Someone recently asked me where is purpose in the bible and I got excited.
Scripture is where God speaks to us the most so naturally, if we want to understand purpose and his purposes for us, we must consult scripture.
This episode is a deep dive into where purpose can be found in the bible.
In this episode, I break down:
- Specific scriptures where purpose can be found in the bible both explicitly and implicitly,
- How purpose is referenced generally in scripture, and
- The specific, individual purpose of three people in the bible—David, Paul, and Jesus
Purpose in the Bible
In some of the scriptures we will explore in this episode, the word purpose is explicitly used. In other scriptures, the word purpose isn’t used at all, but the concept of purpose is discussed. We know this because of the context of the scripture and what we know about the speaker, who they are speaking to, and what they are speaking about.
I think a great way to ease us into exploring purpose in the bible is to start in the book of Ephesians. Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul while he was in prison. What we now call the book of Ephesians is actually a letter for the people in Ephesus that was intended to expose them to God’s original unified kingdom intention for humans on earth and to cultivate their transformation into what God intended.
Ephesians speaks a lot about living new lives as Christ followers who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to not just live and serve together, but to live by faith and to mature in Christ to fulfill God’s kingdom agenda. This is a kingdom agenda book, so it makes sense that there would be themes of purpose here in the book of Ephesians. Purpose is the original reason for our creation. It is the reason why we exist and what we are created to do in the kingdom of God.
I’m going to highlight two scriptures from Ephesians to kick start our journey into purpose in the bible. The first scripture I want to highlight is in the very first chapter of Ephesians in verse eleven. it says:
“It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” – Ephesians 1:11 (MSG)
In the CSB it reads, “In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will…”
- Context: In this section of the chapter Paul is talking to the Ephesians about God’s rich blessings. In verses 3-6 which are right before our highlighted verse, Paul breaks down how God chose us before the foundation of the world and how God predestined us for his will. Then in verse ten, Paul lets us know that God has a plan to bring everything together in Christ, and by everything he means things in heaven and things on earth. God has plans.
- Purpose: This scripture shows us a couple things about purpose. It teaches us that God has an individual purpose for every single person. We all have a role to play, and if we are confused about who we are and what we are living for, the remedy is to seek Christ because he created us for a reason. This scripture also shows us that all of these purposes are in furtherance of God’s overall kingdom purposes.
The next instance of purpose in the bible speaks more to the things we do as we execute our purpose. is Ephesians 2:10
NIV says that, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
- Context: In this portion of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is explaining how in Christ we go from death to life once we are saved by grace through faith. He wants to really make it clear that salvation is a gift. As Paul is explaining that, he informs them that they have a role to play in the kingdom because they were created to do good work.
- Purpose: When the scripture speaks of good works, it’s referring to a divinely prescribed action that benefits others in such a way that God is glorified. This means that when we are doing the work God has called us to do in service of others, we are acknowledging God’s greatness and giving Him honor. This is purpose. This is what gives us meaning. Purpose is your contribution to the Kingdom of God and until we are doing the things we were created to do, I don’t ever think we will ever truly be fulfilled.
Disclaimer: Good works are not exclusive to purpose but they are a part of executing your purpose.
Specific Instances of Purpose
The next instances I’ll discuss of purpose in the bible allows us to take a more specific look at an individual’s purpose. I’m going to start with some scripture from Acts. Acts is an interesting book that links the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with the Epistles (letters in the New Testament).
Acts was written by Luke as a record of the early history of the church. It introduces us to Paul who was born as Saul. Paul was terror of a man before Christ transformed his life. Let me backup a bit though. Acts is another kingdom book. It’s intended to further convey the kingdom agenda and emphasize the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of our lives. So it makes sense that references to purpose would be in the book of Acts.
Up first is Acts 13:36, CSB which says, “For David, after serving God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed.”
