The following is a lightly edited transcript.
If you have the booklet, look inside and underline a phrase that is governing the way I approach what I’m going to do in these three messages. It says here, “The purpose of ReFocus is to unite pastors around a resurgent historical evangelicalism, and to equip them to preach the full counsel of God in an age of relativism.”
The Counsel of God
And you all know that the phrase “full counsel of God” comes from Acts 20:27, where Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders, and he says to them, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole [boulēn] of God” — the totality, the whole, the all, boulēn, translated counsel, plan, purpose, goal, intention, will of God. And evidently, the phrase “I didn’t shrink back” implies it takes some courage because if you do it, there might be some difficulty. So evidently, the phrase “I didn’t shrink back” implies this is not always an easy task.
Let me just direct your attention to a couple or three other verses where the phrase “boulē,” translated “counsel,” is used. It means the intention of the will, or the plan of the will, or the purpose of the will. For example, Acts 2:23: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite boulē and foreknowledge of God” So Jesus was delivered up to be crucified in accordance with a divine boulē, plan, counsel, purpose.
Acts 4:28: “Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your boulē had predestined to take place.” So, what Herod did, what Pilate did, what the soldiers did, and what the crowds did was all in accord with the boulē of God. God planned, purposed, willed, intended, counseled that nails be driven into his Son’s hands, that crowds say, “Crucify him,” that Pilate washes his hands, and that Herod mocks him with a purple robe. All that was the boulē, or in accord with the boulē, the counsel, plan, that was part of the totality of the plan.
“The ultimate goal of God is to uphold and display his glory for the maximum enjoyment of his church.”
Ephesians 1:11: God “works all things according to the boulēn of his will” — the counsel, the plan, the purpose of his will. So God’s will, his willing, is governed by a boulē. Interesting way of thinking about it. When God decides to do a thing, he has consulted his boulē, his plan, his purpose.
So, what pastors are told and what you’re told, according to this, is that we should be uniting around a resurgent historical evangelicalism and equipping each other, helping each other to preach the fullness of that. And I have wanted to do that all my adult life. What is it? What’s the pasan boulēn, the all counsel, the whole counsel, the full counsel? The very least, a starting point at least, I would say, is that we must make clear what is the ultimate unifying counsel. It’s not easy to describe the boundaries of the full counsel. Maybe in Mark Driscoll’s terms, what’s in the left hand that you fight for, and what’s in the open hand that you don’t? That’s not an easy task.
It’s not as hard to decide something that is just as important, namely, what is the ultimate boulē that gives unity to all the rest of it, and according to which God makes choices what to include in it. That we are told in the Bible, and I want to tackle under the title of, “Why God Created the Universe.” Now, when I pose the question, “Why Creation?” or the goal of God, the *boulē*of God in creation, I’m thinking not the material world only.
We have to ask: Why is there such a big universe as this? Why are there molecules and atoms? Why are there all the elements? But we also want to know, why is history running the way it is? And why did the world fall, and why was there a Baghdad with 183 people blown to bits? And why was there Blacksburg with 33 people shot dead? Why this world? That’s what I’m asking. When I’m asking, “What’s the boulē of creation?” I mean the boulē of Blacksburg, the boulē of Baghdad, the boulē of your wife’s cancer, and the boulē of the incarnation and the cross.
So, I want to know, is there anything you’re up to, God, that gives unity to all of that? What are you doing? What’s the point of everything? That’s what I mean by the goal of creation. And I prayed upstairs with the speakers that few things, if any, have made a greater difference in my life than getting clarity on why God does what he does. The one thing he is always doing, in everything that he does, that’s what I’m after. And I’ll tell you what it is, and then we’ll look at it in the Bible.
The Ultimate Goal
The ultimate boulē, the ultimate goal, the ultimate purpose, the ultimate design of God in the material universe, in the events of history, in the fall, in redemption, in everything he has ever done or ever will do, the ultimate goal, design, purpose, boulē is to uphold and display his glory for the maximum enjoyment of his redeemed church from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. Period. That’s what he’s up to all the time, in everything he does, from the smallest molecule to the largest galaxy. From the fall to the cross to the second coming, he is always doing this as his ultimate goal.
