God's ultimate purpose in the world, has been and still is, to bring all of mankind into reconciliation with Him. In Acts 15:14-17, the Apostle James states that, "God at the first did visit the nations of the world, to take out of them a people for His name - - that the remnant of mankind might seek after the Lord". In I Timothy 2:4 we see that God, "Will have all mankind to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth". Also, in II Peter 3:9 we read that God, "Is longsuffering to mankind, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance".
The reason God is longsuffering, and it may seem to us forever, is answered in Romans 2:4, where we read, "Do you show contempt for the riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" In other words, God's day of grace to all mankind is still operative, in order to give the opportunity for people to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior from sin, and have the assurance of eternal life. Though sin is rampant, because of the intransigent self will of mankind, God is still gracious to give us an opportunity to trust Him. Aren't you glad that God didn't conclude all in judgment just before you became a Christian? However, His day of Grace will someday conclude, and His day of judgment will commence (Hebrews 9:27). We don't know when the shift will come, but it behooves all mankind to get ready.
This separation of God's creation of mankind began in the garden of Eden, when Adam/Eve listened to the voice of Satan, and turned from being God centered to becoming self centered, by eating of the forbidden fruit, as God had commanded (Gen. 3:3). Since God created mankind for three reasons: fellowship with Him, for mankind to be a reflection of God's holiness, and to place mankind over the rest of the creation as "king" (Psalm 8:4-6), He now began the process of providing for restoration and reconciliation to all of the creation. Therefore, we have the first prophetic announcement of Scripture in Genesis 3:15, where God noted that the sin which Satan perpetrated in Adam, and from him to the whole human race (Romans 5:12), would cause God's Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and die for the sins of the world. But, in His death and resurrection He would crush forever the power of Satan over all mankind.
The sin nature of Adam was passed to all mankind (Rom.5:12), and out of that sin nature comes personal sin, for which each is responsible. Christ died to save mankind from both his sin nature, as well as his personal sin. The sin nature is automatically cared for in Christ's work, for God does not hold one responsible for that which he cannot help, but one's personal sin, for which each is responsible, requires personal commitment (John 3:16-18,36; 6:28,29).
God's ultimate purpose is the restoration of mankind unto Himself. God's Holiness without proper sacrifice for sins, would not allow Him to accept the restoration of mankind. The way by which God's Holiness could remain unsullied, and at the same time extend His love and grace to all, was to send Jesus Christ into the world and make sacrifice of Himself for our sins, and thereby we are able to be reconciled to God through accepting Christ's work in our behalf (II Corinthians 5:14-19; Galatians 3:24).
The story of the Bible is the recounting of two lines of revelation in order to accomplish God's purpose: 1) The people of God in the Old Testament, i.e. Israel as His chosen ones, and 2) The Church of God in the New Testament, i.e. Christians today.
I. The Old Testament: In the Old Testament God's purpose was fulfilled through Israel and the Theocracy (the rule of God). First, He chose Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and told him He would make a great nation through him. Why God chose him as well as Israel is only understood as seen in Deuteronomy 7:6-8, where Moses said God chose them "Because the Lord loved you".
God's purpose in choosing Israel was for them to disseminate the revelation of Himself to all the world. Israel was to be God's channel of revelation (Solomon, the king, recognized this national responsibility, as noted in his dedicatory prayer of the Temple in Jerusalem - I Kings 8:41-43). In order for God to have a relationship with Israel He ordained the Priestly system, and chose the tribe of Levi to be the tribe of Priests, as mediators between Israel and God. He also used a group of Prophets to become God's mouthpiece of revelation of Himself to Israel.
The problem in this was the inability of Israel to live up to the covenant God made with them. It rested on the ten commandments God gave to them, and their ratifying of it at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20:1-7; 24:7). The continuing history of Israel from Sinai to the time of Samuel (about 400 years) was that of falling into sin, repentance, and God's deliverance.
