The word “establish” is used frequently throughout the Bible. It comes from the Hebrew word “kun” and the Greek word “sterizo”, which mean to set up, fix, make firm, make stable, make permanent, make valid. In a biblical sense, when God establishes something, He ordains it and makes it sure, solid, and enduring. Let’s explore the meaning and significance of “establish” as it relates to various topics in Scripture.
- God establishes people, plans, covenants, kingdoms, and His own glory
- To be established by God is to be strengthened, validated, and made secure in Him
- God’s established plans and purposes stand firm and cannot be overthrown
- Believers are called to establish their hearts in trusting God and living righteously
- The Church is established on the foundation of Christ and the apostles’ teaching
- Understanding the meaning of “establish” helps reveal God’s sovereignty and faithfulness
God Establishes People
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One of the most common contexts for the word “establish” is in relation to people’s lives. We see God establishing individuals and groups of people in their purposes, callings, and destinies. For instance:
“And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. And also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people” (Habakkuk 2:2-5 NKJV).
Here God tells the prophet Habakkuk to write down the vision clearly so that others may read it and wait patiently for its fulfillment. God was establishing His plans and purposes for Judah even though it would take time for them to come to pass.
God also establishes leaders like Moses and Joshua to carry out His will:
“And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze…” (Exodus 31:1-4 ESV)
“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:2,5-6 ESV).
As the leader of His people, God established Moses with authority, direction and provision to accomplish His purposes. Similarly, He appointed Joshua, filled him with courage, and established him to lead Israel into Canaan.
In the New Testament, Jesus announces that He will build His Church on the rock of Peter’s confession of faith:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18 ESV).
Here Christ promises to firmly establish the Church on Himself as the foundation, expressed in Peter’s statement “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Elsewhere, Paul writes that God establishes believers in Christ, anointing and sealing them:
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV).
As these verses demonstrate, a key part of God’s work is establishing His people – strengthening them in faith, gifting them for service, directing their steps, and confirming their purpose in Him. To be established by God brings security, validation, and clear direction.
God Establishes Plans and Purposes
In addition to establishing people, we also see God establishing His plans, purposes, and kingdom. For example:
The LORD shall establish you an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways (Deuteronomy 28:9 KJV).
This verse comes in the context of the blessings God promised for Israel’s obedience. Part of God’s plan was to establish them as a holy nation set apart for Himself. Holiness requires intentionality, so God gave them instructions and commands to follow. As they obeyed, He would establish their steps and confirm them as His special people.
In 2 Samuel 7, we find the promise that God would establish King David’s throne forever:
And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV).
Though David wanted to build God a temple, God declined and promised instead to establish David’s kingdom in perpetuity through His own Son one day. This points to Jesus Christ, the heir to David’s throne who would reign forever. God establishes kingdoms and dynasties to suit His sovereign purpose.
Later in 1 Chronicles, David praises God with these words:
You, O LORD, are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you; for you, O LORD, have blessed it, and it is blessed forever (1 Chronicles 17:26-27 ESV).
David recognizes that God alone can establish a kingdom, house, or dynasty. If God establishes something, it will stand and cannot be overthrown. His plans are fixed and sure.
The New Testament tells how God powerfully established the early Church through the apostles’ preaching:
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied (Acts 9:31 ESV).
Despite persecution, God grew His Church firm on the foundation of Christ. It was established not through human effort but by the Spirit’s work through the apostles’ doctrine. God’s purposes stand forever:
The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations (Psalm 33:11 NIV).
God Establishes Covenants
Covenants play a major role in the Bible as the means by which God formally establishes relationship with His people. By solemn oath and agreement, He creates covenants designed to be fixed, secure, and long-lasting.
For instance, God established His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you (Genesis 17:7 ESV).
This covenant with Abraham laid the foundations for God’s relationship with Israel. It sets forth promises of land, nationhood, blessing, and God’s abiding faithfulness. As a covenant oath, it creates an unbreakable agreement established by God alone.
Likewise, in Exodus 6, God reminds Israel that He established His covenant with their forefathers:
Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’” (Exodus 6:6-8 ESV).
Here He reminds them that His covenant is the firm basis for their deliverance and relationship with Him. His past oath to Abraham establishes their present hope.
Like human covenants and contracts, God’s covenants are meant to be kept permanently. But while human deals can be broken, when God establishes a covenant, it stands forever:
He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations (Psalm 105:8 ESV).
