A Flowing River and a Tree

A Flowing River and a Tree, this is the first line of a classic hymn. These two represent a certain way that God takes to carry out His eternal purpose. In Genesis chapter 2, we can find the tree of life in the garden of Eden. We also see that a river flows from there. Look at Revelation 22; you can also see a river that flows from God’s throne and with it is the tree of life. These bookends of the Bible are pointing to something about God’s relationship with man, something deep, sweet, and refreshing.

Image and Dominion pointing to God’s Two-fold Need

As seen in Genesis 1:26, God’s eternal purpose is to gain His corporate expression and representation in the universe through man. God is invisible, but He is looking to be seen; that is, He desires an expression. God also has an enemy, Satan, who rebels against God’s authority and drags others with him.

Thus, you might say that God created man to fulfill two needs, expression, and representation. Expression means that man can express God. Through man, God can be expressed in the universe. Representation means that man represents God to subdue the enemy of God. To gain His expression and representation, God created man with His image to express Him and with His dominion to represent Him.

Do you ever feel like Satan is dragging you into sinful things that you don’t want to be in?

I Just Want to be Filled up with the Lord

Regarding expression, how can anyone express someone else without having that one’s life? God created man in His image, as a tripartite vessel, ready to receive God’s life. God then dispenses His own life into man. Ultimately, it is the man who is filled with God’s life, who spontaneously expresses God. To express God is to glorify God. When we talk about God giving life to man, we are not referring to the human life that everyone already has, but we are referring to the uncreated eternal life of God that is freely available to all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ (see John 3:16).

What comes to mind when you hear the word, Life?

For the dispensing to take place, God created man and specifically put Him in a garden. The tree of life in the middle of the garden is symbolic. Furthermore, from Eden flowed a river and this also is symbolic. The tree of life signifies God presenting Himself to man in the form of food. The river signifies the Spirit of God reaching man as living water to satisfy man. Both of these, the tree of life and the flowing river reveal to us God’s dispensing for the fulfilment of His purpose.

The line of life in the Bible

The Bible is comprised of the Old Testament and the New Testament. These two books are not independent but highly related to each other. If you read through the whole Bible, you will see a line, which goes from Genesis to Revelation. This line is the line of life. Let’s begin with two verses in Genesis.

Genesis 2:9-10 And out of the ground Jehovah God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, as well as the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided and became four branches.

Here we see a picture. In the garden of Eden God planted many trees and these were pleasant to the sight and good for food. Among all these trees, in the center of the garden, there was one called the tree of life. Along with this tree there was a river.  After God created man, He put man in front of the tree of life. We know this because God put man in a garden and God put the tree of life in the middle of that garden. Thus, God was pointing man to the tree of life. What a beautiful picture!

Why did God put man in front of the tree of life? He did this with the intention that man eat of the tree of life. This intention comes out from God’s heart’s desire and His purpose. God never expected man to do anything, except to simply eat the tree of life, which signifies God as life to man. The way for man to take God as life is to eat Him.

In the New Testament we can see that this tree of life signifies God incarnated in Christ.

John 1:4 In Him was life and the life was the light of man.

John 14:6 Jesus said to Thomas, I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly.

Hallelujah! We thus know that the life of God that is for us is in Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ came to give life so that we may have life and have it abundantly!

In John 6:57 Jesus then told us to eat Him.

John 6:57 As the living Father has sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.

Did you know that it was Christ Himself who first said that we should eat Him? What other verses show this?

The tree of life is also mentioned in Revelation 22:2 “And on this side and on that side of the river was the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” These verses point out that Jesus Christ Himself is the life for man, as portrayed by the tree of life, which is seen throughout the entire Bible.

If you read the verses in Genesis again, you will find that in the garden there was not only a tree, but also a river. This river which begins in Genesis ends up in Revelation where it is referred to as “a river of water of life”.

Revelation 22:1 And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of its street.

Just as we see the tree of life throughout the entire Bible, so also we see the river running throughout the entire Bible. The river signifies God as the Spirit reaching us as life and quenching our thirst.