I’ll say it again. His ultimate goal is to uphold and display his glory for the maximum enjoyment of his redeemed church from every people and tongue and tribe and nation. Let me say it another way, just to use some different language. His ultimate goal in all that he does, including creation as a means to it, is the exaltation of his worth in the white-hot worship of his worldwide, redeemed people.
The three talks that I do here, Lord willing, are all unified. They’re not separate. And as I go along, questions will begin to emerge, perhaps, that will hopefully work themselves out in for example, “What’s depravity? What’s faith?” You’ll see the connection as we go.
Now, let me clarify something about the way I just stated that. I grew up in a home with a dad who quoted to me 1 Corinthians 10:31 over and over. It’s been part of my life. “Johnny, whatever you do, whether you eat or whether you drink, do all to the glory of God.” I didn’t have to change my theology as I grew up on that score. But my dad never told me in so many words that this wasn’t just my duty, this was God’s passion for everything he does. And I think without that second discovery, we do not pursue our duty with the same liberty and joy and passion until it lands on us — it’s God’s passion. God pursues his glory in all that he does, and I join him in that pursuit.
There are many evangelicals who just get nervous when you start talking like that — that God is supreme in his own affections, that the person that God is most excited about is God, contrary to the second song we just sang. I’m just going to plead with your worship leaders that we either change that last line or don’t sing that song anymore. I’ve studied this song. I went to the website to figure out, where’d this song come from? How did it get written? “Like a rose trampled on the ground, he took our fall and thought of us above all.” Wrong. He thought of his glory above all on the cross. I’m going to argue for that before we’re done.
Now, if you want to make it work, which, it’s a very pretty song, I love the song, I love every line of the song except the last line. So I went to the web, and you know how it got written? It got written in two stages. You can read the story of the song. The first part of the song is magnificently God-exalting. God’s worth shines everywhere. And then they were kind of strumming their song, and they just made up this reprise on the spur of the moment, and tears got in their eyes about the trampled rose, and then they just got carried away. And millions of people are singing this man-centered last line, which is really sad. I’m trying to bail this song out so you don’t have to feel so bad because we’ve all used it. Maybe the word “all” there, “He thought of us above all,” means all creation, all other creatures. That would be okay.
So if that’s what you mean, preach it, make it plain because God always thinks of himself above us. He is always more important than us. His glory is always supreme, not us, and that’s what has to be made clear in radically self-centered America. I don’t know anything about Canada except it’s north. Probably radically self-centered Canada as well. So, sorry about that if I ruined the song for you, but we just got to make some hard calls along the way. I’m on my case, I got three worship leaders, three campuses, and I meet with them, and I say, “Guys, above all, get the theology right.” I love good tunes, I love good music, and I love power, and I love zeal, and I love passion, but I love truth first as a means to that end, so get it right.
The goal is God’s supreme and ultimate boulē is that there be a display and an upholding of his glory for the maximal enjoyment of his redeemed people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And what I want to do now is to blitz the Bible for about six or seven minutes on this, and I’ll go so fast you won’t be able to look up the verses, but you might be able to write them down, but if you try to write them down, you probably won’t be listening. This list that I’m going to give you here is available all over my writings. I’ve done this so many times, and I just love doing it, so indulge me as I blitz the Bible on God’s God-centeredness from cover to cover. And if you want to get them, you can go to the website and find a place where I did this, because everything I’ve ever said is on the website.
For God’s Glory
God created us for his glory.
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6)
He called Israel for his glory.
I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. (Jeremiah 13:11)
He rescued Israel from Egypt for his glory.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power. (Psalm 106:7–8)
He raised up Pharaoh for his glory.
For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Romans 9:17)
God spared Israel again and again in the wilderness for his glory.
But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. (Ezekiel 20:14)
God did not cast away his people when they sinned against him and wanted a king.
