The Cross and God's Eternal Purpose
Chapter 1 - God's Plan
Readings: Eph. 1:11; 3:11. Romans 8:28. 2 Tim. 1:9. Col. 1:27.
What appears in the first instance in these passages is the fact
that God has a definite purpose in view or, as other
versions translate, that everything is ordered after a set plan.
Then we see that that purpose has to do with a mystery which
has been hid from ages. It is Paul to whom the Lord has revealed in
a special way that mystery, and who, therefore, speaks of a Gospel
which he calls his Gospel, glad tidings, which were not given him by
men, but by the Lord Himself.
This mystery is gathered up in Christ Jesus, with a view to the
fulfilment of the purpose of God in Christ Jesus finding its full
development through the church. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to
lead us into the fulfilment of God's eternal purpose as to our
lives. Our lives become definite and steadfast in the measure in
which we recognise clearly this purpose and plan of God.
There are two things which must be considered in a special way.
Firstly, that no one apart from the Holy Spirit knows what that
eternal purpose of God is. Those who have worked most for God
would have been unable to recognise God's purposes without the help
of the Holy Spirit. Although God's plan is laid down in the Old
Testament, the New Testament only reveals it to us. In the light of
the New Testament only do we see in the types and symbols of the Old
Testament what God wanted from the beginning, in order to realise it
in the fulness of time.
Secondly, we have to note that our fruitfulness in the service of
the Lord depends on how much we co-operate with God with regard to
His eternal purpose and aim. For everyone who has been called
into the service of the Lord there comes, sooner or later, a time
when he recognises that all his own effort and work is for nothing;
that it does not only mean to die to the world, to sin and to self,
but that to be crucified with Jesus must embrace our service
also. But then, when we have denied ourselves in that respect
also, when our hope for fruitful work rests only and solely on the
confidence that God Himself is going to work out everything in us,
will our work bring forth abiding fruit.
Let us, in view of what we have said, recognise:
1. The absolute necessity that the Holy Spirit should reveal Christ
2. The absolute government and leadership of the Holy Spirit in our
3. The complete subjection of our lives to Christ.
4. The absolute necessity that our life should be completely guided
and directed after God's Word alone.
Having arrived there, where these principles fill us, work in us, and
direct us, God will commit Himself to us, He will take over the
responsibility of our ministry, and all things, whatever they may
be, will work together for good. The "good" will then no longer be
merely our wellbeing, and the fulfilment of our desires. The "good"
is the realisation of the will of God, so that all things
serve this one and exclusive purpose. In the life of the Apostle
Paul were many things which seem to the natural man not "good" at
all, and even less pleasant. But Paul says that they had been
contributory to the extension of the Gospel, and to the manifesting
of its power.
What can we do other than say, out of the depth of our heart, Lord,
bring my life completely into line with Thy eternal purpose! When
that is done, when that happens, there will be, even in the
humblest, most remote life, eternal possibilities; nothing,
absolutely nothing, will remain without significance and importance.
Everything stands in the realisation of the highest good; everything
serves the fulfilment of God's eternal plan. The many things
will cease; in their place there will be the one thing.
Activities which before had been valued as a sign of good work will
give place to the quiet, deepening work of the Holy Spirit, that He
may give His time to all, that He may show us everything in its true
light, and all things may serve the one goal.
We know now that God works after a definite plan. We shall see that
God is using special methods in the realisation of this plan. There
must be a recognition that God, in the bringing forth of His eternal
purpose, works after specific times.
An uninterrupted close walk in the Spirit with the Father made it
possible for the Son to know moment by moment what the Father
wanted, so that nothing was ineffective by its being done at the
wrong time. The watchword of our Lord, with which we meet so often,
is: "Mine hour..." His whole life was concentrated in the hour, and
directed toward it. Every act of His was in relation to this hour.
And when He said: "Father, the hour is come," His life was
accomplished, and that exactly in the hour the Father had appointed
We are so often defeated because we are not one with our Lord in His
time. It would be of tremendous significance for our whole life if
we were all the time conscious that the specific purpose has also
its specific time.
When God begins to use us, in order to realise His eternal purpose
with us in a fuller way, we must not be surprised if spiritual
conflict and spiritual sufferings are bound up with it. When Abraham
had received the promise (Genesis 15) and asked for a special sign,
he was given the grace to share in the sufferings of God for the
preparation of His people. When the sun went down a great fear came
upon Abraham, and "an horror of great darkness fell upon him."
Previously he had offered the sacrifices, pointing to the sacrifice
of Jesus Christ, the Cross of Calvary. He had to fight against the
fowls which came down to take away the sacrifices. In that horror of
darkness Abraham experienced in some way the anguish and suffering
related to the deliverance of a people after four hundred and thirty
years of captivity in Egypt. God gave him a share in His own
sufferings; and how could God honour His fellow-workers more?
So we see Daniel wrestling in prayer for his people. We see him in
great anguish, because of the history which had been shown to him.
Paul speaks of being ready to fill up in his flesh that which is yet
lacking of the afflictions of Christ for the Body's sake, His
The highest honour wherewith God can honour us is when He makes us
fellow-workers to whom He reveals His plan, and whom He uses as
instruments for its fulfilment, and who may share in the
sufferings which are bound up with it.
The knowledge of God's eternal plan is given us by the Word. It was
a mystery throughout the ages. In the Old Testament everything
points to the future, to Christ. He gathers up everything in
Himself, and everything becomes in Him highest reality. But then
this fulness which is in Him is given to His Church, and from that
point on our eyes are not only directed forward but backward also.