- Context: Luke is giving an account of Paul’s sermon in Antioch. On the Sabbath day, Paul and his crew were sitting in the synagogue in Antioch and after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue told Paul if he had any words of encouragement he wanted to share, then he could speak. So, Paul got up and began to talk to the people. He starts by telling them about their ancestors, the Israelites and how God delivered them from Egypt. Then he goes into how God gave them Saul as king and after removing Saul, he raised up David to be king; and that from the descendants of David, God gave Israel their savior, Jesus. Towards the end of his speech, Paul mentions in Acts 13:36 that David served God’s purpose in his generation. So let’s talk about how this scripture relates to purpose.
- Purpose: this scripture confirms that God assigns us a purpose and he expects us to fulfill our purpose during our lives. We can also see from this that our purpose will involve influencing and impact the lives of others. David had a purpose and his completion of it not only gave the Israelites a leader but it also gave us Jesus.
The last example of purpose in the bible that I want to highlight from the book of Acts deals with a different person’s purpose. That person is Paul.
Acts 20:20:24 in the CSB says: “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit,[a] not knowing what I will encounter there, except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course[b] and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” That was quoted from the CSB.
Instead of saying “my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus,” the NLT says, “finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus…”
- Context: Before we discuss the context of this scripture, I want to shed some light on Paul, the speaker. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He told the apostles to stay put in Jerusalem, so they were exclusively preaching the gospel there. After the first Christian was martyred, most Believers scattered to other cities in an effort to flee persecution.
This was the opposite of what the leaders in Jerusalem intended, because it led to the gospel of Jesus being spread outside of Jerusalem and into other cities and regions.
During this time, Paul was like a dog with a bone and he went on a rampage arresting and threatening to murder followers of Jesus. I’ve heard people say that Paul was a persecutor, but they rarely say how, which would leave me wondering, what this man did. Well, here’s a glimpse at what Paul would do to Believers. He would literally bust into people’s homes and drag them out one by one to imprison them. Both men and women.
Paul was so committed to threatening and imprisoning Believers that he sought permission from the chief priests to be a bounty hunter of sorts so that he could expand his persecution of Believers to areas outside of Judea. The man had an axe to grind against anyone who believed and professed the truth about Jesus.
If ever there was something that could exempt someone from being used by God, you would think it would be this, the persecution of people who believed in His son. Yet, God still used Paul. Paul had an interaction with God that converted him into a Believer and not just any Believer, but someone who was committed to being used by God.
At this point in the book of Acts Paul is addressing leaders in the Ephesian church. He is highlighting things that were important to him. He’s doing this because he feels the Holy Spirit compelling him to go to Jerusalem where it’s been revealed to him that no matter where he goes, chains and affliction await him. So this is his farewell speech that is intended to prepare the leaders for his possible death.
And as he is speaking to them he mentions his purpose. So let’s talk about what we learn from this mention of purpose in the bible.
- Purpose: We learn Paul’s purpose and what he was created to do. Paul clearly stated that his purpose was to testify to the gospel of God’s grace … he also mentions this in his letter to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:17 when he says Christ sent Him to preach the gospel. This scripture teaches us three things about purpose. First, it further shows us that purpose comes from God. Next, it shows that our lives are to be spent pursuing God’s purpose for us. We should be committed to seeing our purpose through to the end. The last thing it reveals is that nothing disqualifies us from our purpose. Paul went from dragging Christians out their homes for Believing in Jesus to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus all over.
The last instance of purpose in the bible that I’ll discuss in this episode is Jesus. Jesus doesn’t use the word purpose in the scripture I’m using from the book of Luke but he mentions his purpose.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
- Context: What a powerful statement. Let’s add some context for it. Jesus had just come to Galilee and returned to his hometown of Nazareth. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day like he usually does and stood up to read. Someone handed him a scroll to read and this scripture in Luke is what Jesus read from the scroll. This line that Jesus read from the scroll was actually a scripture written by the prophet Isaiah. Once Jesus finished reading the scripture he sat down and told everyone listening that essentially this scripture from Isaiah is fulfilled today. In essence, what Jesus was saying is that he was the one who had been sent to do these things that Isaiah prophesied. This ultimately led to people in Nazareth to reject Jesus.
- Purpose: Jesus doesn’t say the word purpose here but he is essentially outlining why he was sent to earth by God and what he is supposed to do while he is here. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Ready to take the next step in your purpose?
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