For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. (1 Samuel 12:22)
You’re saved for his name. He thought of you on the cross for his name. That’s the order. God saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of his name.
I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake. (2 Kings 19:34)
He restored Israel after exile for his glory.
“Don’t depend on people, depend on God. Don’t depend on yourself, depend on God.”
Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 36:22–23)
This means, “I save you for the sake of my holy name. I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, and the nations will know I am the Lord. That’s why I’m bringing you back from Babylon.” And that’s the way we should feel when we go to the cross. On our face, saved, given maximal joy in God forever, that he might show his power, that he might show his glory off of us. We are the reflectors. He thought of his glory above all when the rose was trampled.
Jesus sought the glory of his Father in all that he did.
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. (John 7:18)
Jesus told us to do all of our good works for the glory of the Father.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
He warned that not seeking God’s glory makes faith impossible.
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)
He said God answers prayer for the glory of God.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)
Why does he answer your prayer? So that his Father might be glorified. Jesus endures the final hours of suffering for God’s glory.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28)
God gave his Son to vindicate the glory of his righteousness.
God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25–26)
God forgives our sins for his own sake.
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
Jesus receives us into his fellowship for the glory of God.
Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
Every good thing that you get from Jesus, you get for God’s glory, and that’s the way it should work. Nothing, nothing, nothing terminates on you. It is all moving through you to his glory. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son of God.
He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14)
He instructs us that we should do everything for the glory of God.
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
God tells us to serve in the church in a way that brings him glory. This verse that I’m about to read is the most important philosophical verse for the way we do ministry at Bethlehem.
Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
The Giver gets the glory. Therefore, in everything you do, be a receiver. Don’t depend on people, depend on God. Don’t depend on yourself, depend on God because when God helps, God gets the glory. Jesus will fill us with the fruits of righteousness for God’s glory. Paul prays that you may be
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11)
Herod was struck dead because he did not give God the glory.
Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. (Acts 12:23)
Jesus is coming again. Why? For the glory of his Father and the glory of his name.
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:9–10)
Jesus’s ultimate aim is that we see him and enjoy his glory.
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)
God’s plan is to fill the earth with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)
And lastly, the New Jerusalem will have no sun because the glory of God will be the sun, and Jesus will be the lamp.
“Grace is God treating us kindly when we are ill-deserving.”
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23)
That’s the tip of the iceberg in the Bible. This is not unclear, and it is amazing how many ministries and how many pastors don’t make it supreme. So I’m arguing that the reason he created the world and the reason he does everything in the world and the reason he will do everything he does to the end of time and on into eternity is to display and uphold the glory of his name for the everlasting and infinite enjoyment of his people redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
The Apex of God’s Glory
Now here’s the catch for this conference. This conference is about the exclusivity of Christ, no other name. So here’s the turn I want to make in the message. I want to ask the question: If it’s biblical to say that the supreme boulē, the ultimate boulē, counsel, plan, purpose, design, intention of God in all that he does is to display his glory for the enjoyment of his redeemed people from all the peoples, where does Jesus fit in? And what is the apex of the glory? God is glorious in everything he is and everything he does, but there is an apex to it. God has a special passion that a certain dimension of his glory be known and enjoyed, and it has to do with Jesus.
So, let me refine my answer to the question, “What’s the ultimate boulē, what’s the ultimate goal?” And I would put it like this. The apex of the display of his glory is this: That glory shines most brightly, most fully, most beautifully, in the manifestation of the glory of his grace. I’m adding “grace,” glory of his grace. And, to put a finer point on it, the apex of the display of the infinitely valuable glory of God is most beautifully, most fully, most decisively the glory of his grace manifest in the suffering of the Son of God for millions of hell-deserving sinners.
That’s the finest point that I want to put on it. Now, I’m going to unpack that, because it’s quite shocking. If you were to believe what I just said, the implications are so shocking for Blacksburg, Virginia, so shocking for Baghdad, so shocking for cancer, so shocking for war, drugs, divorce, that you might not want to follow me there. So I’m going to try to unpack it biblically and carefully to see whether you will.
