Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

What is God’s Economy in the Bible?

What is “God’s economy”?  It’s crucial to ask this question. Why? Because it’s a great mystery in the Bible, one that opens up God’s entire plan for man.

What is God's economy in the Bible?

You may be asking, How does this compare to economics like you study about in school? Very simply, an economy is a plan for distributing resources. A good economy is one in which needed resources move efficiently to adequately supply people’s needs.

But how does that relate to God?

What is God’s economy?

In 1 Timothy 1:3-4, the apostle Paul focused on God’s economy. There he directed his young coworker, Timothy to,

Charge certain ones not to teach different things nor to give heed to myths and unending genealogies, which produce questionings rather than God’s economy, which is in faith.

All the differing teachings of Paul’s day were distracting the believers from the central matter of God’s economy.

But what did Paul mean by God’s economy? Let’s define terms.

“Economy” is the anglicized form of the Greek word oikonomia. The word is of two parts: 1) oikos meaning house and 2) nomos meaning law or administration.  It is a household arrangement for distributing the riches of a family to the members of the household.

In ancient times, a wealthy family would have such an arrangement, carried out by a household steward. The steward’s job was to make sure all the members received adequate food, clothing and other provisions.

God has such an economy to care for the needs of His great household.

God’s eternal plan – the heart’s desire of God

God is infinitely rich. His riches include all that He is to us for our enjoyment. God is rich in His divine attributes—love, light, holiness and righteousness.

Yet God is a mystery. God’s substance, the nature of His person, is Spirit (John 4:24).

Consider for a moment, the wealth of information distributed over wireless transmissions. Your eyes can not see them, nor can your ears hear them. How can you enjoy this wealth of information? You need the proper receiver—your cell phone.

God has a good pleasure which He purposed in Himself—Eph. 1:9-10

This mysterious God has a good pleasure to distribute Himself freely. This is His purpose, His will, and ultimately His glory (Eph. 3:21; Rev. 21:10-11).

He wants all the riches of His being to be distributed to us, to be enjoyed by us, and to be expressed through us.

To carry out this purpose, God made an economy, a divine plan, with an arrangement for distributing Himself.

God created us as His vessels—Gen. 2:7, 9

Three parts of man--body, soul, and spiritFirst, God needed some vessels or containers to receive Him. So He created man in His image (Gen. 1:26).  Like a glove made to contain a hand, we were made to contain God.

The Bible says God created us as His vessels, His containers, to receive His riches. Romans 9:23-24 says,

In order that He [God] might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory, even us.

But we are not simple containers like a glove or a bottle. We were created as vessels with three parts—body, soul and spirit (Gen. 2:7). Our spirit is the organ created to receive and contain God.

Then God placed this man into a garden, with the tree of life at its center for him to eat of (v. 9). This reveals God’s intention to dispense Himself into man.

Satan damaged God’s vessels with sin—Gen. 3:1-6

Realizing that God had a special desire with man, Satan came in to damage them. By speaking lies, Satan injected doubts against God into them and deceived them to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil which God had forbidden man to eat (2:19).

Their disobedience was not merely a sinful act.  They received the poison of sin causing them to be fully corrupted and useless in carrying out God’s economy.

Man became no longer a vessel fit for God’s dispensing. Man’s body became the flesh of sin. His soul became the enemy of God. Man’s spirit became deadened (Eph. 2:1), unable to contact God and receive God.

Christ came to redeem us as God’s vessels—Eph. 1:7

The only way for God to fulfill His plan was to become a Man Himself.  John 1:1 and 14 say,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us…

The infinite God became a finite man of flesh and blood. This was Jesus, the God-man—the complete God and perfect, sinless man.

He lived 33 1/2 years of perfect, sinless human living to make God and His plan known to man. Then Jesus, the God-man, went to the cross to redeem us, paying the price of His own blood to recover us as vessels for God’s economy (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Christ removed every barrier between us and the holy and righteous God so that God might again have the standing to impart Himself into us.

The life-giving Spirit imparts God into us—1 Cor. 15:45

Not only did Christ die to redeem us.  Through His death,  He became a life-giving Spirit to impart all the fullness of God into us. First Corinthians 15:45 says,

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul”; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.

Essentially, God has never changed. He is eternally one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).  Yet, in God’s economy, all that this Triune God is was embodied in Christ (Col. 2:9). Then through His death and resurrection, this One became the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17).

Now, as the Spirit, Christ is able to distribute, to dispense, all that the mysterious God is into us for our enjoyment.

Our spirit is the receiver for God’s dispensing—John 4:24

In God’s economy, this dispensing God became the life-giving Spirit to reach us.  We also have a human spirit able to contact Him and receive Him. John 4:24 says,

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.

So when we believe in Jesus, not only does God forgive our sins.  He enlivens our deadened spirit (Eph. 2:5). At that moment, our enlivened spirit contacts His life-giving Spirit and a dispensing takes place. The two spirits are joined as one (1 Cor. 6:17).

It is in this union of the two spirits that God’s economy is fulfilled.