John 7:37-38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes into Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.

Jesus came to satisfy us with His life in the same way that a drink of water quenches our thirst. Today Jesus is still offering Himself as food and as water to be our life. The way for us to receive Him is to eat Him and drink Him.

When someone says, Eat Jesus, how does that make you feel?

God made us with a spirit to receive Him and contain Him. Jesus reminded us to use our spirit when contacting Him. In John 4:24 He said, “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.” In John 6:63 He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” To worship God is actually to eat and drink Him. The way to eat and drink Jesus is to exercise our spirit!

Expression First, Then Representation

When Christians get filled up with the Lord within them, they express God in their daily life. It is this type of Christian that then represents God, subduing Satan and kicking him out of their life and their surroundings. Always, in pursuing the Lord, pay attention to the life of God. His life will fill you and then take care of so many things. God’s way to fulfill His purpose, His two-fold need, is life.

Come forward now to get the life

There is a hymn that starts with the words: “Sing praise to Christ who lives in us”. Here is Stanza 7 of this glorious hymn.

Come forward now to God through Him,
Ne’er shrink back to destruction;
Come forward now to get the life,
Which brings the proper function;
Come forward now the life to take,
By life His people us He’ll make,
And swallow death forever.

Finding Out What We Are From the Bible

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The title of this Bible study may surprise you or intrigue you. We will consider the importance of knowing what we are, how man is a vessel to contain God, and what the three parts of man are. All along, we will use illustrations to help us understand. We hope that you open yourself to the Lord and pray and fellowship with others over this material. May God reveal to us more from His word, what we are.

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Importance

When we find out what we are, we see ourselves as if for the first time and know why we are made the way we are made. This affects how we feel from day to day, how we think, and it greatly affects our future. The Bible is God’s word and one function of the word of God is that it is like a mirror, showing us — us. Let us explore a couple of the amazing revelations in the Bible about what we are.

Having the Image of God Showing that we are Vessels to Contain God

Genesis 1:26a And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness

The Bible says that we are made in the image of God and with His likeness. What does it mean for something to be made in the image and according to the likeness of something else? It is worthwhile to consider. An illustration may help. A glove is made in the image of a hand. This makes it so that a hand can slide easily into the glove and occupy the glove. A glove on the table without a hand in it, no matter how beautiful it might be, is useless. Furthermore, if you wanted to show somebody a hand, you might show them a glove. This would be good for describing the hand to some extent. However, only the hand is the reality. Without the hand, the purpose of the glove is meaningless. The glove made in the image of the hand is the container, the vessel for the hand.

In this illustration of the glove, which one are we, the glove or the hand? Which one is God?

Let us read a passage from the book of Romans in the Bible, Romans Chapter 9:

21 Or does not the potter have authority over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? 22 And what if God, wishing to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, 23 In order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom He has also called, not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles? – Romans 9:21-24 

To fulfill His eternal plan, God made man as a vessel. A vessel is a container, like a bottle, to carry some content. The beverages at a grocery store come in bottles. We are God’s bottles. We are God’s vessels!

What is your favorite drink?
What do you feel like when you see a bottle of that drink, but the bottle is empty?
What requirements must be met for a bottle to receive and contain your favorite drink?

Man – a “tripartite” vessel

God created us as vessels to contain Him. However, we are not simple vessels, but vessels of three parts. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Can you find the three parts in this verse? They are spirit, soul and body. So, we call man a “tripartite” vessel or being.

Christians-on-Campus-God-coming-into-our-spirit

The Body

The first part of man is the body, the physical part. The body contacts and receives the things of the physical realm. We read using our eyes and listen to music using our ears, etc. Through our physical body, we can live on the earth.

The Soul

The second part of man is the soul. The soul contacts and receives the things of the psychological realm. It has three parts or organs: your mind, your emotion and your will. As you are trying to understand the lectures and do your homework, you are using the organ of your mind. You love your families and your friends. You may get excited about passing an exam. This is your emotion being stirred up. And as you determine to join this bible study to find out more about God and man, you are using your will to make a decision. In addition to those daily experiences, God has His purpose in creating the soul.

