In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:11–12—NKJV)

You have heard the saying, “man proposes while God disposes.” With man, nothing is certain. It is perhaps for this reason we assume that the purposes of God regarding ourselves can be transformed into more of a “proposal” for us, especially in light of our own sinfulness and changeability.

To propose is to put forth for consideration, to plan, to intend, whereas purpose is to resolve, to aim, determine. When a purpose is formulated, especially in a biblical context, it is an intelligent decision to which the will is bent to accomplish.

The Greek word translated “to purpose” is protithemi, a compound word (pro, before plus tithemi, to place). Interestingly, the word is used to describe the “showbread” that was placed in the temple. It is the “bread set forth” (Hebrews 9:2)—the bread of God’s presence, His ordering, related to God’s everlasting covenant with His people by which they are nourished and sustained. Consider that God enriches, nourishes, and sustains every true believer with His purposes. Romans 8:28–30 reads, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Of course, man has purposes as well. Barnabas challenged the church at Antioch: “when he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” (Acts 11:23) Over in 2 Timothy 3:10 Paul reflects to Timothy the quality of discipleship he had passed on to young Timothy: “but you have carefully followed (alongside) my doctrine, manner of life (life lessons and guiding principles), purpose (set forth resolve), faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions….”

The achieved purposes of godly men are only made possible because of the purpose of God. God is determined, He purposes (Ephesians 1:9), and therefore He proposes that which He will bend His energy to work. Romans 3:24–26 puts His purpose forth in terms of His work through His Son: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth (purpose) as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

This purpose of God is also found in His determined redemption of each saint. 2 Timothy 1:9 states, “Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose (to set forth) and grace (free gift) which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” Our text from Ephesians 1:11 underlines this truth along with chapter 3:11–12: “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”

Live your Christian life depending on more than “well-intentioned proposals” of God. Live according to the purposes of God and know the meaning of the great promise of Romans 8:28. Trust and obey.