Grace Before the World
In Revelation 13:8, John writes, “And all who dwell on earth will worship it [the Beast, the Antichrist], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” So now we do not have creation yet, nothing has been created yet. And there’s a book, so before the foundation of the world, there’s a book. It’s called the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
So, the Lamb is Jesus Christ. Nobody’s going to argue with that. The book is the book, therefore, of Jesus Christ crucified, slain. Therefore, God made the world and he had in view that Jesus Christ would be slain before he created the world. He had in view a people, written in the book already, for whom he was slain, a people purchased by his blood, written in the book. Therefore, the suffering of Jesus was no afterthought. God didn’t create a world, hope it would go well for Adam and Eve, and when they fell, said, “Now what am I going to do? Plan B: a history of redemption climaxing in Christ.”
Revelation 13:8 will not allow that thinking. Before the world was, there’s a book, and the book is called the book of life, and it’s the book of the Lamb, Christ, and he was slain. Before the foundation of the world, God knows what he’s up to. It’s the plan, it’s the boulē. And somehow or other, it fits into this. Everything is for his glory. He’s planning the crucifixion of his Son before the fall.
In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul looks back into eternity just like John did, and he says this: God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace.” Mark that word. “God saved us not because of our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
God gave us grace. What is grace? Grace is God treating us kindly when we are ill-deserving. So, grace was being given to ill-deserving sinners before the creation of the world. Before the world began, grace was flowing to you. And what kind of grace flows to sinners? Blood-bought grace and only blood-bought grace flows to redeemed sinners. There’s a Lamb slain, there’s a book, blood is flowing in the mind of God before he made the world. So you have two things now. There’s a book of life of the Lamb who was slain, that’s one thing there is before creation, and there’s grace coming to us before creation, blood-bought, Christ-purchased, cross-work sustained grace flowing to us before the creation of the world.
Now, also, let’s make this issue more intense. Notice the word, or think back on the word, “the Lamb who was slain.” It’s the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. That word “slain” (sfazō), only used by the apostle John in the New Testament, always everywhere refers to the slaughtering of an animal. “Slaughter” would be a good translation. “Slain” cleans it up. The book of the life of the Lamb who’s had his neck slit open and bled to death. That’s the word he chose for God to think about doing before he made the world. “I’m going to slit the neck of the Lamb of God, and with the blood that pours out, I’m writing names in a book.” All of that before he made the world. The implications of that, brothers, are huge.
The plan was, the boulē was the Lamb of God will suffer. The Lamb of God will be slaughtered. That’s the plan. I’m going to give you a biblical text that shows the relationship between that and grace, but let me just say this first. The reason for such a horrific plan. “Son, are you willing?” “I am willing, Father.” “To become a man so that I can slit your throat.” “I am willing, Father. I know it will not be easy. I am willing.”
Why? Why plan it that way before the creation of the world? And the reason is this: The fullest, clearest, surest display of the greatness, of the glory, of the grace of God demands it. The ultimate boulē is the apex of the revelation, the display of his glory for the enjoyment of his redeemed people, and the apex of that glory is grace, and that grace shines most brightly off Christ crucified for millions and millions of hell-deserving sinners who hated him. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8). What is going on?
The Glory of His Grace
Now we’re at Ephesians 1:4 to see the link explicitly in the inspired apostle, not John Piper. What I think makes very little difference at all. If you don’t see what I’m saying in the Bible, shut your ears.
“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). We got this issue again, so there’s Christ, and in him we’re chosen before the foundation of the world, “that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through . . .” (Ephesians 1:4–5). Now there’s the second phrase I want you to mark. First one is “in him,” the second one is “through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:5–6).
That phrase, 1976, became a Copernican revolutionizing way of teaching and preaching. I wasn’t a preacher yet, I was teaching at Bethel, and I was teaching through Ephesians, and I saw in verse 6, “to the praise of the glory of his grace,” as the goal of everything. Verse 12: “to the praise of his glory.” Verse 14: “to the praise of his glory.” And I just stood back and said, “This is one long, complex sentence, but the point is crystal clear.” Predestination, election, adoption, redemption, sending the Holy Spirit, sealing, it’s all got one goal, one boulē, one unifying purpose, unto praise.