The following short quotation summarizes the usefulness of our soul: “The soul is the part of man created by God for us to know Him, love Him and turn to Him so we can be saturated with God and express Him.” (Lesson Book, Level 1: Salvation—God’s Full Salvation, published by Living Stream Ministry) 

The Spirit

The third part of man is the spirit. It is the deepest part of man. In the Bible, the spirit was called by different names. Ephesians 3:16 says “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit into the inner man.” Here the human spirit is referred to as “the inner man”. 1 Peter 3:4 says “But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptible adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, which is very costly in the sight of God.” In this verse, the spirit is called “the hidden man of the heart”.

Did you realize that in addition to the body and soul, we have this part in us called the spirit? It is one of the most important revelations in the entire Bible. Why is the human spirit so important? Man was created because of the desire of God’s heart and for His eternal purpose. Furthermore, God wants to contact man and would like man to contact Him and to receive Him. In other words, God wants to impart His life into man.

Ephesians 5:18 says “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in spirit”. We contact the physical world through our body and the psychological world through our soul. The spirit is the organ we use to contact God and to receive God’s life into us! Hallelujah! Because we have a human spirit, we do not have to be independent or isolated from God. This spirit is in each one of us, so we can all contact God and receive God into us.

As you exercise your body to keep it healthy and as you are in college to train your mind with a lot of knowledge, you have to always remember: In order to fulfill God’s purpose, the spirit needs to be exercised regularly to contact God, to receive God and to contain God.

How about you? What is your experience? Take some time to share with one another how you exercise your spirit to contact God.

Finally, can you answer this question: What does the Bible reveal concerning what we are?

If you have the time, we encourage you to read another post that has a razor sharp focus on the human spirit: The Tripartite Man and the Exercise of our Spirit

A Corporate Man Fulfilling God’s Great Plan

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A Corporate Man In Genesis 1:26

Out of the desire of God’s heart, and for the fulfilling of His eternal purpose, God made a decision to create man. He did this in eternity past. The Bible then describes this creation in Genesis.

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Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

In the verse above, the word “man” is singular, while the word “them” is plural. How can this be? This indicates that this man created by God is a corporate man, a collective man, including all mankind. God created mankind collectively in one person, Adam. God created such a corporate man in His image and according to His likeness with the intention that this man might express God corporately. However, we also know that Adam sinned and fell away from God. This is what we call the fall of man. The ensuing corporate man failed God. He did not ultimately express God.

The eternal purpose of God, however, could never be deterred. God sent His only Begotten Son to die for man and redeem man. In Christ, man has come back to God. Dear friends, this is truly wonderful, but we have to say, there is still more! God is still looking for that man that is not only redeemed, but also corporate. How could many men be made into one man?

In the last Bible study, we saw the goal of God’s selection: to make us His many sons. Sons in the Bible show the reproduction of their father, that is, the impartation of the life of the father into his sons. Thus, man becomes the expression of God by receiving the impartation of God’s life. Furthermore, God not only wants us to receive His life, He also wants us to be built together. It is by receiving God’s life and by being built together that we are made into this corporate man which fulfills God’s plan. Genesis 1:26 shows us the creation of man. It also reveals that God’s heart was for this man to be filled with Him and for this man to be a corporate man.

  • How can we see the corporate man in Genesis 1:26?
  • How can we say that this verse reveals that God’s heart was for this man to be filled with Him?

The Church

Ephesians 1:22-23 And He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, 23 Which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; 21 In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.

As we saw in the last lesson, the sons of God all have God’s life. Actually, God’s life is not a thing but a Person, God Himself. To have this life is just to have a living Person in us, the living God Himself. When these many individual people become filled with the one living God, they become one corporate God-man. They are no longer many individuals. They have all become the many parts of this one corporate man, the many members of the Body of Christ.