No power in heaven or earth can overturn or nullify a covenant that God has established. Even when His people break covenant, God remains faithful. His covenants reveal His steadfast loyalty and trustworthiness.
God Establishes His Glory
One of God’s supreme purposes is to establish the glory of His name throughout the earth. As sovereign Lord, He orchestrates history to display His majesty, goodness, and redeeming grace.
In Ezekiel 36, God promises to restore Israel, saying:
I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land (Ezekiel 36:23-24 ESV).
Though Israel had profaned His name, God would restore them and establish His name as holy before all peoples. His aim was the fame of His excellent name.
Similarly, in Romans 9, Paul explains that God endures those who reject Him in order to make His glory known:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills (Romans 9:17-18 ESV).
Through Pharaoh’s stubbornness, God displayed His mighty power and established the glory of His name across the world. God ordains all things – even evil rulers – for the purpose of demonstrating His supreme majesty.
As one final example, Psalm 8 beautifully expresses how God establishes His glory through all creation:
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens…When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1,3-5,9 ESV)
All that God has made displays His glory and greatness. His aim in creating and redeeming us is the praise of His excellent name.
Believers Should Establish Their Hearts in God
If God’s plans and purposes stand forever firm, what are Christians called to establish? Scripture emphasizes that believers should establish their hearts – their inner life and character – in righteousness before God.
For example, the Apostle Paul instructs:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:6-8 ESV, emphasis added).
Because God has established us in Christ by grace, we should boldly establish our confession of faith in Him. We establish our hearts by renewing our trust in the gospel despite outward troubles.
Paul goes on to say:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:8-10 ESV).
Though imprisoned, Paul stood firm in the hope of the gospel. He established his heart in truth despite dire circumstances. Through steadfast faith, he shared in Christ’s sufferings and sought to enlarge God’s elect.
In contrast, those who lack roots quickly fall away when hardship comes:
As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away (Matthew 13:20-21 ESV).
As Jesus explained, establishing firm roots in Him enables us to persevere. A steadfast heart remains faithful through seasons of drought, temptation, and trial.
The Apostle Peter also challenges believers to stand fast:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV).
Here Peter encourages us to establish godly virtues in increasing measure as fruit of genuine faith. Only with perseverance can believers walk worthily of the Lord and bear lasting fruit.
The Church is Established on Christ as the Foundation
According to Scripture, the Church as a spiritual entity is firmly established on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone and foundation, giving coherence, meaning, and stability to God’s people.
The Apostle Paul uses the language of architecture to describe how the Church relies wholly on Christ:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV).
The church rests solidly on the historic apostolic witness to Christ as Savior and Lord. United to Him, the people of God take shape as God’s new covenant temple, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Paul elsewhere says “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV). The Church’s one true foundation is Christ. The prophets and apostles bear witness to Him in the Scriptures.
In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18 ESV). Though the forces of evil attack the church, Christ’s sure promise is to build and establish it through His Spirit working in believers’ hearts.
This does not depend on human effort but God’s sovereign election:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:29-30 ESV).
From beginning to end, God authors our salvation. He establishes it, not we ourselves. Our calling as the church is to walk in a manner worthy of this gracious calling we have received (Eph 4:1).
In summary, Scripture presents God as the great establisher of His covenant people. Through His word and Spirit, He establishes us in Christ as His new creation. He authors our faith and brings it to maturity. Therefore we walk by faith and not by sight, trusting His promises are sure and His purposes unshakable. Though the earth gives way, we stand firm on the rock of Christ, who upholds all things by His word.
The biblical theme of establishment offers great comfort and assurance. As we have seen, when God establishes something – whether a person, a plan, His church, or His glory – it stands upon an immovable foundation. Despite hardships, afflictions, persecutions, and spiritual attack, God’s established purposes endure forever. Their success relies not on human strength but God’s faithfulness.
By His grace, God establishes believers in Jesus Christ. Through the inner working of the Spirit, He roots and grounds us securely in His love and truth. Therefore we need not fear the chaos of the world or the uncertainty of the future. All our hope rests on Christ. As we put down roots in Him, we mature in godly character and grow in the unshakable purpose for which He created us. We can walk confidently each day in the identity, security, calling and destiny that God Himself has established for us in Christ.