“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan

The New Testament is the termination of the revelation of God’s eternal purpose. It has been God’s eternal purpose to give eternal life to those who choose to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. The development of God’s eternal purpose can be likened unto that of a plant.

And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26-29)

It can be said that the Patriarchal Age was the blade, the Mosaic Age was the head and the Church Age is the full grain in the head.

God was hinting at the eternal purpose when He told the serpent,

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." (Gen. 3:15)

The serpent who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden is "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). "Enmity" is alienation, the opposite of friendship.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

What God was saying to the serpent is that He already had a plan to make Eve His friend again, thereby putting enmity between her and the devil. This would be done by "her Seed," Jesus Christ. The serpent would bruise Jesus’ heel [a minor injury] but Jesus would bruise the serpent’s head [a fatal blow].

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

The New Testament is the exclusive religious authority for those who want to go to heaven on God’s terms.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1-3).

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Heb. 2:3-4)

Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. (Heb. 10:8-9).

The New Testament authorizes in only three ways - direct statements, approved examples and implications. Direct statements of one in authority are necessarily authoritative (Mt. 8:5-13). Jesus has all authority (Mt. 28:18-20). We are told to follow apostolic examples (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9). Jesus used implication in defending what He taught (Mt. 22:23-34), as did those whom He sent (Acts 15:1-31).

The New Testament church has, as its foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ.

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:6-11).

The New Testament church was set up by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:16-18).

The church of Christ is not a physical building.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, [and are] to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

The church of Christ is all the saved.

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. ... Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. (Eph. 1:22-23; Eph. 5:22-23)

Local churches of Christ are to be independently organized for collective worship and work. They are to have elders as overseers and deacons as servants.

So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:23).

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (Phil. 1:1).

In that “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” (Jer. 10:23), God has given the qualifications for these two offices (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).

The work that local churches of Christ are to engage in has also been divinely revealed. It involves edification, benevolence toward saints and evangelism (Eph. 4:11-12; Acts 6:1-2; 2 Cor. 11:8-9).

The worship to be engaged in by local churches of Christ is also simple. It is to consist in Bible study, singing, praying, laying by in store and eating the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 16:2). The last two are to be done only on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).

[To be continued]