What is the church? The church is a people filled up with God as their life. They are no more just individuals who care for their own things. Instead, they are many individuals who are being filled up with God as their life and are being built up together in Him. When they are living in this one life, they have the one image of God. They are His one expression and they represent God with His authority. (Lesson Book, Level1: Salvation, published by Living stream Ministry)

A Holy Priesthood

The matter of a corporate man is also seen in the priesthood.

Exodus 19:6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.

1 Peter 2:5 You yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people acquired for a possession, so that you may tell out the virtues of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

We can see from both the Old and New Testaments that God’s heart is to gain a group of people. This group of people serve God together and are called the priesthood. Exodus 19:6 uses the words, a kingdom of priests, which surely refers to a group of people and not just individuals. The word priesthood is used in 1 Peter 2:5 to indicate a serving body of priests. We can read it with an emphasis on hood, priest-HOOD. The priesthood can refer to the plurality and togetherness of the priests and it can also refer to the work of the priests. The Old Testament priests served in a physical building and had physical duties. The New Testament priests offer up spiritual sacrifices to God.

  • Who are the “living stones”?
  • How does the “spiritual house” relate to the “holy priesthood”
  • What does Peter mean when he says, “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”?

This priesthood includes all the believers. Even the Old Testament verse says, “be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. This means that the words were not for a special class of people but to all God’s people, to the whole nation. The verse continues, “these are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” 1 Peter 2:5 in The New Testament says, “you yourselves also, ” and 1 Peter 2:9 speaks of “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people.”

If you are a Christian, then you are part of God’s people. You are also part of God’s holy nation, and you are certainly part of His royal priesthood. There should not be spectators in the Christian life, like there are at professional sports games. Rather, all the believers are the professional athletes that need to suit-up and play the game at the highest level.

  • Have you ever thought of yourself as a priest?
  • Take some time to discuss among you about what it takes to become a priest?
  • How does God gain the priest-HOOD?

God’s calling of us to be saved and to serve Him is the highest calling and the most noble. God is the highest. Furthermore, on the cross, His Son Jesus Christ also bought us with a price; He paid the price for all our sins with His precious blood and we actually belong wholly to Him. In God’s heart He has a deep longing, purpose, and plan. This plan includes you, your being filled with Him, and your being built up with others. Just consider this.

Yes, This is Our Destiny

Eph-1-5-Predestinating-us-unto-sonship-through-Jesus-Christ-for-Gods-full-salvation

In this Bible study we zoom in on the first steps of God’s economy and see how they are altogether for God’s goal, which is to gain His many sons.

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God’s Economy to carry out His Heart’s desire and eternal purpose

Ephesians 1:5 Predestinating us unto sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Ephesians 1:9 Making known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself,

Ephesians 1:10 Unto the economy of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in Him;

Ephesians 3:9 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,

Christians-on-campus-Gods-plan-Good-Pleasure-Purpose-Economy-Animated

This diagram is a carry-over from last week. Review its significance with your group.

If you would like, you can review last week’s post here: A Rare View of Eternity Past

God’s Selection for His Economy

Ephesians 1:4 Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before Him in love,

Romans 9:20-21 But rather, O man, who are you who answer back to God? Shall the thing molded say to him who molded it, Why did you make me thus? 21 Or does not the potter have authority over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?

The first step of God’s economy happened before creation. This step is God’s selection.
As the sovereign God, He is free to choose what He wants and do what He wants. He is like a potter molding the clay in whatever way He chooses. As the clay, we cannot say to our creator, “why…?”

His choosing is His selection. From among innumerable people, He selected us. This He did in Christ. Christ was the sphere in which we were selected by God. Outside of Christ we are not God’s choice. This took place in eternity past. God chose us according to His infinite foresight before He created us.

Have you ever been impressed with the fact that God chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world? Whenever I think of God choosing me in eternity past, I am filled with worship and praise to Him. I do not need to be chosen by man, for I have been chosen by the Triune God.

