First of all, what's this Eternal Purpose all about anyway? The book of Ephesians teaches us a lot about God's Eternal Purpose. Eph. 3:10-11 tells us that God has an Eternal Purpose centred in Christ and His Church, which involves the Church displaying God's manifest wisdom. Eph. 2:7 teaches us that the Church will display God's grace throughout all eternity, and Eph. 3:21 tells us that the Church, through Christ, is to glorify God throughout eternity. Eph. 1:9-10 teaches us 'that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.' Of course, this isn't all that the Bible (or even just Ephesians) teaches us about God's Eternal Purpose, but just a few key verses.
So how can we summarize the Eternal Purpose? (And notice that I say summarize!) Well, in good preacher-style, with 3 main points:
- God has exalted Jesus Christ to the highest place.
- And God has given Jesus as Head over all things to the Body.
- And so through His Body, Christ is expressing and filling the universe with His presence, His power & His glory.
Let me just zoom in a bit on that last point. Christ is expressing His presence, power and glory through His Body, the Church. And not only does He express His Headship through His Body, but one day He will fill the universe with His presence, His power and His glory, through His Body (remember Eph. 1:9-10).
But that filling isn't only for that future day. Rather, Christ's filling has already begun. In the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul seems quite obsessed with the idea of filling, and links it with the past, the present and the future. Firstly, he tells us in Eph. 4:10 that 'He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.' In other words, Jesus, the One who descended to the earth and to the grave, has now ascended to the right hand of the Father in order to fill. Filling is the purpose of the Ascension. So Christ's filling of all things finds its starting point in the past.
As for the present, Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is that they 'may be filled with all the fullness of God.' (Eph. 3:19). This isn't just a future hope for the fullness of times, but what God wants for us here and now. And it's what we should be praying for.
Finally, Paul shows us a future dimension of this fullness. He tells us that the goal of the growth of the Church is to come to 'to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Eph. 4:13). That growth has now already begun, and we are assured by God in Scripture that it will one day reach its completion.
So, Paul teaches in Ephesians that Christ ascended so as to fill all things, that we should pray now to be filled with all the fullness of God (N.B. Col. 1:19; Col. 2:9), and that one day the Body of Christ will be filled to the measure of the fullness of Christ.
There's more I want to say, but this post is already quite long enough, so I'll have to come back to the matter again. Hopefully tomorrow.