The Plan of God

The Plan of God

Our view of the world begins with our view of God. The way we think about God shapes the way we think about everything else, along with the way we act and respond to every circumstance. Because of this, we need to get our thoughts about God straight at the beginning of our journey. In other words, as we set out to tell the story of the Bible, we have to begin with God. He is the Author of the Bible and the hero of every story found in it, so we can’t even think about telling the story without starting with him (Bruno, Chris. The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (p. 17). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

God possesses a chosen people with a divine purpose longing for a sacred place.

A Chosen People

Q: Who are these people?

A: They are an image-bearing, blended-family united by Jesus.

Image-Bearing (Genesis 1:26-31)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness

Scripture tells us that God made man and women to resemble Him. This is a challenging concept to describe in a short period of time, but author Chris Bruno helpfully explains that this “most likely (means) that the image of God is bound up in both the characteristics and the relational tendencies that we share with God. Bruno, Chris. The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (p. 24). Crossway. Kindle Edition.”

Much of our image-bearing revolves around our divine purpose in which we will cover later. However, I want to make mention of an important aspect of our likeness towards God. Notice how the text references God saying “let us make man in our image.” God, whom we define as one, addresses Himself in the plural. This reference to the Trinity demonstrates a very important principle: God is a relational being. His very nature reveals a relational dynamic between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. I mention this because this relational God made us in His relational image. Thus, we were made to relate to God and with each other.

Relating to others becomes an extremely important responsibility as image-bearers of God. God not only wants us to relate to Him but also with our family. God created image-bearing people who would ultimately reside in a larger, blended-family.

Blended-Family (Genesis 12:1-3; Ephesians 2:11-12)

Now the Lord said to Abram… I will make of you a great nation

Without having the time to discuss fully what happens between creation and this moment with Abraham, let me summarize by six words: sin, Noah, flood, more sin, Abraham. Remember, God’s plan is to possess a chosen people. These chosen people will not only bear His image, now marred by sin but also will be a large family. God tells Abraham, I’m going to make you a great nation.

In Genesis 15 God visits Abraham again and says:

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.

This family, that God promises to Abraham becomes known as the nation of Israel. This physical line from Abraham includes Jesus. Why is this important? Because of the boundaries of this physical lineage, now through Jesus, extends to adopt those outside of Abraham’s physical seed. In Ephesians 2, Paul addresses non-Jewish Christians and reminds them of their heritage. Listen to Paul’s word in verses 11-12:

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world

So, now we have Abraham’s seed inclusive of a lineage not directly related. How is this possible?  The family of Abraham becomes a blend-family Jesus Christ.

United by Jesus (Ephesians 2:13-22)

Paul tells us how these Gentiles are no longer outside of God’s family. In verse 13, Paul says “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

In verse 19, Paul goes on to explain further the expansion of this blended-family:

1So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

According to Paul, the line of Abraham through Jesus has become the household of God. This household, made up of one-body, includes jews and gentiles. We know this references the living part of this family today as the Church. What we see though, in the big picture, is that God has a chosen people: an image-bearing, blended-family united by Jesus.

Now that we’ve established God has a chosen people, we need to press further to understand the second component of God’s plan: a divine purpose

A Divine Purpose

Q: What is the divine purpose of these people?

A: To multiply the creation and the Kingdom of God

Multiply the creation (Genesis 1:26-31)

God creates man and woman (chosen people) in His image and then instructs them to have dominion over creation (divine purpose). The dominion which mankind possessed existed in physical expansion and intentional care over the earth. Consequently, this plan (and work) of God was good (Gen. 1:31). Let’s take a look at God’s purpose for His chosen-people to multiply creation.

Through Physical Expansion

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth

“When Adam and Eve were called to subdue the earth, they were called to expand the garden. But this was not just some ancient form of suburban sprawl. Instead, it was a command to expand the territory where God himself lived. In other words, as they had children and their children had children, they were charged with expanding the dominion where God dwelt with his people. Bruno, Chris. The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (p. 25). Crossway. Kindle Edition.”

Chew on this with me for a moment: God made you to possesses His characteristics and relational tendencies. When He created man and women, God desired for them to resemble Him.  “Just as earthly rulers [build statues] of themselves…as signs of their claims to dominion, so humans in the likeness of God are placed on earth as signs of God’s majesty and are called to maintain and carry out God’s claim to dominion on earth” (G. von Rad, “Vom Menschenbild des AT,” Jenni, E., & Westermann, C. (1997). Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (p. 1084). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers)

We’ve all had the moment where our parents sat us down before a big event or moment in our life to address our behavior. The conversation begins with something like, “Son, don’t forget tonight that you’re a Thompson.” Why do they tell us this? Since you resemble their likeness both in name and composition, your parent expects you to behave in an acceptable manner.

