(Heb. yaas [["y]; Gk. boule [boulhv]). The Old Testament. The verbal root of the Hebrew word for purpose means to give counsel, deliberate, purpose, or determine. In five passages where the noun appears, four refer to God's purpose and one to the purpose of a person's heart ( Prov 19:21 ; 20:5 ; Isa 46:10-11 ; Jer 32:19 ). God's plans stand firm forever ( Psalm 33:11 ); his purpose will stand ( Isa 46:10 ). What God intends, what he has in mind, what he purposes and plans, what he pleases these together give the basis for a theology of history. God stands in the center of history as One who Acts. He has a goal in what he does. Nothing can thwart his plan. His purpose is consistently related to what he does in the world.
Two key passages in Isaiah reveal how God will carry out his purpose to deliver his people from darkness and oppression. Isaiah 9:6 refers to the "Wonderful Counselor" who will reign on David's throne and administer justice and righteousness forever. Isaiah 11:2 refers to the stump of Jesse who will be given "the Spirit of counsel and of power."
The New Testament. While David served God's purpose as ruler over Israel ( Acts 13:36 ), the Pharisees and legal experts reject God's purpose for them and refuse to submit to John's baptism ( Luke 7:30 ).
It was by God's set purpose and foreknowledge that Jesus was handed over to death at the hands of wicked people ( Acts 2:23 ). His power and will decided that critical, necessary salvific event beforehand ( 4:28 ).
A key passage is Epheisans 1:9-11. Paul explains that God works out everything brings all things under Christ in conformity with the purpose of his will. The whole economy of God is linked with his purpose.
Paul understands that the believer's part in the people of God is not an accident or random phenomenon, but part of the divine purpose from the very beginning of time ( Rom 8:28-29 ). God's purpose is specifically characterized by the words "foreknew" and "predestined."
The good pleasure that God purposed in Christ has now been put into effect and will be seen in its completion when he sums up all things in Christ. In the meantime, however, God has called his people to live a holy life because of his own purpose and grace a grace given before the beginning of time in Christ Jesus, but now revealed in the Savior's appearing.
Walter M. Dunnett
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Purpose'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".