TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  General

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Chapter 20  Part I


God has wonderful plans and purposes for his people. Many of these concern the work he does through his people, with his incomparably great power. God promises to fulfill these plans and purposes, equipping and guiding his people accordingly.

God Has Plans and Purposes for His People

Bear in mind that references to God’s plans and purposes for his people include: general plans/purposes which apply to all Christians; and specific plans/purposes for each Christian. The various general ones – such as salvation and sanctification – are dealt with in a number of other chapters in this book. This section looks at topics which show that God has specific plans and purposes for each of his people.

Thus the verses have largely been interpreted as such, i.e. as speaking of God having plans or purposes for specific people, or specific groups of his people. However, note that a number of the verses are also applicable to God’s general plans and purposes, and arguably may even have these foremost in view.

God has plans and purposes for his people

Ps 40:5  [David, to God:] You have done many things for us, O Lord our God; there is no one like you! You have made many wonderful plans for us. I could never speak of them all—their number is so great!  GNT

Acts 13:36  For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died and was laid to rest with his ancestors, and so he experienced decay.  ISV

God’s plans and purposes include work for his people to do

Eph 2:10  [Paul, to believers:] God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.  GNT

1Cor 3:5  [Paul, to the believers at Corinth:] Is Apollos important? No! Is Paul important? No! We are only servants of God who helped you believe. Each one of us did the work God gave us to do.  NCV™

God’s plans and purposes are not dependent upon a person’s background

Amos 7:14-15  Amos replied to Amaziah, “I was not a prophet by profession. No, I was a herdsman who also took care of sycamore fig trees. 15Then the Lord took me from tending flocks and gave me this commission, ‘Go! Prophesy to my people Israel!’  NET

In spite of his people’s troubles, God will fulfill his plans and purposes for them

Ps 138:7-8a  [David, to God:] Though I walk straight into trouble, you preserve my life, stretching out your hand to fight the vehemence of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8The Lord will complete what his purpose is for me.  ISV

Jer 29:10-11  For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you. Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore you to your homeland. 11For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.  NET

Despite his people’s exile in Babylon and the apparent decimation of Israel as a nation, God would fulfill his promise and plans for them.

God may actually use his people’s troubles in fulfilling his purposes for them . . .

Luke 21:12-13  [Jesus, to his disciples:] But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses.  NET

This implies that at times God allows persecution, using it to spread the Gospel.

. . . God may even initiate seemingly bad things to fulfill his purposes for his people

Gen 45:4-8  Joseph told them to come closer to him, and when they did, he said: Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. 5Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives. 6There has already been a famine for two years, and for five more years no one will plow fields or harvest grain. 7But God sent me on ahead of you to keep your families alive and to save you in this wonderful way. 8After all, you weren’t really the ones who sent me here—it was God. He made me the highest official in the king’s court and placed me over all Egypt.  CEV

Note: The plans of God’s people are subject to his will

Heb 6:3  [The writer to the Hebrews:] And this is what we intend to do, if God permits.  NET

1Cor 4:19a  [Paul, to the Corinthian believers:] But I will come to you soon if it’s the Lord’s will.  ISV

 Questions for Section A

God Works through His People (I): General

As mentioned earlier, God’s plans and purposes for his people include tasks or work for his people to do for him. In fulfilling these plans and purposes, God works through his people.

God works through his people

Hos 12:13  Later the Lord used a prophet to bring Jacob’s descendants out of Egypt; he used a prophet to take care of the Israelites.  NCV™

2Cor 13:3a  [Paul, to the Corinthian believers:] You will have all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me.  GNT

God works through his people in the spreading of the gospel

Acts 14:27  When they [Paul and Barnabas] arrived, they called the members of the church together. They reported everything God had done through them, especially that he had given people who were not Jewish the opportunity to believe.  GW

Rom 15:18-19  [Paul:] I will be bold and speak only about what Christ has done through me to lead the Gentiles to obey God. He has done this by means of words and deeds, 19by the power of miracles and wonders, and by the power of the Spirit of God. And so, in travelling all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum, I have proclaimed fully the Good News about Christ.  GNT

God purifies his people to do his work . . .

Zeph 3:9  [God:] Then I will give all people pure lips to worship the Lord and to serve him with one purpose.  GW

The reference is to all nations in the future, but this is still illustrative of the fact that in all eras God purifies and makes his people holy for them to serve him.

. . . Jesus Christ effectively makes them priests to serve God

Rev 1:5b-6  To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood 6and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.  NET

God sends his people to do his work . . .