The mystery of which the Scriptures speak has three parts:
1. It relates to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That is why the
Scriptures speak of the "mystery of Christ."
2. It relates to the individual believer, whose relationship with
Christ is called by Paul a mystery, the mystery "Christ in you."
3. It relates to the corporate assembly, His Church.
We know that the Ark of the Covenant represents the Lord Jesus
Christ. Because the Philistines did not recognise that, it meant
death and destruction to them. When they had captured the Ark, and
triumphantly set it up in the temple of Dagon, they found Dagon
smashed before the Ark of the Covenant. Wherever the Ark came there
was sickness and death. The "mystery of Christ" was effective in
judgment. The Ark of the Covenant manifested itself as "a savour of
death unto death," because some did not approach it by the way God
The individual believer is in a similar way a mystery to his
surroundings. The world cannot understand that he remains perfectly
calm in all things, full of peace and joy. The world cannot
understand that death does not make him afraid, and that all his
hope is set upon that which the human mind cannot grasp. It is the
mystery of the Christ in us, which works in such a wonderful way,
and leads men to recognise that Christ is verily risen and lives in
This testimony is especially committed to the whole. It is given to
the Church to confirm again and again the fact of the resurrection
by the consciousness of her heavenly position, and a walk in the
power of the new life. We must not wonder that the enemy is making
tremendous efforts to rob the Church of her secret. We must not
wonder if he tries to constitute her an earthly matter, a popular
Church which may be occupied with social activities, but whose
heavenly nature and heavenly being must not appear. We have to say
that the enemy has unfortunately succeeded all too well to drag the
Church down on to an earthly level, to make her something for men,
governed by men, so that her salt and her light has been lost in a
If we will, as an assembly, co-operate to realise the eternal plan,
then we must see to it that we, in every individual member, are
filled with the mystery "Christ in you;" that we know in a living
way what our heavenly position, our heavenly vocation,
our heavenly ministries are, in order to stand as those who
represent the Body of Christ on this earth, in such power and such
fulness that their Head is "glorified in them." (John 17).
Christendom of our day has become for many a system of diverse teachings.
For the believers at the beginning of Christianity it was not a
matter of teaching, but only and solely to know the Lord Jesus
Christ Himself. All that which belongs to Christian life and
Christian experience, all that which embodies teaching and truth,
all the orderings in the Church, yes, the Church itself in its
purpose and nature, is, in the New Testament, in closest relation to
the knowledge which is presented in Christ Jesus Himself. To
know Him means to know every other thing. Therefore we must
not be surprised if the longing of the Apostle right to the end of
his life is this one only: "To know Him and the power of His
To lead us into the knowledge of Jesus Christ is the ministry of the
Holy Spirit, because He only sees and beholds the One "in whom we
are made full," or complete. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of all
that which relates to God. In Him appears what was in the thought of
God. He is the perfect revelation of God. "He that hath seen Me,
hath seen the Father." How foolish it is to try by this or that
teaching, separated from the whole truth, to represent Christ. Our
need is that we possess the whole, not making ourselves advocates of
this truth or that truth, and thus giving away the truth which in
itself is one, complete, connected.
The prophet Ezekiel has to give us, in connection with this, a
serious lesson. In chapters 40-47 the full measure of our Lord Jesus
Christ is shown to us, because, if in those chapters there is so
much said about measures, almost nothing else but measures, what
does this mean other than that God wants to tell us most clearly,
and bring before our eyes most vividly, that everything depends on His
Chapter 43 verse 10 says: "Shew the house to the house of Israel."
Jesus Christ is the pattern which God has appointed for us. He is
the embodiment of all the thoughts of God. If nothing is said of the
glory of this temple, if we meet again measures only, it means that
the glory of God cannot come in unless the measure of God is
complete. Therein lies the message of these chapters. And have we not to confess that the thoughts and purposes of God for His
people, His Church, have been lost very largely; that human thoughts
have intruded themselves, that human principles have gained ground
in the Church. The more we possess in our hearts a living knowledge
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the more the fulness and glory of God will
become great and manifest to us.
What we need, therefore, is to know the Lord Jesus Christ as those
who do not ask many questions, but who desire to know one thing
only, how to walk through Him (as did Ezekiel through the Temple)
after the good pleasure of God. The Holy Spirit can reveal Jesus
Christ in our hearts as to every detail in our lives. And only in
the measure in which the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus Christ to us does
He solve also, at the same time, all our problems; because the
answer to all our problems is Jesus Christ.
For Paul Christ was the unveiling of a heavenly world. From the time
he saw the Lord the earthly order of things had gone for him. It was
gone with the crucified One, and for ever set aside. The Risen One
meant "all things new." In Him everything was raised to a new life,
and that life was the perfect expression of the Son of God Himself.
He was the measure, the fulness of all things. Everything has to be
according to Him; everything has to be a reflection of Himself. Paul
has accepted in all its consequences the separating line which God
had drawn on the Cross between himself and the old world. "The world
is crucified to me..."
We know very little of this uncompromising, unreserved position, and
turning to this new thing. That is why the goal is only dimly
recognised, and the methods are so little of a Divine nature. May
the Lord be pleased to turn our eyes away from all that which is of
man, and direct them fully and entirely on Christ Himself.
May a deep longing after a fuller knowledge of our Lord fill our
hearts. May Jesus, and He as the Risen One, permeate our thinking
and life, so that everything is according to His Nature and Being,
His measure and His Will. We need Him, not only some teachings about
Him. Filled with Christ, the Church has to be His testimony to the
world, a testimony which cannot be overlooked, a testimony in the
power of His resurrection.