In this case, Our Father who has made us bearing His image gives us specific instructions for His children: physical expansion. However, God adds more instruction relating to the behavior of His image-bearers. They are not only involved in physical expansion of the creation but also intentional care.

Intentional Care

and subdue it, and have dominion…

God tells His man to subdue creation to have dominion over it. Before we think we have a license do treat creation, however, we feel like listen to what author Chris Bruno has to say regarding this conversation: 

“It is crucial for us to connect this part of the commission to the image of God. Being made in God’s image meant that Adam and Eve were supposed to be his representatives on the earth. And since he is the sovereign King over all creation, his representatives rule on his behalf. So to exercise dominion over the earth does not mean that we use it and abuse it” (Bruno, Chris. The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (p. 26). Crossway. Kindle Edition). 

Bruno goes on to say:

The command to have dominion meant that Adam and Eve were to rule the animals and the rest of the earth in the way that God himself would rule them. They were to care for them, to be good stewards of them, and to bring glory to God in the way they ruled over them.”

Recently, I had some friends ask me to look after their house for a couple days while they were out of town. Basically, they wanted me to make sure their cats were fed and their litter boxes were clean. Even though this was such a simple and small responsibility, I found myself taking extra care to make sure those cats had clean bathrooms and fresh water and food. I was extra careful to sweep up litter. I took careful measurement of the food. I washed out the water bowl every time. Why? My respect and love for my friends moved me to take special care of their loved possession.

Just like I took extra care of my friend’s cats, we should take intentional care of what God has given to us. As His representatives on this earth, we should reflect that type of care that He would give His creation if he were walking on this earth.

To continue discussing our divine purpose as God’s chosen people, we need to make an important leap together. When we looked at how God created His chosen people, we saw a physical family morph into a spiritual family through the work of Jesus. As a result, the divine purpose of God for His chosen people develops from the multiplication of the physical creation to the advancement or multiplication of the spiritual kingdom.

Multiply the Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:20)

Jesus leaves His followers with a mission that relates to the expansion of His Kingdom. Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives the following commands: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age

Even though the command now relates to spiritual realities, the premises remains the same: God expects His people to own their divine uprose of multiplication. Paul articulates this principle by calling God’s people ambassadors. In 1 Corinthians 5:20, Paul states, “20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” Notice, as ambassadors, God makes His appeal to creation through us, His chosen people with a divine purpose to multiply His kingdom.

In speaking of God’s kingdom, we are now drawn to the final part of God’s plan: a sacred place. You see, God design was for His chosen people to live with a divine purpose in a sacred place. Even though sin disrupted the initial blueprints, we find that God still intends for us to long for that sacred place where we will dwell with him.

(Longing for) A Sacred Place

Q: What is this sacred place?

Q: A God-given home to dwell with Him and His family

The Garden (Genesis 1:26-31)

We find in Genesis 1 that the commands to multiply reference “the earth” generally. Yet, we find that God placed man and women in a special place initially called the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:8 says “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” Eden represents a holy place where God’s chosen people possess their diving purpose and dwell joyfully.

Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin enters the garden and God removes His chosen people. Ever since this moment, God’s chosen people have longed a sacred place to dwell once again with God.

The Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3)

Interestingly, when God promises to multiply the physical lineage of Abraham, He also promises that Abraham’s seed would occupy a special land. God tells Abraham in Genesis 12 “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” This occupation of this promised land creates a large portion of the OT narrative. Even today, the occupancy of this land, generally speaking, causes great conflict.

God’s people on different occasions take possession of this land, but on account of their sins, this specific physical land is lost. Does this mean that God is not faithful to His chosen people? Not at all! Actually, I believe that physical promised land is just a forecast of an eternal city.

The Eternal City (Hebrews 11:8-15, 13:14; John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4)

The book of Hebrews addresses the narrative of Abraham. In chapter 11, the author of Hebrews states By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

As God’s chosen people, we long for a better country, a heavenly one. Our hope is that God has prepared for us this enteral city. Jesus tells His disciples in John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Through Jesus, we have a place prepared for us. In Revelation 21, we see a greater description of this enteral city:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This apex brings us full circle: God’s chosen people with a divine purpose dwelling in a sacred place. The Bible’s story is all about this! This is our hope; it’s our story. We know we are part of a story that God drew up and will complete.

So, now that we know the plan of God, the story of Scripture, how will that affect how we live now. Let me offer three things

  1. Embrace your blended-family
  2. Fulfill your divine-purpose
  3. Prepare for your final destination