Ezek 2:3-4  [God, to Ezekiel:] Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were. 4They are stubborn and do not respect me, so I am sending you to tell them what I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them.  GNT

Matt 28:19-20  [Jesus, to his disciples:] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  NET

. . . and God moves his people to do his work

Phil 2:12b-13  [Paul, to believers:] Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, 13because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose.  GNT

Ezra 1:5  Then the leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and the Levites – all those whose mind God had stirred – got ready to go up in order to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.  NET

God works with his people, helping them

Neh 6:16  [Nehemiah:] When all our enemies heard and all the nations who were around us saw this, they were greatly disheartened. They knew that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.  NET

Mark 16:20  The disciples went and preached everywhere, and the Lord [Jesus] worked with them and proved that their preaching was true by the miracles that were performed.  GNT

God makes it possible for his people to do the work

2Cor 2:12  [Paul:] When I arrived in Troas to preach the Good News about Christ, I found that the Lord had opened the way for the work there.  GNT

2Cor 9:8  [Paul, to believers:] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  ESV

 Questions for Section B

God Works through His People (II): Empowerment

God empowers his people to do his work

Acts 1:8  [Jesus, to his disciples:] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.  NET

Eph 3:7  [Paul:] I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power.  NET

It is more apparent in the Greek that the role of God’s power in Paul’s ministry was an ongoing one (cf. The Bible Knowledge Commentary).

God equips his people for the work

Heb 13:20-21  [The writer, to believers:] Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, 21equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.  NET

Eph 4:11-12  It was he [Jesus Christ] who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, …  NET

God’s people are given spiritual gifts for various ministries, preparing them for the work of building up the body of Christ.

God strengthens his people for the work

Jer 1:17-18a  [God:] Jeremiah, get ready! Go and tell the people what I command you to say. Don’t be frightened by them, or I will make you terrified while they watch. 18My power will make you strong like a fortress or a column of iron or a wall of bronze.  CEV

2Tim 4:17  [Paul:] But the Lord [Christ] stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the Gentiles to hear. And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth!  NET

God helps and empowers them to do his work even if they feel inadequate . . .

Jer 1:6-10  [Jeremiah:] I answered, “Oh, Lord God, I really do not know how to speak well enough for that, for I am too young.” 7The Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ But go to whomever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 8Do not be afraid of those to whom I send you, for I will be with you to protect you,” says the Lord. 9Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I will most assuredly give you the words you are to speak for me. 10Know for certain that I hereby give you the authority to announce to nations and kingdoms that they will be uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted.”  NET

To signify that he had given (or would give) Jeremiah his words to speak – and as part of his appointing and empowering of Jeremiah – God touched Jeremiah’s mouth (v. 9). This may have occurred in a vision; some think it actually took place.

. . . Jesus Christ’s power works through his people in their weaknesses

2Cor 12:7b-10  [Paul:] Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me – so that I would not become arrogant. 8I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.  NET

Having weaknesses and acknowledging them, makes us more open to Jesus Christ’s power working through us.

God’s power for his people is great

Acts 4:33  With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all.  NET

Eph 1:19-20  [Paul, to believers:] You will also know the unlimited greatness of his power as it works with might and strength for us, the believers. 20He worked with that same power in Christ when he brought him back to life and gave him the highest position in heaven.  GW

Note: The empowerment to perform miracles

Acts 19:11-12  God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, 12so that when even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his body were brought to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.  NET

1Cor 12:28  God has appointed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then those who perform miracles, those who have gifts of healing, those who help others, administrators, and various kinds of tongues.  ISV

 Questions for Section C

God Guides His People

See also:

The Bible speaks of God guiding his people in fulfilling his plans and purposes for them. More specifically, it tells of God guiding them in: living righteous lives; doing his work; and making choices in other matters. Many of the following verses do not clearly indicate which of these cases is in view; such general verses are often applicable to all these cases. (See also the introductory comments on God commands and directs them in doing his work, and Being Guided by God.)

God guides his people . . .

Ps 73:24  [A psalmist, to God:] You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.  ESV

. . . God leads his people

Ps 23:2-3  [David:] He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  ESV

Isa 48:17  This is what the Lord, who saves you, the Holy One of Israel, says: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to do what is good, who leads you in the way you should go.  NCV™

God guides his people always

Ps 48:14b  He will guide us forever.  ESV

Isa 58:11a  The Lord will continually lead you; he will feed you even in parched regions.  NET

God guides his people in difficult circumstances

Deut 8:15a  [Moses, to the Israelites:] He led you through that vast and terrifying desert where there were poisonous snakes and scorpions.  GNT

Ps 142:3a  [David:] When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do.  GNT

The second clause suggests that God not only knows but also guides in what one should do.

God commands and directs them in doing his work

Acts 7:44  The Holy Tent where God spoke to our ancestors was with them in the desert. God told Moses how to make this Tent, and he made it like the plan God showed him.  NCV™

Acts 10:33  [Cornelius, to Peter:] Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come. So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.  NET

Examples of God giving guidance through visions

Acts 16:9-10  A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.  NET

Acts 18:9-11  The Lord said to Paul by a vision in the night, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, 10because I am with you, and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11So he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.  NET

 Questions for Section D

Pray for persecuted Christians