A friend of mine recently asked me, "What is God's purpose?"
What is God's plan? What is He all about? What is He after?
Most religious people say that God's purpose is our salvation. The theme of the Bible is redemption, right? In a sense, yes. See Ephesians 1:3-6 and 1 Peter 1:17-21.
But I would suggest to you that salvation is merely the means to the end.
In Genesis 1:20-25, God created all kinds of animals on the earth - birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, etc. - on days five and six of the creation week. But in verses 26-27, not only do we learn that He created mankind, but that mankind is very unique among God's creation.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"
Did you catch that? Unlike the elephants, hawks and dolphins, we're made "in the image of God." God is a spirit (John 4:24). We are made in His image in that we have an eternal spirit within us as well. Verses such as 2 Corinthians 4:16 contrast the "outward man" which is perishing with the "inward man" which is being renewed daily. This "inward man," or spirit (or soul), is something that we alone share in common with God. It is what allows us to live eternally (Matt. 10:28).
Whether it's part of our 'spirit' or simply the superior way in which God designed our brain, we also have a unique ability to reason, emote and discover. No other animal is like us.
Why did God create us to be so unique? Why did He give us an eternal spirit?
Because He wanted to create a being with whom He could have fellowship! Not only is this implied in Genesis 1:26-27, this is exactly what we see in Genesis 2-3. God created a garden paradise for mankind to inhabit - the Garden of Eden - and gave us everything that we could ever want or need. In Genesis 3:8, we learn that God was in the habit of walking in intimate fellowship with mankind in the Garden.
Of course, God was still God. He was over us and gave us law, not only to define our free-will, but to show His authority over us. And rightfully so! He is our Creator!
But Adam and Eve sinned! Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) because "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). So they were exiled from Eden. Paradise was lost!
Unfortunately, the plague of sin didn't stop there.
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).
Adam's sin paved the way for his progeny to sin. In fact, we "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). And what is sin? The transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4). All of us have violated God's law - whether it is/was the law written on our hearts; i.e. the moral law, or conscience, that we all instinctively have within us (Romans 2:14-16), or the revealed law of God (Romans 10:17). Christians believe that the Bible constitutes God's revealed law.
Our sins have removed us from the very special fellowship for which we were designed. This isn't God's fault. It's our fault! We have sinned! We have separated ourselves from God. And there was nothing that mankind could do to rectify this problem.
This is where God's "scheme of redemption" comes in.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will..." (Ephesians 1:3-9).
Throughout the Old Testament, God's purpose was a "mystery." There was foreshadowing and prophecy that pointed forward to some grand climax - the seed of Abraham, a prophet like Moses, a descendant of David, would come to establish a spiritual kingdom during the days of the Roman Empire, beginning in Jerusalem. This messianic king would be "wounded for our transgressions" and "the Lord...laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6). In so doing, He would redeem us and establish not only a new kingdom, but a new covenant.
God's plan was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and the New Testament reveals God's mystery! As Paul says in Ephesians 1, we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
But again, salvation was only the means to the end!
Paul goes on in Ephesians 1:10 to say the following about our salvation...
"...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!"
And in chapter two, we learn that Jesus' death:
- Destroyed the barriers that divide mankind (vs. 14).
- Reconciled us to God (vs. 16).
- Granted us citizenship in His kingdom (vs. 19).
- Allowed God to dwell within us (vs. 21-22).
God created mankind to have fellowship with Him. Even though we sinned and separated ourselves from God, God made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could regain access to His fellowship. For those who will humbly believe and obey Him, we not only have fellowship with God here, we have the promise of eternal fellowship with Him one day.
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21).
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever" (Rev. 22:1-5).
So what is God's purpose? Our salvation? Yes. To be praised by His creation? Yes. But above all else, His purpose is fellowship. This is why He made us, and this is His hope for each one of us.