You may not have heard of purposeful phrases before but I want to introduce you to them as they are a helpful way to study the Bible. A purposeful phrase is a condensed collection of words that answer the question, why. It can be a short phrase or even a few sentences or even a bit longer, but it is a short explanation of the purpose behind the action. Generally it is just a verse or two, or even just a part of a verse. Quite often, it will begin with the word, “that”, but it is not always the case. It reveals the thinking or purpose of something that may not be obvious at first glance. It is particularly helpful to understanding the purposes of God in His working with and on man.
In the book of Ephesians, there are five purposeful phrases (1:4, 1:12, 2:7, 3:6, 5:27) and we will look at each of them. Collectively, they give us a picture of the thinking of God in His creation of man and how He intends to bring it to pass.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: The purposeful phrase is the last part of the verse that I have underlined. The first part of the verse gives us the setting of that purpose which is His choosing us and that it was before the foundation of the world. In other words, God knew us before he created time and space and that His plan has always been that we should be holy (a separated people) and without blame (does not mean never to have sinned, but having no sin charged to our account) before Him (abiding in His presence) in love (our character and nature has been fully conformed and fashioned like He is). That was His overarching plan for man, that is why He made man. Simply put, to fellowship with him.
Eph 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. It can be argued that verse 1:10 is another purposeful phrase but I do not list it as such because it does not answer the question “why”, but rather the question, “how”. The real purpose is found in verse 12 as I have underlined. His purpose for us may include our vocation here but that is not his primary purpose. God’s purpose for us is not just temporal but eternal. I suspect that it matters little whether you are a doctor, statesman, craftsman, etc. except to the extent of how it enables you to take on God’s purpose of properly reflecting His image and being conformed to His likeness and values. Everything God does is with the view of its Eternal outcome.
Eph 2:7 That in the ages to come
he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us
through Christ Jesus. This verse is the answer to the
question why would God go to such a great expense for the likes of me? His return is not monetary, nor is it for any
gain for Himself as He already owns everything.
His return is us. Our victory
over sin, our transformation into His image and likeness, our final state of
the full realization of what it means to be the children of God are all part of
the revelation of who and what God is.
In the end it will all be understood as to why He loves us so.
Eph 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: The mystery of the ages was how did the Gentiles fit in to the plan of God since the Jews were the chosen people of God? God has always planned for all people to be a part of His plan as children of God. God is not a respecter of persons that He loves the Jew more than the Gentile for He loves them the same. The Jews were chosen to be the priest nation to all nations and that will yet come to pass, even though they have not fulfilled that role yet. Nothing has taken God by surprise and nothing has thwarted His plan. It is not a favoritism to be chosen for a particular service, for we have all been chosen by God, even before the foundation of the world. The hammer is not a better tool than the saw for both are necessary. Verse 3:10 would be an example of a purposeful verse that didn’t begin with the word, “that”, except for the fact that it is a further explanation of how the eternal purpose is realized; which makes it a commentary on the purpose instead of being a purposeful phrase.
Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. The question that precedes this purposeful phrase is “Why is it important that the church be sanctified?” The church is a great mystery to the world. They neither understand its purpose or its function. To them it is just another organization when it is actually a living organism with eternal purpose. It is the bride of Christ and must meet His standards. We are in the word but we are not of the world. Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: God is not content to just get us out of the world and free from sin and its influence but is at work in displaying through eternity His great love, great grace, great salvation, in and for us. He is not just interested in getting us to heaven, but is even more earnest in preparing us for heaven, so that when we do finally get there we can call it home.