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

By Bob Myhan

“Before the World Began”

God existed in three persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—and eternally purposed to create a being—mankind—who could choose whether to obey or disobey Him.

Knowing, intuitively, that such a being would choose to disobey [sin] and would need to be saved from the consequences thereof, He purposed to save those who would be saved. Further, to all those who would be saved He would give the hope of eternal life in Christ. He also purposed to accomplish all of this by means of His Son, who would leave heaven and come to earth in the form of a man and taste death for every man. (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Heb. 2:9)

“Since the World Began”

God revealed His purpose through the prophets but kept the details to Himself, so that not even the prophets understood fully what He planned (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Peter 1:10-12; Eph. 3:1-7).

Rather than spelling out His eternal purpose in detail as soon as man sinned God revealed it little by little, much as parents teach a child no more than the child needs to know at whatever stage of development he happens to be. God began to reveal His eternal purpose by telling the serpent, in the presence of Adam and Eve,

“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).

Enmity between the serpent—Satan—and the woman would amount to friendship between the woman and God (James 4:4). Thus, God is saying that He would make it possible for the woman to be friends again with Him.

The process of being “made friends again” with God is “reconciliation” and the collective responsibilities of those being reconciled is “religion."

 “Hence, the etymology of the word, in its Biblical sense, is precisely what it is said to be by Augustine…from the…Latin verb, religo, religare, meaning ‘to bind back’ or ‘to bind anew.’” “The close relationship of the family of words formed around the root lig (ligament, ligature, oblige, etc.) to that formed around the root leg (lex, legis, ‘law,’ hence legislate, legal, etc.) is too obvious to be ignored. These two families of words both have the connotation of a binding force. Whatever the word ‘religion’ may have meant to the pagan world, the fact remains that the essence of Biblical religion is a binding of a person anew to God (healing of the schism caused by sin: the God of the Bible is the covenant God) and is fully expressed in the word ‘reconciliation’ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Just as the essential principle of music is harmony; of art, beauty; of government, authority; of sin, selfishness; so the fundamental principle of true religion is reconciliation. (Eph. 2:11-22; 2 Cor. 5:18-20, 6:14-18)” [C. C. Crawford, Genesis: The Book of the Beginnings, Vol. 2, pages 368-369]

True religion, as defined above, did not exist in the Garden of Eden, prior to man’s sin. Indeed, before he sinned, man did not need to be reconciled. Thus, religion began with man’s expulsion from Eden. Our first glimpse of religion is in the offerings of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-5). That Abel practiced “true religion” and Cain practiced “false religion” is evident from the following passages.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Heb. 11:4).

For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. ...why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous (1 John 3:11-12).

There are three elements of true religion: altar, sacrifice and priesthood. The respective altars, sacrifices and priesthoods of the Patriarchal and Mosaic ages were but shadows of the true. The true altar is the cross, the true sacrifice is Jesus Christ and the true priesthood is the priesthood of believers officiating under their high priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1; 1 Peter 2:5, 9).

The development of God’s eternal purpose, and of true religion, can be likened to the development of a flowering 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).

Thus, 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.”

“In the End of the World”

Christ appeared to put away sin (Heb. 9:24-26). God’s eternal purpose is being realized (Gal. 3:8-29; 4:1-7) but only in those who obey (Rom. 1013-17; 1 Peter 1:22-23; Heb. 5:8-9).

The New Testament is the exclusive religious authority for all who want to go to heaven on God’s terms (Heb. 1:1-3; 2:3-4; 10:8-9). It authorizes by direct statements, approved apostolic examples and implication (Mt. 8:5-13; 22:23-34; 28:18-20; Acts 15:1-31; 1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9).

The New Testament church was built by Jesus Christ (Mt. 16:16-18), upon Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:6-11) and it was purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28). It is not a physical but a spiritual structure, and is made up of living stones (1 Peter 2:4-5). It is not a denomination but consists of all the saved (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:22-23).

Local churches of Christ are independently organized for collective worship and work (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1), under the oversight of qualified men serving as elders (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-11), with qualified men serving as deacons (1 Tim. 3:12-13).

The work of local churches of Christ is edification, benevolence toward saints and evangelism of the lost (Eph. 4:11-12; Acts 6:1-2; 2 Cor. 11:8-9).

The worship to be engaged in by local churches of Christ consists of studying the Bible, singing, praying, laying by in store and eating the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 16:2).

The doctrine of local churches of Christ is nothing more nor less than the apostles’ doctrine, which is the doctrine of Christ (Acts 2:42; 2 John 9-11).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). The grace of God is conditional and the condition of God’s grace is faith (Rom. 5:1-2). But it is an active, obedient faith (James 2:14-24).

Contrary to the creeds and manuals of denominations of human origin, faith in God and in Jesus Christ never motivated anyone to pray for salvation.

For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:13-17).

Since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” and the word of God says nothing of alien sinners praying for salvation, such cannot be an act of faith in God. The so-called “sinner’s prayer” is based entirely on a misapplication of the prayer of one who was already a child of God under the Old Covenant (Luke 18:10-14).

Both the Pharisee and the tax collector were children of God by physical birth. Today, one must become a child of God by the new birth “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5).

How is it, then, that one “calls on the name of the Lord”? One “calls on the name of the Lord” by believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38)

“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts22:16).

Only the righteous have the right to pray to God acceptably. (Psalm 34:12-16; 1 Peter 3:12; Prov. 28:9; John 9:31) &