Finally, at the time of Samuel's reign (Note: The Priests and Prophets only governed by the direct hand of God, that is the Theocracy), Israel moved from being a Theocracy to a Monarchy (i.e. rule of man). All this was predicted by God, when He gave to Moses what is written in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, four hundred years before. The corruptness of the Priestly system as seen in I Samuel 2:22; 8:3-5 caused the leaders of Israel to demand a king. God told Samuel they had not rejected him, but they had rejected God's rule over them. Thus, began the reign of human kings over Israel starting with Saul. The seeds of this corruption were sown upon entering the land when they disobeyed God's command to drive the Canaanites out of the land, to not intermarry with them, and to not worship their idols (Judges 3:1-8). The downward trend continued until 586 b.c. when Nebucadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, and carried the Jews away captive, until 1948 a.d. when the new nation of Israel was established.
Because God chose them to be His channel through whom He would reveal Himself to the world, Israel was instead lifted up with pride, and cloistered His revelation to themselves (Romans 2:17-29). Then when Jesus came hundreds of years later, as their Messiah and to save them from their sins, they rejected Him (John 1:11). As is noted in II Corinthians 3:14-16, they had spiritual blindness because of their sin of pride, etc.
II. The New Testament: At the outset of Jesus' ministry He preached the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel alone (Matthew 10:5-7), because as their Messiah, He had come to bring in the Kingdom, as promised by God. However, the kingdom Israel desired was a political restoration of the kingdom they had under David, whereas the kingdom promised by Jesus was a spiritual kingdom, which would care for their sins, then would come the political restoration. The spiritual blindness of Israel kept them from accepting the offer of Jesus. Had He restored the political kingdom again, it too would have eventually failed for the same reason the first one did, i.e. Israel's sins.
When Jesus perceived His rejection by Israel, He began to teach His Disciples a new concept, the Church (Matthew 16:13-18). This was never mentioned in the Old Testament. He pointed out that the Church would be empowered to do what Israel had failed to do, i.e. disseminate God's revelation to the world. The difference would be the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26; 16:7-14). In I Corinthians 2:9-14 it is seen as to why the unregenerate person cannot understand spiritual things, and why the Christian is able to. This is why the Church has succeeded, even though not perfectly.
Christ gave the Church its commission (Matthew 28:19,20), as well as the ability to carry it out through the power of the Holy Spirit. This has been the Church's primary role until today. Our responsibility is not to judge what we see in the world, but to be faithful in carrying out the commission (I Corinthians 4:1-5), so that we don't get caught up in the ways of the world as did Israel.
III. Today's Application: Given today's world, with the sin we see, in contrast to our commission, how should the Christian respond?
Christ anticipated this dilemma, when He gave the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:10-13,24-30). Just as weeds far outgain the grain, so wickedness seems to prosper more than righteousness. In the parable the Disciples asked Christ about tearing out the weeds, and He replied that the two would grow together until the harvest, then the farmer would separate the grain from the weeds. So, as today, both righteousness and wickedness are prospering, the coming of God in judgment will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. It may seem as if "Righteousness is on the scaffold, and wickedness on the throne", but it will not always be that way. God is sovereign, and someday He will judge the world (Hebrews 9:27). Our responsibility to to carry out the commission, and leave the judging to Him (I Corinthians 4:1-5).
The Christian's response should be: 1) Accept the basic, absolute truth of Scripture. We all start with basic assumptions, and to believe the Bible as foundational, is to begin with the right assumption (Psalm 119:89, 97,98, 105); 2) Believe in the sovereignty of God (Isaiah 46:9,11; Psalm 10:16; 33:11; 103:19); 3) Accept the resources of the Holy Spirit to help give you wisdom, power, grace, discernment, etc. (James 1:5; I Corinthians 2:14); and finally, 3) Recognize the ultimate judgment of God on the world (Romans 3:19; John 5:21-27; II Corinthians 5:10).
Remember, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of POWER (to
live constructively), and of LOVE (to live sacrificially), and of a
SOUND MIND (to live reasonably)".
-II Timothy 1:7