Intermediate 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 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 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

[David, to God:] You have made many wonderful plans for us. I could never speak of them all—their number is so great!   Psalms 40:5b GNT

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.   Acts 13:36 ISV

These plans include work for God’s people to do

[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.   Ephesians 2:10 GNT

[Paul, to the believers at Corinth:] What is Apollos, really? Or what is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, and each of us in the ministry the Lord gave us.   1 Corinthians 3:5 NET

God’s plans are not dependent upon his people’s backgrounds

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!’   Amos 7:14-15 NET

God Fulfills His Plans for His People

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

[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.   Psalms 138:7-8a ISV

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.   Jeremiah 29:10-11 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 even initiate seemingly bad things to fulfill his purposes for his people

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.   Genesis 45:4-8 CEV

God Works through His People

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 moves his people to do his work

[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.   Philippians 2:12b-13 GNT

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.   Ezra 1:5 NET

God equips his people for the work

[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.   Hebrews 13:20-21 NET

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

[Jeremiah:]  I replied, “Ah, Lord God! Look, I don’t know how to speak, because I’m only a young man.” 7Then the Lord told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a young man,’ for you will go everywhere I send you, and you will speak everything I command you. 8Don’t be afraid of them, because I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. 9The Lord stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, and then told me, “Look, I’ve put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I’ve appointed you to prophesy about nations and kingdoms, to pull up and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”   Jeremiah 1:6-10 ISV

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.

God’s power for his people is great

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

[Paul, to believers:] You will also know the unlimited greatness of his power as it works with might and strength for us, the believers.   Ephesians 1:19 GW

God Guides His People

See also:

God guides his people always

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

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

Note that 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.

God guides his people in difficult circumstances

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

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

The implication of the second clause is that God not only knows but also guides in what one should do.

God guides his people in doing his work

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.   Acts 7:44 NCV™

[Cornelius, to Peter:] So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.   Acts 10:33b NET

Pray for persecuted Christians