Nevertheless, this is God's eternal purpose from the creation of the universe, and God has commanded this message to be preached to all nations for the obedience of faith. God will hold all disobedience accountable. It must be preached, but we are sure to get into trouble when we do it. Hence, the mystery which Paul said was hid for ages and generations is still a mystery to most nations in spite of the fact that it has now been fully revealed and explained. The bringing of Jew and Gentile, with all of their fanatical racial pride and exclusiveness, into one religious organization of Christians, is the masterpiece of God's redeemng wisdom, power, and grace. It was ods eternal purpose that all world religions would cease to exist and that every race, culture, and civilization would unite in the one harmonious church which Jesus purchased with His own blood. This is one part of God's eternal purpose. The second part of God's eternal purpose was to unite heaven and earth Another provision of the plan which God designed before the earth was made is revealed in Ephesians 1:9,10, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hth purposed in himself that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, end which are on earth; even in him.” God's idea, formed in eternity, was to form a united kingdom consisting of the inhabitants of heaven and the inhabitants of earth. Some are of the opinion that after Satan and a great number of angels were cast out heaven, it was God's will to repopulate heaven with the saved people of earth. It would be a harmonious empire composed of unfallen angels in heaven and the restored, redeemed people of earth. This plan is just as much for angels as it is for the human race. God's purpose was to gather together those in heaven and those on earth into one harmonious heavenly empire. This purpose has not been fully effected yet, but all things are moving towards it and one day it will be fully realized.When this takes place heaven will be changed forever. God put Himself under oath that He would give eternal life to all who obey Jesus Christ His Son. The unity between angels and men is not complete at the present time because the earth has been separated from the angelic world by rebellion. All other worlds are subject to Christ, but the people of earth refuse to acknowledge the headship of Christ. The object of God's plan is to restore it to its proper place, so that there shall be one great united empire both of heavenly beings and earthly beings. Everything is to be put under Jesus Christ, and all things are to be brought under His control, so as to constitute one vast harmonious kingdom. Heavenly beings and earthly beings are now separated because of sin but, they shall be united under Christ after which harmony and love shall prevail. This plan will be consummated at the second coming of Christ, at which time the redeemed and saved people of earth will be transferred to heaven, to the region of the angels. God's plan does not call for any kind of an earthly kingdom on earth at the second coming of Christ. The saved of earth will be caught up to the heavenly region where angels and the redeemed of earth will be united forever. It should be carefully noted that the Bible does not teach universal salvation. This united kingdom does not include the angels who rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. 2 Peter 2:4 says, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” Tartarus is a place of imprisonment for the fallen angels till the day of judgment. Furthermore, the New Testament says in Jude 6, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” These rebellious angelic beings shall not be in that harmonious kingdom of angels and men. Moreover, the rebellious people of earth shall not have a part in the ultimate uniting of heavenly and earthly beings. The Bible teaches that the rebellious angels and rebellious people of earth shall be cast into hell and shall not have a part in the ultimate union of heaven and earth. Colossians 1:20 says, “And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” The words, “things in heaven” refer to the unfallen angels who in some way are receiving much benefit from Christ's visit to earth and the establishment of the religion of Christ on earth, One of the aspects of the mystery hidden for ages and generations is stated in Ephesians 3:8—10, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; end to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” This passage reveals that one purpose in establishing the religion of Christ was to display God's infinite wisdom to the inhabitants of heaven. The redemptive work of Christ is something which intrigues angelic beings. The Bible affirms this fact in I Peter 1:12 which speaks of the prophets who spoke prophecies about Christ and His religion: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; with things the angels desire to look into,” This passage asserts the angels are interested in the divine knowledge found in the Christian religion. It was God's design that the gospel of Christ would communicate certain knowledge to the heavenly inhabitants. This is affirmed in Ephesians 3:10, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” Another version renders this passage as follows, “in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” In these verses we learn that the church is the medium through which God's manifold or many—sided wisdom is communicated to the angelic world. Even the highest powers of heaven have much to learn respecting God, and the gospel is one of their lesson books. The design of the New Testament church was to illustrate in the view of all worlds, the great wisdom of God in the plan of salvation. One grand purpose in the creation of the universe and the sending of Christ was that the glory of God's wisdom and character might be clearly shown through the church. Men may ignore and neglect the salvation of Christ, but the highest intelligences in the universe regard it with profound interest. The church is considered irrelevant by the majority of earth, but the Bible says the church is a concrete example of divine wisdom which fascinates the angels. Is it not illuminating to know that men and angels have a common interest in the marvels of the Christian religion? Isn̓t it exciting that what concerns us has bearings elsewhere and involves us in a movement and plan older than humanity? If angelic beings desire to look into the things of the New Testament, surely we human beings should treat the kingdom of God with profound reverence and regard the study of the gospel as worthy of our highest thought. Science has shown that the earth is not the center of the material universe. It has also discovered that the earth is but a speck among the heavenly bodies. Human wisdom has concluded from these facts that the earth is not as important as man once thought. However, the Bible reveals that God is using this planet to reflect his glory to beings in the heavenly world. There is a benevolent influence and divine wisdom emanating from earth and reaching out into the heavenly world and benefitting heavenly beings. We challenge science and higher learning to show that any other planet or heavenly body has such an exalted honor and mission. In view of the fact that God's eternal purpose is being worked out on the earth, it may safely be concluded that this earth is the most important heavenly body in the entire stellar universe. There are billions and billions of heavenly bodies but the angels are fascinated by the small planet earth, for here they learn some things about God which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.



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