The blessing of our sure inheritance to the praise of his glory
Remember, chapters 1-3 will remind us who we are in Christ.
It is vital to remember who we are determines what we do. Our identity as “in Christ” affects everything. We are not our own. We have been bought at the cost of Jesus’ life. So, before we go rushing off into “what” to do (chapters 4-6) let’s drink deeply of our identity and bask in the glory of whose we are and ask for the power of the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to advance the kingdom through the work. Don’t look past the “why” to the “what”. Enjoy the “why” as the fuel of the “what”.
Paul begins verse 11 with “in him”. We’ve hit this quite a bit, but there is some more worth mentioning. “In Christ” is a central piece to Paul’s theology. We’ve counted 33 times in Ephesians Paul uses the phrase or it’s synonym. According to John Mackay Paul uses “In Christ” some 169 times in his writings in the New Testament. This is huge.
What might this mean for the Ephesians and for us? There is so much more, but here are three quick items these Ephesians and we have as introductory items to help us enjoy being in Christ and to help us get ready for the remaining blessings Paul tells us of in Ephesians 1:1-14 we have as a result of being in Christ.
Radical transformation has taken place (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.
Dynamic unity is a reality (Galatians 3:28)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
We have union with Christ and with each other. Vigorous and purposeful unity. Imagine pursuing the type of racial unity of the body vigorously and purposefully like Paul wrote about. We have the capacity and power with which to do this in Christ.
Soul satisfaction (Matthew 11:29)
In Christ we are united with him, and Jesus tells us we find rest for our souls.
“In Christ” is the reality that seats us with Christ and defines who we are and what our role is as the community of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and determines our blessings in Christ.
Let’s finish unpacking Paul’s list of blessings we have in Christ.
- We are blessed with a sure inheritance v. 11, 14
In Christ we are blessed with an inheritance that is as sure as the day. This inheritance is sure because it is located in the very person of Jesus Christ.
The words in English “we have obtained an inheritance” is one word. It is passive in voice meaning that our obtaining of any inheritance is the work of Father not us. We did not actively obtain anything by our work. We have obtained, passive voice, an inheritance. It was given and given when we were not looking for it.
We’ll say more about this in a moment.
“…having been predestined” is also just one word. It also is passive in voice. This means that the grace of obtaining an inheritance is the glorious gift of Father and is connected to the other passive phrase in this sentence indicating that we have an inheritance because Father has also done the work to predestine us in rescue from our lost state.
The predestining work of Father is in no way connected to any sovereign act of humanity. Humans have no sovereignty. Humans have a sphere of unimpeded activity in which they can operate, but they do not have the power of ultimates and ends (if you don’t believe me, then don’t ever sin again, be sovereign over sin and let me know how that works out). Only Father can rescue from the mess that Adam created before his fall into the slave market of sin that drug us with him.
The surety of our inheritance is based on the predestining work of Father, and therefore, Father has given us his blessing of the Holy Spirit who marks those he has blessed as his children and as those who are the heirs.
So, why all of Paul’s emphasis on Father’s choosing and predestining work in Ephesians 1? Other than this being a redemptive theme and act of grace since Cain and Abel and the means by which the Father rescues some from man’s choosing to rebel in the garden “…the emphasis would have been particularly appropriate for readers from the Ephesus area who were especially prone to fear the decisive influence of other powers.”
This truth counteracts the power of and the lies of the evil forces in the heavenly places these Ephesians feared. Since Christ is seated there and we are seated with him through the sovereign grace of Father, we no longer have to fear our destiny being altered by these spiritual forces and our security on the journey is set.
So Paul reassures these Ephesians and us that we are secure in the predestining work of the Father.
But he has done more.
How are they and we to know that we will receive an inheritance through the predestining work of the Father in his kingdom? We received the promised Holy Spirit!
Jesus promised that we would receive the Holy Spirit when he ascended to the Father. As the church waited in obedience the Counselor / teacher / helper / gift giver / empowerer / very presence of Jesus was given to his church and he took up his post as the Third Person of the Trinity as Father and Son with us.
Holy Spirit is the mark of salvation. Holy Spirit is the litmus test on fellowship between believers. Holy Spirit is the reign of Christ among us. We, by his presence, can discern whose each other is and the fact that we are family.
But what does the Holy Spirit guarantee? What does the predestining work of Father guard? An inheritance!
Inheritance (passive voice)
The word means “to assign by lot” or “to make a mark”. The idea is that of one’s portion being partitioned off and marked.
No commentator I looked at touched at all on the question: What is our inheritance? Perhaps because its clear from the context. Perhaps it is because Paul does not explicitly answer that question. Either way we have to ask: what is our inheritance?
We could easily answer that with Jesus’ instruction in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). But Jesus’ instruction is not to be isolated from the metanarrative as though our reward were simply the gaining of things or locations isolated from the larger purpose of the things or locations.