Christians often say to the Lord, “O Lord, we did not first love You. You were the One who first loved us.” However, concerning God’s selection, we need to say. “Lord, we didn’t choose You—You chose us.” We all need to thank the Lord for His eternal selection, the selection made in eternity past for eternity future. We have been selected not to occupy a position of prominence in the world, but to be in the church. God’s selection was for the church. (Life Study of Ephesians, Chapter 75)

Fellowship with your group about God’s selection. Compare God’s selection with being selected for prominent positions in the world.

To the genuine Christians, those who have believed in Jesus Christ, the Bible says: you have been chosen. You have been selected. Is this not cause for rejoicing and worship? Praise the Lord!

God’s Predestination for His Economy

Ephesians 1:5 Predestinating us unto sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Romans 8:29 Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers;

The second step in God’s economy is His Predestination. God knows all things, the past, the present, and the future. He is the source and initiator. Therefore, before you and I were born, He knew us. Not only so, but He looked at all those whom He would create and marked them for a certain destiny. This was His predestinating us as is mentioned in Ephesians 1:5. In his translation of the Bible, John Nelson Darby used the words “having marked out”. In fact, God marked us out for something really special, to be His many sons and to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

What have you previously heard about predestination, and what do you now see concerning God’s predestination?

Sonship – the goal of God’s Selection

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how is it that you say, Show us the Father?

Colossians 1:15 [Christ] Who is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation,

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Matthew 5:48 You therefore shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Romans 8:23 And not only so, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan in ourselves, eagerly awaiting sonship, the redemption of our body.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been manifested what we will be. We know that if He is manifested, we will be like Him because we will see Him even as He is.

God uses a human concept to represent the goal of His economy. That concept is sonship.  Sons in the Bible show the reproduction of their father, that is, the impartation of the life of the father into his sons. In the Bible there is also a strong tie between sons and expression. How does the father get expressed? It is through the son. We can also see the concept of inheritance. As they grow to maturity, it is the sons who receive the inheritance of their father. Therefore, sons show the matter of life, expression, and maturity.

This concept of sonship in the Bible does not have to do with gender. All the dear sisters in the church are also the sons of God and the brothers of Christ. When the Lord Jesus refers to His brothers in the Bible, He is also including all the sisters.

How can the many sons of God fulfill the desire of God’s heart?

You can learn more about our predestination in this related post:
Predestinated

Having been predestinated, God calls us. Have you experienced God’s calling? This related post sheds light on our calling:
Called

A Rare View of Eternity Past

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The book of Ephesians in the Bible is a deep book. If we read it too quickly, it is easy to miss God’s thought. We start to explore God’s full salvation in this deep book. The apostle Paul wrote Ephesians with a rare view of eternity past. God showed Paul something that was in God’s own heart, something that was there in eternity past, even before creation.

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Our aim here, is to see what was in God’s heart. May God give us the spiritual eyes to see such a thing! Then we want to see His eternal purpose which is precisely according to what is in His heart. Finally, God’s heart and His purpose result in His economy, which is His way to fulfill His purpose and the desire of His heart. 

God’s plan in eternity past

What is in God’s heart is God’s good pleasure. God’s good pleasure is revealed in multiple verses.

Ephesians 1:5 says: Predestinating us unto sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. 

Verse 9 says: Making known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, 

As you can see, verse 9 also shows us how God’s purpose is His will that is according to His good pleasure.

God’s good pleasure and HIs purpose result in God’s economy. Verse 10 says: Unto the economy of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in Him. 

Because both verses 5 and 9 above state that God’s will (or purpose) is according to His good pleasure, then we can say that what God plans to do is out from His heart’s desire. The illustration below may help.Christians-on-campus-Gods-plan-Good-Pleasure-Purpose-Economy-Animated

Chapter 3 of Ephesians further reveals God’s economy. Take a moment to read verses 9 through 11.

9 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, 10 In order that now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies the multifarious wisdom of God might be made known through the church, 11 According to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s good pleasure

God’s good pleasure is a very significant term in the book of Ephesians. It refers to God’s desire, which is the delight of God’s heart. Our good pleasure is what makes us happy. We are all seeking a certain kind of pleasure. The pleasure we seek comes from the desire of our heart, deep within us. It is good to stop and consider these things. 

