It is most important that we should be alive to the fact that the Christian life is governed by purpose. The thought of ‘purpose’, indeed that very word itself, is much in view in the New Testament. Most of us are familiar with one statement relating thereto: “To them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Unfortunately it is usually cut in half and only part of the first half taken: “all things work together for good”. We might go on: “to them that love God”; but that is not the whole statement, which adds: “to them that are the called according to his purpose”. Then we have another word, not so generally known: “Foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). Again: “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). Yet once more: “according to his own purpose and grace” (2 Tim. 1:9). These are sufficient at least to indicate that ‘purpose’ is a governing idea in the Christian life: that we are not saved just to be saved; we do not become Christians just to be Christians. That is only the beginning of something; it is with a view to something very much more in the thought and intention of God.
There are many things said about the purpose of God in the Scriptures. Suffice it to say that the Divine purpose is all-inclusively set forth in a clause in one of Paul’s letters: “till we all attain… unto the… fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). You will instantly recognize that that makes Christ very great. Yes, and the Christian life must therefore be something very great if it takes its character, its meaning, and its dimensions from Christ. It must necessarily be something progressive. No Christian at any time in their experience or history here on this earth can ever say that they have reached that end. It means that the Christian life is one of progress and development. It is all moving toward that ultimate fullness. So we find in the New Testament that the Christian life is set forth in three distinct phases: we ARE Christians, we are BECOMING Christians, and we are GOING TO BE Christians. These three phases are indicated in the original language of the New Testament by three different tenses of the verb.
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