If you wonder why, in my statement concerning the ultimate goal of all things, I include the phrase “for the maximum enjoyment of a redeemed people,” if you wonder, “Where’s that joy piece coming from?” It’s coming from this word “praise.” Sad praise is an oxymoron. His ultimate purpose is the praise of the glory of the grace of God.
“We will sing about the slaughter of the Son forever.”
Now, get the phrase “in him [Christ]” from verse 4, and “through Jesus Christ” in verse 5, and you’ll see how breathtaking this is in relationship to the cross. Verse 4: God chose us in him so we become his by election in our union with Christ.” What’s the implication of that? Well, get the next phrase too. Verse 5: God predestined our adoption through Jesus Christ.
So, is anyone adopted here? I hope you’re all adopted. And you’re adopted, it says, through Christ, but what does that mean? How is it through Christ that we are adopted? And we know this, we know from other places where adoption is spoken about, that adoption happens as a blood-bought privilege. When it says “through Christ,” it means through his death, through his substitution, through his work on our behalf on the cross. God is able to reach down and legally take sinners into the holy family. Amazing. So don’t miss it, when it says “through Christ” or “in Christ,” it means the crucified Christ. And therefore, if the ultimate goal was the praise of the glory of the grace of God, and that grace could only be experienced through the suffering and the slaughtering of the Son of God, that was the plan before the foundation of the world.
The Centerpiece of Everlasting Worship
Let’s look forward into eternity to feel the full force of this. Revelation 5:9 is a picture of worship in the future.
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
They’re praising his worth on the basis of his slaughter. That’s where that phrase came from in my effort to define the goal of God. Verse 11:
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne . . . myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And you know what? They’re still singing this in Revelation 15:3, which causes me to conclude it wasn’t just planned before creation that there would be a slaughter of the Son of God for millions of ill-deserving, hell-deserving people like me, but this act becomes the centerpiece of everlasting worship. We will sing about the slaughter of the Son forever.
What can magnify the importance of an event more? The suffering of the Son will never be forgotten. Sometimes people ask me, “Will we remember suffering in heaven?” It will be the center of our memories. For all eternity the display of the glory of the grace of God in the slaughtered Lamb, the greatest suffering that ever was, will be the center of worship. Say that again. The greatest suffering that ever was, ever will be, ever could be, will be the centerpiece of everlasting worship for the redeemed.
It wasn’t an afterthought, after the fall. It was the plan. It was the boulē. Everything else in the universe is subordinate to this. Now, those are sweeping statements. I’m not throwing them out. I have thought about these sentences for 30 years. Everything in the universe, evil and good, serves the revelation of the glory of the grace of God in the slaughter of the Son.
God Intends It
So, what does this imply that I said would be so hard for you to follow? Maybe we’re already there. I don’t know if you’re still with me. But it clearly implies that God planned the fall. If you want to use the word “permit” for the fall in order to make it easier to talk about, “He didn’t ordain the fall into sin, he permitted it,” I’m okay with that, provided you have the category in your head that everything God permits, he permits by design. Can you handle that little phrase? “Permits by design”? In other words, if God sees something coming and can stop it, undo it, not do it, not create the world, not create this Adam and Eve, and he goes ahead and does what he knows is going to happen, he’s got a plan for what’s happening. He knows it’s going to happen, he’s got a plan.
So I’m okay if you want to sneak in the word “permit,” and it should be used sometimes, but just know that when you use it, you haven’t gotten anybody off the hook. God could’ve not done what he permitted to happen. This is the world he planned. That’s where I’m not sure you’re going to follow me. I don’t see it any other way. So you say, “How do you think about that?” I think about it with biblical categories, and here’s the category. Genesis 50:20 gives me the category.