Take a moment to pray,

O Lord, thank you for revealing your economy to me. Thank you for creating me as a vessel to contain You. I believe that You came as the perfect God-man to die for me, to redeem me from sin. I also thank you for becoming the life-giving Spirit to dispense God into me. Lord, I open to You. I receive You right now. Dispense Yourself into me more every day. I love You.

The church displays God’s wisdom in His economy—Eph. 3:9-11

However, if we only care for our personal receiving, we fall short of the complete view of God’s economy. God does not merely want a bunch of saved sinners.

God wants all the saved ones to be built up as Christ’s one Body, the church. It is this built up, corporate Body that will make God’s wisdom known to the entire universe including Satan and all the angelic powers.

Paul presents this profound truth in Ephesians 3:9-11,

9 And to enlighten all that they may see what the economy of the mystery is, which throughout the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things,
10 In order that now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies the multifarious wisdom of God might be made known through the church,
11 According to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord,

However, the greatness of the church in God’s economy requires many more posts to develop.

The believers’ stewardship – the commission we receive from the Lord

When this economy is with God, it is His purpose or plan for distributing Himself. However, when this economy is entrusted to us it becomes our stewardship. It is the same Greek word oikonomia but from another angle. Ephesians 3:2 says,

If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you.

When we see God’s economy, we will sense that this is our commission. We will realize that we must cooperate with God to freely distribute His riches to others. This is more than leading sinners to be saved. It is to impart to them the riches of Christ given to us.

The divine dispensing – the dispensing of God into us, His vessels

God’s economy, His oikonomia, is also His dispensing. First, we receive His dispensing for ourselves.

Then, as God’s stewards or stewardesses, we dispense the riches of Christ to people for their enjoyment.

We are like flight attendants on an airplane carrying out a dispensing service to those around us.

How can we participate in God’s economy?

First, we need to realize that we are God’s vessels made to receive Him (John 1:12).

Second, we need to receive the Lord Jesus by believing in our heart that God raised Him from the dead and opening our mouth to confess that Jesus is our Lord (Rom. 10:8-13).

Third, we need to continually call on the Lord Jesusthank Him, praise Him, and pray to Him so that He can dispense Himself into us (v. 13; 1 Thes. 5:17-20).

Fourth, we need to seek out those who are living in this divine economy, to be built up as the church, for God’s full expression (Eph. 3:16-21).

Fifth, we need to practice our stewardship by dispensing the riches of Christ into the many empty vessels around us (v. 8).

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About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

4 Replies

  1. Nelson Kiu

    Excellently written. Very easy to understand and follow – and I think I have new appreciation of 1 Tim. 1:3-4. More people should know this!

    1. Tom Smith

      Nelson, Ephesians 3:9  says that Paul was commissioned to “enlighten all that they may see what the economy of the mystery is, which throughout the ages has been hidden in God…” This tells us a couple of things. First, God really wants all men to see His divine economy. It is great thing to see it! Second, it tells us that this economy is a mystery, that has been hidden throughout the ages. So it is great mystery that needs to be revealed. May we, like Paul, not only see God’s economy but become stewards of it (v. 2), dispensing the riches of Christ into people so that they may be filled with God to express God (v. 8). Thanks for sharing!

  2. walker

    Tom i am so perplexed when i am reading the Genesis. chapter one says that God created man in his image, male and female are included. but chapter two says that Jehovah God built the rib which he had taken from the man into a woman. what difference between the female created at chapter one and the woman built with the rib at chapter two. look forward to your reply.

    1. Tom Smith

      Your perplexity with the Genesis 1 and 2 is not uncommon. We need to see that Genesis 1 mainly reveals God’s desire and purpose in His creation. Genesis 2 mainly reveals God’s procedure to fulfill that purpose. To be more specific, Genesis 1:26-28 show that God created man in God’s image and with His dominion. This is a matter of God’s purpose. Image is a matter of God’s expression and dominion is a matter of His representation. God created a corporate man with the purpose that man might express God and that man might exercise God’s dominion over the rebel, Satan and his forces. However, to carry our such a great purpose, God need to take the procedure of creating man of three parts—body, soul, and spirit (Gen. 2:7) as a vessel to be filled with God’s life (signified by the tree of life—Gen.2:9). Only by being filled with the life of God could man carry out the purpose of God.
      The male and female in Genesis 1:27 reveals the God’s purpose for man in a general way, that is Christ with the church. Such a corporate man with God’s image would be fruitful and multiply and thus fill the earth with God’s expression and dominion. The woman in Genesis 2 reveals God’s procedure to obtain the church for Christ’s counterpart, His bride. That is, God would put that man into a deep sleep (Christ’s death in which His side was pierced to release blood and water—John 19:34) and take out a rib (Christ’s eternal life) to build that rib into a woman (the church) to become the match for Christ. This is confirmed by Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 regarding marriage as a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:25-33) For more appreciation of this great truth I encourage you to read chapter 2 of The Glorious Church by Watchman Nee. You can download a free copy of the epublication on the Bibles for America website.

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