I believe the inheritance is right under our nose and we’ve been talking about it for weeks. The inheritance is not a place absent for the full meaning of the place. Is Jesus right? Duh! Yes he is. But do we just get a new heaven and new earth with no plan or purpose for it? Negative! The new heaven and the new earth where those meek will dwell have a grand and glorious purpose.
That is point 2!
- We receive the blessing of an inheritance of a kingdom community united in Christ as the plan for the fullness of time v. 12, 13, 14; 1:10 (read 7-14 as a unit)
We are redeemed, forgiven and given wisdom and insight to know Father’s will wrapped up in his purpose that he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Christ!
We inherit a community of kingdom citizens as family all located in Christ together, with Christ together, in person with Christ together in the eternal kingdom where we will dwell with Father, Son and Spirit in eternity with no more division or sin or rebellion or any such thing to distort the people, place and relationship to and with Father, Son and Spirit.
Verse 12 uses “we”, indicating, according to most, Paul’s native people, the Jewish folks.
Verse 13 uses “you”, indicating the Gentiles who have also heard the gospel and been likewise sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Verse 14 uses “our”, indicating that Jew and Gentile have now been brought near together as one and together are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (2:11-22).
Our inheritance is a kingdom of family united together in Christ and will one day have Eden regained where we will again walk with Father, Son and Spirit in the garden in the cool of the day and there will no longer be the rebellion to contend with!
That is our inheritance and that is quite secure due to the predestining work of Father to secure this glorious end for us.
The mission is set.
The mission is secure.
The mission will be accomplished.
We will not and cannot fail.
We are the people of Jesus Christ united under one banner of Jesus Christ.
Unity in diversity is doable. Our fallen flesh prevents this work.
We wrestle with trying to take our “share” from this present world system and its values and we find all kinds of heart ache and distress and disillusionment because its broken and we just don’t want to admit that it is and we love it more than the coming kingdom. And part of the Spirit’s job in sanctifying us is to make us delight more in the kingdom to come than the one that is crumbling around us now. Spirit will get that done!
- We will be blessed with full face-to-face Trinitarian fellowship in the coming kingdom v. 14
“…until we acquire possession of it…”
Paul says here that we have the Holy Spirit to seal us as the people of God. But Paul says we have this gift “…until we acquire possession of it…” speaking about the inheritance.
In other words we will have the Holy Spirit as a seal until we get the inheritance.
So, when we get the inheritance we loose the Spirit?
No! We gain even more.
The grand metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption and restoration is how the plan of Father is working out at his direction. We are in the in between time of redemption and restoration. As a result we have transformed souls with broken and sin corrupted bodies that are going to be completely repaired.
We have Holy Spirit in these jars of clay that show the all-surpassing power is from Father and not from us. However, the Scriptures promise a day when these jars of clay will be transferred to the eternal kingdom.
Revelation 21 captures this event!
Revelation 20:11 begins the transition. Jesus is judging after he has conquered the rebellion for the final time. Earth and sky “fled away” and the judgment activity happens in this sort of suspended state.
Chapter 21 begins with, “Then I saw a new heave and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…”
Then John begins to describe the new heavens and earth.
Too much to deal with now, but we preached through Revelation a couple of years ago. The apocalyptic language John is using we are not familiar with enough to read well, so we need some exposition training. Go listen to the message on Revelation 21. I don’t have time to go over that now. But among the things Jesus gives John to give his church is verse 22-25
There is no temple anymore. Why? Because the Lord God (Father) and the Lamb (Jesus) are there face to face. There is no longer a separation of sin between God and man and no longer any need for Holy Spirit to sanctify and counsel and teach us because what we believed by faith will become sight.
I’m sure Holy Spirit is there. He’s an equal member of the Trinity, but the need to seal us as Father’s will be gone. We will be Father’s face to face! Our inheritance of realizing our “in Christ” and fully united with all in the kingdom will be completed and we will spend timeless eternity fulfilling the mandate to subdue the new earth and walk with Father, Son and Spirit.
- We have been blessed in Christ that we may praise Father, Son and Spirit v. 6, 12, 14
The word “to” indicates purpose. The blessing of being “in Christ” and the blessings resulting of being “in Christ” don’t end in themselves. Those graces are to move us to Romans 11:1 worship that moves us to Romans 11:2 sanctification.
We were made to be living sacrifices who sing of the excellencies of our king. And when we worship like that we will continue to be transformed in our thinking as the Spirit unites us all in one mind under Christ.
 John A. Mackay, God’s Order (New York: Macmillan, 1953), p. 97.
 The language of “unimpeded activity” is a summary of my reading of Jonathan Edwards on this subject. For a fuller treatment see “Freedom of the Will” by Jonathan Edwards.
 D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1225.