Joseph is sinned against, he’s sinned against by his brothers, throw him in a pit, and sell him into slavery. And years later, he says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but” — now, get your translations right here. It does not say, “But God used it for good” — “God meant it for good.” The two words are the same. You meant it for evil, that was your boulē in it; God meant it, that’s his boulē in it, for good. That’s a category. I have to have that category like that.
In every sin, God has a boulē. There’s nothing, there’s no maverick molecule, and there’s no maverick act of the human will that God doesn’t see coming and either allow or cause with a purpose, including Adam and Eve. So, when I see Adam and Eve bring us all to Blacksburg, Baghdad, when Adam and Eve bring the whole thing down and the whole creation is subjected to futility because of this couple and their sin, I say, “Adam and Eve, serpent, you meant it for evil. God meant it for the glorification of the Son slaughtered.”
“The supreme grace of God is enabling sinners to know, love, cherish, treasure, and enjoy God forever.”
So, everything he did for us, the stage is set. Sin has entered the world, death has entered the world through sin. The creation was subjected to futility and groans. We groan with our diseases. We groan with our kids, not what we want them to do. We groan with our churches, they aren’t where we want them to be. We groan with Canada, with its small percentages of redeemed people. We groan with the world, with its tsunamis and its malaria and its HIV. Does not creation groan? God did that.
God subjected the creation to futility not of its own will, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope that the whole creation would be set free from its bondage to decay and inherit the glory, the freedom of the glory of the children of God who are redeemed (Romans 8:20–21). They become children by the blood, and therefore we will sing of the blood in the new heavens and the new earth forever and ever. What an amazing way God has chosen to exalt and display his glory.
What Christ Has Done
Let me close by highlighting just a couple of things he did and then highlight this word “grace” one more time. When Christ died, here’s what happened:
He absorbed the wrath of God, and he did it by his suffering (Galatians 3:13).
Christ bore our sins, and he did it by his suffering, our forgiveness (1 Peter 2:24).
Christ provided perfect righteousness for us, and he did it by his suffering, because according to Philippians 2:8, the climax of his obedience was obedience unto death, even death on a cross, and that’s what’s imputed to us.
Christ defeated death, and he did it by death and by suffering (Hebrews 2:14).
He disarmed Satan, and he did it by suffering (Colossians 2:14–15).
Christ purchased perfect healing for our bodies, which we will inherit in a measure now through gifts of healing and medical practice, but then fully at the resurrection, and he did it by suffering. He bore our sins in his body (Isaiah 53:4–5).
And finally, most importantly, summing them all up, saying why they all happened, why all this justification, why all this propitiation, why all this redemption, why all this forgiveness? He died, he suffered, he was slaughtered that he might bring us to God. “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Now, the reason I end there is this. When you read Ephesians 1:6 — election, foreknowledge, predestination in Christ, through Christ crucified, blood, suffering, all unto the praise of the glory of his grace — you know what inveterate man-centered hearts do at that point? They take the word “grace,” and after this entire message, go home and say it was all about us.
There are some in this room who are moving in that direction in your minds right now, because you haven’t moved into the word “grace” and asked, and gotten a biblical answer for, “What’s that? What’s grace?” If the whole point of everything is the upholding and the display of the glory of God’s grace in the suffering of the Son of God for millions of unredeemed, if that’s the goal of all of his purposes, then what is grace? Up there at the apex, what does it mean? It means what 1 Peter 3:18 says it means. “Christ suffered for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he . . .” now, you could complete that verse by saying, “That we might experience his grace,” and that’s true. So, what does he say? He says, “that he might bring us to God.” That is grace.
The supreme grace of God is enabling sinners like me to know and love and cherish and treasure and enjoy God forever. That’s what grace is. That’s what salvation is. That’s what justification is for, that’s what propitiation is for, that’s what redemption is for, that’s what reconciliation is for, that’s what forgiveness is for. It all terminates on the graciously given ability to enjoy God forever. So now, the question is, “So, what is depravity, and the nature of saving faith in view of that ultimate design?”