  • Consider what pleasure you seek.
  • What do you plan to do to carry out the desires of your heart?

God also has His pleasure. There is something within God’s heart that pleases Him and makes Him happy. It is because there is something in God’s heart that He plans what He plans and does what He does.

Ephesians chapter one, thus speaks about what is in God’s heart. In this chapter, we see that the issue of what started in God’s heart is the church. Go back, and read, and see if you can find the church in Ephesians chapter one. The church is the desire of God’s heart, His good pleasure. The church is not a physical building in your neighborhood; it is something spiritual and something out from the heart of God. May we all have such a deep and even eternal view of the church.

If you would like, you can read all of Ephesians chapter 1: here

God’s eternal purpose

How can we know God’s eternal purpose? It is revealed in the Bible. Ephesians 1:11 says: 

In whom (Christ) also we were designated as an inheritance, having been predestinated according to the purpose of the One who works all things according to the counsel of His will. 

God’s purpose is God’s will, God’s goal. This purpose is according to God’s good pleasure and comes out from His good pleasure. If we want to know God’s purpose, we must go back to the beginning of the Bible and find God’s purpose.  Genesis 1:26 says: 

And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. 

At the beginning of the Bible is God’s creation. The ultimate step of His creation is His creation of man. His creation of man was special. In it we find God’s eternal purpose. 

God’s eternal purpose is to have a group of people, a corporate man, created in His image and likeness. God desires this man to be filled with Him as life in order to express Him and have His dominion to represent Him. 

  • Can you point out image and dominion in Genesis 1:26?
  • How can we say that God desires a corporate man?
  • How would you describe God’s purpose using Genesis 1:26?

When we speak of God’s purpose, we specifically say that it is eternal. Eternal means without beginning and without ending. God had this purpose before time began and it will never change. This is why Ephesians 3:11 says:

According to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

God’s economy

God’s economy describes all the steps God takes to carry out His purpose. In brief, God’s economy is His dispensing Himself into man to produce the church as His corporate expression. God is like a rich father who distributes the riches to His whole household. God’s riches are just Christ Himself and His household is us, the church! Thus, His economy is His household administration through which He dispenses Himself as the divine life to us. The excerpt below talks of God’s economy, Christ, and the Church. 

God’s economy is Christ with the church. As we consider God’s economy as revealed in the book of Ephesians, we need to pray that the Lord will give us an open heaven with a clear sky. If we would know God’s economy, not only must we have the knowledge of the book of Ephesians; we must also touch the reality contained in this book. We are not for mere knowledge—we are for reality. The reality in the book of Ephesians is God’s economy concerning Christ with the church.

In relation to God’s purpose, the word economy is unfamiliar to many Christians. The Greek word for economy, oikonomia, is used three times in Ephesians. In 1:10 Paul speaks of a dispensation, or economy, of the fullness of the times, in which all things will be headed up in Christ. In 3:2 he speaks of the stewardship of the grace of God, and in 3:9, of the dispensation of the mystery. The English word economy is an anglicized form of oikonomia, which means administration, stewardship, arrangement, or dispensation. In particular, in this sense economy denotes dispensing. God’s economy is to dispense Himself into His chosen people. Apart from Himself, God has nothing to dispense into His chosen ones. Hence, His economy is to dispense Himself into us. This is altogether related to Christ with the church. (Life Study of Ephesians, chapter 75)

Christ not only came into us to be our life when we became a Christian, but He is ready to dispense Himself into us all the time.  May we all open wide and turn to this wonderful One. He is rich and sweet.

Through the course of this Bible study on God’s full salvation, we will see how we are saved from our sins, how we escape judgment, how we are filled with joy, life and peace, and how we become truly spiritual people.  We hope that by our having taken this scenic view of eternity past, we also see that God’s full salvation takes care of God’s need. Thus, as we progress through our Christian life, receiving His dispensing, God’s heart’s desire is fulfilled more and more.